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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 05-02-2011   #51
furcafe
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This earlier thread covered many of the reasons for using high ISOs:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=104339

Good for you if you don't need anything over ISO 400, but many of us do either: (1) shoot in nightclubs or similarly dark environments (in fact, the ease of focusing & shooting in available darkness w/RFs was 1 of the main reasons for me preferring them over SLRs in the 1st place); or (2) would like to use the flexibility offered by higher ISOs to do things that weren't possible with film, e.g., handheld shooting in dark environments w/smaller apertures to get more DoF or higher shutter speeds to stop action. And, as Keith wrote, aside from the economic & engineering challenges created for camera designers, it's hard to see how having high ISO capabilities in a camera really hurts photographers who use lower ISOs.

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Originally Posted by dave lackey View Post
Somehow, I just don't understand the fascination of highest ISO. Really, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference to me as I need nothing above 400 and a rare opportunity at 800. Certainly not in the giga million range or whatever people think is the pinnacle of high ISO performance.

To the average photographer on this forum, what percentage of YOUR photos requires anything higher than what is typically attainable with film? And I mean requires as in does it make you money to have it? Can you get by without it? Are you a specialist in high ISO photography? Are you going to be stealthy with a huge, noisy DSLR on the street or at a restaurant? YMMV but high ISO doesn't do anything for me.

Or is it just the hobbyist thing to have the highest ISO available? The highest number of megapixels? etc.etc.etc. Sometimes I can't figure this gear thing out. All I try to do is make images that people will like and,hopefully, pay for, and today was a great example as on-location, I met with an individual to get her portrait in her shop. Worked great with the M3 + Summarit 1.5 + TriX and she will certainly be printed in the upcoming book. Should I have bought a D700 and met her at night? Hardly. Do I shoot in nightclubs? No. I can't think of a situation in which I, personally, would need anything more than what I have.

Maybe I don't understand this fascination and maybe I am completely off target. If so, please educate me, do not look down on me as I use my lowly M3 and R4 with TriX film or whatever digital camera with a similar ISO rating. As I said, it just doesn't make any sense to me.
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Last edited by furcafe : 05-02-2011 at 12:10.
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Old 05-02-2011   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post

As an engineer that worked on Digital Imagers in the 1980s, I see enough dynamic range left in this straight-out-of-the-camera image to squeeze another 2 stops out of it. Apply some noise reduction on the ISO 10000 equivalent, some non-uniformity correction, done. We're talking applying some 1980s signal processing here, nothing unique.

If I get a chance, I'll set the M9 to ISO2500 and -3EV, record raw, post-process to boost the signal. Of course, it was nicer when I got paid to do such things.
Brian
This has been rattling around my brain since I read this. How does this square with my experience that when shooting high ISO on the M9, it's safer to overexpose than under - in terms of reducing noise? I assume the approach you're describing is fundamentally different than underexposing at high iso and then doing a simple levels or curve adjustment to the resulting image? (I am clearly hopelessly under-educated re signal processing!)
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Old 05-02-2011   #53
Brian Sweeney
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When shooting high-ISO, you are safest to overexpose if not using a lot of post-processing software- but not by much. You will preserve the Shadow detail, but need to avoid saturating the image. Once saturated, the highlights are gone.

Post-processing software is better at removing noise from an image. "Way back When", we computed the difference between neighboring pixels, compared the difference with the local average, and set a threshold to declare "noise". Once declared, run a spline smoothing function over it locally. Some modern software sounds like it performs scene segmentation and shape recognition, essentially substitute an object in place of the noisy image. Computers got fast, and have lots of memory.

I need to try the -2EV on the M9. Been playing with the Telephoto lenses on it lately.
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Old 05-03-2011   #54
Brian Sweeney
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The resolution of the KAF 18500 used in the M9 and KAF-10500 used in the M8 is 72LP/mm absolute, and 36LP/mm worst case if you get an object with a color that only shows up in all-blue or all-red. In absolute terms, the resolution is below several films. The resolution of the M9 and M8 sensors is about the same as Tri-X.

Look at page 10:

http://www.kodak.com/global/en/profe...4017/f4017.pdf

In reality, the resolution of the image with the M9 is higher resolution than what you get with most film cameras. Other factors such as flatness at the image plane is important, film flexes, sensors do not.

As an example: yesterday I used Two Summarit 5cm f1.5 lenses on my M9. I could clearly see the focus shift from F1.5 through F4, and that the two Summarits were optimized for F2.8. I could not see this effect with my film cameras: the image was just not as sharp as it was with the M9. The M9 is in perfect agreement with a multitude of other lenses used on it, including my 10.5cm F2.5 Nikkor. DOF on that lens allows very little margin for errors.

Last edited by Brian Sweeney : 05-03-2011 at 01:48.
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Old 05-03-2011   #55
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Nikon FX if I can transport the weight, 105 2.8 G, 60 2.8, 50 1.4G are the lenses so far not counting the old Nikkors, some single coated like 35 2.8 and 105 2.5 P.

D7000 for lighter weight, smaller size. Bought it with 35 1.8 60 2.8N, & 18/105 VR.

For really small and decent quality, D40 with 35 1.8.

A lot depend on it I am going to "dangerous" neighborhood, alone or with friends.

Nothing really replaces a Leica, so I carry one when the urge strikes.
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Old 05-04-2011   #56
Brian Sweeney
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And the Nikon D3 and D700 are full-frame, and 12 MPixels. The Olympus EP2 uses 5micron pixels, gives 100LP/mm resolution, but is not as good at high ISO as the M9.

At some point you are into diminishing returns with more pixels vs area of the individual pixels. Bigger pixels, more light gathering power and less noise. More pixels, more disk storage required. At this point, the Leica M9 has better High-ISO performance than any film that I have used, and has enough resolution to readily show the focus shift between F1.4 and F2. So, to answer the OP's original question, for me the Leica M9 is a good digital equivalent to a film Leica. It uses the same lenses, offers resolution at least as good as the films I use, and has better High-ISO performance.

Last edited by Brian Sweeney : 05-04-2011 at 10:58.
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Old 05-04-2011   #57
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Olympus does 100 lpp/mm :-)

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Last edited by PCStudio : 05-04-2011 at 13:18.
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Old 05-04-2011   #58
Brian Sweeney
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Well- if they took the AA filter off of it, it would. It uses 5micron pixels.

Same is true of the Canon, Nikon, and most other DSLR's. They use AA filters that reduces actual resolution to something below what the Color mosaic filter can handle. So- the Leica M9 without an Anti-Aliasing filter, also known as a low-pass filter, has better resolution than the Canon.

My DCS200ir uses 9micron pixels, but does not have a Mosaic filter. It is a true monochrome sensor. I would still like to see an M9m.
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Old 05-04-2011   #59
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The Foveon sensor is great for color images.

If you want the best for all-out resolution and dynamic range, one that competes with Black and White film, go with a Monochrome sensor. The Phase I Monochrome camera is the best that you can buy commercially. You can always put a filter wheel in front of it and shoot technicolor. But it is not a Leica, more like a medium format camera.
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Old 05-04-2011   #60
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This pic was taken the other night at a gallery opening ... the exif data says ISO 3200 and 1/6 sec at f2. Maybe I would have got this shot with am M9 and a very fast 35mm but I dont have $7500+ so the D700 is it for me. The scene has pushed past the dynamic range of the sensor obviously but I got a usable image in very diffcult circumstances and probably could have used 6400 at a pinch ... though in these conditions it does start to get noisy even with the D700's attributes. The need for high ISO capability is real and if 12800 ISO looks like this in another couple of years count me in because that would mean I could have used 1/30 sec and may have been able to capture more of what was on the screen and suffered less movement blur. Improve the dynamic range and I'll be even happier ... better still give me a full frame rangefinder with the Nikon's ISO capabilities at a sensible price and I'll be as happy as the proverbial pig in you know what!


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Old 05-05-2011   #61
Brian Sweeney
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Looking at the above image- the highlights are clipped because the sensor could not capture the dynamic range of the scene. Optically, using a low-contrast lens would have helped. World of difference in my Summarit vs my Nikkor in the histograms: the Summarit almost never blows the highlights. Modern lenses tend to have higher contrast than those available for the Leica.

Other ways of dealing with it: new sensor technology that can acquire more electrons without saturating a pixel. Needs bigger pixels, lowers the resolution. Use some sort of new material. I'm sure someone will do it, sometime, in the future. Spock had one.

Or- Construct a new sensor that stacks the light-sensitive layers under different ND filters- essentially a Foveon sensor that uses the multiple layers to increase dynamic range like HDR, but allows simultaneous capture.
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Old 05-05-2011   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post
So, to answer the OP's original question, for me the Leica M9 is a good digital equivalent to a film Leica. It uses the same lenses, offers resolution at least as good as the films I use, and has better High-ISO performance.
This is an interesting statement, that even no high tech people, as I'm, can easily understand
Of course higher iso possibility is interesting but if it should come at the cost of bigger size or even higher price (compare to m9) it would become less interesting, at least for my needs.

robert, for the moment happy with x1 and m7 + scanner...
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Old 05-05-2011   #63
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Okay, I shoot pictures with the M9 at about the same rate as I do with my film cameras. I have never been hindered by the shooting rate waiting for a buffer to clear. I do not use Motor Drives on my film cameras. If I did, the rate at which the film cassette would be exhausted would be a few seconds. Then I would have to "flush the buffer" (rewind the film) and load more Write-Once memory (film) into the camera. I suspect that the shooting rate using 36 Write Once memory cassettes on my M3 for 200 shots is about the same as my M9 using an 8GByte SD card.

I've been shooting 35mm since 1969 and Digital since 1981.

Commercial off the shelf Digital cameras available to the consumer have caught up with film cameras. Lower end P&S cameras are better than the 110 equivalent, and the high-end digital cameras are as good as 35mm film cameras for all practical purposes. Except recording EMP events. I would still go with the Nikon F2 Titanium for doing that. Like I did in 1979.

Last edited by Brian Sweeney : 05-05-2011 at 04:27.
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