The history of black and white is the history of motion pictures, and from Thomas Edison’s early experiments to Sundance Award-winning COMPUTER CHESS filmmakers have used black and white images to create bold visual choices that cannot be reproduced in color.
Since the D16 went on sale back in December, we’ve been asked by educators, filmmakers, and members of our forum to produce a native monochrome camera that can take advantage of the latitude of black and white raw images. After a few months of testing we’re very excited to announce the D16M, boasting a black and white sensor for highest quality monochrome capture without the need to debayer, retaining a higher sensitivity to light and preserving the full dynamic range of the sensor.
- Kodak native monochrome sensor
- Same resolution options as D16: Super 16mm (2K), 16mm (HD), and Super 8 (720p)
- No OLPF filter to further maximize fine details
- ISO 100, 200, 400, 800
- 500GB Hard Drive
Due to the natural contrast of black and white, the texture of objects often stand out more in black and white than in color, especially in subtle lighting and higher noise conditions. Skin texture softens in bright light, creating an ethereal smooth look, where harsh lighting brings a more dramatic focus to imperfections.
Objects like wood planks, bricks, or trees suddenly jump to life with grit and dimensionality. It’s no surprise that many landscape and nature photographers still prefer to shoot in black and white to capture jutting rocks, gnarled tree bark, and intricate branches and leaves against the striking simplicity of a grey sky.
Monochrome makes it possible to hide or draw attention to specific details of your image based on their contrast and luminosity, and allows areas of extreme highlight to blow out in a beautiful gradient or glow that melds seamlessly into the overall composition, as we truly experience areas of brightness in real life.
Mood & tone
Black and white has been used for decades in film and still photography to promote an atmospheric quality that can be difficult to achieve in color. Even after the popularization of color for studio films in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s–the golden age of Hollywood–many prominent filmmakers chose to continue in color to take advantage of the striking look of black and white, already perfected in silent films like the German Expressionist THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. B films and serials also kept to black and white to maximize their ability to stylishly light a set and imply emotion on a lower budget, creating masterpieces like David Lean’s taut romantic thriller BRIEF ENCOUNTER.
For nearly 30 years, the Academy Awards recognized this with separate Oscars for black and white and color cinematography, honoring films like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, REBECCA, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, THE THIRD MAN, ON THE WATERFRONT, and other acclaimed titles that used their black and white cinematography to build tension and suspense.
Many key shots in films like THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, like the spiderweb in the darkness or Robert Mitchum riding along the horizon would not have been as effective if shot in color.
True black and white is more faithful and dynamic to the subject than desaturated color photography, rendering more natural and subtle shading and color luminosity. While most digital cameras have a black and white mode, or can be desaturated in post, cameras without a native monochrome sensor cannot take full advantage of the benefits of shooting black and white when filtered through a debayering system and, for most non RAW cameras, heavy compression and de-noising which can ruin the fidelity of your black and white image.
Many educators prefer to teach in black and white so that students learn to shoot with proper exposure and composition rather than focus on getting a color balance just right. We’ve spoken to dozens of film professors and school teachers over the past year about their needs in a cinema camera beyond a simple “black and white mode” on teaching cameras. With 16mm film stock it was easy to give students Tri-X, now educators have to use less than stellar black and white capture modes from modern video cameras. We hope our camera will give professors the option of shooting on native black and white cameras.
The D16M goes on sale today for $3999.99 and ship in 8-12 weeks. Check it out on our store.
We’ll be walking around with the D16M at NAB, so come check it out in person if you’re in town!