My day in Berlin and the Leica Monochrome announcement video

My day in Berlin and the Leica Monochrome announcement video

What a day! Woke up early and had some great breakfast in the hotel and then took a stroll through the streets of Berlin. At around 1pm I met up with some other guys in the Hotel lobby as we were going to head down to Paris Cafe, which came highly recommended by Thorsten Overgaard. Thorsten drove his car (nicknamed “The Italian Stallion”  here from Denmark so that was our mode of transportation to the cafe.

I was snapping away with my Olympus OM-D and Voigtlander 17mm 0.95 lens, which I am really falling for (did I already say that in a previous post)? lol. It was funny as I saw at least 3 others walking around with the OM-D, snapping pics of the new Leica cameras. This seems to be a popular little camera, and for good reason.

As we were heading down the streets of Berlin, Thorsten was our tour guide and me and Eric Kim were in the backseat enjoying the ride 🙂 After we made it to the Cafe we all sat at a table and apparently had many other Leica guys joining us. Even Anthony Suau, the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer who had some incredible stories about his work. I thoroughly enjoyed his conversation. You can check out some his work at a project he is working on right now at facing This guy is incredible.

Was a pleasure to meet Anthony Suau, World Press Photo of the Year winner 1987 and 2009

As always, when in a Cafe I like to check my surroundings and fire away at anything I find interesting. I found the little OM-D did quite well and using the manual lens on it was a joy. BTW, I never used the magnification or assist, just MF’d using the EVF without help. I find you can do this with the OM-D without a problem, and you don’t even need peaking.

So after the great lunch that we ate at the Paris Cafe we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Leica event..which was inching closer.

So I get to my room, take a quick shower and get dressed. We all had to meet down in the lobby as  shuttle bus was  taking us to the venue, which was literally 3 minutes away. I was excited as I was minutes away from seeing the new Leica gear, and figured I would even get a chance to shoot a few frames with it.

After watching an hour of the event, they stopped and gave everyone and hour break. Gave me time to roam around and meet up with a few online buddies that I have never physically met. I soon found that people were approaching me left and right. They knew me, but I didn’t know them! It was a pleasure to meet everyone though, it really was. That was the best part about this whole night, for meet so many of the people who frequent this site!

So after the break the new products were announced. The M Monochrome, the X2, the V-Lux 40 and the special edition Hermes M9-P.

I was excited to give the new Monochrome and even X2 a spin but was a bit disappointed when there were no samples to handle or touch. They were all behind glass. I had hoped that I would be able to at least borrow one to shoot around Berlin with for a day but sadly, no.  So for those e-mailing wanting samples, my thoughts, or a review…know that I have none (except for the 3-4 shots I already posted after I borrowed the Monochrome from someone else) because I have not used either cameras.I literally have had 280 e-mails this morning asking me what I think of the new cameras…but I can not yet say so I suggest reading the reviews that have already popped up.

What I do know from seeing others work with it is that it appears to be pretty damn incredible. To me, it is back to basics and simplicity. Black & White…Monochrome…has SOUL. I have seen many images shot with this new M and let me say that the output is mind-blowing. Don’t go by my low light super high ISO samples, check out reviews by others who have been using it.

Jonathan Slack has written a short user review that I enjoyed. Sean Reid also has one but I haven’t seen it as his site is subscription based.

One shot with the Monochrome M at ISO 6400 and this was in almost total darkness…

So yea, I will review these new Leica cameras whenever Leica wants to give me review samples. We shall see! BTW, I know the site has been running slow for the past 12 hours as well as not even loading in correctly. This is being looked into right now so it should be back to normal soon.

Here is a video of the event if anyone wants to see the announcement. Enjoy!

Thank you for your patience with the slow loading!



  1. Well we centainly have a lot of people letting off steam about the new Leica that’s for sure and as they say there is no such thing as bad publicity ! Why do these people care ? Do they just spend their lives comparing one camera with another ?Do they ever take pictures? If you love your Nikon or your Canon then be happy and take pictures with it simple! I will look only at your pictures and say well done when I see one I like -one that inspires me -will never care about the apparatus only the photo.
    I love the idea of a B&W camera as I am crazy about B&W Photography.The new Leica looks exactly what I want and will now be saving to get one in the future-sure it will take some time but I will get one.I will be using it to take beautiful black and white photos in the way I like with a camera which I feel has a kind of Zen simplicity (think Steve said as much recently in a review) now even better as it is B&W only.

    Best wishes to fellow Street Shooters


  2. Hi guys,

    although Leica has 0.somthing market share in digital cameras it is fascinating how an event like May 10th makes photo enthusiasts around the world floods the net with comments.

    Most of them (incl. Mine, No. 88 in “My one hour with…) are between critical and cynical.

    Ok, Leica always moves people, I just ordered some kg of LFI magazine back issues.

    Somewhere I read long ago: Honda and Harley driver meet at red traffic lights: Honda driver tells the Harley guy that his bike uses less gasoline, service and spare parts cheaper, faster in acceleration and top speed, half price to buy…

    Harley guy replies: “It is still a Honda”………………………….

    I regard the x 2 as one of the best looking cameras ever (comparable with the film cameras like Contax, Leica etc 30 years ago.).

    Second best looking goes to Olympus and as Steve’s photos are quite good maybe this is the one to go for. Flexibility with lenses (I like zooms), view finder (not this rip-off external Olympus with Leica badge that attached makes a ever-ready case unusable), half price.

    Steve, will read your review of the Olympus again later the day.

    Afterwards I might start to save for the X2, although I am not a guy who buys brand names (actually my shirts, pants, sun glasses are all NO NAMES)

    Best regards

  3. Joe,

    Thank you for your post. I share in your frustration. Over the past year I have noted Leica slipping from a company that is passionate in the art of photography to a passion of corporate positioning.

    I watched Steve’s video with embarrassment for Leica. While devoted employees are making some of the finest precision equipment in the world, its CEO fumbles in what should have been an historical presentation. I fear that the recent sale of Leica will lead to the demise of the Leica I once loved (see its ostentatious new building construction).

    Although I feel significant profit loading is built into the price of the M9 and S2, to its defense Leica has priced the M9M the same as the M9P, which appears to be its essence. Also, no price increase for the X2.

    The present corporate strategy of Leica and the apparent lack of upper management passion for photography as an artform is alarming to me.

  4. I think if I was Leica, I’d be looking over my shoulder. Sooner or later one of two things, or both, are going to happen.
    1. The multi-millionaire ding dongs who buy them, which I think is a fair bit of their market, are going to stop because that already have one, and don’t understand or care about the difference between an M9 and an M9-P. For pity’s sake, the one hanging around their neck isn’t to take pictures with, it might not even have a battery in it. If another bauble catches their eye, like a silly $5,000 cell phone or something, they’ll all stampede out and buy one, and there will only be room for one thing to hang around their neck, so the M9 will end up in a drawer.
    2. Canon or Nikon will finally get in the game, seeing a market for $3,500 FF rangefinders, each of which, with their scale of manufacturing, will return a very good profit. It will have a million dot rear screen, good high ISO performance, sensor cleaning, and will work day in and day out. That will take another bite of the M9’s customers, the people who are actually photographers. What’s left? Maybe not even enough to survive on.

  5. Hmmm – I think some of the commenters here aren’t getting it.

    First, the M-M: a camera without an anti-aliasing filter and without a Bayer pattern filter surely is special. More light reaches the sensor, it’s all about tonality and dynamic range. That thing will be wonderful. High ISO? HCB didn’t have that, and still made better pictures than most of us, right?

    Second, the X2. Leaf shutter with flash sync at any speed anyone? This little thing will easily overpower the sun – so it’s also something very special. I bet it’s also a terrific little studio cam, but ideal for the streets of course. Max aperture too “slow”? You weren’t close enough, my friends… 😉

    That said, Steve’s photos taken with the Olympus/Voigtländer combination shown here are mighty impressive…

  6. FYI – EXIF of guy in paisley shirt says 5000, not 6400. Impressive none the less.

    Very interested to see some more high ISO images.

  7. From a photographers point of view, the M9, standard or monochrome is in a league of its own as it’s a FF sensor rangefinder. If any other camera manufacturer released a rangefinder “style” FF camera, then Leica has nothing.

    Let us pray for Zeiss & Hasselblad to come together once again and give photographers what they want.

    The stupidity of Leica is that by pricing the camera so high with limited features, they lose sales in the lens department. The only possible way that I could EVER consider dropping 8K on a camera is if the sensor, electronics could be upgradeable. Invest once in the body, keep investing in technology as it become available.

    I think that yesterday Leica has stated they are the Prada of the photo world… I wear jeans and a T-shirt.

  8. Steve, great coverage. Thank you so much for posting of the event and the movie. Very cool. I know this takes allot of work on your part. Foolish of Leica to not give you a loaner new M to test drive for a few days in Berlin. Stay thirsty my friend. 🙂

  9. All these Leica announcements are simply wonderful! No GAS, not itch of upgrading, of changing horses or adding more lenses to the current m line up.

  10. Steve:

    I just want to say Thank You for traveling half-way across the world to provide us this coverage.

    I really hope Leica gets a MM into your hands quick…love the site and all you do!

    It was your site that I read the most before taking the dive into the Leica world.

    Thanks Steve!


  11. I agree with you totally, Harry – the whole Leica presentation was one huge disappointment, and the saving grace for Steve was meeting a few interesting photographers in Berlin.

    I have been a Leica fan for many years, but they now seem to be a camera manufacturer for the very rich, and the picture, by Steve, of the oil rich Arab Sheikhs gazing at the latest bling from Leica sums it all up for me.

    The Leica X2 was the biggest let down for me – just a lazy tidy up of the X1.

    I will stick with Fuji, as they seem to be the innovators in camera design these days, without the ridiculous prices asked for by Leica.

    Thanks for the presentation, Steve, and I hope it was worth the effort and expense.

  12. Steve, glad you’re enjoying Berlin – the Leica event sounds like a huge adventure, and I appreciate you sharing that with us. Wow! We, your loyal readers crashed your site! Makes me proud, I’m sure you feel the same.

    As for Leica’s global announcements, sorry … but WTF???!!!

    Just some rudimentary math here, and no exact science to this – but I think Leica has finally captured that hard to corner market of roughly 12 photographers looking for a $8,500 camera (lens not included) that only takes black & white photos.

    My M9 takes perfect black & white (or monochrome) photos – even if they started out in color – with a little post-op in Silver Efex Pro or even Aperture.

    As for a $7,000 f/2 Summicron lens and a marginally improved X2 – I think Leica is clueless when it comes to today’s market.

    Anyway, Steve … very happy for you. Have fun and enjoy meeting your fans … and if you bump into anyone from Fujifilm, maybe kiss and make up with them – because they are still the dark horse in camera wars 🙂

  13. Erik Kim!! Thats awesome you met him. Been following him for a while now. While im not the biggest fan of his “in the face” flash street photography, he has some awesome shots.

    Thanks for the video!

  14. Steve:

    Thanks for all the live video. It was like being there, very nice. I like the idea of a monochrome M, but like most folks the pricing is out of my league. What surprised me was just how lame the Leica presentation was. I read your notes about an hour of prep, then an hour of wait, and then finally the presentation you showed. I do not know if I was more mystified by the uber ostentatious classical musical performance or the incredibly lame presentation by the Leica CEO. My God, have these guys never seen a product launch before, especially one delivered by Steve Jobs? What’s even more unbelievable is that they paid for you and a bunch of other thought-leaders to come to Germany for a multi-day visit, and yet you are not given a camera to try out during your visit. The whole point of the presentation and the huge expense to Leica for bringing you and the other guys to Germany is so that you can write about your findings and (hopefully) convince your minions to purchase their product. Not giving you access to the product essentially nullifies their entire effort. It seems unbelievable stupid to me, and I am a lover of Leica products! I would think that the two main product announcements (mono-M and X2) are going to need all the help that they can get, as both products are too little too late. In the case of the mono-M, there is still no auto-sensor clean and no live-view (latter critical for accurate focus at wide Leica apertures), and in the case of the X2, that ship has come and gone now that there are competitors like M43, NEX, and Fuji. Just my 2-cents.

    • I’d be very surprised to find that Leica paid for the Bloggers to go out to Germany. I assumed they paid on their own dime.

      And I agree the classical music was an odd choice. The Leica brand is already associated with old photographers and old school shooting. Playing music that is associated with old people isn’t the way to attract new people into the fold. Seems they’d want to communicate the message that Leica is a modern company rather than an ancient one.

      • “Playing music that is associated with old people..” – whaaaaaat! What unbelievable tripe! Perhaps you’d better attend a few classical performances and find out what’s going on! Maybe find out where the better looking chicks go, too.

        Anyway, I agree a launching without the product to hand would be about as exciting as attending the launching of the Titanic which was still under construction at another shipyard some distance away. Oh, that’s Clive Palmer’s recently announced plan for Titanic II, in case you’re thinking of something “old”…

  15. Harry, my thoughts exactly!! If I have to look at another Leica M in friggin’ white Hermes leather, I’m going to puke. Come on Leica, nothing to try out? How hard would that have been?? A presentation and a few showcases and that’s it? And now we have to wait at least 6 months before any of the interesting things can actually be touched in a shop (really interested when the S2 hassy adapter can actually be bought …). All cameras will be bought by the two guys pictured who actually never take a single frame with it, so it will be impossible for us to have one, even if we wanted to cough up 8000 USD for the MM. If I have to put up with ostrich M9s, then only to fund real innovation for us real photographers. where’s the M10, new screen, focus peaking, +usable high iso, new S2 lenses, new mirrorless Leica?? COME ON!! Get a move on things 🙂 🙂 ehm, sorry, just being impatient on a sunny Friday afternoon …

  16. I remember back about 12 years or more, didn’t Kodak make a B&W only DSLR? At least they were prototyping it, but I doubt it sold very well…

  17. Wow, so Leica has people fly 1/4 way around the world to listen to a short presentation and look at a few samples behind glass. And of course, one of the announcements was yet another special edition for the very wealthy.
    Steve, you’ve got a lot more patience and understanding than I do.
    That’s incredible. Your expensive trip is mostly pictures taken on the streets of Berlin with an Oly.
    The arrogance of Leica is breath-taking.

    • “..The arrogance of Leica is breath-taking..”

      It isn’t “arrogance”’s just knowing who your customers are: people with a lot of money. Is Rolls-Royce (..aka VW/Audi..) “arrogant”? ..No; they know that their customers are people who have a lot of money.

      People who have less money will buy something cheaper people do all the time; cheaper phones, cheaper cars, cheaper boats, cheaper food, cheaper clothes. A cheaper bag will hold things just as well as a Gucci-brand bag. People don’t buy Gucci because it “holds things better”, but because they like to be thought of as the kind of person who buys Gucci.

      Many cheaper cameras work just as well as, or better than, Leicas. If one thinks that Leica lenses are better (..sharper, wider aperture, better flare resistance..) than other-brand lenses, then one can buy Leica lenses and fit them on cheaper cameras: on an Oly, or a Panasonic, or a Ricoh, etc.

      It’s not “arrogance”, it’s just guessing “what the market will bear”.

      • I hate to jump in here, but I agree with Harry. I may not call it arrogance; however, I believe the strategy is misguided.

        I would guess the core of the Leica business is folks with incomes in the 100-300k range, and that is not rich. I am not rich, but can afford a lot of nice things, live in a nice house, send kid to nice school. I work hard to by “luxury” brands like Vandersteen, Leica, Zeiss, etc.. I buy the best tools so I only have to buy them once, yet there is a limit, and I’m fast losing my love for Leica. I’m not wasteful either.. I use what I buy.. My Jeep has 340,000 miles on it!

        Really, I have to stop here.. I backspaced over an entire paragraph, and am disappointed that I was compelled to enter the discussion…

        A tool of history is fast becoming an extravagance that I think many will abandon..

        I should delete this whole thing because it makes no sense…. but it does represent my frustration and for that, I’ll let it stay..

      • According to Websters, Arrogance: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
        Sorry David, arrogance it is.

    • Harry, you hit it right on the head.

      If Leica knows people will travel from all over the world for their announcement how can they justify not having any samples for people to actually use. The didn’t even have ONE body for people to pass around. So exactly why does everybody need to be there again?

      It would have made a lot more sense to wait until they had cameras on hand to fly in bloggers. Or maybe they could have told everyone in advance, “Hey, we are just going to TALK about cameras at this presentation. We won’t let anybody actually HOLD one.”

      Or better still, they should have said, “All of you who have M9 cameras in the audience, please set them to B&W mode and pass them around. Basically you’re now holding the NEW M-Monochrom because we didn’t change ANYTHING at all when we made this new camera. Not even simple stuff like adding shutter speed information to the viewfinder…”

      • “..we didn’t change ANYTHING at all when we made this new camera..” ..they removed the ‘Bayer array’ of colour filters from the sensor.

        “..Not even simple stuff like adding shutter speed information to the viewfinder” ..the M9 has always displayed shutter speed information in the viewfinder when set to ‘A’ (Automatic mode).

        After choosing a manual shutter speed, it displays under/over/’correct’ exposure indicators for a few seconds.

        • You’re totally missing the point of what I’m saying. Obviously they changed something -they made a B&W camera. However, they didn’t make a major change to the chip itself. It’s essentially the same M9 chip with the Bayer Array color sensors removed. OK, maybe it was too much for them to create an entirely new chip specifically designed for B&W photography. Let’s give them a pass on that.

          However, some 3 years after the introduction of the M9 is it really too much to ask that the fix some minor weaknesses of the camera the way Nikon does when the go from D3 to D3s? Is it too much to ask that the selected shutter speed be visible in the viewfinder in manual mode? Since it shows in A mode, and in the EXIF information, obviously this information is communicated to the camera. How much software rewritting would it require to display this information in the viewfinder?

          There are many other examples of minor tweaks that they could have made to the camera. The M-Monochrom is very much like the M8 of 6 years ago. And while it retains so very much of what makes shooting with a Leica great, it also retains many of the design weaknesses that can make shooting with the Leica system a less than pleasurable experience at times.

          • > Is it too much to ask that the selected shutter speed be visible
            > in the viewfinder in manual mode?

            Too much to ask in which sense? I hope they don’t clutter the viewfinder, so at least the default should be no shutter speed in viewfinder in manual mode. See, two people, two opinions. Too much to ask a third person? A fourth?

  18. seems to me that using lightroom 4 and silver efex pro would give you the same results as an $8k leica monochrom. now, that x2 is looking sweet…

    • Really? The x2 looks overpriced and outdated. There is nothing it offers that other camera on the market don’t, well except for being able to pay an extra 1k in the leica tax

  19. Good review about the OM-D 😉
    I can understand the concept of a B&W digital camera, and I hope you’ll be able to try it and to show us some great pictures.
    But the X2 sounds really disappointing, no ? 🙁

  20. Great coverage, Steve. Thanks for the hard work.
    I think they (Leica guy) would borrow you M-M if you brought your M9-P with you (Ha, that’s the trick).
    Anyway, I like the M&M on my hands better–at least they are colorful.

    Good luck with your trip.

  21. Hey Steve, can you upload the original files to see them in photoshop? it’ll be great to see the real resolution.

  22. Leica M Monochrome, para Fashion Victim 🙂
    Gracias por el trabajo Steve, Saludos.

  23. I tried gettting on your site last night for quite a while (like others). I figured we just loaded it til it crashed…after all, it is the most popular site, right?! It is with me. Thanks for your coverage. A monochrome only cam, wanted one for years…hoping another reputable manufacturer will take the hint and make one us average guys (and gals) can afford!

  24. Honestly, what I’m getting most out of from your Leica coverage is how good the OM-D and the Voigtlander is 😉

    I’ll go look around your site for photos of it mounted now (and if there aren’t any, you know what you have to do…)

  25. Hi Steve,

    which camera did you use for recording this video?
    Was it the Olympus E-M5?

    The quality during the presentation/speech was’nt very good. Was it very dark during this presentation?
    What ISO did you use during this take? (was it on manual or automatic?)

    Thanks for your answer.

    • This was the OM-D. Keep in mind, at the event I shot in B&W mode, was a couple rows back and using a 17mm lens at 0.95. Was pretty dark in there as the lighting left a lot to be desired. Of course a 5D III with a 135 would have been better but the video quality of the OM-D is spectacular actually. If you watch the 1st part in 720 (not 360) you will see the quality is fantastic, even with the 17 wide open at 0.95.

      • Actually I did watch it in 720 and full screen and like the quality very much.
        Just this presentation “shocked” me a bit. But I thought, it might have been very dark while recording this scene. And I didn’t know, that you can record video in B&W.

        Also I think the sound (in car and especially during the orchestra play) is very nice.
        Did you use some external mic or just the inbuild?


  26. Wow, a camera which can shoot at 10,000 ISO. There’s never been one of those before! Oh, apart from my D3…which is five years old.

    Gotta hand it to them, though, they’ve got balls. “Yes, we have a new 50mm lens which has perfect curves and doesn’t vignette at all. And it’ s only 8000 dollars. Aperture? F2”. To be able to say that with a straight face takes some practice.

  27. .. i am very disappointed: a Mielstone Mono-Cam with a 230ooo dot display???… and the general pricing is not driven by photographic needs (or wants); although i have some very fast Leica glass (1,4 21, 1,4 35 II and III, 1,4 50 asph, and others) i really begin to dislike the “new rich marketing appraach” of a craftmanship rooted company.. obviously since it was taken over by a millionair (who himself is no photographer (amateur = lover) )– together with Blackstone and its blunt profit approach they will kill the last sympathies of many ACTIVE “users” for leica… steve Huff for instance already had his coming out, when he revealed his new love for the mft Cam OM d 5.. which sensor is already better than that of the outdated m 9..

    ..future will tell what will happen, when all that chinese and 3rd world millionaires discover, that a small point and shoot produces much better images for their needs…

    • If this would have a new roadmap been from Fujifilm, nothing but criticism, long threads in forums to bash the concept and criticize every minor issue. But when it’s Leica, it’s all wonderful. How ridiculous isn’t it to put a completely over the top priced B/W camera only in the market? Or again, a far too expensive X2 without even a decent viewfinder incorporated in the design? What’s the next announcement, the M10 based upon the M9, but with different leather and a new metal-brushing?

  28. Those Arab Sheiks looking at the ultra limited Leica is classic! Puts the whole thing into perspective. They’re the only ones that can afford something like that. It’s like one Sheik is on the phone to his bank moving funds over for a down payment – or talking to one of his brothers asking “1 dozen or 2?”. There ya go, your picture title – “1 dozen or 2?”

    • Nah, an Arab sheik wouldn’t need to phone his bank for that. He’s got enough pocket change to buy a body and several lenses right there on the spot.

  29. Steve, thanks for taking us along for the ride. Good stuff.

    It would only be right for Leica to send you a few cameras for review.

    Keep up the great work, love the site.

  30. Hello Steeve,

    Keep on with our enthousiasm 🙂
    And have a nice stay in Berlin

  31. Cool camera.

    But I think I will wait for the Leica G to come out…. you know, the one that only takes grainy images for ISO > 200.

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