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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 04-17-2012   #26
Nelson Tan
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PhotoMat, that is an impressive display of the camera's capabilities! Thanks for sharing.

How would you describe the process of manual focusing a Leica M lens using the Kipon adaptor? Is it snappy and easy to focus via the EVF?
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Old 04-18-2012   #27
BobYIL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I personally have no experience with my Leica or Leicaflex lenses on the X-Pro. (Still waiting for the adapters. Kind of excited about a camera that can do bright line viewing for my "normal" lenses and TTL viewing with long ones.) Hope other folks can provide that info. In the meantime, I will see if I can get some opinions.
Here are some Leica asph. lenses on the XP1 as well as some Zeiss and V/C:

http://picabroad.com/2012/03/24/fuji...-mount-lenses/

(Remarkable that even the top Leica asphericals could not perform as good as the native Fuji lenses on this sensor..)
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Old 04-18-2012   #28
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omg bill, those results are horrid! like much of llfe, utility in photography is subjective. i understand and certainly respect those who view the xp1 as a 'system' camera in which they want to invest. as a lover of legacy and manual focus lenses, as an owner of some expensive (for me) pieces of such glass, i dont. for me, there were two coequally imporlamt revoultionary benefits of mirrorless cameras: the potential for dslr image quality in an extremely compact form factor and the ability to mount (and by implication, shoot to their maximum ability) pretty much any lens ever made. to me that meant i could now enjoy the benefits of digital with lenses i loved on film.

certainly, being an x100 owner and lover, i have no doubt as to the incredible IQ that can be obtained by the xp1 'system'. but at least for me, ive invested my emotions, time and money in a lens system, and any new camera i consider must be able to properly utilize 'my' system.
tony
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Old 04-18-2012   #29
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Sure am glad I didn't buy an adapter for M lenses. I'd rather use M lenses on a camera made for M lenses. The Fuji X lenses are very nice.
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Old 04-18-2012   #30
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Not that remarkable when you consider that the Fuji is designed for lenses that direct light in perpendicular to the imager and all of the other lenses were designed for film. Leicas have offset microlenses for a reason.

If you hooked up lenses longer than 50mm, I think you would see something totally different.

We also don't know if the Fuji is correcting edge aberrations automatically with its own lenses. Leicas, for example, correct vignetting and color shifts before th RAW file is written.

That said, as a system, the X-Pro1 and its 35 seem to be very comparable to an M8 with the 35/1.4 ASPH. I think you would really want native wides for this camera.

Dante

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
Here are some Leica asph. lenses on the XP1 as well as some Zeiss and V/C:

http://picabroad.com/2012/03/24/fuji...-mount-lenses/

(Remarkable that even the top Leica asphericals could not perform as good as the native Fuji lenses on this sensor..)
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Old 04-18-2012   #31
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Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
Not that remarkable when you consider that the Fuji is designed for lenses that direct light in perpendicular to the imager and all of the other lenses were designed for film. Leicas have offset microlenses for a reason.

If you hooked up lenses longer than 50mm, I think you would see something totally different.

We also don't know if the Fuji is correcting edge aberrations automatically with its own lenses. Leicas, for example, correct vignetting and color shifts before th RAW file is written.

That said, as a system, the X-Pro1 and its 35 seem to be very comparable to an M8 with the 35/1.4 ASPH. I think you would really want native wides for this camera.

Dante
The problems are this side of the 50mm FL; Fuji 35, 23 and 18mm lenses employ rather unconventional designs (as if reverse-retrofocal) with huge rear element diameters to cover the illumination circle rather “directly”; probably to eliminate the need of offset microlenses in addition to the OLPF already measuring 2.5mm thickness (too thick!). These hint that only their native lenses could perform on this sensor optimally and the retrofocals. A deliberate decision IMHO, to be able to sell their own lenses at the first rate to amortize their investment before the introduction of consequtive models (and they are smart enough to know that we would not be pleased to use large retrofocus wide-angles on this body )

As for the native correction programs, these can “correct” distortion, vignetting, even color shift toward corners however against corner smearing –i.e. loss of resolution data- I think only offset microlenses could be a solution or unconventional designs as on the Fujifilm lenses. This is also where the Nex-7 fails..
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Old 04-18-2012   #32
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Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
The problems are this side of the 50mm FL; Fuji 35, 23 and 18mm lenses employ rather unconventional designs (as if reverse-retrofocal) with huge rear element diameters to cover the illumination circle rather “directly”; probably to eliminate the need of offset microlenses in addition to the OLPF already measuring 2.5mm thickness (too thick!). These hint that only their native lenses could perform on this sensor optimally and the retrofocals. A deliberate decision IMHO, to be able to sell their own lenses at the first rate to amortize their investment before the introduction of consequtive models (and they are smart enough to know that we would not be pleased to use large retrofocus wide-angles on this body )

As for the native correction programs, these can “correct” distortion, vignetting, even color shift toward corners however against corner smearing –i.e. loss of resolution data- I think only offset microlenses could be a solution or unconventional designs as on the Fujifilm lenses. This is also where the Nex-7 fails..
yup, ive read this elsewhere. no such problem on m4/3 or gxr or nex 5n. unfortunately for fuji fans who want to shoot legacy glass, we need to be looking there and not at the xp1.
tony
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Old 04-18-2012   #33
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Yesterday, I went in a local shop that had a X-Pro1.
I bought my Kipon adapter to try on the 50 summicron & the 28mm MS triplet, the files were awesome !!
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Old 04-18-2012   #34
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I think digital cameras are getting there, but the X-Pro 1 isn't there yet, at least for what I want a camera for. Some of the technology in it is pretty impressive and makes you wonder why no one has done it before, i.e. the sensor array.
Are you saying this with regard to the X-Pro1 with M lenses or in general?

If the latter, how is it not there yet?
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Old 04-18-2012   #35
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Originally Posted by photografity View Post
Yesterday, I went in a local shop that had a X-Pro1.
I bought my Kipon adapter to try on the 28mm MS triplet, the files were awesome !!
Care to share any examples... I would love to see this lens on the camera.
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Old 04-20-2012   #36
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As to preliminary notes, here you are. Please report any typos to the office.

Dante
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Old 04-20-2012   #37
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Care to share any examples... I would love to see this lens on the camera.
+1, very eagerly. I tried my CV28/3.5 and the corners are smeared to death. I'm still in search of a pancake 28 for this camera. The triplet as well as the CV would be a perfect lens for it, it makes the camera (jacket) pocketable, it gives the "perfect" fov of 40mm, it has a mechanical ring, focus distance markings and a tab and therefore can be focused by feel, with the magnifier on you can use the whole VF and the coverage looks about right.

Another little tidbit, I remember reading an article (can't remember where) which said that this camera will never be any good with any non-retrofocus wide not built for it, mainly because it has a very thick layer of glass on the sensor for some reason. Didnt pay much attention at the time but I had to clear a smudge on my sensor recently, and I thought the swipe stopped way far from where I could see the sensor was. Dont know, maybe I'm just imagining it. Anyone else noticed it?
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Old 04-20-2012   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyro View Post
+1, very eagerly. I tried my CV28/3.5 and the corners are smeared to death. I'm still in search of a pancake 28 for this camera. The triplet as well as the CV would be a perfect lens for it, it makes the camera (jacket) pocketable, it gives the "perfect" fov of 40mm, it has a mechanical ring, focus distance markings and a tab and therefore can be focused by feel, with the magnifier on you can use the whole VF and the coverage looks about right.
I'd bet an OM zuiko 28mm f3.5 would be sharp to the corners. They're brilliant optically - mine was quite a bit sharper than any of my canon wide angle zooms, plus they're super cheap and almost pancake-ish.
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Old 04-20-2012   #39
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yeah I have one of those babies, and also a zuiko 24/2.8 which is even better and also tiny, and I'm sure both would work very well. This is not my problem though, I wanted a lens that would make the camera small enough to not require a bag, unfortunately these are SLR lenses and just the adapter would make the camera as deep as an SLR. Also I wanted to focus this blindly, and I prefer a tab for that.

Fuji has promised a pancake 28/2.8, but the roadmap says next year (and unlikely to have mechanical focusing).

There's also the contax G 28/2.8 which is small-ish and can be adapted, but the rear element at infinity goes way too deep for comfort. And I'd have to file down some fins.
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Old 04-20-2012   #40
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Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
As to preliminary notes, here you are. Please report any typos to the office.

Dante
Did you sell yours yet?
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Old 04-20-2012   #41
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Ι always enjoyed DAST's blog, and I always had unknown words LOL
what is closed loop AF? Found an article at dpreview, clear as mud.
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Old 04-20-2012   #42
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Thanks... I will add this definition tonight:

Closed-loop focusing means that the camera is looking at the actual focused image to adjust focus. Any passive contrast-detect AF works this way.

Open-loop is everything else - where focus is determined by a measuring method and the lens goes to that point with no post-focusing correction. So Leica-style rangefinders, active IR, and phase-detect autofocus in S mode all fit this category. It is particularly vulnerable to shifts in the focus point that occur when the iris is closed down.

Best,
Dante

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Ι always enjoyed DAST's blog, and I always had unknown words LOL
what is closed loop AF? Found an article at dpreview, clear as mud.
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Old 04-20-2012   #43
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from the definition it sounds as being more accurate/not as fast as open-loop...?
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Old 04-20-2012   #44
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OT, but I love Erwitt. A quote from his Austin lecture a couple of years ago:

"Sometimes you get a good picture, but most of the time you don't. If you get one out of a thousand, you're lucky."

Kinda puts in perspective that the gear doesn't really matter...
also that I am not as bad a photographer a I thought. Cheers!
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Old 04-20-2012   #45
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Originally Posted by Speedfreak View Post
I am not going to buy a crop factor digital camera. If you are used to using fast lenses on film cameras, digital crop looks like a cartoon version of traditional photography.

Yes, its sharp and clean up to ISO-you-name-it, awesome. I still fail to see what is so great about the Xpro vs any other crop digital camera. Wheres the point? If you care about pictures buy a low end Nikon with a 35/1.8 DX and start shooting. The pictures will be the same.
Disclaimer: I mainly shoot black and white film on an M. But I look at, and edit, a lot of pictures shot on digital sensors of various formats, and that comment does not add to the discussion. Surely you can do better.
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Old 04-20-2012   #46
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Dante,

You are indeed a brave man. Telling the truth can make life more complicated.

I though both your articles are fair and accurate.
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Old 04-20-2012   #47
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Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
High ISO is not the be all end all of Photography. Outside of high ISO, it is very much towards the top of the heap.
If you make a camera that has very high quality lenses, and it has neither IS nor high ISO capability, you will have to use a tripod or other camera support to reliably extract the performance of those high quality lenses. Given that the Barnack ethos is to use the camera handheld and not on a tripod, high ISO capability is the single thing that most improves image quality across a range of real-world field conditions.

It is a big deal and it is the reason that the 5D and the D700 -- and the D7000 -- were breakthrough cameras for Canon and Nikon. Those who dismiss the importance of high ISO either don't shoot in challenging light, or always use a tripod, or don't care particularly about image quality.

These are valid points of view. Much of my recent personal work is shot to film at ISO 80 in moderate light, and is not sharp, but I don't pretend that this setup is technically up to par with what I'd be getting on a leading-edge digital sensor, and I don't pretend that I'm using the glass up to its potential. Clean ISO 1600 would in many situations be a wonderful thing to have.

You can then say "that's what fast lenses are for!" but again, the field of critical focus on an f/1.4 lens -- especially a great one like the 50 Lux ASPH or the XPro's 35/1.4 -- is paper thin, and high ISO means you can actually use moderate apertures. It is worth noting that most of the great pictures in the history of photography were not shot at f/1.4, or even at f/2.8, but at smaller apertures that actually yield some DoF. High ISO dramatically expands the range of conditions under which those sorts of pictures can be obtained. Spend some time looking through books of great photographs across many genres. You will see that this is so.

I will add that my ZM 35/2.8 Biogon-C is more than respectably sharp on a friend's XPro1, right out to the edges (if not the extreme corners). Like Dante, I was unable to generate moiré on fabric or other repeating textures. At 100% colors are true and there's little if any chromatic aberration. Really, really good performance.
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Old 04-20-2012   #48
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Originally Posted by semilog View Post
If you make a camera that has very high quality lenses, and it has neither IS nor high ISO capability, you will have to use a tripod or other camera support to reliably extract the performance of those high quality lenses. Given that the Barnack ethos is to use the camera handheld and not on a tripod, high ISO capability is the single thing that most improves image quality across a range of real-world field conditions.
True, but many great images were made prior to high ISO capabilities coming into its own. My point is not anti-high ISO... anyone that knows me knows that I use high ISO all of the time (Fuji X cameras). My point is that its importance to MANY is overblown and has become the new "how many megapixels does it have" type concern. Each time new technologies come around everyone makes like the stuff from a year or two ago is garbage... it's nonsensical.
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Old 04-20-2012   #49
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Did you sell yours yet?
Is that snark? Reading Dante's review, it's pretty clear he likes the camera, understanding both its limitations and capabilities.
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Old 04-20-2012   #50
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Is that snark? Reading Dante's review, it's pretty clear he likes the camera, understanding both its limitations and capabilities.
It wasn't "snark." I was under the impression that he didn't like so much about the camera that it was only a matter of time before it is sold. I guess I was wrong. He has been its biggest critic so far....of the people who actually use it.
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