I spent a couple of sessions shooting in the new “L Monochrome” JPEG mode. The GX85 is the first camera to add a JPEG mode in some time, and I was interested in trying it out, since Panasonic has billed it as a more contrasty, nuanced monochrome with a lot of tonality.
As a JPEG mode, rather than an art filter, control is retained over settings like noise reduction, contrast and sharpness. And, like the regular monochrome mode from all their recent camera models, there is a very nice color filter set which lets you apply a red, orange, yellow or green filter to alter the resulting tones in your image. This harks back to B&W film photography when colored lens filters accomplished the same thing, albeit by actually changing the light as it hit the film, rather than software simulation as it is here. Nonetheless, the effect can be very nice. Different colors give different results, with green smoothing out skin tones in portraiture, and red providing a high contrast level with dark skies and bright white clouds.
Of course, none of these effects carry over to RAW files, but beyond putting out highly customizable JPEGS I found this new mode to help me see tonality and the promise of a good B&W image in a scene. It doesn’t hurt that the files turned out particularly good, with lots of differentiation between shades of gray and nice rich blacks. None of the samples in this post have had any post processing done, all are out of camera.
Not that these are perfect B&W images, of course. In order to reach maximum potential, they still need some selective dodging and burning. Particularly I would set the white point higher, so that highlights are brighter (as a digital sensor the metering tries to avoid overly bright highlights, which often help balance and strengthen B&W photographs). But it’s safe to say that I like this new mode a lot, and it gets me a good bit of the way towards very good monochrome photos right out of camera.