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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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What's your dream?
Old 06-04-2013   #1
Bill Pierce
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What's your dream?

What’s your dream camera? I’m pretty satisfied with the cameras I have, but I dream.

For me, my dream camera would be a camera that takes my stockpile of M mount lenses, a collection that started a long, long time ago. For now, I use a Ricoh GXR A12, an affordable APS C sensor camera that accepts M mount lenses. It is unique in having a sensor that deals with the problem of vignetting and loss of resolution in the outer areas of the frame caused by the steep angle of the edge rays from a short focal length rangefinder lens. Of the cameras available, it does, by far, the best job in the image quality department of handling M lenses on a non Leica body.

I love that camera and dreamed of the day that Ricoh might make it even better with a full frame version or the addition of a bright line or built-in eye level finder or a better high ISO or a sensor with more than 12 Mpixels. (There, I’ve said it. I don’t mind focusing manually.) But, with the acquisition of Pentax by Ricoh, my dream camera will probably remain a dream.

So, do you have a dream, a dream camera?
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Old 06-04-2013   #2
Lauffray
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From the title I thought it wasn't restricted to gear, but to answer that specific question I'd say...my current setup !
Leica MP black paint .58, 35mm Summicron ASPH
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Old 06-04-2013   #3
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Well since we're dreaming I'd really love to have one of those 20x24inch Polaroid cameras
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Old 06-04-2013   #4
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Mike, don´t forget to dream some polaroid film material to go with the 20x24 camera :-)
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Old 06-04-2013   #5
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My dream cameras already exist. I just have to figure out a way to obtain them, and to find the time to use them.
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Old 06-04-2013   #6
Duane Pandorf
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I too would love a more affordable M mount option as I too enjoyed the GXR. I'm happy with my M-E and would probably never know about the Leica as an option if I hadn't owned a GXR.
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Old 06-04-2013   #7
daveleo
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I don't actually have a dream camera. My photographic dream is that my . . . .ummm . . .
creative spirit (jeees, did I actually say that?) gets turned loose some day
before I die, and I have a camera with me when that happens.

But to answer the question- at the moment, I'll dream about a Fuji x200
which is the X100 with a simplified menu, that stupid rear selector dial removed and a
23mm-35mm zoom (f2.0 - f4.0). For $1500 discounted to $1350 for seniors.
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Old 06-04-2013   #8
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My dream cameras at the moment are affordable and easy to come by, my dream is having the time and freedom to use them as I'd like. That would involve travel to exotic locales, and have all other humans disappear for a moment whilst I take the photo.

If I did have to choose a dream camera which is restricted by price, it would be an Alpa 12TC.

If I could invent a camera, my dream camera would be a 4x5 RF, along the same lines and size as a GF670. Basically, 4x5 with the ease of use and portability of a 120 camera.

I think Razzledog, PolaroidConversions.com etc. are getting pretty close to that though.
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Old 06-04-2013   #9
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Digital negative in the form of 120 and 35mm rolls.

For digital cameras: don't need bell and whistles.. just give me shutter speed, aperture control on the lens and possibly a third dial for ISO. Do not desire a LCD screen or menu options. If so needed, give us bluetooth in the camera and an app for the phone/computer to remotely configure these system options.
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Old 06-04-2013   #10
den_sh
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Okey, if we are clearly dreaming here:

1. new medium format digital rangefinder body with
- 60mp 6x4.5 cmos sensor with 16bit color
- iso dial, shutter speed dial, aperture on the lens (all in 1/3 of a stop)
- accurate iso values to make camera easily usable with external meter
- body isn't much larger than new M.
- hybrid viewfinder with 0.8x magnification OVF and 1080p EVF
- 400 shots battery life

2. and matching fully manual lens:
- 35mm f/4 (21mm f/2.5 equiv)
- 55mm f/2 (35mm f/1.2 equiv)
- 80mm f/1.6 (50mm f/0.95 equiv)
- 150mm f/2.8 (90mm f/1.8 equiv)
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Old 06-04-2013   #11
Rodchenko
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Make that two!
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Old 06-04-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mcary View Post
Well since we're dreaming I'd really love to have one of those 20x24inch Polaroid cameras
I was lucky enough to see one up close & personal at a Calumet Event years ago...I also met and got to know Tracy Storer, one of few people who were caretakers of a Polaroid 20x24 camera...

As for my Dream Camera...I do believe I own that one right now...
My Zone VI 4x5 View Camera was one of those purchases that I put a lot of research into before buying...mine was bought brand new from Calumet Camera back in the early 90's.
I loved shooting not only film but the Polaroid film that was so easily available back then...Along with the camera I also bought a 75mm, 90mm, 150mm & 210mm lens...since then I've picked up a very nice 190mm Tessar and a 127mm Kodak Ektar lens...
I pulled it out a few weeks ago and exposed 12 sheet of Tri-X 320 film...
I've made contact prints of them and gave some away to a friend...
I love what that camera will allow you to do...only being limited by your imagination and a few real crazy camera movements...
If you've never done a portrait with a 4x5 camera you really are missing quite an experience...
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Old 06-04-2013   #13
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Non-tubby, full frame Leica digital rangefinder with upgradable electronics (that are economically viable), no lcd, no menus, and same controls as a film M except with the addition of a dial for iso. Battery level and frames remaining will be indicated via a minimal overlay in the viewfinder. Camera internals to be as durable as the camera shells on old school film camera bodies, and camera setup settings will be adjustable by connecting the camera to a computer via usb cable. While we're at it, throw in a full frame foveon sensor to round out the dream
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Old 06-04-2013   #14
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A new Leica film M (preferably M3-styled) with the hybrid AE/mechanical shutter from the Nikon FM3a. I would pay all kinds of money for that. 1/4000th shutter speed is a must too!
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Old 06-04-2013   #15
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My dream is to find an Olympus Pen FV in like new condition with these Pen lenses;
20mm f3.5
25mm f2.8
38mm f2.8 pancake
40mm f1.4
70mm f2
250mm f5
And to have the funds to purchase them outright.

If you watch carefully I will now flap my arms and fly to the moon.
Either outcome has the same probability.
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Old 06-04-2013   #16
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An awful lot of "dream cameras" are based on a refusal to accept either the laws of physics or the laws of the marketplace.

Personally I'd rather like an M240 with proper frame line illumination (easy) and if at all possible a little slimmer (quite a lot more difficult).

But I'm not fantasist enough to expect it would be cheap as well.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 06-04-2013   #17
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I'm with Bill. I want the GXR not to have been suddenly retired, but to deserve further development like the GRD (and like Fuji seems to be doing in its X-cams), even if that meant steadily rising prices for steady technical refinement. As it is, I'm taking care of my 3 GXR bodies, the last purchased for an absurd $214 from Henry's--with a second M-mount for an extra $274, for a grand total under $400 (down from the $1000 paid for my first GXR/M mount, which I was very very happy to have).

So I suppose I dream that the joint forces of Ricoh-Pentax will be able and willing to introduce something more like the Next GXR, for even though it's a niche without the historical cachet of Leica, it also does not need to compete at a same price point that excludes most users without sufficient disposable income or a photography/imaging business that permits them to amortize equipment costs in the $3K-$30K-and-up range.
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Old 06-04-2013   #18
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I like the ergonomics and IQ of the Leica S. Given its price and the prices of the S lenses, it is definitely a dream.
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Old 06-04-2013   #19
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Digital:
- one Leica X3 with f/2 45mm (equiv) lens [ideally a bit closer in rendering to the Contax T3 than the current Elmarit], with APS-H-sized sensor, no AA-filter, nice EVF, and a good MF solution (similar to X100s); retractable lens so I can operate it with one hand (I shoot a lot while climbing); a sensor similar in design to the Foveon would suit it well, also.
- another X, with (equiv) 21mm lens; I really would love a compact, capable super wide-angle camera.
Both should have about the same size and form as the current X bodies, which I find perfect.

Analog:
A modern Zeiss Ikonta or V. Bessa IV; similar to Bessa III but with the f/2.8 80mm Planar lens of the TLR Rolleiflex and a wider RF base...
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Old 06-04-2013   #20
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[quote=Roger Hicks;2153716]An awful lot of "dream cameras" are based on a refusal to accept either the laws of physics or the laws of the marketplace.

Yup, that is why they call them "dream cameras".

Or, you could side with Bugs Bunny's comment.
"You see, I never studied law"
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Old 06-04-2013   #21
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Digital:
- R-D2 with sensor that allow more cropping on the result. Oh, and easier user-accessible rangefinder adjustment panel.
- GXR with other lens mount. They could have made K-mount and m4/3 mount module without much problem with licensing.
- Radical designed digital camera, like how Siemens used to have their Xelibri phones. Let them experiment with other designs. But overly different products wont sell well, so lets write it off.

Film:
The film camera now are fine. They are... what they are. Hoping for more decent and affordable studio that would do both C41 and E6. At least, without dust and water blotches and with more even colour.
Never thought of home developing, not for me.
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Old 06-04-2013   #22
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My dream is to take a picture that is meaningful long after I'm gone.

My dream camera is pretty attainable. I'd like to have a Leica IIIc or IIIf with a good lens. I hope to be able to get one in the next year or so.
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Old 06-04-2013   #23
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Full Frame, Digital, Olympus XA
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Old 06-04-2013   #24
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Quote:
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Full Frame, Digital, Olympus XA
THAT would be amazing!
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Old 06-04-2013   #25
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Thanks to Leica my dream camera already exists, the Monochrom. Now all I have to do is sell most of my current kit so that I can afford to buy it.
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Old 06-04-2013   #26
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I'd love to own a silver Leica MP and a silver Leica M with a 35mm and 50mm Summicron
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Old 06-04-2013   #27
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I have my film dream setup, a couple of M4s and the lenses I want, but my digital needs (which are real work-related needs, unlike my film wants) are currently being filled by a Nikon D300 and a bunch of manual focus primes.

What I'd really like to have to replace the nikon is a full frame version of the Sony Nex 7: specifically, a 24Mp or better FF camera that would use all of my Nikon and Leica lenses, with a high-res electronic viewfinder with manual focus peaking, and a good HD movie mode with an audio input for external mics. Really if they just made a FF Nex 7, I'd be done, and I'm just a hair away from buying a Nex 7 as it is, and living with the sensor size.

Alternately, if Leica made the M240 with a switchable EVF/Optical VF like the Fuji X100, I would probably go to very great lengths to manage get one. The fundamental issue, in either case, is wanting to use the lenses I have now, both Nikon and Leica, at eye level, not arm's length, on a FF camera.
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Old 06-04-2013   #28
Tom Diaz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
What’s your dream camera? I’m pretty satisfied with the cameras I have, but I dream.

For me, my dream camera would be a camera that takes my stockpile of M mount lenses, a collection that started a long, long time ago. For now, I use a Ricoh GXR A12, an affordable APS C sensor camera that accepts M mount lenses. It is unique in having a sensor that deals with the problem of vignetting and loss of resolution in the outer areas of the frame caused by the steep angle of the edge rays from a short focal length rangefinder lens. Of the cameras available, it does, by far, the best job in the image quality department of handling M lenses on a non Leica body.

I love that camera and dreamed of the day that Ricoh might make it even better with a full frame version or the addition of a bright line or built-in eye level finder or a better high ISO or a sensor with more than 12 Mpixels. (There, I’ve said it. I don’t mind focusing manually.) But, with the acquisition of Pentax by Ricoh, my dream camera will probably remain a dream.

So, do you have a dream, a dream camera?
Bill, I own a GXR-M for my Leica M lenses, and I agree with you about what would be a nice upgrade.

A dream camera, though, would take some more modern, autofocus lenses as well. Maybe the same kind of system as a the Ricoh but with another mount for m4/3 or Fuji X lenses.

Tom
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Old 06-05-2013   #29
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The Canon 5D mk2 sensor in an M7/M9 body.
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Old 06-05-2013   #30
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Dream camera?
Film
I use it at the moment – a Rolleiflex. I also quite like Nikkormats and my M4-P.

Digital
I would like a Nikon FE2 (with a Copal square shutter from the Nikkormat), manual focus (and be able to use my favourite lens the non AI Nikkor 50mm ƒ2 H) Manual dials with AE override for when I'm lazy.
Just put in a package with a good sensor and no Review LCD, or if it had to have one put it inside the viewfinder.

What I really need is more time to take pictures, with three kids all the spare time seems to be spent doing jobs about the house!
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Old 06-05-2013   #31
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Digital 35mm roll 'film' to run through my M6TTL, 12MP would be sufficient.
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Old 06-05-2013   #32
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To live in a place far from the city where I have the time and drive to wake up before the sun to get out in nature and watch the beauty unfold each morning with the wild things in this world.
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Old 06-05-2013   #33
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Quote:
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MP + 35mm 'cron
My dream cameras already exist: an MP and, to a lesser degree, an M9. They just happen to be unaffordable for me and therefore will remain a dream.
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Old 06-05-2013   #34
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I have mine already and it comes w/o the red dot : MM .
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Old 06-05-2013   #35
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQk4ZkYVzVo

But they will put it in a DSLR.
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Old 06-05-2013   #36
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My dream camera... hmm.
One is a true digital Nikon SP, sans all the superfluous controls.

Another is that film has a resurgence in production, popularity and quality control at about the level from say, 1995, just before digital started to take over. In that case, my dream camera is my Leica M4 or my Nikon SP using the aforementioned film.

Regarding other cream cameras that already exist, I'd like:
Black paint M4
Black paint SP
Pentax Spotmatic F (yes, I can find one for $25)
Pentax LX
Mamiya 6
Mamiya Six
Linhof 612
My old M2 that went to Iraq with me but I sold after getting back to the states.

There are others, of course.

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Old 06-05-2013   #37
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Quote:
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To live in a place far from the city where I have the time and drive to wake up before the sun to get out in nature and watch the beauty unfold each morning with the wild things in this world.
Good dream, if off topic--except your eye is the camera you were born with! So maybe not. Move to western Oregon! Lots of dream cameras here, plus all the wild you can stand.
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Old 06-05-2013   #38
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An FF NEX9, certainly. I won't pay anything close to $7000 for a digital body and fuji has said that they won't go FF, so Sony is my last hope.
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Old 06-05-2013   #39
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Leica M6 and Summicron 50/2 v.4 both made in 1988, the year I was born. . .
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Old 06-05-2013   #40
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Two dream here. One is that of a different market, where one can find affordable studio lights, softboxes, background. It is just so sad that we can get a 12.5 Mpx camera like a Pen SP-1 for 150 US$ because "it's old" and a much simpler object like a radio trigger costs twice as much.

The second is a pocket size camera with a decent sensor which is fast focussing and has a decent selection of lenses. Something like the Nikon 1 with a bit better sensor (a 1" could be enough for me if it is was with a quality and a low AA filter like in the Pentax Q) and some good prime lenses. For some reason being small and fast is something which only appeared in the mind of Nikon's designers, now they should just perfect the idea.

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