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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

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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 do you want?
Old 12-09-2017   #1
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What do you want?

In the prior post, all of us established our megapixel needs and, for the most part, felt current digital cameras were more than sufficient in that department. Which brings up the question, what, in your opinion, does need to be improved in modern digitals?

For me itís simple. I want the ability to quickly change my basic settings, shutter speed, f/stop, ISO and focus and to be able to see those values without accessing a screen or holding the camera to my eye. I donít want to take up time accessing a series of menus one at a time, one after the other. To an extent Fuji, Leica and, Iím sure others, have made this possible with external dials and rings that control these functions. But, for example, Fuji, allowing rapid access to most of the cameraís basic controls, is sadly lacking in providing distance scales on their lenses, providing none or ones that provide inadequate information at greater distances for scale focusing.

Iím amused by folks who call these controls retro rather than immediately accessible. With news, street photography, even portraiture, I really donít want to waste time sorting through menus on an LCD screen even if it is a more modern technology. I want to be able to see and change the basic settings on my camera quickly and then raise it to my eye.

Thatís what I want. More important, what do you want?
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Old 12-09-2017   #2
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I agree that one area lacking in the Fuji lenses in distance and depth of field scales, and related thereto, the lack of tactile feedback inherent in the focus by wire schema. However, with autofocus, I really don't have a need to focus by setting a hyperfocal distance, so the lack of scales is at best a minor inconvenience for me.

Another area that could be improved in all mirrorless cameras is the EVF, so that in focusing manual focus lenses we would not have to be dependent on focus-peaking and digital zooming. The Leica SL probably has the best EVF, but I don't have any personal experience with it and manual focus lenses to know whether even it is good enough in that regard.

Bill, perhaps you can share why you feel the need to access Fuji's menus. I rarely use them. What needs to be set besides shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation, all of which have dedicated dials?
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Old 12-09-2017   #3
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Agree there Bill,

Additionally something more reusable. How about interchangeable CCD's? Chips that have different emulsion flavors, a technology that could lead to standardization of digital.

Of course my only reference is the film era and how that process lead to a better product for all.

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Old 12-09-2017   #4
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Bill it sounds like the Leica M-D is the camera for you.
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Old 12-09-2017   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
In the prior post, all of us established our megapixel needs and, for the most part, felt current digital cameras were more than sufficient in that department. Which brings up the question, what, in your opinion, does need to be improved in modern digitals?
Honestly... I just want an ISO-less sensor... meaning I can just shoot at any shutter speed and aperture combo in any light with maximum clarity and dynamic range. With this, I'd like the ability for the camera to auto-focus in almost darkness just as fast as it can in the sun. In the meantime, the Fujis will do.

Quote:
I’m amused by folks who call these controls retro rather than immediately accessible. With news, street photography, even portraiture, I really don’t want to waste time sorting through menus on an LCD screen even if it is a more modern technology. I want to be able to see and change the basic settings on my camera quickly and then raise it to my eye.
Yes me too...but there are a group of photographers out there that were raised with changing their settings with one hand WHILE the camera is raised to their eye. They cannot stand what we love.
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Old 12-09-2017   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Iím amused by folks who call these controls retro rather than immediately accessible. With news, street photography, even portraiture, I really donít want to waste time sorting through menus on an LCD screen even if it is a more modern technology. I want to be able to see and change the basic settings on my camera quickly and then raise it to my eye.
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Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Yes me too...but there are a group of photographers out there that were raised with changing their settings with one hand WHILE the camera is raised to their eye. They cannot stand what we love.
There are merits to each style, and they're not mutually exclusive. Being able to change setting quickly without taking your eye off the viewfinder is so efficient, but knowing the settings before you bring your camera to your eye is also great. One favours fast paced action like sports photography where the camera is constantly at your eye, the other favours more reportage style photography where the camera is brought to the eye to take the shot. The later can be gained from the small LCD on the top plate, or so the major DSLR players believe.

But back to the question, what do I want? Apart from the ability to afford the latest offerings, nothing really. There is nothing that would get in my way or limit my photography in cameras that are currently available.
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Old 12-09-2017   #7
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I don't want anything at all. I have exactly what I want now ... the Leica M-D and Leica SL ... and a brace of excellent lenses for both. Both are 24 megapixel cameras, both are a delight in the hand, both make absolutely top notch photographs.

They are at opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to features and capabilities, but both have a simple and easy to understand set of controls and control paradigm. Both can be set up for a shot (ISO, aperture, shutter, focus, EV compensation) glancing down at the camera from above without need to access a menu.

I can't think of a single thing I'd change on either.

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Old 12-09-2017   #8
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At the moment I am okay with the digital cameras that I use (Canon 5DII and Fuji x100t), although I have been looking at the x100f because of the ability to manually adjust the ISO via an external dial. The x100t is approaching ISO-less capability so that helps... With the x100t in manual focus mode the distance is visible through the finder (as well DOF seems to be indicated), but quite frankly I mostly use face recognition for the majority of my situations.

From talking to other photographers, my understanding is that the Leica Monochrom might be the way to go for digital B&W... so no big digital wish list.
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Old 12-09-2017   #9
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Highlight/shadow clipping warnings in the viewfinder, with user-settable thresholds, based on the raw data rather than the current jpg settings. Also true raw histograms for image review after capture.
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Someone to give me a Canon EOS 1D4
Old 12-09-2017   #10
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Someone to give me a Canon EOS 1D4

Dear Bill,

There, I said it.

I shoot nature and wildlife almost exclusively. I will be honest and say that my abilities as a photographer will never exceed the capabilities of my current cameras, but since you asked the thread title is my answer.

Regards,

Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA
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Old 12-09-2017   #11
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Lenses, hoods and caps which mount correctly and quickly even when you're in a hurry and not really paying attention. What if the lens hood was the cap?

Electronic viewfinders are already good at helping to see better in low-light conditions, but can't keep up in brightly-lit situations like sunlit snow where they can look dim and washed-out to eyes adapted to the bright conditions. There's probably liability reasons for not offering ultra-bright finders, but it'd be an interesting option.

Batteries, connectors and memory cards which provide their own seals to keep dust and moisture out of the camera body without the need for protective doors or rubber flaps.

Viewfinder eyepieces which can be cleaned nicely with one's tshirt, microfiber cloth or whatever, without inaccessible corners.

"Fuel gauge" on the batteries themselves, so you can tell what you've got at a glance.
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Old 12-09-2017   #12
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Oh, and where possible, why not make an Arca-type mounting integral with the camera body!
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Old 12-09-2017   #13
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A full frame Epson RD1 would fit those requirements nicely!
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Old 12-09-2017   #14
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Quote:
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Oh, and where possible, why not make an Arca-type mounting integral with the camera body!
Because it's unergonomic.
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Old 12-09-2017   #15
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For the Sony a6000 I would like longer lasting batteries...other than that I love it...
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Old 12-09-2017   #16
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A somewhat decadent request, but a rangefinder with sufficient eye relief to see the 28mm framelines while wearing glasses would be nice. Clunky add-on external VFs do not cut it when trying to compose and focus quickly.

And yes, a genuine ISO-less sensor would be amazing. There would be no need for an ISO dial at all, giving both a simpler shooting experience and optimal image quality. That said, auto-ISO is a reasonable substitute that comes close to the ISO-less ideal.
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Old 12-10-2017   #17
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Nothing for me either.
Very happy with my two A7s in terms of performance and layout.
My Leica lenses are more useable and flexible on the Sony body by virtue of the EVF focussing.
For me it's perfect as I suspect the SL would be.
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Old 12-10-2017   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
In the prior post, all of us established our megapixel needs and, for the most part, felt current digital cameras were more than sufficient in that department. Which brings up the question, what, in your opinion, does need to be improved in modern digitals?

For me itís simple. I want the ability to quickly change my basic settings, shutter speed, f/stop, ISO and focus and to be able to see those values without accessing a screen or holding the camera to my eye. I donít want to take up time accessing a series of menus one at a time, one after the other. To an extent Fuji, Leica and, Iím sure others, have made this possible with external dials and rings that control these functions. But, for example, Fuji, allowing rapid access to most of the cameraís basic controls, is sadly lacking in providing distance scales on their lenses, providing none or ones that provide inadequate information at greater distances for scale focusing.

Iím amused by folks who call these controls retro rather than immediately accessible. With news, street photography, even portraiture, I really donít want to waste time sorting through menus on an LCD screen even if it is a more modern technology. I want to be able to see and change the basic settings on my camera quickly and then raise it to my eye.

Thatís what I want. More important, what do you want?
Sounds like a Nikon Df with MF or AFD lenses. I already have one.
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Old 12-10-2017   #19
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A pocketable digital P&S camera looks like Olympus Mju II, m4/3 sensor, 35mm lens, no screens, limited amount of buttons on body, AF only, having focus distance indicator inside an optical viewfinder.
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Old 12-10-2017   #20
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A pocketable digital P&S camera looks like Olympus Mju II, m4/3 sensor, 35mm lens, no screens, limited amount of buttons on body, AF only, having focus distance indicator inside an optical viewfinder.
I'd have to have one of these too...
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Old 12-10-2017   #21
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My working methods are pretty simple. All I really need is autofocus, aperture priority with an exposure compensation dial, one dependable central AF sensor, a bright viewfinder with 100% coverage, excellent eye relief and a choice of great lenses. I would like for it to be in a compact, ergonomic, dependable, rugged and durable package with a really good sensor. Maybe a few more features but not many.

I'm pretty happy with my Fujis. I like the easy access to controls. But if I were to change one thing about the Fujis--as well as other cameras I've used--it would be simplification by reducing options. I sometimes find myself having to pause for a moment because I've inadvertently pressed a button that has changed a setting in some way. For example (this has happened several times recently), I frequently depend on the histogram for exposure adjustments but it sometimes disappears because I pressed the display button without meaning to. When you think about it, you either use the histogram or you don't. You should be able to set the camera in the menu to remove it or display it permanently.

I like the way you can customize digital cameras. But I would like it better if you could set it and forget it. Multifunction buttons bother me. Multiple multifunction buttons bother me ever more.
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Old 12-10-2017   #22
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Quote:
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...
I like the way you can customize digital cameras. But I would like it better if you could set it and forget it. Multifunction buttons bother me. Multiple multifunction buttons bother me ever more.
Yes - that could be a real advantage. A simple set of ergonomic buttons and wheels that you can configure on your own. Same for display-/viewfinderitems. Fuji is on a good way with their custom functions but there is still too much on the first level.
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Old 12-10-2017   #23
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I want to unclip the film back of my OM-1 and clip on a D-back with say 18X24 sensor size. (don't want to be greedy and the sensor image plane must be at focal plane, so, smaller than 24X36) The power supply, card slot, and CPU are all housed in a box at the bottom of the camera that would be the size of an auto winder. The D-back would be the thickness of the old data back. A focusing screen with the sensor area marked out would be supplied with the outfit. This back would fit all OM single digit models. For pre 'n' models sync with the back would be provided through a ribbon connector to the PC connector.


Yeah right, about as much chance as I flap my arms and fly to the moon.
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Old 12-10-2017   #24
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NO complaints about my one year old Fuji X Pro 2....
in fact, last month I bought another!
Now I can leave the fabulous 35mm 1.4 welded on one of 'em.
Bonus: Two cameras, one menu. :-)
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Old 12-10-2017   #25
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I got off the 'what do I need/want' bandwagon.
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Old 12-10-2017   #26
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I got off the 'what do I need/want' bandwagon.
Come on....
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Old 12-10-2017   #27
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First, I'm happier with today's camera gear than ever. Great AF, minimal shutter lag, lots of pixels. Auto WB. High ISO. Instant gratification, well instant checking anyway. Compare to photography in 60's–80's. Compare to early digital. I'm happier now than ever before.

OK, now I want to see in real cameras the innovations we have been seeing in smart phones:
- Flash that balances color temp to the ambient
- Hit the shutter. Get a burst that starts before and continues after. You pick the best.
- Synthetic bokeh for areas further away vs primary subject
- Auto upload
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Old 12-10-2017   #28
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Quote:
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For the Sony a6000 I would like longer lasting batteries...other than that I love it...
Same here.
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Old 12-10-2017   #29
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A digital camera with

ē just the basic necessary controls
ē dedicated buttons and dials for commonly used controls
ē minimum plastic and maximum metal
ē 50 MP
ē a +10 year product lifespan for service and repair.

Basically, a mechanical late 70s / early 80s SLR (think Nikon F1-F3) but updated for digital.

I'm not a Luddite, so I'd insist on a hi-resolution screen (tiltable) for review and liveview focusing, excellent white balance, a well-designed touch-screen menu, and the like.

I use my Nikon D800E in manual mode only with manual-focus lenses, with a single focus point (granted I tend to move this around) and exposure set to centre weighted (so I make decisions, not the camera). The digital settings I use regularly are ISO (100-400), white balance (usually daylight - to replicate daylight film) and liveview.

Pretty much everything else on my D800E is clutter I don't use - my friend asked if I could video him, but I had no idea how, having never used video in the 5 years I've owned the camera.

I wish someone would make the Nikon F equivalent of the Leica M. It'd be amazing if Leica launched a new digital Leica R - but I'm not holding my breath!
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Old 12-10-2017   #30
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IMO:

News are taken with mobile phone. If it is taken by PJ with the rig, it is yesterday's news. More like documentary on assignment. Plenty of time to dig it on the menus.

Street photography is done by absolutely anything. It is most forgiving, easy accessible and democratic genre. I prefer it on film and with RF as scale by focus tab. No menus, because street photography is very simple from technical POV.

Portrait? It is slowest photography I could only imagine. As long as camera is not total fiasco it will handle it. Even Sigma cameras

What I want? I want Leica RF and Fuji X100, Pro cameras with OVF in the corner to be made and supported for long time. I see no problem with LCD, but EVF is meh, IMO. By the time I have my picture taken with OVF, EVF only stops jittering...
If you have time for EVF, you have time to dig the menu.
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Old 12-10-2017   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Markey View Post
Nothing for me either.
Very happy with my two A7s in terms of performance and layout.
My Leica lenses are more useable and flexible on the Sony body by virtue of the EVF focussing.
For me it's perfect as I suspect the SL would be.
Happy to read the A7 models fit the bill with you, Michael. Glad I recommended it to you.

I shoot the A7 with five Canon FD lenses and a Tamron 51B 17mm wide angle. Don't own an AF lens.

Button set-up:
  • Aperture is on the lens.
  • Shutter speed is on the rear thumb dial.
  • ISO is on the rotating dial on the back.
  • The EVF zoom function is under the AF/MF push button since I'm not using that anyway.


The only thing I ever need to access in the menu is the format function. That's a three push action since I never browse anywhere else in the menu!

The whole camera kit with 3-4 lenses, a flash and batteries fits in a single Domke shoulder bag.


In short I don't want anything I haven't already got except maybe a bit more health and a travel budget.
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Old 12-10-2017   #32
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Trouble is, they are all electronic. Once they fail, the die a horrible death unless you are rich and lucky(!) enough to have it fail when bits are available.

So I'd like more film labs please...

Regards, David
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Old 12-10-2017   #33
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Adding some "I want technicalities". EVF could refresh in RT if something partially is changing. Higher resolution is, more computing is involved.
I want EVF with adjustable resolution, refresh rate. Less resolution might solve entire frame refreshing problems then EVF camera is in panning, brining it quickly to face modes.
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Old 12-10-2017   #34
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Honestly... I just want an ISO-less sensor... meaning I can just shoot at any shutter speed and aperture combo in any light with maximum clarity and dynamic range.
I get where you're coming from with this, jsr, but I'd qualify it by adding an over-ride switch, too.

I really wouldn't want a 'perfect' exposure every time, that was outside of my control - and I'm talking much more latitude than +/- 2-stops on an EC dial.

If that additional feature were included in the spec., then I'm in!
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Old 12-10-2017   #35
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Quote:
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Trouble is, they are all electronic. Once they fail, the die a horrible death unless you are rich and lucky(!) enough to have it fail when bits are available.

So I'd like more film labs please...

Regards, David
Not necessarily so
My first digital is still ticking along after ten years.
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Old 12-10-2017   #36
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I get where you're coming from with this, jsr, but I'd qualify it by adding an over-ride switch, too.

I really wouldn't want a 'perfect' exposure every time, that was outside of my control - and I'm talking much more latitude than +/- 2-stops on an EC dial.

If that additional feature were included in the spec., then I'm in!
Yeah, I thought about that too, but I figured I could mess it up in post processing (but maybe not enough). Maybe a true ISO-less sensor would be too perfect. I'm ok with what we have too... I just want a little more leeway in handheld night shooting (the way I typically do it bright light... with a high shutter speed).
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Old 12-10-2017   #37
RichC
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Trouble is, they are all electronic. Once they fail, the die a horrible death unless you are rich and lucky(!) enough to have it fail when bits are available.
Could be around for a long time though - I still use my very first calculator (a Sinclair Cambridge Scientific), and it's now over 40 years old! Quite a lot of my 30-year-old stereo is still going too, as are various other ancient electronic gadgets (including film cameras). Parts may indeed be impossible to get - but if you're sentimentally attached to a digital camera, you can always cannibalise another. In some ways digital cameras are easier to fix than mechanical ones since they're modular...
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Old 12-10-2017   #38
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A full frame sensor block for my old Ricoh GXR. The A12 M mount sensor was great, but if a full frame had been available I'd have probably stuck with it rather than traded up to a Sony A7. Saying that if the original A7 could have phase detect AF for manual lenses and the manual focus zoom of the Ricoh (EVF is set to zoomed for critical focus, than a half press of the shutter gives you the full image to compose and take the shot, lifting off zooms back in. It is SO fast and intuitive to use) then I would happily settle for that. I just want 2 little software tweaks!
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Old 12-10-2017   #39
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Quite frankly, and a direct answer to your post title, I'd love it if every one of your threads didn't have your story at the top, I find it distracting.
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Old 12-10-2017   #40
David Hughes
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Could be around for a long time though - I still use my very first calculator (a Sinclair Cambridge Scientific), and it's now over 40 years old! Quite a lot of my 30-year-old stereo is still going too, as are various other ancient electronic gadgets (including film cameras). Parts may indeed be impossible to get - but if you're sentimentally attached to a digital camera, you can always cannibalise another. In some ways digital cameras are easier to fix than mechanical ones since they're modular...
I guess I'm bitter as yet another failed a week or so ago. So now I have a U/S camera and a selection of bits for it that don't fit anything else.

And I'm I'm having to learn the ways of the replacement which has moved on a bit and uses different batteries and everything else. If batteries, releases, remotes and cases were standardised I'd be a lot happier.

And the replacement's instruction manual runs to 180 pages and I don't like having to keep looking at it.

Regards, David

PS In a nutshell, I'd like to replace like with like but if they fail, roughly and for the sake of the argument, after 10 years then the replacement will be on the verge of failure...
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