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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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Big camera, little lens
Old 05-11-2011   #1
Bill Pierce
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Big camera, little lens

DSLR’s are thought of as BIG, too BIG for street photography. Truth is, with a zoom or a very high speed fixed focal-length lens, they are big. But, put a small fixed focal-length lens on them and you have a relatively unobtrusive camera.

Most of these small, slower lenses are economy lenses, not producing the highest image quality. But, outdoors, on the street, you can stop them down. I’ve mentioned before, that the $90 Canon 50/1.8 produces images at f/5.6 that rival, and in many cases exceed the quality of the expensive 50/1.2 - probably because it is a much simpler design.

For those of you who have already done it, perhaps you can tell your friends who haven’t equipped their big, expensive DSLR with a cheap lens, why they should.
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Old 05-11-2011   #2
segedi
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The Canon lens you mention is light, great for walkabout. Vignettes a bit wide open, but it is a nice one. I like my little rangefinders and their tiny lenses for street though.
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Old 05-11-2011   #3
chrismoret
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Did a lot of street things back in the 90s with a Nikon F3 and a fixed 28 or 35mm. And indeed it always felt as a good combination. Left the huge motor drive in the bag. :-)
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Old 05-11-2011   #4
Graham Line
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The truth no one seems to learn -- almost any lens since 1980 is more than adequate from f4 to f11. Be fun to tabulate the working f/stop on internet-posted photos.

D300 and the 50/1.8 AF-D is a nice combination too.
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Old 05-11-2011   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brugger View Post
The truth no one seems to learn -- almost any lens since 1980 is more than adequate from f4 to f11. Be fun to tabulate the working f/stop on internet-posted photos.

D300 and the 50/1.8 AF-D is a nice combination too.

No doubt. It's sort of funny to read posts from people who insist on having the fastest (and most expensive) glass - but never use the lenses at anything wider than f 4 or 5.6. It's like having a high-performance sports car, but never driving it faster than 45 mph.
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Old 05-11-2011   #6
goffer
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My D700 with the CV 40mm f2 was a joy to use on the street.
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Old 05-11-2011   #7
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D7000 with 35 1.8 is a killer and small as the old days.

D700 with 50 1.4 really is not that bad if I leave my grip off.

A D40 with 35 1.8 and you look like every dumba.. amateur walking the street. An the photos print up better than the photos you are likely to take.
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Old 05-11-2011   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
Why I love my 28, 35 and 50 Color Skopars in LTM. Ridiculously tiny and portable and are actually good even wide open.
Absolutely. I've got the same three lenses and agree entirely.
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Old 05-11-2011   #9
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Put an M42 adapter on your dslr and you have a wide range of tiny (comparatively) lenses. My favourite is a 35mm Super Takumar.
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Old 05-11-2011   #10
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The old manual 28mm/f3.5 sticks on my Pentax DSLR like glue...
Plenty DOF even wide open, "real" 42mm just like my Oly RC, which
I still use for b/w.

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Old 05-11-2011   #11
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I recommended a buddy of mine to try OM lenses on his 7D, mainly because he shoots video and those little lenses are nice and sharp and with smooth manual focus action. He loves them and they make his camera surprisingly portable.
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Old 05-11-2011   #12
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I use a tiny EOS 300V with the EF 50 f/1.8. Great combo to carry around and fast to use.
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Old 05-11-2011   #13
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Agreed. The nifty fifty is a pin-sharp bargain.

I have fallen back in love with my black Pentax MX and compact 50mm 1.7 SMC (the mirror is a little noisy as it needs some new foam) but it is small and discreet, with a lovely big viewfinder.

Looking forward to putting some Ektar through it soon.
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Old 05-11-2011   #14
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I use a Nikon D80 with a small 35mm f2 lens, but I don't consider it remarkably portable. One day soon I will try a Nikon D3100-size body with a small 35mm AF-S, but am not expecting miracles. Nothing as portable as a rangefinder/ manual film slr, in my opinion, which will be my holy grail of digital cameras, if they can make a digital slr that small.

The Fuji X100 comes close, and that's where the game is for me.
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Old 05-11-2011   #15
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Better still, small camera, small lens. Nikkormat with 45/2.8 GN?

Cheers,

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Old 05-11-2011   #16
Chuck Albertson
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I have one of those 50 1.8s that Nikon makes, and it's a great lens. You don't have to stop it down much to get decent pictures, and it was only about $100 new. I loan it out on occasion to friends who complain about lugging around a DSLR and a zoom, and it's a revelation to them. It's surprising the number of people these days who've never shot with a prime.
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Old 05-12-2011   #17
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It's hard to beat Olympus E-P2 + Panny 20/1.7 (40mm equivalent) for street photography.
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Old 05-12-2011   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox View Post
It's hard to beat Olympus E-P2 + Panny 20/1.7 (40mm equivalent) for street photography.
...not sure about that.
Wait until it falls from a table on a wooden floor. Just lost my Sigma DP1 this way.
No signs of damage on the body and lens, but the screen stays pink!
This has been my 3rd digital (not cheap!)compact that died from impact
my film gear (and probably my K100d) would laugh about!

Thomas
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Old 05-12-2011   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
On a crop body, try the EF 35mm f/2 lens - that was my favorite for a long time (since it's about a 56mm). The real killer feature is the close-focusing ability. I use a collapsing rubber hood for a 50mm with it.
Not a crop body so the difference is a little bigger. The lens is nice but the quality is not comparable.

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Old 05-12-2011   #20
p.giannakis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
On a crop body, try the EF 35mm f/2 lens - that was my favorite for a long time (since it's about a 56mm). The real killer feature is the close-focusing ability. I use a collapsing rubber hood for a 50mm with it.
The EOS 300V is a film camera.
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Old 05-12-2011   #21
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You are definitely right: on the left a non street camera, or the right a F/1.8 on a P3n:

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Old 05-13-2011   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
... But, put a small fixed focal-length lens on them and you have a relatively unobtrusive camera.

Most of these small, slower lenses are economy lenses, not producing the highest image quality. But, outdoors, on the street, you can stop them down. ...
Big camera, little lens: we can do that.


Shown above is Canon 1Ds w/Elmar 90 3-element in Visoflex configuration. Street scene shot on a tripod @ f/8, 4sec. Unobtrusive in a relative sense!
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Old 05-13-2011   #23
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I like small cameras with big lenses...
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Old 05-13-2011   #24
Bill Pierce
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I have to confess that, although I use the 50/1.8 Canon stopped down as a small “street lens,” when I need a higher speed lens I often use the 50/2 Summicron R wide open on my DSLR's. It’s almost exactly the same size as the Canon lens - just a lot heavier.
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Old 05-13-2011   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wallace View Post
...not sure about that.
Wait until it falls from a table on a wooden floor. Just lost my Sigma DP1 this way.
No signs of damage on the body and lens, but the screen stays pink!
This has been my 3rd digital (not cheap!)compact that died from impact
my film gear (and probably my K100d) would laugh about!

Thomas
(sorry for imperfect English)
Thomas, no camera is immune to a drop from a table to a wooden floor
Unless it's made out of rubber.
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