Restricting yourself in photography is sometimes really enhancing your photography. I wondered nonetheless as I heard that Leica will bring us a digital camera with a B&W-only sensor.
As I am just now still testing the different setting of my NEX 7 with a third party lens (Voigtlaender 35 mm f 1.2) I got some good ideas out of the ongoing discussion on the Internet.
Everyone who starts out restricting his photography gear thinks about the technical issues. From a technical and practical view this is not so hard but challenging in terms of the creative process. But it is not only a technical issue it is on the other hand a much more visual, psychological and mental approach. It all happens in your mind, you just have to find a way to make it work with your gear.
That said I like to have the possibility to change my mind on the fly and go from b/w to color and vice versa. But I found out that restricting myself to b/w on the NEX gives me a good focus advantage. I am shooting in Raw but have my picture style put to b/w. The focus peeking color to red which shows the area in focus - great feature. With this setting I nearly never miss to focus correctly on my subjects at this shallow depth of field and afterwards have the possibility to change the images from color to b/w or stay with an even greater vivid palette.
On the other hand I believe that this is just a start with a technical approach. It is like testing what can you get with just, let’s say a nifty fifty and after some time it changes your way of looking at scenes. You begin to see the world recognizing the strength and the capabilities your setting has. You will start to see the world differently because you see it in the way you limited yourself. You want go for the shots you can’t get with your settings but you will get even better shots in your defined terms.
It's apart from any other limitation the same with B&W. Taking a color picture and framing it right is not so complicated to learn but how to see in B/W is a different matter. Any pretty color won’t help you and you hopefully start after some time to ignore colors and see luminance, tonal interaction, structure and graphic elements and so on. It's a total different way of seeing.
It's not necessary to have a dedicated B/W camera. From an aesthetic, and restricting standpoint this option is one of many for training your brain and it helped me to find some good settings on my NEX 7.
All images have been shot at f1.2 at ISO 1600 and processed in NIK Silver Efex Pro II.