Challenge: Leica M10 Monochrom vs Kodak Tri-X Blind Taste Test

Think you can tell the difference between film and the Leica M10 Monochrom? Let’s see!

With digital photography, it’s become more accessible for folks to make their images look like film. Presets are great for this. But it gets a lot more complicated with black and white. I’ve rarely heard someone say, “Dem tones,” to a black and white photograph. So that’s why I’m so curious about output from the Leica M10 Monochrom. It’s a fantastic camera that has a black and white sensor. And even better, when shooting at a higher ISO setting, the noise will look perfectly like film. There’s a lot of advantages to it. And photographers should appreciate this. But lots also adore the look of black and white film. So we’re taking a closer look at film and the Monochrom. Can you tell which is which?

To make this a randomized test, we’re going to mix the photos up. Let’s see if you can figure out which is all by yourself. Take a look at the images. Look carefully.

“In retrospect, I found myself wanting to keep my ISO settings nowhere above ISO 12,800. The reason for this is because I didn’t want to have to deal with high ISO noise and detail loss. That’s something any reviewer or photographer will probably realize when they only get to play with the camera for a bit. The truth is that, with a Monochrome sensor, there’s no reason for me to not use any ISO I choose. And this liberation is one of the best things about the Leica M10 Monochrom. We’d previously only seen this in the Sony a7s series of cameras with the higher ISO settings looking like a painting after a while. But with the Leica M10 Monochrom, you’re getting output from a 40MP sensor instead of a 12MP sensor. The difference is very black and white–pun totally intended!”

As you’re looking through these images, notice something peculiar about them. Look at the shadows and highlights. But also check out the sharpness and clarity. There’s a difference, for sure. Ideally, what this should do is make you question what Kodak Tri-X looks like. Indeed, all of the film images in this post were shot on Tri-X and TMax P3200. Everyone believes that they have an idea of what Tri-X looks like. But most people can’t tell for sure. Scanning film and the editing process that comes with it changes things too. You could argue that scanning and darkroom printing is the equivalent to Lightroom Editing. To each their own, though!

How are you doing so far? Do you think you can figure out what comes from a Monochrom and what comes from Film scans? Some of these photos have noise. With that in mind, how many of you really think that you can tell the difference between film grain and high ISO noise? It’s pretty tricky to really do that even for long time photographers. It’s a whole lot more challenging to tell the difference on mobile screens. So if you’re looking at this post, I really recommend telling the difference on a desktop screen. That could be a little easier.

The ultimate point of this test is that it’s a fun exercise that we’re pretty sure everyone will fail unless you know our little trick. Even better: is it more affordable for you to buy a Leica M10 Monochrom or film? Happy hunting!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.