Go Back   Rangefinderforum.com > Cameras / Gear / Photography > Coffee With Mentors > Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

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!

 


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes

Informative & Infuriating
Old 02-28-2014   #1
Bill Pierce
Registered User
 
Bill Pierce's Avatar
 
Bill Pierce is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 1,162
Informative & Infuriating

When I was using film Leicas for the majority of my work, I use to check in to Dante Stella’s blog regularly. It was genuinely informative, the product of intelligent thought combined with practical experience. I have no idea why I stopped checking in regularly, probably a vanished bookmark. But the other day I was doing some photo research and his site came up in a search. It was good to catch up. In particularly I found two posts of interest. One is an intelligent review of the Leica 240 ending with an interesting comparison to the Fuji X-Pro, (scroll to the bottom of the page and read up through the more recent installments) The second will infuriate some members of the forum and bring resounding hurrahs from others.


http://themachineplanet.wordpress.co...hic/digitalia/

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/leica-ennui.html
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #2
dfatty
Registered User
 
dfatty's Avatar
 
dfatty is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 592
Bill, your links are the same, I think they were supposed to be different?

I wonder if the second link is supposed to be to Dante's famous "Rangefinder conceit" article, which was on his old web site.
http://www.dantestella.com/technical/rangefinder.html
__________________
Dean
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #3
Bill Pierce
Registered User
 
Bill Pierce's Avatar
 
Bill Pierce is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 1,162
Thanks. You are right. Here's the other bookmark. I changed the bookmarks on the first post.

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/leica-ennui.html
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #4
dfatty
Registered User
 
dfatty's Avatar
 
dfatty is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 592
ah, i haven't seen that second article before. i'm going to have to digest it, looks provocative.
__________________
Dean
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #5
thegman
Registered User
 
thegman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Australia
Age: 39
Posts: 3,819
Technologically, Leica is behind, certainly. In the same way that most smartphones are behind a top of the line Android smartphone.

It's not in any way that matters though. Sure, top end phones have 8 core processors, not 4 core, or 2 core, or (God fordbid) a single core.

It's the same with digital cameras, lots of technological changes, almost none of any significance.

Higher ISOs get less noisy, autofocus gets quicker, FPS goes up, all the rest of it, but you're still left with consumer electronics which will be replaced soon enough.

Nothing wrong with Leica technology, or Fujifilm for that matter, but our consumerist desires for higher numbers in our specifications make it seem like there is.
__________________
My Blog
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #6
maddoc
... likes film.
 
maddoc's Avatar
 
maddoc is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: 名古屋
Age: 53
Posts: 7,297
From the second link [Leica M: that distinct feeling of ennui]: "Maybe this will change on May 10, 2012 with some huge product announcement."

Things change slowly in Leica world but in the time since that article was written some things have changed ....
__________________
- Gabor

flickr
pBase
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #7
jippiejee
Registered User
 
jippiejee's Avatar
 
jippiejee is offline
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 711
I'm tired of all these blogs comparing apples and potatoes for traffic.

If you like your digital photography experience to be close to your rangefinder film shooting, try Leica M8/9/ME/M9P/M240/epson RD1.

If you like the auto-everything game-console shooting get a D800 or Fuji.

It's really all that simple. What do you like?
__________________
flickr
flickriver
---
Leica M4-P/M8/M9
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #8
Scrambler
Registered User
 
Scrambler's Avatar
 
Scrambler is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Toowoomba
Posts: 1,279
Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
I'm tired of all these blogs comparing apples and potatoes for traffic.

If you like your digital photography experience to be close to your rangefinder film shooting, try Leica M8/9/ME/M9P/M240/epson RD1.

If you like the auto-everything game-console shooting get a D800 or Fuji.

It's really all that simple. What do you like?
Well, I like old stuff. I drive a 22-year-old 4x4 that even my father can't pick from the 50-year old version (Land Rover). I live in a 100 year old house. I buy 2nd hand cameras. I won't keep Leica alive as a company!

It's not film Leicas that they need to compete with, it's top-shelf imaging machines from all manufacturers. I think Dante is on the money - if you are spending that much (money) you expect top-notch imaging. And as he says, the current cameras (even the M-240) are derivative rather than innovative.

But I am sure that Leica know that. The current M is a step in the right direction. The next one might just be the "great leap forward."
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #9
Keith
On leave from Gallifrey
 
Keith's Avatar
 
Keith is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 18,548
Speaking of the great leap forward ... I can't help but wonder what the repercussions may be of something totally new that doesn't really look like it could have been made middle of last century!

Would the Leica faithful accept such change?
__________________
---------------------------
flickr
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #10
thegman
Registered User
 
thegman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Australia
Age: 39
Posts: 3,819
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scrambler View Post

It's not film Leicas that they need to compete with, it's top-shelf imaging machines from all manufacturers. I think Dante is on the money - if you are spending that much (money) you expect top-notch imaging. And as he says, the current cameras (even the M-240) are derivative rather than innovative.
I'm not sure if anyone ever bought Leica for image quality did they? 35mm film just didn't provide that in the face of medium format cameras which were smaller, lighter and available before Leica cameras were.

Image quality within a certain remit, maybe, that it must be on 135 film, but even then, it's a dicey proposition to say that anyone can really tell the difference.

I don't think that many more people are buying Leica for image quality than people are buying Breitling watches for their accurate timekeeping (as any $10 quartz watch will keep time better than a $10k Automatic).

I think many people bought Leica (myself included) for the unsurpassed experience of using one. I think if they truly wanted amazing resolution and clarity, they'd be more in the market for a tripod than another camera.
__________________
My Blog
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #11
Gid
Registered User
 
Gid's Avatar
 
Gid is online now
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Suffolk, UK
Posts: 1,736
Quote:
Originally Posted by malland View Post
When the Fuji X-Pro first came out I looked at its hybrid viewfinder and found that I could see clearly through the optical viewfinder image — I have good distance vision but need reading glasses — but saw only a fuzzy image in the EVF. Unfortunataly, the store did not have any diaper lenses, but I assume that putting a diopter on would render the EVF image fine but would make the optical VF image fuzzy. I've always wonder how people that reading glasses would be able to use this camera. Anyone know?

—Mitch/Paris
Chiang Tung Days
[Direct download link for pdf file for Burma book project]
I need reading glasses but my sight is otherwise fine. I have a +2 diopter on my X-Pro1 and everything is fine, both near and far.
__________________
My Gallery

My Top Ten

Gid
  Reply With Quote

Old 02-28-2014   #12
michaelwj
----------------
 
michaelwj's Avatar
 
michaelwj is offline
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Brisbane AUS
Posts: 2,098
Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
Would the Leica faithful accept such change?
*cough* M5 *cough*

And it wasn't even that radical.

Michael

Edit - lets not get into the M5 v M4/4-P/6 debate, even though I started it...
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #13
bobbyrab
Registered User
 
bobbyrab is offline
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Glasgow
Posts: 674
Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
I'm not sure if anyone ever bought Leica for image quality did they? 35mm film just didn't provide that in the face of medium format cameras which were smaller, lighter and available before Leica cameras were.

Image quality within a certain remit, maybe, that it must be on 135 film, but even then, it's a dicey proposition to say that anyone can really tell the difference.
Well I would say yes, with film you did buy for image quality, and yes when I looked at the first few images from each pack that came back from my lab I could differentiate from my Canon and Leica, lack of distortion and micro contrast rather than sharpness, but there is a diffrence.
Actually I could also see the same with a friends Leica/Nikon work except with a Nikon 50 mm that he had which had a similar look to Leica
It was also quality at slow shutter speeds, 37 exposures per roll and with less tripod dependency than 120.
I don't see such a diffrence in the digital sphere, but I've only personally used an M8 and couldn't get on with the colours and sold on. The M9 I like the look of, but I've stuck with the M6 as it gives me something very different from my Canon digital. I probably need the flexibility of an SLR system for my work, so to justify the expense of Leica digital it would need to offer something I can't get from Canon beyond user experience.
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #14
thegman
Registered User
 
thegman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Australia
Age: 39
Posts: 3,819
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrab View Post
Well I would say yes, with film you did buy for image quality, and yes when I looked at the first few images from each pack that came back from my lab I could differentiate from my Canon and Leica, lack of distortion and micro contrast rather than sharpness, but there is a diffrence.
Actually I could also see the same with a friends Leica/Nikon work except with a Nikon 50 mm that he had which had a similar look to Leica
It was also quality at slow shutter speeds, 37 exposures per roll and with less tripod dependency than 120.
I don't see such a diffrence in the digital sphere, but I've only personally used an M8 and couldn't get on with the colours and sold on. The M9 I like the look of, but I've stuck with the M6 as it gives me something very different from my Canon digital. I probably need the flexibility of an SLR system for my work, so to justify the expense of Leica digital it would need to offer something I can't get from Canon beyond user experience.
Slow shutter speeds are certainly better than any SLR I've used. My Leica M3 compared to a Zeiss Super Ikonta, not sure if there was much difference. Maybe the Leica was a little easier as the shutter release was so smooth.

Lots of exposures per roll is a clear advantage if you need it, but I sometimes struggle to get to the end of a roll of 120 in my Rolleiflex!
__________________
My Blog
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #15
Nathan King
Registered User
 
Nathan King is offline
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
I'm not sure if anyone ever bought Leica for image quality did they? 35mm film just didn't provide that in the face of medium format cameras which were smaller, lighter and available before Leica cameras were...
I use both medium format film and an M6. Even the Mamiya 7 is quite a bit larger, both the body and especially the lenses. Medium format isn't great in low light either since lenses generally aren't as fast, and those that are give you far too shallow a depth of field for most use.
  Reply With Quote

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=140728
Old 03-01-2014   #16
leicapixie
Registered User
 
leicapixie is offline
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto.Canada
Posts: 1,577
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=140728

Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelwj View Post
*cough* M5 *cough*

And it wasn't even that radical.

Michael

Edit - lets not get into the M5 v M4/4-P/6 debate, even though I started it...
Oh! Wonderful.Now a religious war between Fundamentalists and Radicals. Well going digital is sort of radical?
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #17
SausalitoDog
Registered User
 
SausalitoDog's Avatar
 
SausalitoDog is offline
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Sausalito, CA
Posts: 597
Bill -

Terrific articles. The comparisons between L and F are especially timely :-) and they point out the silliness of arguing about which is "better" and why. I would think that after reading it, many of us would want BOTH!

Now you've done it...given me GAS again? :-)

Thanks,

Tom
__________________
Tom O'Connell

“Dogs are friendly animals. They are very much like people with hair. But they don’t complain and don’t ask for money or a copy of the print.”
- Elliott Erwitt
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #18
YYV_146
Registered User
 
YYV_146's Avatar
 
YYV_146 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Durham, NC
Age: 32
Posts: 1,297
I must be one of the few that stays away from Leica bodies (film and digital) but invest heavily in Leica glass.

My film camera is a Bessa. If I shoot just a tiny bit more on film, I'll get an IKon. IMO the construction advantage of the M6 or MP is no match for the price advantage and certain performance perks of these cameras. The IKon's RF window is the best in 135 rangefinders, as far as my experience goes. I want an M7, but won't buy one unless they go down to ~$1500.

But Leica lenses manage to reach a place on the price/size/performance chart that happily makes me shell out thousands of dollars for them. The modern ASPH M lenses are IMO the best 135mm system in terms of optical performance available. I'm not saying that every lens is stellar, however the system certainly is.

And of course as a system Leica offers the lightest and most compact group of FF lenses in production. Lenses such as the 24mm Summilux and 75mm Summilux may be huge, but if you look at the Canon or Zeiss SLR mount counterparts, Leica's offerings are still smaller and mostly lighter. I use to claim that Leica lenses allow for smaller and cheaper filters, but ever since I got my 21mm Summilux I have been forced to upgrade to a 82mm kit...

The bottom line is, I don't buy into the so-called "RF experience", the nonsense about CCD sensors being architecturally superior to CMOS (not that they cannot be deliver more pleasing results, especially without post processing), the "stealth factor" of Leica cameras (the best ILC stealth camera I've ever used is the almost silent GXR), their "value-retaining" ability (Net depreciation of new M9 from 2009 is about $350-600/year) or the "Leica culture" (it exists, but I don't derive pleasure of using the same brand cameras as the photographers I admire). When you take these things out, neither the M240 nor the M9 makes much sense. You can still use them and achieve amazing results, and they certainly are fine and solid cameras. But they are just too expensive for the digital age.

And why am a Sony fan? Because after some two years, five trips to various cold, hot and dusty places and 125,000 frames, I just sold the perfectly working NEX-7 I bought at $900 for $350. Best half-a-grand I've ever spend on anything
__________________
Victor is too lazy for DSLRs

Sony A7rII Kolari mod

Noctilux ASPH, 35lux FLE, 50 APO ASPH, 75 APO cron, 21lux, Sony/Minolta 135mm STF

500px
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #19
charjohncarter
Registered User
 
charjohncarter's Avatar
 
charjohncarter is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Danville, CA, USA
Posts: 8,641
Dante's site is a kick. I do wish he would let us see some of his father's photos. Maybe he has, but I have missed them.
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #20
mrmeadows
Registered User
 
mrmeadows is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 54
[quote=malland;2310559]
I don't know anything about the color rendition of the Fuji X-Pro. When the Fuji X-Pro first came out I looked at its hybrid viewfinder and found that I could see clearly through the optical viewfinder image — I have good distance vision but need reading glasses — but saw only a fuzzy image in the EVF. Unfortunataly, the store did not have any diopter lenses, but I assume that putting a diopter on would render the EVF image fine but would make the optical VF image fuzzy. I've always wondered how people that need reading glasses would be able to use this camera. Anyone know?


I had a similar experience with the X-Pro1. The view of the subject through the optical viewfinder and the information overlay from the EVF were never both in focus. This situation is caused when the two are not "parfocal". That's a term usually applied in microscopy when the image seen by a camera through a trinocular port is not in focus at the same focus setting that focuses the image in the eyepieces. The X-Pro1 seems to have this kind of focus discrepancy between the OVF and EVF. For my eyes, with my glasses, the subject through the OVF required a +0.5 diopter correction to be in focus, and the EVF display required about +2.0 diopter. No single correction lens will make both in perfect focus for me, and I have too little ability to accommodate these days, so I was unable to get both simultaneously in focus. I returned the X-Pro1, primarily because of this issue. People with sufficient ability to accommodate will not experience this problem, since their eyes can automatically adjust focus better than mine, and most will be unconscious of how it works for them. They will report that there's no problem ... which is true ... for them.

--- Mike
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #21
willie_901
Registered User
 
willie_901's Avatar
 
willie_901 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,293
I never understood how CCD detection was superior to CMOS detection. In the early days of digital imaging there were technical advantages to CCD. However CMOS detection advanced rapidly and was not inferior when the M8 was first released.

To be clear, I am only addressing the technology to convert light amplitude into electrical charge. This has nothing to do with the light gathering efficiency and quality of the color-filter array lenses. And it ignores the presence or absence of IR filters and anti-aliasing filters.

I am not implying Leica's CCD systems do not have pleasing, or even exceptional color tonality. It's just that color rendition and the method used to convert the electrical component of light waves into an electrical charge don't seem to be related during the time period Leica used CCD technology.
__________________
Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
Garry Winogrand
williamchuttonjr.com
  Reply With Quote

Old 03-01-2014   #22
Richard G
Registered User
 
Richard G's Avatar
 
Richard G is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: 37,47 S
Posts: 5,074
Enjoyed the one you thought might infuriate. Can't say I disagree with any of it. But I do just enjoy the familiarity and simplicity of the earlier digital Ms. And I like the M5 too, so I am not against Leica innovating. The Simpsons quote that forms the epigraph to the second linked article might be from the same episode my son just told me of. Mr Burns goes to the post office and asks them to send his item to the Prussian embassy in Siam by noon.
__________________
Richard
  Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:54.


vBulletin skin developed by: eXtremepixels
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

All content on this site is Copyright Protected and owned by its respective owner. You may link to content on this site but you may not reproduce any of it in whole or part without written consent from its owner.