Berlin is probably my favourite city to photograph. There is so much history, and its vastness means there is always something to shoot. Even if Berlin weren’t so big, it would continue to present new photographic opportunities because the city is changing fast. It keeps reinventing itself; whenever I return to Berlin, it looks different. Somehow it feels different. This is great because even though I have wandered the same streets of Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg, I experience them slightly differently from before.
I decided to take only one camera and one lens. The challenge I have is that I enjoy the gear aspect of photography so much I always want to bring a lot of gear. This leads to much contemplation before travelling to decide what to bring. I usually shoot everything I bring, and I hardly have travels where I leave the gear I took unused. Sometimes though, it is nice to limit gear to the maximum. That is the approach I took this time.
I decided to go for 50mm instead of 35mm. The slightly narrower perspective works well in urban environments. I brought the Voigtländer 50mm F2 APO-Lanthar. I wrote about this lens before, using it on the Leica SL. I now shoot with the M10, and I was curious how this combo would work. The curiosity was aimed at handling; there are no questions about the output of the lens. The next photo shows how incredibly sharp and clear the Voigtländer APO renders.
This performance makes the Voigtländer APO a deliberate choice. It’s not the best all-rounder lens because it is so good. The sharpness and clarity work in urban settings like this as they deliver a certain grittiness to a scene. A very different kind of grittiness compared to the noise in film, but it can evoke a similar response when viewing the photographs. The handling on the M10 is good but not great. The lens feels just a tad too big on an M, which didn’t bother me when I used this on the SL.
The outstanding performance of the Voigtländer APO worked well for the photo above. The beautiful façade of this significant building in Berlin is captured with much detail and clarity. The New Synagogue remained relatively untouched during Kristallnacht, but was heavily damaged during the Second World War. It continued to be in a poor state after the end of the war in East Germany. Only after the fall of the wall did serious reconstruction happen. It serves as a Synagogue now again but is also a Jewish Centre. This chapter is, of course, the most dramatic one in the long history of Berlin. I will never cease to be amazed by how Europeans found a way to move forward after this darkness. What Berlin has become in our time is perhaps the most tangible evidence of that.
Berlin hosts an unfathomable amount of cafes, bars, and restaurants. It is the place where the very German and delicious tradition of coffee and cake in the afternoon has merged with all of the cultures of the people that flocked to Berlin over the years. This has resulted in a cacophony of drinking and eating options, much to my liking. The Leica M is made for this environment. Relatively small and unobtrusive, it is easy to take with you as you go through the city from one eatery to the next.
The Voigtländer 50mm APO highlights a hot item in German politics today with clarity. Döner is one of the most favoured street food items in Germany, particularly in Berlin. Due to inflation, prices have risen strongly, and this is causing a stir. Even Chancellor Scholz is asked to address the issue of the high-priced sandwich.
Let’s turn our attention back to the lens. The photo above is probably my favourite from this trip. After a rather warm October, the cold was finally coming in. Snow was falling while we were there, which created some nice photographic opportunities. The Voigtländer is perfect for the shot above. The snow is captured extremely clearly, and even though it was quite dark, the photo is crisp with little noise. The large aperture helps, of course, as does the sensor in the M10; despite its age, it is still world-class today.
Berlin is a joy to visit; I hope to return there on many occasions in the future. Knowing myself, the chances are slim that I will take this exact setup of the M10 paired with the Voigtla4nder 50mm APO. But whatever I bring, Berlin will be ready and waiting, presenting itself in yet another light.
Join our community and play an active part in the future of Macfilos: This site is run by a group of volunteers and dedicated authors around the world. It is supported by donations from readers who appreciate a calm, stress-free experience, with courteous comments and an absence of advertising or commercialisation. Why not subscribe to the thrice-weekly newsletter by joining our mailing list? Comment on this article or, even, write your own. And if you have enjoyed the ride so far, please consider making a small donation to our ever-increasing running costs.