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Film vs Digital Discussions about the relative advantages and disadvantages of Film vs Digital are important as they can help us understand our choices as photographers. Each medium has strengths and weaknesses which can best be used in a given circumstance. While this makes for an interesting and useful discussion, DO NOT attack others who disagree with you. Forum rules are explained in the RFF FAQ linked at the top of each page.

View Poll Results: Would he use film or digital?
I believe he would still use film. film has much more to offer, even now. 134 38.51%
He would go M9 for sure 162 46.55%
D700 after he nagged on forums about the M8 magenta problem 52 14.94%
Voters: 348. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-21-2011   #41
Erik van Straten
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Cartier-Bresson would never use digital camera's. He liked (and sold) only silver gelatine prints. It is not possible to make silver gelatine prints from digital files.

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Old 06-21-2011   #42
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Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Cartier-Bresson would never use digital camera's. He liked (and sold) only silver gelatine prints. It is not possible to make silver gelatine prints from digital files.

Erik.
Actually, that isn't true: http://www.digitalsilverimaging.com/

It may not be "traditional", but it is silver gelatin prints made from digital files.

As for HC-B, he'd probably laugh at the poll, but it is good fun to speculate
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Old 06-22-2011   #43
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Originally Posted by ctham View Post
It may not be "traditional", but it is silver gelatin prints made from digital files.
In fact I knew this, but it a very expensive way. For Cartier-Bresson that was no problem, but for me it is.

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Artist not equipment
Old 06-22-2011   #44
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Artist not equipment

I believe HCB saw photography as a shortcut way of doing a sketch. We can bang on about equipment quality but I have always seen his use of his original Leica as his discovery of a technique to reduce the quality of photography while increasing the timeliness. After all most cameras of the era had larger (= higher definition) films or plates, many with lenses highly regarded even today. The game-changing features of the Leica were its small size, rapid turnaround between photographs and large depth of field. HCB rather famously zone focused so I don't think the rangefinder element came into it for him.

Today HCB would use his iPhone (the least conspicuous camera, simply because everyone uses it) and then render in monochrome on his Mac. He would develop an app to eliminate the autofocus and instead have 2-3 zone focus buttons, plus minimal shutter lag.

Or perhaps with modern "left-brain" training he would have been a better sketcher and would never have taken up photography.

It was his artistic eye not his equipment that made him a great photographer.

Imho.
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Old 06-22-2011   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctham View Post
Actually, that isn't true: http://www.digitalsilverimaging.com/

...
There is also a DIY method of silver printing a digital file:

http://www.danburkholder.com/Pages/m...main_page1.htm
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Old 06-22-2011   #46
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Originally Posted by bizarrius View Post
One of many reasons on why people use film is: "i like film because big photographers used it and they didn't need anything more"
yes but they never had digital :S

So...what do you think that HC Bresson would do if he was alive today?
Would he still use film or would he go M9? or even D700?
For starters, the opening statement about "Big photographers use it" tells me that you spend far too much time on the Internet instead of out in the real world, in short, its kind of a load of BS, totally unfounded.

I have used digital for over 17 years, most of my career, but I use more film now days because I like the process, the result and the fact that it never has to touch a computer, it has nothing to do with a big photographer.

And I think that if HCB were alive today, he would be too old to shoot or care for that matter but if the age were lower, say, 60-70, he would still shoot film because he was not the next greatest fad, technology or gear type of guy. Add to that he did not much care for color, I doubt he would appreciate nor bond very well with the often distracting and overwhelming myriad of options on a digital camera, ability to see the image right away included.

HCB was about pure and very simple but highly stylized photography, not about gear like many on here are, I have full confidence he would have passed on digital...
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Old 06-22-2011   #47
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Originally Posted by KM-25 View Post
For starters, the opening statement about "Big photographers use it" tells me that you spend far too much time on the Internet instead of out in the real world, in short, its kind of a load of BS, totally unfounded.

I have used digital for over 17 years, most of my career, but I use more film now days because I like the process, the result and the fact that it never has to touch a computer, it has nothing to do with a big photographer.

And I think that if HCB were alive today, he would be too old to shoot or care for that matter but if the age were lower, say, 60-70, he would still shoot film because he was not the next greatest fad, technology or gear type of guy. Add to that he did not much care for color, I doubt he would appreciate nor bond very well with the often distracting and overwhelming myriad of options on a digital camera, ability to see the image right away included.

HCB was about pure and very simple but highly stylized photography, not about gear like many on here are, I have full confidence he would have passed on digital...

Can't argue with that! Well stated.
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Old 06-22-2011   #48
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I couldn't choose one of the poll choices, as they simply don't offer enough breadth. There is no reason to assume that HCB wouldn't choose SLR's over RF's, another brand over Leica, some kinds of digital over some kinds of film. In his day, choices were more limited, and he choose tools from what was available to him. With today's much broader choices, who knows? If he were starting today he might choose a digital P&S. I don't get the impression that he credits the camera, per se, for his successes.

This obsession with hardware does us a disservice. If any one of us took thousands of pictures every year, for a decade or so, with nothing but a Brownie and Tri-X, we'd begin to produce some amazing results. There is something to be said for really, really knowing your tools, for all their strengths and flaws. The master woodcarver does not spend his days on the 'net lusting after better chisels. Choose good tools, know your tools, master your tools. It's a very old progression that gets one from apprentice to journeyman to master.
Very true. And even better with (let's say) a Kodak Retina. It's the 'quality threshold' criterion, the level at which better camera = better pics or better photographer = better pics.

Boaz,

R.
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Old 06-27-2011   #49
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Contrary to what many people believe of him, Henri Cartier-Bresson was meticulous about his signature in his photography and he was utterly conservative in maintaining his style. I remember from the days of the HP3 on that he was consistently using Ilford hi-speed films up until the HP5 as long as they were available on his “path” or carrying them in 30ft rolls to cut in hotel rooms. He never used a lightmeter and always rated his film at 400ASA, not even needed to push higher. His favorite developer was (almost always) Harvey’s 777 (a soft working, fine grain formula) and his processing/printing was done by first Pierre Gassman and later (through the end of ‘60s I think) by Voja Mitrovic. His lens was the collapsible Summicron from the day it was introduced until he left photography for painting. This lens has been several times to Wetzlar for cleaning and recoating, the same lens... His printing paper was Ilford Multigrade for most of the prints. How many photographers we know of such exacting standards? (When I met Marc Riboud in 1979 I was told he was already into painting but seeming around with a CL.)

Look at his photographs especially the prints in the exhibitions; you will note a long and smooth gradation of mid-grays until highlights. This was also a part of his style. Mr. Cartier-Bresson was one of the rare photographers who cared to have a distinct signature in his photographs to be recognized as much as he cared his face to be not recognized.

What would he be using in our day? Do you know any digital camera including the M9 to duplicate the tones we enjoy with fine B&W film photography?
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Old 08-13-2011   #50
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If he didn't use a meter, it's a bit difficult to say that he used a consistent ISO speed. And his printers have said, at various times and to various people, that his negatives were not always perfect: sometimes quite a long way from perfect. But a good printer can wring excellent quality out of less-than-perfect negative. He used a number of lenses --- the Summicron was still far in the future when he started -- so if I were you I'd query the sources of your information.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-13-2011   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
If he didn't use a meter, it's a bit difficult to say that he used a consistent ISO speed. And his printers have said, at various times and to various people, that his negatives were not always perfect: sometimes quite a long way from perfect. But a good printer can wring excellent quality out of less-than-perfect negative. He used a number of lenses --- the Summicron was still far in the future when he started -- so if I were you I'd query the sources of your information.

Cheers,

R.
Sure..
In May 1967 Popular Photography as was reported by Bob Schwalberg, about his precision for determining the correct exposure:
""One afternoon we sat together in my Wetzlar apartment discussing films and developers. Cartier-Bresson repetedly referred to the fact that he exposed Ilford HP3 film at 400 ASA. I cut in to ask, since he almost never uses an exposure meter, how could he claim to be exposing at 400 or any other ASA? He insisted, however, that he exposed consistently at 400 ASA.
At this point I picked up a Norwood exposure meter, twisted the bubble toward Cartier-Bresson with the scale facing me, and asked for the exposure at 400 ASA. Without hesitation, he told me exactly what the Norwood did. Slightly taken aback, but not yet defeated, I aimed a flexible desk lamp so as to crosslight my face, and again demanded the 400 ASA exposure. Cartier-Bresson took perhaps 10 seconds before replying: 'Well, it depends on whether you mean the right or left side of your face. On the right it's about 1/15 at f/2; the left is probably close to f/2.8 at 1/30.' Both answers were bang-on, and thereafter I accepted his 400 ASA as being at least as reliable as my meter's."

HCB had a long photographic life and I was able (in freshman year) to find some information about his preferences first starting with 1963; Pierre Gassman was taking care of his prints those days. And as for the collapsible Summicron, he switched to it since its introduction and used it until his retirement, then he gave his very last camera, an M6 with "that" junk looking collapsible Summicron with tape wound around the aperture ring to one of his friends with a note; a famous note. I was so eager those days about the master's "secrets" and some other things I have heard from Mr. Marc Riboud when I met him in Istanbul in 1979.

In case you really are interested in further sources I can find them but I need a little time to dig into my dusty "archive" notes, however I have met some of them on the internet in the recent years too. In our time he was the idol for many of us.

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Old 08-13-2011   #52
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Sure..
[font=Arial]In May 1967 Popular Photography as was reported by Bob Schwalberg, about his precision for determining the correct exposure
Well, I've met quite a lot of people who can give you a correct exposure quite a lot of the time, and I can do it myself, but it's always statistical, i.e. 90% right... 95% right... etc.. Plenty are worse than I, but plenty are better too, such as Jane Bown and the lateTerence Donovan. Pegging a skin-tone exposure to a relatively common lighting situation is something I'd expect of anyone who had been guesstimating exposures for 45 years (as HCB had at that point), but that's not a lot to do with ASA/ISO speeds, which are only tangentially related to incident readings, so I'd have my doubts there too.

The Summicron was introduced in 1953, and even if he'd used the Summitar 'star' (the precursor of the Summicron) in prototype form in 1950, he'd still have been using other lenses for longer than the Summicron at the time of the interview (1932-1950, as against 1950-1967).

Bob Schwalberg was no more immune to myth and mystery than most competent journalists, let alone hero-worshippers (I was so eager those days about the master's "secrets") and having talked to one of HCB's printers, I'd put more faith in the printer's opinion than in Bob's.

Don't get me wrong. HCB was very, very good. But not actually infallible. And I completely agree that film gives vastly better results in B+W than digi. But who's to say that 21st century HCB would use B+W instead of colour? There are so many counterfactual conditionals in the basic question that it is all but worthless.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-16-2011   #53
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I think HCB would use digital.

By the way, HCB does not develop his own film right?
Correct. He farmed all his work out to PICTO in Paris. George Favre, the resident guru there, processed and printed it. HCb apparently couldnt have cared less about the darkroom.

George has told me that HCBs negatives were often very bad, a function of shooting without a meter. so yes, HCB was human like the rest of us.
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Old 08-16-2011   #54
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Didn't HCB dislike using color film? I think he said it was "ridiculous."

If he never got into color film, I can't see him embracing digital.
Actually HCB did shoot some color film for assignment work. I saw the tear sheets at a recent HCB exhibit at the High museum in Atlanta. I believe the magazine was Life or Look.

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Old 08-16-2011   #55
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Uhm, I thought HCB used a Leica because the Contax, pro camera of the day, was too expensive for him?
HCB came from a privileged background. He could afford any camera he wanted to use.

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Old 08-16-2011   #56
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Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Cartier-Bresson would never use digital camera's. He liked (and sold) only silver gelatine prints. It is not possible to make silver gelatine prints from digital files.

Erik.
Sorry, but that's not true. More than one lab offers digital files printed directly to silver gelatin.

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Old 08-17-2011   #57
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HCB came from a privileged background. He could afford any camera he wanted to use.

donbga
Quite. But also, as far as I recall, he started using Leicas before the Contax I was introduced, and the Contax I wasn't really a very usable camera next to the Leica. Nor was the II (1936) in my opinion, though Contax lovers disagree.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-23-2011   #58
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Why can't I vote that he'd use both?
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Old 10-23-2011   #59
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Didn't he abandon Leica and use a point and shoot before he gave up photography altogether in favour I drawing?
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Old 10-26-2011   #60
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I met HCB at a gallery showing in Paris in late 2003. He had an Olympus Stylus Epic in his hands. Asked him what he had in it. He said HP5.
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Old 10-26-2011   #61
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I doubt he'd use an M9 it he did go digital, you may as well buy a gold plated diamond encrusted Swatch.
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Old 10-26-2011   #62
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I doubt he'd use an M9 it he did go digital, you may as well buy a gold plated diamond encrusted Swatch.
Instead of one of the dozens of other full-frame digital M-mount rangefinder cameras on the market?

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Old 10-26-2011   #63
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In all of his writings he used India ink, as he also did in many of his drawings. I think he was very aware of longevity and may have been very wary of the longevity of an electronically stored image. I actually recieved a postcard from him once and it was written with India ink.. Robbie Bedell

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Old 11-13-2011   #64
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Instead of one of the dozens of other full-frame digital M-mount rangefinder cameras on the market?

Cheers,

R.
Yeah I don't understand why no one other than Epsom has made one, no way would I buy a digital Leica M, but a cheaper body then yeah maybe one day.
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Old 12-04-2011   #65
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Yeah I don't understand why no one other than Epsom has made one, no way would I buy a digital Leica M, but a cheaper body then yeah maybe one day.
Perhaps the answer is that there is negligible demand, coupled with the fact that it is very difficult to make one as small as an M9. Epson's was a heavy crop, not 24x36. And why wouldn't you buy a digital M? Surely, the only reason (unless you actually don't want one) is money: either you can't afford it, or you would rather spend the money on something else.

Personally I'd rather have an M9 than a newer car.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 12-04-2011   #66
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Very few (if any) of us knew HCB personally. And like many famous people who lived a long life, he said many different things. Which, along with his photos, get pored over like sacred texts by people looking for answers to photography's fundamental questions. Different people will come up with many different answers, because we all have a different HCB in our minds.

So, let's suppose that the HCB I have in my mind were somehow alive today, as young and vigorous as the HCB who took the photos I admire, roughly 1934-1960. I think he would be eager to try digital, to see if it would help him take his kind of photos with more ease. I don't think he would like digital P&S cameras. The shutter lag would drive him nuts. SLRs were never his thing.

He might like the M9. In many ways, it would let him shoot the way he always did, but without the delay and hassle of winding and changing film. I don't think he'd care about the higher ISO limitations. A D700 is so unlike his style that I don't think he'd care that it had a usable ISO 6400. The Leica M suited him. The ISO 640 or 1250 of the M9 would be quite enough for him, and he'd probably leave it at 320 most of the time.

I do think he would be bothered by the louder shutter noise of M9. It might not matter on the streets of Paris, but it would matter indoors. I think he'd be less interested in Photoshop than he was with the darkroom. Somebody else would do that for him, in collaboration.

What might drive him crazy is digital's different tonality and limited dynamic range compared to film. Highlights that his printer would just burn in on film would be blown beyond repair on the M9. He'd have to learn to protect the highlights instead of exposing only for the important parts of the picture. I'm sure he could adapt, but I wonder if he would want to. He'd probably ask his printer to filter the color channels in different ways to arrive at a B&W tonality he liked. Perhaps something reasonably close to what he got with Ilford films, or perhaps something a bit different, but he'd want it to be consistent so he'd know what he was getting when he clicked the shutter.

So I'm sure HCB would try digital. He'd probably set his M9 on DNG with B&W JPG so he never saw the color image. Whether he'd *stay* with digital or go back to film is a toss-up. It depends on whether he and his printer could arrive at a "look" that was consistent with his style. And whether he could tolerate the dynamic range issues and the shutter noise.

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Old 01-28-2012   #67
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Let me settle this once and for all:

If HCB were alive today. . . He'd be clawing, furiously, at the inside of his coffin-lid, trying to get out.
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Old 01-29-2012   #68
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Let me settle this once and for all:

If HCB were alive today. . . He'd be clawing, furiously, at the inside of his coffin-lid, trying to get out.
Well done.
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Old 01-29-2012   #69
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HCB didn't seem all that interested in technology or the processing end while he was alive. I doubt very much he'd care now. Probably he'd use whatever there was, and let his darkroom/photoshop guy worry about the problems. If he even thought about the digital/film issue, I can easily see him using one of the new Fuji cameras.
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Old 01-29-2012   #70
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Well done.
Thanks. The fact that only you got the joke, though, and everyone else is treating such fatuity with such gravity speaks poorly for the mob here.

So I'll revise and extend my remarks:

If HCB were alive today, after clawing his way out of his coffin, he'd take one look at this thread and never stop throwing up. Being a gentilehomme, he'd refrain from telling you all to go out and make some photographs.

I'm no gentilehomme and I'm no HCB, so I'll tell you. Go observe. Let someplace wash over you. Break it down. Put it together. Suss-out the light and line. With an M-9, an M-3 a Canonet or a a Sony NEX. Or whatever. It's a far better way of honoring the Frenchman than holding seances on what tool he'd use.
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Old 01-29-2012   #71
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Since he never had to work a day in his life, I doubt very much he would have cared about anything that happened during or after his lifetime. He lived in the here and now.

He had no worries.
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Old 01-29-2012   #72
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Bravo. Though I can't imagine it's easy, no matter how comfortable your existence, to outlive all your friends. Seems a photographer's lot, though, longevity is. Garry Winogrand and war photographers excepted, being immersed in the living and making photographs is quite the fountain of youth.
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Old 01-30-2012   #73
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I'm no gentilehomme and I'm no HCB, so I'll tell you. Go observe. Let someplace wash over you. Break it down. Put it together. Suss-out the light and line. With an M-9, an M-3 a Canonet or a a Sony NEX. Or whatever. It's a far better way of honoring the Frenchman than holding seances on what tool he'd use.
Completely agree. in my experience, there is an ironclad inverse relationship between interest in the "best" equipment and photographic vision. You have one or the other, but rarely have I seen a gearhead who produced anything other than stale recycled banalities.
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Old 01-30-2012   #74
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I think HCB had plenty of worries while he was a prisoner of war of the nazis during WW II. I think the man paid his dues..photographically and otherwise...

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Old 02-13-2012   #75
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He probably used film. He had no reason to switch, I've understand mr HCB 'outsourced' all his film-processing and printing work. :-)
For this exact reason I say he'd use digital today -

HCB was all about the image and not at all about the process, character or esthetic. In numerous interviews (and one documentary) his statements focus on the 'moment' captured in his images. Never once does he mention anything about the medium.

I think had he been handed a Nikon FM3a instead of an M3, he would probably never have become the Leica poster-boy of the 20th century.
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Old 02-23-2012   #76
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Old 02-26-2012   #77
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HCB was also a painter. This is very important. He was concerned with 2 important issues. Light. Geometry. Film has a totally different look from digital. It is actual light burning the film. Digital is 1 or 0. Numbers. Not half numbers, not fractions.I like digital but hate the problem of poor dynamic range. Please don't mention HDR that resembles "Lino-cuts".
HCB would have really enjoyed the control of color, in digital.I think he would go M9 or a small point and shoot digital! Portability,quick responses easy downloads would all be met with any small digital.
The Nikon D700 or D800 cannot compare to a Leica M methods. large, bulky, heavy, lenses are monster size, even the AF primes..
I am a street shooter mostly. The P/S fits me perfectly. Getting shots that were never possible with a larger camera! Even as small as Leica M,Canon AE series or my Nikon-F3. The last is HEAVY but very compact!
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Old 03-13-2012   #78
maggieo
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I'm thinking that Hank would sure like the X100.
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Old 04-01-2012   #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leicapixie View Post
HCB was also a painter. This is very important. He was concerned with 2 important issues. Light. Geometry. Film has a totally different look from digital. It is actual light burning the film. Digital is 1 or 0. Numbers. Not half numbers, not fractions.I like digital but hate the problem of poor dynamic range.
HCB shot in B&W mostly. Sensors are analog and photons exist in discrete digital quantities depending on how one "samples" them. We A/D them for economical convenience, but don't have to (think TV).

Digital can, therefore, given enough samples (data) completely emulate film in all respects. It's almost there and 2 more generations of sensors it will be.

HCB would have gone digital as he was about the cultural attitude of the capture all the way. Is style of shooting was as much about quantity as some esoteric quality ideal.
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Old 04-05-2012   #80
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Youd have to wonder why hed bother to go digital,all the processing and printing was done by colleages,unless some pressure came from those same colleages concerning the polluting of the environment or workflow or some other nonsense.
For my own sanity it would be nice to believe his insistence on film and Im 100% sure that after trying out digital for himself he would return to lights natural path.
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