Photokina 2012 Preview – Malaysia (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of the Photokina 2012 Preview, focusing on the new 2012 cameras released by Leica. Photographs below, unless otherwise noted, taken with a Leica X2, Elmarit 24mm f2.8. Read Part 2 here.

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I was quite surprised to receive the call from the Leica Store Malaysia saying that they had received all the new gear released at the recently concluded Photokina in Germany, and were ready to preview them privately. Photokina had only just ended a few weeks ago!

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, i made a beeline for the lovely venue at the Avenue K residences, as excited as a little boy in a candy store. Gleefully, that’s what new products are all about — something new to get the juices flowing, something new that allows the photographer to push the envelope. For example, high ISO digital cameras were only just introduced a few years ago; before then, taking photographs in low-light environments without a flash would be impossible. New gear is about new possibilities, new opportunities. Certainly, that’s worth getting excited about.

I was not disappointed.

I’ve noticed something about Leica over the time i’ve spent researching them: unlike other more mass mainstream brands, Leica gestalt demands form and function, in almost equal balance. Not only do Leica cameras allow you to make beautiful images, the brand also places a lot of emphasis on making the camera aesthetically pleasing as well.

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The Leica X2 Paul Smith Edition. In the background are the colour and material options available for the Leica X2 Ala Carte Edition.

Hence their tie-ups with luxury brands such as Hermes, to produce the incredibly rare, beautiful and expensive Hermes Leica M9 Edition. So is the case with the new Leica X2 Paul Smith Edition. The X2 looks like it’s wrapped around a lavish flurry of colours. The bright orange top, the lime green bottom. And if that doesn’t satisfy you, the Leica X2 Ala Carte edition allows you to mix and match colours and textures to your heart’s content.

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Shannel Woo, the Leica Store Malaysia GM. Taken with the Leica S, 30-90mm F/3.5-5.6 Asph Vario-Elmar S.

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The new Leica M, with a host of new accessories. The video mic, the grip and finger wrap, the R-lens to M adapter. Taken with the Leica S, 30-90mm F/3.5-5.6 Asph Vario-Elmar S.

The new Leica S was also available, but that didn’t interest me too much. I noticed that it’s a beast of a camera, incredibly heavy, paired with S-class lenses that are more akin to solid chunks of glass. I can’t imagine carrying a body and two lenses anywhere far without breaking my back. Definitely a studio device, and if it’s an improvement on the Leica S2 i demoed a few months ago, a very capable device at that.

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The new King, the Leica M.

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The Leica M-E fronting the Leica M. Notice the slightly new design in the M-E, the titanium-coloured top cap, as compared to either the standard black or silver for the M9s.

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The rear of the twin Leica Ms on display.

The main course, for me, was the new Leica M. The naming convention seems to have taken a weird step sideways, not unlike how the iPad 3 is not called that, but instead The New iPad. So the M10 (if chronological convention be observed) is the Leica M. I’ll skip the full list of goodies the new M offers, deferring to the opinion and reportage of Steve Huff for more details if you’re interested, and go straight to what i felt i liked about it the most in the time i had to test it.

The Handling, that’s what impressed me the most. The lighted up lines in the rangefinder viewfinder makes it a bright treat to use, quite a bit easier to get the framing and focusing correct. While the M9 i recently used while on holiday in Europe had a stiff shutter release for single shots, the new M had a shutter button that was smooth as silk. The heft seems a tiny bit more balanced as well, and sits well in the hand.

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Mathieu Musnier and the Leica M

From what i could see in the LCD (which is new too, a big step up from the M9 LCD), the test shots were extremely good. The new CMOS sensor at work here. Our host of the night was quite proud to show off the video capabilities as well as the Live View of the M, but i wasn’t too interested in those; hardly take videos, and why use Live View when you’ve got the world’s best digital rangefinder camera in your hands.

Having said that, a few of the other guests were very appreciative of the Live View because they wear glasses and have struggled for years with issues related to wearing glasses and nailing critical focus. Also, as eyesight fails as we mature, it’ll probably be a great help there too.

I have a new dream camera to lust after, it looks like.

In the meantime, i’ll just keep on saving for a Leica M9. A classic in every sense of the word, more and more of them will start hitting the secondary market soon as people look to upgrade.

As a note on the camera i was using to take shots during the event, the Leica X2. A nifty little camera, has a relatively large sensor in relation to the size of the body. While auto-focus speeds are not as snappy as i’ve come to be used to with my Olympus OM-D, it more than makes up for it with fantastic image quality and usability. The 24mm Elmarit lens performs well, very sharp even when wide open at f2.8.

Here are some bonus photographs taken with the Leica X2 that more than aptly show off it’s repertoire of capabilities:

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A thick, dark cloud moved through the top edges of the Petronas Twin Towers when this shot was taken. The effect was breath-taking.

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Infinity.

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Our entertainers for the night, serenading us with beautiful tunes.

Part 2 of the Photokina Preview will feature the Leica Monochrom, looking less at the gear, and more on the event itself and the people in attendance.

To make sure you don’t miss Part 2 when it is published, sign up for the Volume of Interactions newsletter! Updates right into your inbox! Enter your email address below to get started.

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