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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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Too Many ???
Old 01-03-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Too Many ???

At the beginning of the year, I look around and think, “I have too many cameras.” I can make excuses and say I am a working stiff and need a range of specialized tools, but today’s digital cameras combine versatility and image quality in surprisingly small packages. Depending on the work you do, lighting gear, camera supports and lenses may be more valuable than more bodies. While I think it can be wise to have a back up body in case of breakdowns or, in some cases, several identical bodies so you can shoot with several fixed focal length lenses without losing time changing lenses, I’m not so sure that it is wise to have bodies with differing controls.

Hooray for the simplicity and similarity of different film cameras. Almost all of them have a shutter speed dial, an f/stop ring, focusing mechanism, a shutter release and a film advance. Master one and you have mastered almost all the features of the next one. Not so with digital cameras. Difference in menu structures and button and dial placements and functions abound. Of course you can work two different cameras - but, can you do it without thinking? I’m not suggesting that you stop thinking while you are taking pictures, but I am suggesting it’s sort of a waste, delay and serious impediment to think about what do I scroll or select to change focus or exposure when you should be thinking about the subject. And the different placement of controls on different makes and models of very versatile digital cameras may mean sticking with one brand, even one model type, makes good sense. Am I going to have to give up some of my play-toys?
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Old 01-03-2019   #2
BillBingham2
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I had a pain switching between Nikon SLRs and Leica RFs, concentrated too much which camera I was grabbing. I solved it by switching to Nikon RFs (couldn't afford switching to Leicaflexs and glass).

I can't speak to digital cameras and I only used one at a time and these days it doubles as a phone and electronic Swiss-Army-Knife. Switching from Olympus to Nikon to Canon in the early days was, well, a pain.

With so much processing done in camera I'm hard pressed to think of an Open Source operating system for cameras that do much of anything involving interchangeable lenses.

I'd love to hear from the folks out there to have successfully or unsuccessfully.

B2 (;->
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Old 01-03-2019   #3
Dave Jenkins
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" Am I going to have to give up some of my play-toys?"

Not as long as they're play toys, but you might if they're working tools.
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Old 01-03-2019   #4
bmattock
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I don't suffer from angst over cameras as a general rule.
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Old 01-03-2019   #5
Ko.Fe.
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You need to see the amount of menus, settings and devices regular broadcast and production technician is able to deal with. Cameras, video, audio mixers, encoders, decoders, receivers, transmitters, routers, modulators and so on. All kind of software to know and now they want these technicians to configure networking devices. Those where you have to do it via command line. And it is lower than IT paid job and it is shifts and long overtime.

Anyway...

In fact, here is no difference between film and digital cameras. Does some FujiNoFilm cameras have ISO, Aperture and Shutter dials?

Even more, digital cameras allows to learn exposure deep and for sure by taking in M mode. Only after getting DSLR and setting it to M mode for first year I was able to learn about exposure. Film and books were no use before. Every frame was counted. Spending roll of film to learn? Forget it. S16 first and then green box.
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Old 01-04-2019   #6
Dogman
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For the almost three years, I've pretty much simplified. I've only used Fuji and Ricoh cameras. Oh, I still have other cameras but they've seen zero use. Which leads to my New Year Resolution: Sell some of this stuff.
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Old 01-04-2019   #7
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Pretty much a Nikon DSLR guy and a Leica M guy. For the reasons you state above Bill. My Nikon DSLR's are pretty much set up with the same menu systems and buttons (rear AF, shutter, command dials) and the Leica M's that I have (used film versions & used M9 versions) work practically identically, and use the same lenses. So it's a bit easier on this aging brain. HA!!!

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Old 01-04-2019   #8
xayraa33
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Too Many Cameras ?

It depends on your circumstances or if you need to convert them to cash to buy something else, or it might not bother you at all, and that might be due to your personality, storage room, finances or a wife that does not interfere with your man-cave furnishings .

Jay Leno does not mind the variety of cars he has and some people do not mind the huge number of different cameras and lenses that they have.
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Old 01-04-2019   #9
farlymac
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Well, the only problem of having "too many" cameras is not having the time to give them all some good exercise.

PF
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Old 01-04-2019   #10
PaulDalex
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I agree with Bill
And I have also to count the many times that I forget that setting buried in a hundred menus and spoiled the results.
This has incremented my nostalgia for film
Bu it is not paradise either.
Hard to find film and much harder to find labs
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Old 01-04-2019   #11
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I have to add:
before any session a lot of wasted time checking menus
And if you have Sony, it is unique in that it dries the batteries even turned off.
Thus the day before a session I have to charge a number of batteries to make sure that the camera does not stop working
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Old 01-04-2019   #12
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F2 and Df...I handle both the same exact way (almost). That's really the beauty of it all too.
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Old 01-04-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
So it's a bit easier on this aging brain. HA!!!

Best,
-Tim
With you on that one and its for that very reason I`ve cut down drastically on my camera bodies and lenses.
Less decisions to make and ; what the …. was I doing with half a dozen film bodies and half a dozen digital bodies anyway.

Same goes with the lenses …. I don`t enjoy that difference anymore .
I`m just interested in getting the shots with something that works for me.
Too much emphasis on the process and the gear was ,for me, spoiling the enjoyment.
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Old 01-05-2019   #14
pgk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I’m not so sure that it is wise to have bodies with differing controls.
It seems to be an inevitability unless you are fortunate enough to find that one system covers all your needs - I'm not, and its a real pain having to use several very different cameras.
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Old 01-05-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
Well, the only problem of having "too many" cameras is not having the time to give them all some good exercise.

PF
This is how I feel too.
I have a fairly small 'collection' of old folders that never get used, a few cameras - Nikon F, F2, F2A, Leica M3, Rolleiflex - that get an occasional outing and an M6 that I really use all the time with a 35mm attached. I am also still enjoying a love affair with a Hasselblad X-Pan. I don't have any digital cameras. I know I will not change much now and envisage a time when only the M6 ever gets used.
As for the idea of selling the unused cameras and lenses. I believe that the Japanese have a saying that goes; "if you haven't used it in the last six months you don't need it". Well, need and want are different ideas. I have a little space to keep these lovely things, consider them ornamental and I don't need the little money they would yield. Lots of 'things' are like this in any household no matter where. I may become a camera owner more than a camera user - so be it.
Bill don't sell anything that is good to look at and nice to hold, you don't need to. They carry memories, feed the soul and often enhance whatever they sit on.
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Old 01-05-2019   #16
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I have three 35mm film cameras: an Olympus OM1, OM4 and OM4T, and six or eight lenses. I have one 6x6: a Minolta Autocord. I have one 4x5 and three lenses: a Linhof Technikardan, and 90mm, 150mm, and 210mm Schneiders. I am shooting mostly digital now, as I am printing platinum/palladium, and I prefer digital files to scanned film for my digital negatives. But I know I will return to film for certain projects in the future, so I am in no hurry to sell my film cameras. It is nice to have them available when I want to use them.
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Old 01-05-2019   #17
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Funny, I was starting to think about this over the past month. I have way to many cameras and lenses since I have six different systems. The thought of downsizing to a couple of systems seems practical and maybe my photography will improve as I'm not searching for the shutter speed dial or forgetting which way to turn the aperture dial to stop down the lens.

Now comes the hard part. What goes and what stays? For digital I have a Nikon DSLR and 4 lenses. A Fuji XE-1 and 4 lenses. For film I have a Leica rangefinder and 3 lenses, Olympus OM4TI and 5 lenses, Contax RTSII and 4 lenses and 3 FSU rangefinders with a few lenses. Oh and a Hasselblad 503CW with 80mm 2.8.

Due to my current work schedule there is very little spare time to use them all regularly. So it would wise to cull the herd. Thinking that keeping the Hassy and Leica for film, and the Nikon for digital would cover the photography I do. Also it will decrease the GAS attacks and having redundant focal length lenses for 6 different systems.
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Old 01-05-2019   #18
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I have never had more than three cameras at any one time. When working as a newspaper shooter, I always had two of the same bodies (whether film or digital) usually with a wideangle zoom on one and a telephoto on the other. For me, it allowed me to really get to know a particular system and its performance under various conditions. Now retired, I have just a Fuji X100S with the two conversion lenses and a Yashica Electro35 GS with its conversion lenses. Been thinking about a second Fuji X100S so I can permanently mount the TCL and WCL lenses.
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Old 01-05-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock View Post
I don't suffer from angst over cameras as a general rule.
Hmmm, good point. I do suffer from angst if I have too many. Basically, 3-4 is my limit and if something doesn`t get used, I sell it while I can still get decent $ back. Of course, this digital I am speaking about.
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Old 01-05-2019   #20
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My mind seems unwilling to master any digital camera.

Fortunately all my "classic" manual focus 35mm film cameras
from the 60's - 80's operate basically the same simple way.

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Old 01-06-2019   #21
bmattock
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Hmmm, good point. I do suffer from angst if I have too many. Basically, 3-4 is my limit and if something doesn`t get used, I sell it while I can still get decent $ back. Of course, this digital I am speaking about.
If that works for you, I support your choice. I am happy being up to my eyes with obsolete digital cameras. It does no harm.
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