"Look and you will find it – what is unsought will go undetected." – Sophocles


Huelight “Monochrom” Leica M9 Camera Profile Review

Colin Walker, the author and creator of the Huelight camera profiles for Lightroom over at the Color Fidelity website, updated his Leica M9 camera profiles this past April. I’ve been meaning to write a review of his latest updates to the Leica M9 and especially his newest addition to the profiles: “Monochrom”.

One of the challenges I’ve encountered the last couple years shooting with my Leica M-E has been getting my skin tones the way I like them. I have experimented with three different ways to do this in my work:

  1. The first option I’ve tried working with is just using the camera’s embedded color profile in Lightroom and then saving a HSL color correction “Preset” that I apply to the images I want to correct.
  2. The next option I’ve used has been Colin Walker’s original Leica M9 Huelight CF Standard V25 Camera Profile. This has worked out very well for me but there have been times where I couldn’t get the skin colors the way I wanted them.
  3. The last option that I’ve been using more often are camera profiles I created with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. Again it hasn’t been fail safe but I’ve been satisfied with the results.

I’ve been very happy with the results of Colin’s M9 Color Profiles but what I want to share with you today is Colin’s “Monochrom” Camera Profile for the M9. I’m enjoying using it when I want to process my M9 color images to B&W. I hope that a couple of photos I’ve recently captured will give you an idea of both its similarities and differences it makes in a file as compared to Lightroom’s B&W options.

The first image below is a JPG I’ve created from the camera’s original RAW DNG file.  The camera was set to Auto White Balance, I used my 35mm Summilux with the aperture set at f1.4 and shutter speed was 1/350s.  I’m using Lightroom for all my processing and during the JPG export I left the White Balance to “As Shot” and the only other correction that’s been made to the file was I used the “Lens Correction” panel to straighten the walls.  This will be the image I work from to compare my final “color” version and then a Lightroom B&W option and finally a fourth image using the “Monochrom” Camera Profile.


Original Histogram

The next photo is how I processed the out of camera version to how I thought my hotel room really looked to me as I walked in. I wanted to ensure I didn’t blow out the highlights from the bright afternoon light streaming in through the curtains. I also didn’t want to shoot too fast a shutter speed that I didn’t have anything to work with in the shadows.

From my experience shooting with this camera I have a pretty good idea when looking at the histogram on the LCD of the camera how much leeway I have in pulling detail out of the shadows. Its much harder getting back any detail in the highlights if they are overexposed on my Leica M-E.

(Note: For those of you who may not be familiar or that I’ve confused using the Leica M9 nomenclature and then turning around using Leica M-E, well both cameras have the same guts so to speak whereas my M-E does not have the external frame selector nor an external USB port. Otherwise both cameras are the same in what’s recorded on their sensors.)

In my final color version below I began the editing by using the White Balance Selector and clicked on the shadow area on the bedspread to set my White Balance. That’s why the panel to the right of the image say Custom and used a Temperature of 4,400 and Tint of +21.

I then adjusted the Tone sliders to the look I liked and also added +42 in the Presence Pain with the Clarity slider.


Final Color Histogram

The image below was converted to B&W from the image above by selected Lightroom’s B&W Option. All I did was select the “V” key on the keyboard and it processes the image to B&W. I did not go to the HSL/Color/B&W Panel and adjust any of the color sliders in the Black & White Mix section. However, this does provide additional adjustment options if you want to finetune different color choices. I sometimes select the Auto option in this panel and often times I like what LR does with it.

Again in this comparison I haven’t made any changes to the normal Black & White Mix panel.


LR B&W Histogram

The last image below is using the Huelight “Monochrom” Camera Profile. To make this option available once the profile has been installed you go to the Camera Calibration Panel in Lightroom’s Develop Module and select that profile.

That’s the only change I’ve made before exporting the image below to JPG.  One of the differences you see from changing to the “Monochrom” profile is I haven’t changed any of the editing sliders but the Histogram is different.  In the previous B&W above you can see that the Shadows are clipped a little bit but the “Monochrom” profile has moved the Shadow/Black side of the Histogram slightly to the right.


Huelight “Monochrom” Histogram

To include each of the images Histograms next to their respective images you may not be able to see the differences between the two B&W photographs due to their onscreen size. I’ve created a link to much larger images in the captions of each photo. I think you will see the slight differences between them once you open those.

Once you’ve selected the “Monochrom” camera profile you notice some editing options are no longer available. One of those is the option to use the Black & White Mix sliders in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel. The “Monochrom” profile has removed the color from the image and those sliders would not affect any changes.

You still have full control of editing the image using the Basic Develop Panel and the Tone Curve Panel.

I think the “Monochrom” camera profile provides the photographer another tool to assist you in another option in developing your Leica M9 images to B&W.

Lens Flare – 35 Lux pre-ASPH

Lens Flare

Lens Flare | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH

One of the major challenges I face shooting with my classic Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH is lens flare.  My lens was made in 1983 per the serial number inscribed on front.  Today’s Summilux-M 35mm incorporates the latest technology in lens design and craftsmanship.  From the Leica website the current version now incorporates a floating element: the lenses behind the aperture blades are constructed as a floating group that changes its position relative to the front lens group during focusing to ensure that the Leica Summilux-M 1:1.4/35 mm ASPH. achieves outstanding imaging performance at closer focusing distances.  Plus the current version has been optimised for use on the digital Leica M models. It reveals the full extent of its outstanding performance particularly when mounted on the Leica M9.

Then again today’s version comes at a price: $5,150 here in the USA.  I’ve had the opportunity to shoot a few frames with the latest 35mm lens and it really is amazing.  However, due to my budget constraints I can not justify the upgrade yet.  There is also a big difference in how my classic lens renders compared to the latest version.  They both paint very differently on my digital Leica.  I feel the latest version is “clinical”, maybe too perfect.  For portraiture I think I’d have to decrease the “Clarity” setting in Lightroom to decrease the sharpness in the person’s facial features.

In the case of the pre-ASPH version, the rendering is “smoother”.  The blemishes a bit disguised so to speak.  But then when I have the lens set wide open I have to be very careful in which direction the light is arriving to ensure I don’t get the above.  I don’t know but maybe some might like this effect at times or maybe not.  The other challenge with shooting this lens wide open is when there are light sources in the scene and how it handles those.  You get a real glow effect where the light source is undefined or appears as a “ghost”.  Again, its a rendering that has a classic look.

Once I stop down to just f2.0 its like I have attached a different lens to my camera.  Below is the next frame I shot by just moving the camera a bit to avoid the direct sunlight coming through the aircraft window:

A View out the Window

A View out the Window | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

Since shooting with this version of the Leica Summilux 35mm lens I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it.  I purchased the lens for its FOV and wide aperture.  Plus out of the current available 35mm Summilux lenses, this one was in reach with the funds I had on hand.

However, my love/hate relationship has to do when shooting the lens wide open at f/1.4.  The lens I own was built in 1983.  I found the lens through Sam at Classic Connection in Connecticut.  The lens is prone to flare and coma, especially when shooting into light where today’s ASPH version of this lens are not so prone to these issues.

But many sometimes complain about how sharp the modern ASPH lenses draw when shooting people up close.  Well with this lens you’re not going to have this issue when shooting wide open at f/1.4.

I believe this image captures the true essence of this lens when shot wide open at f/1.4.  I’ve focused on the lettering of the pillow and then reframed my shot.  You can see how “dreamy” this lens draws in the out of focus areas, from the edges of the pillows to the lampstands.

That’s my love/hate relationship is I wish I could turn on and off how dreamy the lens is when shooting wide open.  Of course just stopping down one stop to f/2.0 those areas that are a little dreamy now become sharper.

What’s still amazing about the Leica M lenses is their size.  This lens is still the smallest fast lens one can buy.  Its only an inch long without the hood and weighs just 245g.