Whether you’re taking snaps on a city break or preserving a moment of relaxation on the beach, photographing personal experiences on holiday is one of the joys of travel. With the popularisation of smartphone apps such as Instagram, travel photographs have been elevated to works of art. There are also many dedicated photographers who favour shots produced by digital cameras, as well as purists who use analogue products to create images of impeccable quality.
Every two years, amateurs and professionals alike converge on Cologne’s biannual Photokina exhibition, one of the most important events in the world of photography. The most recent event took place in September and saw the unveiling of several sensational new cameras and camera accessories from German manufacturers and international brands.
Leica is one of Germany’s most successful camera brands and, with the label having celebrated its centenary in 2013, Photokina was the perfect place to launch its new products. As Leica spokesman Jason Heward says, ‘Photokina is the world’s leading imaging event in the photographic industry, with 185,000 visitors in 2014. It is the ideal opportunity to announce new products to the photographic community.’
Revisit the classics
2014 also marked the 60th anniversary of Leica’s M camera. This milestone was celebrated with the release of a limited-edition digital version of the camera, designed to evoke the spirit of the original analogue model. ‘The M 60 is the only digital camera to be made without a screen, so the photographer has to focus on making the image, unaware of what they have captured until they download their images, similar to a photographer waiting to get to the darkroom,’ says Heward. ‘There is a real joy in understanding the photographic process, and working hard to capture that decisive moment. The photographer has to think about their image. They are not able to view and edit in the moment so getting the shot becomes even more fulfilling.’
But the brand isn’t just updating its classic models; Leica continues to innovate with fresh designs and new photography concepts. ‘We’ve also launched a whole new system this year – the Leica T Camera System,’ explains Heward. ‘With Wi-Fi capability and a touch screen, it’s handmade in Germany and breaks entirely new ground in the world of photography, while staying true to the Leica philosophy of adding nothing that is not essential.’
Unlike many new photography products, which boast a quirky look to stand out from the crowd, Leica is known for its uncomplicated aesthetic. This principle is evident both in its cameras and in its cases, such as the recently launched Bill Amberg collaboration. ‘Leica’s design is based on what is essential,’ explains Heward. ‘Anything superfluous is not included, so you are always working with a piece of German craftsmanship and engineering aimed at allowing you to be the photographer you want to be.’
It's all in the details
Another photography brand that stole the show at Photokina, while also showcasing German craftsmanship, is Eddycam. The label creates unique and luxurious camera straps made from elk skin and was founded by Edlef Wienen after a visit to Finland. ‘There I discovered the extraordinary properties of elk leather in terms of skin feel, wear and tear tolerance, weight distribution and processing quality.’ Wienen, a photography expert and passionate businessman, saw an opportunity to bring something new to the market and launched Eddycam shortly after. The brand is only in its infancy but is already stocked by 50 dealers in Germany, with new distributors launching in Switzerland and China. Practicality and choice were always at the forefront of Wienen’s mind. ‘My focus was on the function,’ Wienen admits. ‘With over 90 different models, we have many options for our customers. Each version is unique and the decision is with the user.’
The art of the 'selfie'
Another German label that has recently launched a standout product is Rollei, with its Selfie Stick. Capitalising on the recent trend for taking ‘selfies’, Rollei has spotted a niche in the market. ‘We are currently seeing a democratisation of photography, with cameras available for almost everyone using a mobile or smartphone,’ says Thomas Güttler, Rollei’s managing director. ‘Photos taken with these devices often have a very spontaneous character and a completely new genre was born – selfies. Rollei just had the idea to enable people to take better quality selfies, with special perspectives, in a very convenient way.’
For the tech-savvy traveller, the Selfie Stick is a lightweight and compact accessory that will make a real difference to the quality and energy of holiday photos. As Güttler says, ‘If you’re travelling, everything is about weight and size. These two factors have been key for us, as we wanted to give travellers maximum usability with minimal weight and size.’
From digital cameras made in the analogue tradition to quirky camera accessories capitalising on the selfie trend, Cologne is the perfect place to rediscover your inner photographer.