B&W Portrait Comparison — D3 vs. NEX-7 vs. M Monochrom

Dierk Topp, photography aficionado
By DIERK TOPP

Here’s a comparative portrait shooting with the Nikon D3, Sony NEX-7 and Leica M Monochrom. The photos were made in a studio with two soft boxes and black studio background, as you can see in the 1:1 crop’s reflections in the eye.

For a better analysis refer to the 1:1 crop images.

Leica M Monochrom was post-processed with Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex 2.

The performance of the cheep Sony 50mm F1.8 OSS for about $500 compared to the Leica APO-Summicron for about $3,800 (if you are lucky enough to get one) for this job is surprisingly good. I printed perfect A2 sized portraits.

Judge for yourself!

So what’s your favorite?

Nikon D3 with Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8 at f/8
Nikon D3 with Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8 at f/8
Nikon D3 1:1 crop
Nikon D3 1:1 crop

Sony NEX-7 with Sony 50mm F1.8 OSS at f/8
Sony NEX-7 with Sony 50mm F1.8 OSS at f/8
Sony NEX-7 1:1 crop
Sony NEX-7 1:1 crop

The Leica M Monochrom is manual focus. To get the eye 100% in focus is not that easy. The autofocus of the Sony NEX-7 seems to be perfect, see the crop above.

The original M Monochrom image uses Lightroom 4.2 default settings (see screenshot below). I only applied sharpening (41,0,21).

The image at first looks very flat and gray, but as everything is in RAW you can get it all out.

Leica M Monochrom with Leica APO-Summicron 75mm F2 at f/6.3 (original)
Leica M Monochrom with Leica APO-Summicron 75mm F2 at f/6.3 (original)
Leica M Monochrom (post-processed)
Leica M Monochrom (post-processed)
Leica M Monochrom 1:1 crop
Leica M Monochrom 1:1 crop

Lightroom screenshot (click to enlarge)
Lightroom screenshot (click to enlarge)
Nik Silver Efex Pro 3 screenshot (click to enlarge)
Nik Silver Efex Pro 3 screenshot (click to enlarge)

For more on Dierk Topp‘s work, especially black-and-white photography, go to his Flickr page.


  • Drazen Babich

    For me D3 for its realistic representation of the person’s face, then Sony Nex-7 then unfortunately the Leica. Actually I’m quite dissapointed with the Leica native output.
    Sorry if I offended Leica fans, but that’s just my personal opinion.

  • Wolfgang Lonien

    Looking at those crops, you’re right – there isn’t much between the Leica and the Nex. Unfortunately, you’ve got quite a different angle for the Nikon, so that one is hard to judge against the other two.

  • dierk

    “So what’s your favorite? ”

    the question was, what camera/lens you would prefer, no what portrait shot is your favorite.
    The D3 has “only” 12 MPix but I love the 105mm Micro for really close portraits, the performance is great and I printed on A2 with very good results.

    For me the big surprise war the performance of the light and cheap Sony lens. But this is at f/8, wide open is a different story. I love my Apo Summicron :)

    I love to go out with the Leica MM with the 75mm Cron around my neck and the Nex-7 with the Zeiss 24/1.8 in my pocket. If I need a wider angle for landscapes, I use the Nex-7 or use the MM and stitch (and print 2m wide :)

    dierk

  • It’s difficult to separate the end result from the instrument. Tough choice! As important as the final output is, the me the overall feel, ergonomics and functionality of the camera would not be less important. So I guess round one goes to the M.