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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 11-09-2012   #26
rluka
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As someone who doesn't have an M, the main reason I lusted for a digital M is exactly the rangefinder experience.

Not the quality of the lenses or image character because my "flight hour" is not long enough to allow me such observation.
Not the compactness because there's smaller mirrorless. Neither is the style, there's X-Pro1.
Not the optical viewfinder nor full manual control because I had more experience with digital and I can live with it.
Not the legend nor the everlastingness because I'd rather have balance with quick affordability.
And in few more generations we might have 35mm sensor mirrorless out in the market.

That mechanical rangefinder is the last stand for rangefinder as their differentiation factor, something other brand are not interested to do.

Well, that and the smaller (for slower lens) and full manual lenses. The state of lens mount nowadays are like proprietary phone charger before the EU force everyone to use standard USB cable. Modern lenses seems to be designed to stop it from being used in other brand (electronic controlled aperture, focus-by-wire)
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Old 11-09-2012   #27
johannielscom
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However interesting the technical debates are, they are not the core of the issue anymore.

Thing is that Leica are selling RF camera's for high prices and the cost of that expensive RF is covered by the price. Now answer me this: why would any sane marketing department change the specifics of their design if that change would appeal to a whole new customer base and at the same time be considered a downgrade in technology and a loss of the brand's high esteem? Remember, they tried it once with the Leica CL and it nearly killed them, and when they launched the M5 they almost were done in too.

It's not going to happen at this point in time. And if it does happen in the future it will be with a camera that will have other options that will justify a price high enough to put it up there with the Vuitton bags, Rolexes and Ferrari's. Either that or the marketing department will have excessed in sniffing glue before they put out a major f-up plan
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Old 11-09-2012   #28
MartinP
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As I think I mentioned in one of Roger's threads, I understand a rangefinder camera to have an optical viewfinder showing a consistent and reliable view. The rangefinder indication is a manual adjustment, chosen by the photographer - so not autofocus.

However, we have a dot and a couple of arrows for an opto-electronic lightmeter - why not another dot and a pair of arrows for some sort of contrast or phase based focus-indicator? The relevant area of what we focus on through the viewfinder could be marked, and move with the range as it does now, and indeed, if the framelines were electronically made and projected, they could also change in size with distance. We could have the most accurate viewfinder and rangefinder ever seen while maintaining the manual character and clear vision of this style of camera.

There is no new technology involved, nor is it difficult to think up. Why is this not available? Research and development resources, and marketing barriers probably.
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Old 11-09-2012   #29
DougFord
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Have you heard that the new M will have an accessory VF? No, not a German designed and manufactured OVF but an EVF, that's MANUFACTURED IN JAPAN. That statement doesn't faze anyone these days. Now if you would have made that statement just 6 years ago you might of gotten a different reaction.
Are leica traditionalist de-evolving? *wink*
The acceptance of technology that heretofore would have been unthinkable is not. Unthinkable? yeah, like a Leica M without a mechanical RF (nervous laughter)
The GREAT BIFURCATION of the digital M line has already begun. The vestigial RF assembly is...vestigial.
Rangefinderless rangefinder cameras will be manufactured by Leica, side by side with the M-E, until M-E sales go the way of the....
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Old 11-09-2012   #30
zuiko85
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No. A Leica M, digital or film, without the superimposed image rangefinder with projected frame lines would not be a the same. That is my opinion and I'm certainly nowhere near a Leica fan boy.

The Leica M viewing/focusing system is intrinsic to the appeal and character of the M system even if it could be 'improved' or simplified on by going to a electronic or electronic/hybrid viewing system.

Yes, I know Leica made some M bodies without a rangefinder or even a viewfinder, mostly for microscope and scientific use, but they were dwarfed by the production of regular M bodies.

That is my strong opinion. Some will share the same opinion, others will not. In the end I suppose it does not really matter.
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Old 11-10-2012   #31
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougFord View Post
Have you heard that the new M will have an accessory VF? No, not a German designed and manufactured OVF but an EVF, that's MANUFACTURED IN JAPAN. That statement doesn't faze anyone these days. Now if you would have made that statement just 6 years ago you might of gotten a different reaction.
Are leica traditionalist de-evolving? *wink*
The acceptance of technology that heretofore would have been unthinkable is not. Unthinkable? yeah, like a Leica M without a mechanical RF (nervous laughter)
The GREAT BIFURCATION of the digital M line has already begun. The vestigial RF assembly is...vestigial.
Rangefinderless rangefinder cameras will be manufactured by Leica, side by side with the M-E, until M-E sales go the way of the....
No, it's not vestigial. Have you tried it? The accessory viewfinder is very much the second choice: a useful second choice, but still very much a second choice.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-10-2012   #32
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Would it be a Leica M? Well, I suppose the M1 is an M, and it has no range finder. And right now the only similarity, besides looking similar, between a Leica M3 and ME is the range finder, everything else is different.

Whether a range finder-less M is an M is up to the user, either you'll accept it as an M or you won't.

Is it required? Well, no, people have coped until now. Is it wanted? By most users, probably not. Is it wanted by Leica? Well, if they feel it will sell cameras, then probably at some point it will happen. I think it will be a long time though, if ever, Leica knows their user base, and radically changing the M in a way users don't like might drive them away in number.
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Old 11-10-2012   #33
sevo
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In some aspect better viewfinder systems have been introduced by the dozen, and rangefinders really were only in the lead for some ten or twenty years throughout the entire photo history. So the question in its generalized form has been decided at least 50 years ago.

The only question is whether and when Leica Camera will believe that a switch in focusing paradigm will gain more users on one side of their customer base than it will lose on the other. With the current owners focus on luxury goods, it is rather hard to determine a strategy there - that market is a discontinuum of different niches, and once a company has left the traditionalist niche (which Leica may have done with the M8), it will usually have to zigzag its way though different niche markets.
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Old 11-10-2012   #34
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sevo View Post
In some aspect better viewfinder systems have been introduced by the dozen, and rangefinders really were only in the lead for some ten or twenty years throughout the entire photo history. So the question in its generalized form has been decided at least 50 years ago. . . . .
Well, try 30 years (1932-early 1960s), and define 'better'. Is roast beef better than ice-cream? Also, there is no "question in its generalized form". This is about rangefinder cameras.

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R.
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Old 11-10-2012   #35
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In my opinion, rangefinders are still the fastest surest way to get an image in focus, provided the camera and lenses are within tolerances. If not, this could be the most frustrating experience ever, not being able to get critical focus. I was very lucky that my recently purchased M9 works flawlessly with all my lenses, except one. The lens went to Zeiss for calibration and came back perfectly adjusted. I shot a while with the GXR-M before the M9 and while it is possible to get very accurate focus with magnified view, the focus peaking is not as precise as RF focusing. And most importantly, magnified view is not the way I enjoy taking photos, and not even suitable for many situations. I definitely look forward to live view with the typ 240, as it opens many possibilities and allows for critical focus when needed, but for me rangefinders are irreplaceable.
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