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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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Once in a while....
Old 08-10-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Once in a while....

Every once in a while you run across an article that counters a more accepted view - and is informative and useful. I encourage everybody to read

https://petapixel.com/2019/08/09/ful...-image-sensor/

It’s sort of the digital equivalent of an age old argument in the film world. Let me know what you think.
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Old 08-10-2019   #2
jsrockit
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I've come to find that the sweet spot for me is APSC, though I do like to use FF occasionally. APSC is the perfect balance of depth of field wide open at F2 when I need it on the street (not too shallow, but some separation while what needs to be in focus is in focus), but also allowing me to blow the background out when I need to at faster apertures. The Fuji system with the 35mm F2 is great for street, while the 56mm 1.2 allows for a FF like 85mm 1.8 lens experience wide open. I also use a Sony A7R II and like when my 50mm F1.8 looks like a 50mm 1.8 that I was used to in film days. I could use both forever and be satisfied. However, APSC offers the best compromise between size, weight, price, and high ISO abilities IMO. I don't like the 4:3 ratio so M43 isn't my thing and 1" sensors are only ok in great light IMO and are a little flat in the depth of field department.

I doubt MF or larger format film would be for me ever again. I'm a small camera, small lens guy.
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Old 08-10-2019   #3
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I just bought a used Nikon D800. My first full frame digital. But I'm not keen on carrying it around--I plan on using it to digitize some of my old negatives and transparencies. It may be overkill but I thought the extra resolution would be a plus.

APS-C has been my sweet spot since I began using digital cameras. Full frame cameras were too expensive and the pro models were definitely overkill and much too complicated for simpletons like me. The APS-C cameras fit my needs totally but the big problem at the time was lenses--there were few really high quality lenses made for the format. Today, with Fuji, that's no longer a problem for me. The lenses are truly outstanding and matched perfectly to the format. In fact, I see the lenses being more of a problem for the full frame cameras. While mirrorless models make it possible to build small full frame camera bodies, the best full frame lenses are now too damn big, heavy and bulky. APS-C again just feels right to me.

I was an early adopter of the Micro 4/3 format. But it really doesn't offer me much today. I see the strength of Micro 4/3 as being in long lenses. It's like a free 2x extender with every focal length. But I'm not really a telephoto guy. My sweet spot in focal lengths are in the wide to slightly longer than normal range.
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Old 08-10-2019   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
I just bought a used Nikon D800. My first full frame digital. But I'm not keen on carrying it around--I plan on using it to digitize some of my old negatives and transparencies. It may be overkill but I thought the extra resolution would be a plus.
I went for a walk today to try and figure out the HDR on my FF. I just wasn't as fun as a walk with my APS-C mirrorless.
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Old 08-10-2019   #5
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I’ve said for years that APS-C is the new full frame. Fuji skipped full frame even; good move, they weren’t forced to support it like N and C.
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Old 08-10-2019   #6
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Regarding the article Bill linked to... I no longer see any point in those kinds of discussions. The biggest flaw in them, in my opinion, is that its impossible to SHOW what is meant by "better image quality". I'd love to see an article like this where the participants make big beautiful prints using files from their favorite gear, put them up on a wall and then invite an audience to 'judge' the images. THEN lets hear what they have to say about "the ideal sensor".


[Oops... this is a response to Bill's original post, not splitimageview's. Sorry]
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Old 08-10-2019   #7
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FF vs Crop is dead horse, which went from maggots stage to dust already.
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Old 08-10-2019   #8
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I have yet to be disappointed with a shot taken with APS-C because it had too much DOF, and sensors are so close to each other now, that IQ differences are so trivial as to be meaningless.
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Old 08-10-2019   #9
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Pillers View Post
Regarding the article Bill linked to... I no longer see any point in those kinds of discussions. The biggest flaw in them, in my opinion, is that its impossible to SHOW what is meant by "better image quality". I'd love to see an article like this where the participants make big beautiful prints using files from their favorite gear, put them up on a wall and then invite an audience to 'judge' the images. THEN lets hear what they have to say about "the ideal sensor".


[Oops... this is a response to Bill's original post, not splitimageview's. Sorry]
Jamie - I think you’re more than right when it comes to evaluating image quality on the web or, indeed, on a computer screen. When the Fuji GFX 100 came out, I got a hold of some raw files and made prints myself. In what you think of as conventional sizes, in this case 11x14 paper, I couldn’t ever see the difference between medium format and APS-c. In really big prints I couldn’t see the difference unless I got very close to very well executed image. This was something I couldn’t determine without making prints myself. But doing that saved me a lot of money and made me very happy with my APS-c cameras.
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Old 08-10-2019   #10
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but then again 11x14” hasn’t been big for a long time. The average photo printer does 13x19” ... is consider that to be the new common size.
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Old 08-10-2019   #11
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I like full frame in principle because I find that better dynamic range and ability to handle dim lighting conditions without excessive noise is highly desirable for me, and most FF sensors excel in these areas.

Having said that I have owned M4/3 cameras for several years now and find that its image quality in "normal" lighting conditions is excellent and especially if shooting RAW (which I now always do) has more than enough virtues to take care of 90% of my shooting needs - in a much smaller and lighter package. And these smaller format camera sensors have closed in on FF cameras (especially older ones) in recent years. If I travel - especially if I travel overseas with all the air travel nonsense and pain this now involves (thank you very damned much airlines for squeezing more an more of us sardines into your damned tin cans and making us pay for the privilege of you carrying our baggage) I usually carry a smaller, lighter more portable M4/3 camera. I regret it a little occasionally when shooting in exceedingly poor light but the trade off is usually worth it. And the crop factor is seldom an issue for me in fact it can be a benefit given that 90% of my shots are with normal lenses or longer. And when I know that I really am going to need it in advance, either because of anticipated lighting conditions or because I know I will need something a little wider, I can always carry a Sony APSC camera for those moments without much grief.

Of course Sony A series camera bodies are pretty small by comparison with my Nikon D700 but the thing is its pro lenses are pretty large - not that much smaller than some Nikkor ones. (Physics! Go figure).
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Old 08-10-2019   #12
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
but then again 11x14” hasn’t been big for a long time. The average photo printer does 13x19” ... is consider that to be the new common size.
Judging the sharpness, I was holding the 11x14 prints in my hands and looking quite closely. Where I saw the difference was on 17x22 and 17x25 papers. Couldn't hold them in front of me, but I still had to get close to see a difference. I don't think the difference would be obvious at normal viewing distance.
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Old 08-10-2019   #13
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For me it was simple, I shot for 30+ years with 35mm film cameras before I got my first digital. I'm comfortable with the lenses I had acquired and thought in those focal lengths. I tried a Leica M8 for a bit, but it drove me crazy when I saw a shot and instantly in my mind I thinking 35mm lens FOV, but my 35mm Summicron is more like 50mm FOV. I was constantly doing conversions in my head, and when I brought the M8 along with my M6, I needed different lenses for the FF M6 and APCish M8 sensor to work the way I'm comfortable. So it just became simpler to go FF with digital and keep all my focal lengths straight.

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Old 08-10-2019   #14
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It's funny, but I've been ruminating about this very subject for the past few days. I was considering whether I should get a digital Leica M(whatever), or upgrade to Nikon Z. Or both!


Right now cost is a big factor, and I may just get something more convenient to haul around, like a Fuji X100F. But then I don't want to be limited to that 35mm FOV, plus getting an M model would take advantage of the lenses I already have.


And as far as my Nikon gear, I shoot APS-C digital with a D300s that I really like, but am not particularly happy with the lenses. I've a bunch of D and G lenses I could use on the Z bodies (most likely would get a 6) to gain the IBIS, so once again it's a matter of recycling the lenses to a new platform.


But the resulting increase in file size going to "full frame" will require another computer system upgrade, thus driving up the total cost.


It sometimes is just too much to get my head around.


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Old 08-11-2019   #15
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And now you've saved ME a lot of money! Thanks, Bill!!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Jamie - I think you’re more than right when it comes to evaluating image quality on the web or, indeed, on a computer screen. When the Fuji GFX 100 came out, I got a hold of some raw files and made prints myself. In what you think of as conventional sizes, in this case 11x14 paper, I couldn’t ever see the difference between medium format and APS-c. In really big prints I couldn’t see the difference unless I got very close to very well executed image. This was something I couldn’t determine without making prints myself. But doing that saved me a lot of money and made me very happy with my APS-c cameras.
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Old 08-11-2019   #16
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The only reason I oft make photos with a full frame camera is that I can use the camera and the lenses exactly in the same way as I shoot my film camera (m10 and m7)

As for the image quality (technical point of view, sharpness etc etc...) in my opinion APS-C is more than ok. In fact I still take photo (and print) which I later print with my 9 years old Leica x1 (12 MP ). Modern APS sensors should be even better.

But I do not print billboard and I'm not a pixel peeper ...

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Old 08-11-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
FF vs Crop is dead horse, which went from maggots stage to dust already.
Yes, thankfully it is.

The main question for me is (when) does (sensor-) size matter?
And the answer is as individual as we photographers are.
It depends.

Having all my lenses on their original field of view is a big argument for "no crop".

Getting shallower depth of field may be nice sometimes but the opposite situation of deciding for only one sharp element in the photo can be annoying also.

And all these statements which should justify big sensors with the simple hint to "image quality" are empty phrases as long as there is no dedicated description of the reason why this allegedly should matter in the photos someone takes.




Just my 5..
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Old 08-11-2019   #18
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APS-C has once again become my standard digital format. It works well for me in current cameras with modern 24 Mpixel sensors like the Leica CL, and does particularly well as focal lengths go longer, from 28mm up. This is because fast but compact and light-weight lenses are easily doable in the 35-200mm range; it is also nice because it nets more DoF at a larger lens opening, useful for use with longer lenses. I'd prefer 3:4 format proportion over 2:3 (18x24 rather than 16x24 mm), but that's a minor, personal preference.

For shorter focal lengths, a larger sensor and more pixel resolution would be better from the point of DoF control and detail resolution. FF is not big enough, really; what I want is the current "small" MFD: 33x44 mm @ 50 Mpixel seems almost ideal to me. That's about 4x the sensor area with 2x the resolution, so it has larger photosites with hopefully more dynamic range. This nets greater DoF control with shorter focal length lenses, along with the greater resolution that wide angle photography needs for capture of high resolution detail; and lenses in the 15 to 75mm range that are reasonably light, fast, and compact are not too difficult to make.

My ideal system would be two camera bodies of modest size, one with an APS-C sensor and one with a small-MFD sensor, and one set of lenses that covered both formats with focal lengths from about 15mm to about 300mm. That would net the most capable and flexible complete system for my photographic ideas. No such single system exists today, but I keep hoping.

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Old 08-11-2019   #19
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All things considered, your audience does not care which sensor was used in your picture...all they care about is what is in the frame.
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Old 08-11-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Out to Lunch View Post
All things considered, your audience does not care which sensor was used in your picture...all they care about is what is in the frame.
This is very true. The issue isn't about what the audience knows about how you made the image, it is what you want/need to make it.

G
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Old 08-11-2019   #21
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Well, I don't find the "sweet spot" argument in the article convincing; I'd say it will soon be outdated, but it is -not even- outdated because you can have very small inexpensive full-frame cameras if you use film, and you automatically get the kind of image that many APS-C digital cameras nowadays try (quite unsuccessfully IMO) to "simulate."
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Old 08-11-2019   #22
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But the resulting increase in file size going to "full frame" will require another computer system upgrade, thus driving up the total cost.
Are you sure of this? How old is your computer?
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Old 08-11-2019   #23
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Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
Well, I don't find the "sweet spot" argument in the article convincing; I'd say it will soon be outdated, but it is -not even- outdated because you can have very small inexpensive full-frame cameras if you use film, and you automatically get the kind of image that many APS-C digital cameras nowadays try (quite unsuccessfully IMO) to "simulate."
Huh? Care to expand on this?
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Old 08-11-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
...and you automatically get the kind of image that many APS-C digital cameras nowadays try (quite unsuccessfully IMO) to "simulate."

I don´t understand this.
Could you show examples to explain what you wrote?
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Old 08-11-2019   #25
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Huh? Care to expand on this?
I mean some of the most popular APS-C cameras are from Fuji; in large part their popularity derives from the film simulations. If not Fuji, you have to do something equivalent with expensive post-processing software to get something pleasing-looking. You can get smaller film cameras for much cheaper that don't have to simulate a film look.

So maybe "sweet spot when arbitrarily limiting oneself to digital," not "sweet spot."
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Old 08-11-2019   #26
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I can do all necessary modifications to my photos with GIMP.
Even to give my Sonypics the look that my Fujis produce.
And there is a filter set available from G´MIC also wich has every look of nearly all ever produced films.

No costs for both.
Cheaper than film
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Old 08-11-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
I mean some of the most popular APS-C cameras are from Fuji; in large part their popularity derives from the film simulations.
Well, I guess for some... but I use RAW and I like Fuji because of the classic controls. I don't care about emulating film. But I get your point now.

Quote:
If not Fuji, you have to do something equivalent with expensive post-processing software to get something pleasing-looking. You can get smaller film cameras for much cheaper that don't have to simulate a film look.
I honestly do not try to get a film look... I just use Digital in its own way. Post processing is no different than darkroom work... trying to make your image look the way you want.

Quote:
So maybe "sweet spot when arbitrarily limiting oneself to digital," not "sweet spot."
They are all capable tools...
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Old 08-11-2019   #28
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I'm not a fan of Fuji's colors. Never have been, even when I was using film. But I do like Fuji's cameras, especially the X-Pro2.
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Old 08-11-2019   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Are you sure of this? How old is your computer?

It's not exactly ancient, but it was under powered the day I ordered it. I tried to fit a 17" screen into my budget, and came away with a Intel Core i3. I've only got 42% capacity left on the hard drive, and can tell the machine is slowing down. This despite the fact that Microsoft did a really bang-up job of removing all my image files during one of it's big updates, then I went cheap on a replacement hard drive and only got the 500gb instead of a 1tb.



So I really don't have much of a choice but to get some expanded storage, or switch back to a desktop. I kind of hate the screen on this machine anyways, and the way open windows will disappear because I accidentally dragged a thumb over the mouse pad.


But I've recently had to replace my vehicle, so I'm stuck with payments on that for another five years, plus there are other obligations I need to take care of before spending more money on photography.


But I'm an optimist at heart, and will try to find a way to make it all work out.



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Old 08-12-2019   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
I mean some of the most popular APS-C cameras are from Fuji; in large part their popularity derives from the film simulations. If not Fuji, you have to do something equivalent with expensive post-processing software to get something pleasing-looking. You can get smaller film cameras for much cheaper that don't have to simulate a film look.

So maybe "sweet spot when arbitrarily limiting oneself to digital," not "sweet spot."
I have zero interest in emulating film. If I want what film offers, I shoot with film cameras; I've got plenty of them and use them regularly. Digital capture offers far more capability in many circumstances.

I'm am interested in producing excellent photographs. That's all.

G
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Old 08-12-2019   #31
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When I was shooting for pay (news and the odd commercial gig), the last "pro" camera I had was a pair of 4.1MP Nikon D2H bodies. I did a shoot for a real estate developer's new venture. I ran across him again several months later when he hired me for a shoot at another location. He told me that his marketing agency had used one of the images for a billboard. They had used the middle portion of the APS-C 4.1MP TIFF file and enlarged it to roughly 6 FEET x 12 FEET. At normal viewing distance for a billboard, I was amazed that the image was fine for the use. 'Course this is back when it was all about megapixels. I was thinking at the time I wanted to go 'fullframe' with the then new D3 but after seeing the billboard I could not justify the costs. I am still shooting APS-C (Fuji X100s) and blowing up images to 12" x 18" which is all I need.
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Old 08-12-2019   #32
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I recently did a comparison test...

The photos below were shot from the same point using a Canon 5DII with 35mm lens and a Fuji x100t with APS-C sensor and 23mm lens (35mm equivalent). Both photos at f/2.8 and ISO 200 in AP mode (note: Canon rendered 2 stops darker than the Fuji x100t). In both cases the focus point was the "W".

Canon 5DII (FF sensor) with 35mm lens



Fuji x100t (APS-C sensor) with 23mm lens (35mm equiv.)



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