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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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Mirror, mirror on the wall...
Old 12-12-2015   #1
Bill Pierce
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Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Do you think there is a future for the DSLR? It’s come a long way from the early film SLR with no instant return mirror or auto diaphragm, but it still has the problems with focus and vibration and the complex mechanics inherent in a mirror. All of this may be outweighed by the sheer magnificence of the viewfinder image. After all, photography is about seeing.

It used to be that the simpler mirrorless camera was smaller in size and price, but the electronic viewfinder was godawful compared to the finder image of the DSLR. But the electronic viewfinders in the mirrorless cameras keep getting better, much better. Does this mean that the DSLR is going to go the way of the Speed Graphic, that the great king will age and be replaced? It’s the photographer, or at least his buying habits, that will decide. So, based on your photography, will the DSLR be replaced by the mirrorless?
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Old 12-12-2015   #2
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Somehow I don't think so. My standard for a SLR viewfinder is my 40 year old OM-1. The last EVF i got to look through (I have to drive a 200 mile round trip to actually handle any current modern camera) was an Olympus OMD EM5 and compared to my 40 year old view..... well i'd say that camera was about 25% of the way there.
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Old 12-12-2015   #3
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Maybe but not until you can buy an APS-C mirrorless camera with a built in EVF that as good or better then the one in the Leica SL for under $1000.
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Old 12-12-2015   #4
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Problems with focus?

As a heavy SLR user, it's an entirely effective tool for my usage.
Even the full frame mirrorless options are spoken of in terms of "almost DSLR focus speeds".
Well I already have DSLR focus speeds, "almost" isn't something that tempts me in the slightest.

The other issue is lens compatibility, I'm not changing my entire system unless I absolutely have to. My lenses are chosen carefully and do what I want them to do, how I want them to. I don't want to have to find "the closest" alternatives.

Plus my DSLR lenses work with my film SLR bodies, the layouts are largely the same, and switching between them is a breeze. That's not going to be the case with introducing a mirrorless body.
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Old 12-13-2015   #5
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Yes! Once the marketing department gets onto the idea that a professional level, 'Mirrorless' camera lens does not have to look like a DSLR lens. Zuiko 85 talks of the OM1 and that is a good place to begin, keep the smaller ergonomic package and shrink the lenses to suit and the world will beat a path to your door. We are almost there and I predict that the generation coming through now will look at the DSLR and say "no thanks".
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Old 12-13-2015   #6
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At this time the DSLR is in a position of being best tool for certain photographic goals. About four years ago it was the only digital choice for the majority of photographic goals.

For decades camera manufacturers controlled photographic choices by controlling camera stores. In those days one went to a camera shop and the employees guided you down the path to a purchase. This system is now obsolete and the camera companies have lost influence over the purchase process. This is still the case where I live. There are two camera shops in a market of about 1 million people. One is a small local chain and the other caters primarily to dedicated hobbyists and pros. When you go in the small chain's stores they direct you to Canon or Nikon. If you want a smaller camera system they hand you a Canon or Nikon alternate. If you seem unconvinced they hand you an m4/3. Only as a last resort do they take you all the way to the back of the store to the Fujifilm counter.

While the Smart phone has eroded DSLR sales, the mirrorless segment is slowly gaining momentum. People will reference CIPA data that shows mirrorless' impact is small. But almost every single mirrorless sale was at the expense of a DSLR sale.

Because there will always be a lag in EVF display times, the mirror box will have a place in action photography for some time to come. Otherwise the mirror box is redundant. The mirrorless systems' current deficiencies of contrast-detection and even phase-detection AF are already minimal. More powerful on-camera CPUs combined with more sophisticated AF firmware algorithms will soon level the playing field.
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Old 12-13-2015   #7
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Probably yes.. but I don't expect it to be soon.

And that is due to the nature of the two. Basically, because of their internal architecture, the DSLR is a stills camera that does video as an extra, and a mirrorless camera (with its streaming imaging pipeline set-up) is a video camera that can capture stills.

This architectural difference permeates in what they excel at. If you're into video, then the clunky mirror-up/finder black out of a DSLR is a pain. And if your goal is shooting stills all day, the time it takes to fill the imaging pipeline from sensor to EVF and all that lies in between at every power-down/sleep/power-up is a really bitter pill.
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Old 12-14-2015   #8
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The EVF imager from the Leica SL is now a commodity product from Epson, so expect an improvement in EVF quality in most of the mirrorless product lines over the next year or so.
The time lag can be addressed by faster, but more expensive, electronics. Broadcast TV camera EVFs have a about a one frame (1/30 sec.) lag.
When it gets dark, even the current so-so EVFs are utterly superior to the best OVFs.
In bright light, it's the opposite.
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Old 12-14-2015   #9
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I must say a 1/30 sec. EVF lag would be an equalizer for practically any still photography application.
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Old 12-14-2015   #10
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DSLRs will die like the Rangefinder did.

Oh wait I forgot, I still love them
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Old 12-14-2015   #11
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From reading the replies, and the marketplace, I'm guessing that priorities are ordered much differently for different people. Some people are a lot more obsessed with size and weight differences than I am. I'm one of those obsessed with viewfinder clarity instead, and who thinks that, as a practical matter, the size difference between my F6 and my RX1 is just a rounding error, while the EVF on the Sony, and all the other EVFs I have used, is just sad compared to the F6 viewfinder., which means that I would much rather shoot with the F6. The file results from the RX1 are beyond superb, but putting that thing up to your eye is such a letdown.....sigh.... It's not the EVF lag that is the most annoying, it's the relative lack of clarity. And, the Leicaflex viewfinder, which someone else mentioned, is even better. As far as an EVF being better than an excellent OVF for shooting in the dark, I understand the argument, it's just not been my experience, though I tend to not shoot in anything darker than a nightclub. I realize that EVFs will get better, I just don't see them approaching the clarity and color accuracy of a good OVF anytime soon. Obviously, for some people, this does not matter as much to them as having a somewhat smaller camera body, or the ability to see vast amounts of printed data splashed across the composition in the finder. The market will decide, if it hasn't already.

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Old 12-14-2015   #12
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What is a DSLR ? Is it like an SLR but without the choice of films to use and a silly fixed sensor thingy that gets dusty and is a PITA to clean ? Give me a Nikon film SLR every time !
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Old 12-14-2015   #13
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As long as there is a National Football League there will be DSLR's. They excel in fast action photography.
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Old 12-14-2015   #14
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Many is the time I missed an action shot when using my Oly E-M5 due to EVF lag. Not so with my Nikon Df.
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Old 12-14-2015   #15
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EVF is the next place where I suspect we will see smart manufacturers focusing some computer power and effort. At the high end perhaps it will have it's own CPU, though that sort of thing will suck up more power (larger battery pack)

I suspect that the market DSLRs is shrinking, not in the professional area, but from the next step down and it will continue to do so as the quality from smaller sensors is improving.

B2 (;->
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Old 12-14-2015   #16
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EVFs might be getting better but the delay always makes me feel a bit queasy.

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Old 12-14-2015   #17
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Slr/dslr is a thing from the past. A whole generation is growing up with evf and does not recognize the differences. Evf belongs to digital, like a mirror or rangefinder belonged to film. Mirrorless is the most logical choice for digital.
Me?
A few months ago I decided I will spend the remaining 20 or 25 years of active photograpy (I hope) with film. The OM I bought 41 years ago, the Rolleiflex a few years later and the Hasselblad just 6 months ago. Never got enthousiastic about digital.
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Old 12-14-2015   #18
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DSLR's are not cool any longer. Not too long ago, people liked to sport big camera bodies and long lenses, this has completely changed in the past few years. Sleek Apple design had something to do with that. Miniaturization is in and big and bulky is out. Other than form, size and weight, people are looking for multi-gadgets....phone, music, photography, texting etc... all in one small package. The moment the mirror-less forces are able to meet DSLR specs, the big and bulky are destined for the museum. I would not be surprised there will be a dedicated DSLR.com site soon.
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Old 12-14-2015   #19
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It has taken DSLRs until now to be as responsive as a Nikon F-2 or F-3. I am having a tough time imagining shooting baseball, football, or soccer with a mirrorless camera? How well does a 300 f2.8 balance on one of those thing?
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Old 12-14-2015   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
DSLR's are not cool any longer. <snip> I would not be surprised there will be a dedicated DSLR.com site soon.
I'm old and according to my two daughters ceased being cool long ago, so sign me up.
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...not so fast
Old 12-14-2015   #21
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...not so fast

During the recent holiday I noticed that one of my nieces had bought a small canikon dSLR. My niece and her husband are in their mid-twenties and are diehard Apple product fanatics. But they've got a small kid running around, and the iPhone just doesn't cut it. So they went out and bought the device that they thought would get the job done.
dSLRs will probably become extinct when they cease to be the right tool for the job at hand.
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Old 12-14-2015   #22
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Every time mirrorless convert is mirking DSLR future I have fresh example of the opposite.

Today we went to Toronto Aquarium. Very young couple asked me to take their picture. And they gave me... single use Kodak film camera.
I was using my compact DSLR with pancake lens on it (I don't need mirrorless at all in near future). Two others with DSLR as well. And couple of ladies with advanced digital P&S.
Few days ago it was me with old big DSLR and not so small 50 1.2 on it and another person with very new consumer DSLR taking pictures of Christmas Lights display at the waterfront park.
And about week ago my co-worker purchased his daughter request for Christmas... The DSLR.

I think only gearheads are getting fuzzy about how "real" EVF is. The rest of those who are just taking pictures will do it with OVF or EVF, doesn't matter. While majority takes it by the image on the screen for sometime now


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Old 12-14-2015   #23
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Honestly Bill, I think that sadly the era of still cameras are coming to an end, regardless of form factor. Not now, perhaps not even a decade from now, but eventually. I have surf photographer friends who take Red Epic cameras into the water with them these days, instead of Nikonoses or 1DXes in water housings. A single frame of 5k video equivalates to a 15 MP image. Even a single HD video frame from my iPhone 6 beats the pants off of a still image from an original iPhone. It's progress. Sure, Red Epic cameras/gear are expensive unobtanium for most today, but we all know that technology at this level will not be so costly in a decade. Or less.

I understand the logic for a pro using a single still frame from a 5K video camera if they've got to get a shot...I mean short of pointing the camera the wrong direction you literally cannot miss. I can also see how parents would probably love the idea of capturing ultra hi-res video of Junior's little league game and printing a perfect single frame from it if they want a print of their kid hitting that game winning home run. And I can't come up with many reasons why most consumers wouldn't want to eventually move in this direction when it comes to buying their cameras. The success of the goPro line is testament to this I think, these days if you see a family at Disneyland with a camera that isn't a smartphone, it seems like it's a goPro on a stick more often than not.

Granted, the whole idea does bum me out, after all when you peel away all the technology, what makes a photographer is knowing when to push the button, and capture that decisive moment. But maybe the way people capture still images is evolving and although we here at RFF take joy from photographing things the way we do it, it isn't necessarily the "best" way to do it either? Best way or not, I love shooting stills in the traditional sense...but I can't help but feel like this isn't going to be the way the rest of the world does it in the near future.
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Old 12-14-2015   #24
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I really like SLRs, myself, especially my old mechanical ones. However ...

I was utterly amazed at how fast digital technology advanced and digital capture became capable of higher resolution than film. I have no doubt that EVF technology will advance to the point that there is no longer any visual advantage to OVFs. I just don't know when this will be.

If pro-level EVFs require a CPU of their own and larger battery packs, that will nullify some of the size and weight reduction that we might otherwise expect. On the other hand, no moving mirror will mean less vibration and more space to allow true wide-angle lenses, rather than the obligatory retrofocus wide-angles used now with SLRs.

I just hope that SLRs will continue to be available as long as photographers find them to have the advantage.

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Lack of clarity
Old 12-14-2015   #25
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Lack of clarity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
From reading the replies, and the marketplace, I'm guessing that priorities are ordered much differently for different people. Some people are a lot more obsessed with size and weight differences than I am. I'm one of those obsessed with viewfinder clarity instead, and who thinks that, as a practical matter, the size difference between my F6 and my RX1 is just a rounding error, while the EVF on the Sony, and all the other EVFs I have used, is just sad compared to the F6 viewfinder., which means that I would much rather shoot with the F6. The file results from the RX1 are beyond superb, but putting that thing up to your eye is such a letdown.....sigh.... It's not the EVF lag that is the most annoying, it's the relative lack of clarity. And, the Leicaflex viewfinder, which someone else mentioned, is even better. As far as an EVF being better than an excellent OVF for shooting in the dark, I understand the argument, it's just not been my experience, though I tend to not shoot in anything darker than a nightclub. I realize that EVFs will get better, I just don't see them approaching the clarity and color accuracy of a good OVF anytime soon...[snip]
Exactly that.
Not a (D)SLR related example, but an OVF one. For that reason slightly off-topic. But it was a revealing and satisfying experience when my son (used for many years to EVF and smartphone photography) played around with my Hexar RF and Fuji X-Pro1 and sighing stated:
I didn't remember. It is like looking through a clear window rather than to a tiny monitor! How is it that they don't offer this for more cameras nowadays?

He put my arguments down to the essence, using an OVF (in SLR and mirrorless) rather than an EVF.

Regarding classical still photography I really hope the OVF technology remains a choice in the offerings of DSLRs (and other still cameras).
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Old 12-15-2015   #26
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This may be of interest. Notice the Leica reference.


DIY PHOTOGRAPHY


NEW HI-RES EVF COVERS 98% OF SRGB, OPENS NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
December 9, 2015 · Gannon Burgett 3 Comments
For DSLR photographers looking to make the jump to mirrorless, one of the biggest turnoffs is having to settle for an electronic viewfinder (EVF). As things currently stand, most EVFs are good enough to get the job done, but many still lack in resolution and – arguably most importantly – color rendering.
That’s changing though, with the production of a new EVF from Epson (yes, the company most known for printers). It’s unglamorously called the ‘Ultimicron L3FJ63800C’ and said to be the highest resolution EVF for mass production – packing in almost twice the pixels and 30% more color gamut than anything on the market.
The impressive viewfinder, first shown off at this year’s CP+ expo, boasts a 4.4 megapixel screen, measuring in at .66 inches with a 1,400 × 1,050 pixel resolution. It’s capable of producing 16.77 million colors, roughly 98& of the sRGB color gamut.

This additional color reproduction is significant, because it will allow photographers to adjust the EVF to more accurately represent what it is they’re seeing and how they want it to be represented in-camera.
One particular implementation I could see being used it the ability for photographers to create custom presets of sorts to apply to the EVF, similar to those found in post-processing programs.
Take for example the extremely popular VSCO Film presets. Imagine being able to live-preview the Portra 400 preset as you’re composing and shooting an image? Furthermore, imagine having that preset tied into Lightroom so that it automatically processed the image upon importing it?
Interestingly, as pointed out by DC Watch, it appears as though this particular EVF is the one being used the monstrous Leica SL. While Leica doesn’t particularly point out where it’s sourcing the viewfinder from, the specs match up identically.
While the megapixel wars for sensors might be all but finished, there’s still plenty of pixels and far better color accuracy to pack into EVFs. This is just the one of may strides to be taken towards EVF perfection.
[via DC Watch]
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Old 12-15-2015   #27
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The Leica SL and Leica Q are proving my point. The only small detail, so far is cost: I can't imagine the SL and Q reaching wide audiences with the prices they are going for today. Whether or not the industry can translate this level of sophistication into affordable consumer products remains to be seen.
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Old 12-15-2015   #28
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I've had Leica like viewfinders on my digital cameras for awhile, Leica's auxilliary bright line finders that fit into an accessory shoe. Admittedly, not a substitute for a DSLR viewfinder, but a very good substitute for a Leica rangefinder's viewfinder.
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Old 12-16-2015   #29
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Why are we so obsessed with this question?
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Old 12-16-2015   #30
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I think that there is point of diminishing returns pixels and colors on EVFs.

I agree that it's also a perception issue that may go away as professionals who grew up on analog SLRs age out.

I think the big issue is more the response speed when panning with a highly diverse image. Diversity from the perspective of colors/tones across the image. How often does that pixel of the EVF have to change from it's current state (color/brightness).

B2 (;->
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Old 12-18-2015   #31
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The OVF will not disappear from the market, but it may fall in commonness.
As has been described, the visually-aware younger, raised-on-electronic-displays folks will eventually discover the pleasure, or...more correctly, the lack of torture... of viewing a clear optical image, whether on ground glass or direct view.
I always feel a burst of pleasure/relief along my optic pathway when I switch back to the DSLR from my little mirrorless EVF.
By the way, my Fuji XE1 EVF almost always has correct color that matches the real [daylight] scene. Too bad it's 13 stops darker than the real daylight scene!
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Old 12-19-2015   #32
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Not long now and the "mirror" will be a thing of the past.
The next generation of photogs are being raised with smart phones and tablets and the photos they take will be mostly viewed online.
So to them it would seem normal.

I'm not happy about it but I'm over 50 and the companies that design and make this gear aren't targeting me as a customer. (Maybe Leica is)

So an EVF will become the norm. Less moving parts also makes it cheaper to manufacture.

The next mechanical item to become redundant will be the shutter. The shutters job will be done by something electronically.
Just a naked sensor and the capture will happen as soon as the energizing of the sensor is complete. All of this happening very quickly.
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Old 12-19-2015   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Why are we so obsessed with this question?
Because an SLR with a Mirror is a joy to use. I for one will be sad to see it go.
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Old 12-20-2015   #34
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Interesting chart of cameras use on Flickr.
Zero mirrorless on the most used. Phones and DSLRs only.
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...hreadid=153599
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