Friday, 21 September 2012


Two years ago when I was rushing between New York, Hawaii, London, Paris and then the Loire Valley I was disappointed that I couldn’t also swing by Cologne, Germany to hang out at Photokina for a day or maybe two. Every two long years the great and the good of the photographic world gather together for a huge photography fest with pixel-heads drooling over the latest models and eager to be one of the first to play with the plethora of new toys. I swore back in 2010 that the very next time I’d be there, not just reading the reams of reports, reviews and gushing prose about what was happening next but there, seeing it for myself and most likely writing my own gushing prose.

But when finally September came round it looked like I wouldn’t be able to take a few days off and hang out there drinking it all in as I’d hoped but instead have to cram it all in one intense day. And today was the day!

To make my cunning plan work I wanted to be there at the show for the maximum hours possible which entailed a stupid o’clock pre-trains running taxi ride to Gatwick to reluctantly throw myself on the mercy of EasyJet. But I made it and the ticket I had pre-ordered included the train from the airport to the exhibition centre so it was easier than I thought to get straight to the show. I could see tantalising glimpses of Cologne on the horizon from the train, perhaps I could pop by later after the show and before I head back to the airport. Yes that could be a plan!

On entering I made a bee-line for the Leica wing. I had to schlep through the Nikon, the HP and pass the corner of all the Canon stuff. Their stands were bright, a little brash with an excited hum of buzzing photographers checking out their wares. But the Leica Hall, however, was subtly lit with pools of light illuminating each new exciting offering flanked by a giant white X, C, S or M. The Paul Smith X2, all orange and green in a little cabinet, as maybe you’d expect any self-respecting designer outfit to be. The M-E had plenty of takers, all clutching the subtle grey body and the hallowed lenses. I had a go, the M-E is a serious consideration for me but despite about a dozen attempts over two visits I was not able to take a picture in focus. The range-finder focusing is so much trickier than good old auto-focus. Definitely very much food for thought, but undeniably I am taking on a major challenge if I go down that route. Maybe if I have the optical viewfinder adjusted for my long-sightedness or possibly get used to focusing wearing my reading glasses, I would fare better. But the first attempt was far from impressive.

The D-Lux 6 however, the upgrade to my current little Leica is fabulous! The 1.4 lens, the aperture ring, the astonishing new viewfinder, the clever restyling on the EVF focusing, the built in ND filters – I want, I want, I want! Before I get the overcoming urge to surreptitiously slip one in my camera bag I visited the Leica Galerie. The curators have done a fantastic job gathering some of the most favourite/well known photographs. The Magnum greats, Nick Ut’s show-stopping/Vietnam War-stopping of Kim Phuc, his fellow Pulitzer prize winners, Rankin and a fabulous collection chosen by my hero Elliott Erwitt. I missed the Erwitt exhibition when I was at the ICP nearly a year ago. They had replaced his work with a retrospective on the decade post 9/11. To rest my weary feet and to fill my head with more inspirational photographers’ musings I sit and listen to talks from Nick Rains, Peter Turnley and Tom Stoddart. Tom’s work captures those injustices in glorious starkness that shouldn’t ever happen and as Tom says “don’t be sad at my pictures, be angry. Not with the photographer but the politicians”.

I probably should explore more of what Photokina has to offer me. There’s over 1,200 exhibitors and I’ve seen one of them. It’s what I came to see however but I also fancy a little explore and to purposely go and check out Lee filters.

Lee has brought out another version of my RF-75 system but mine looks sleeker and appears more robust. Though there are rumours that they'll be a Big Stopper for their more diminutive filter format and that is interesting. Hmmm I wonder how my filters are going to attach to my new camera, must check that when I return to “Leica World”.


I check out Hasselblad, their stand is teeming, a crowd gaping at the Lunar and agog as to how it can justify its gravity-defying price point (and that's coming from a Leica owner!) They're also offering very popular smart black show bags so that will create a gathering for sure. I've seen a few people sporting a Leica show bag but the staff vehemently deny its existence. Well that surely is going to make me more determined to lay my hands on one before I leave!

It’s not too long before I return to the calming influence of the land of Leica. Principally I wish to explore more of the Galerie and there's always the mission to check out the arrangement for pimping up the D-Lux 6 that examining the Lee filters made me think of. I sit through a couple more presentations and satisfy my curiosity about the way to attach filters to the new D-Lux, entirely differently than ever before is the answer. As usual Leica have no intention to assist their D-Lux owners add filters etcetera so I will have to research the requisite LX-7 accessories.

When the show is drawing to an end I treat myself to the Ninety Nine Years Leica book and gently manage persuade them to part with one of those Leica Photokina bags.

My plan to explore Cologne further is scuppered by being extraordinary weary, especially of seemingly seeing rest of the show I hadn't seen as I tried to locate the appropriate exit. Next time I need two days!

Cologne will have to wait for 2014 for a further examination and I head for the airport (considerably more challenging than journey to the show). It transpires that EasyJet have laid on a treat for the return journey, a fours and a half hour delay in an empty airport with Muzak played continuously on an endless loop. EasyJet-lag for sure!

A very long day, arrived home over 24 after I left, so in summary:

  • Photokina was as fabulous as I believed it would be
  • Journey there and back not so
  • Will definitely plan to return 2014, and spend longer exploring all of it
  • Lots of lovely new Leicas to dream about
  • Have to wait a little longer than I hoped for my new delivery
  • t-45 (ish) and counting!

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