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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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DSLR vs Smartphone
Old 01-03-2014   #1
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DSLR vs Smartphone

Take a look at this. You may also want to read the preceding pages that lead the writer to his conclusions.

http://connect.dpreview.com/post/553...us-film?page=4
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Old 01-03-2014   #2
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I really don't care how good the smart phones get personally. I bought an HTC1 a while ago and messed around with the camera briefly before deciding (personal viewpoint) that I felt like a dick using it to take photos. I appreciate that others use their camera phones all the time and really like the conveneince and discretion offered ... I just can't bend my concept of photography that far away from a real camera!
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Old 01-03-2014   #3
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DSLRs win?
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Old 01-03-2014   #4
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I never really believed in the whole "The Best Camera" thing Chase Jarvis was promoting a while back, until recently.

I started using instagram (I know, you all hate it) much more in the past four months, when I moved to Hong Kong, because I found that people contributed to the community feel a lot more when it became as easy as text messaging someone. I got involved in a lot more discussions with fellow photographers (film, digital, RF, SLR, 35mm to LF), and began looking for more to connect with.

I eventually found a few users who only use their iPhones to shoot street, and found that many do it better with an iPhone than I do with a Leica. Sure, printing large may be a problem, but for web sharing and small prints for friends, the smartphone could be as good as a "pro" camera in the right hands.

Then you see Chan-Wook Park (Korean director, famous for Oldboy) winning an award at the Berlin Film Festival for his short film shot entirely on the iPhone 4. Great things can be accomplished with simple gear (take Evil Dead for example...)!

I still don't use my phone as a camera too often, but I don't worry when I leave the house without a "proper camera" anymore. To me, the Nexus 5 camera might be as close as I could get to a digital XA... a compact, carry-everywhere, largely automated, extremely simple to use (no menus and dials) camera.
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Old 01-03-2014   #5
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A smartphone seems like an awfully expensive way to get a camera. A 35mm SLR or compact is pretty much free.

Also, I don't think any of us are getting cameras for their technical capabilities, really, we get them because we like them.
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Old 01-03-2014   #6
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Evil Dead was terrible, Evil Dead 2 was great and hilarious on the other...hand.
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Old 01-04-2014   #7
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I genuinely hate taking photos with my phone. Some do incredible work with theirs though.
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Old 01-04-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
That's the point. Images of my old iPhone 4 only look good on the small display. When I load the images to a device with a bigger screen it just looks awful.
Agree. I used Hipstamatic and Oggl a lot until I realised how badly the images suck on anything larger than an iPhone screen. The way those apps massacre the photos when filters are applied is just appalling. Then again, they may be used for small prints and quite well, too. These days I've moved on to using the ordinary camera app (combined with MPro for TIFF b/w photography). Then I edit them in Photoforge2 which gives me better control of the results than Hipstamatic or Oggl did.

Nevertheless, though iPhones can be used for photography - and really well as several examples show, for instance Damon Winter's images from Afghanistan shot with Hipstamatic on an iPhone (here's his own account on the choice of photographic tool) - Instagram, Oggl and similar image sharing apps are not really about photography at all (imho). It's about:

- being able to share,
- being able to follow, and
- getting "likes".

Essentially, three aspects of human ego. People choose to post their lifestyle, be it of themselves or of their cat, and followers (this terrible word; whoever wanted to be a "follower"?) follow those whose streams are interesting or fulfil some purpose in the followers' lives. But fundamentally, the community aspect of these image sharing apps - and of other similar sharing functions in Facebook and Google+ etc - is about being noticed and accumulating as many likes as possible. Oh, and staying in touch with friends - real or (most likely, at best) acquaintances. I'm sure there are psychologists out there who can explain this better than I, but this is how it seems to me.

Back to Holland's article, I found it a thought-provoking comparison. I did miss, though, more on the FM2's performance. I think it did extremely well. I accept that for most professional photographers film is too time-consuming and cumbersome. But it can certainly hold its own in many situations.

Anyway, when all is said and done, I do agree with what's in one caption on the last page of the article: "The ingredients for photos come from inside you."

Philip
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Old 01-04-2014   #9
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I think for me the key is that we are always aware of the capabilities, and the limitations, of whatever piece of equipment we use. When I look at old family photos, those who took them were aware of the limitations of their box cameras, and made images that can still be appreciated for what they are within those limitations. When I go out for a day's writing in the library, often weighed down by a bundle of heavy books and a Macbook, I'm aware of limitations of my M8 (extra weight) that I might not notice in other contexts. In other situations I may be aware of its high ISO limits or of the limits of whatever focal length lens I put on it that day.

Equally, when I use my iPhone, I'm aware of its limitations, and I work within these. Sometimes I'll use it to take a picture because I've no other camera to hand. More often I'll use it as a sketchpad to try out ideas, especially if I don't have another camera with me. Many people hate instagram, but I also use instagram, and I do so for two reasons. It can give me instant black and white. It also gives me practice composing in squares, which I need as I found adapting to the square format a challenge when I got my Rolleiflex. I'm not much interested in image sharing or social networking, but I do like using my iPhone as a sketchpad for ideas or simply for snapping things when I don't have a camera with me. Some of the images I take are poor, some are okay, but hey, I'm just an amateur and that's part of the learning process. In my position, a tool that gives me extra chance to sketch things out and practice is a great boon. I don't use it expecting to produce great images. For me it's like a work in progress, a sketchpad I can carry around at all times, and that's just fine by me.
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Old 01-04-2014   #10
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I use my phone camera quite a bit. There are some things it's well-suited for, like quick macro shots, and some things it's not. It's great for photography through a microscope.

Right tool for the job, and all that. As cell phone cameras have gotten better, I've used them more. I can conceive of how one could completely take over for me, but I can't see the manufacturers adding the specific things I need that are lacking now. Sync with my studio strobes would be a huge thing, for instance, as would a decent shutter release and near-zero lag time.
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Old 01-04-2014   #11
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Luxury I won´t let go:

* not needing and not possessing a smartphone. I don´t feel the compulsion to share each and every visual fart of mine instantaneously. It´s enough to spam some of the threads on rff, the rest is kept private.

* owning and using devices that only can take photos, so called cameras, beautiful cameras, also ridiculously expensive cameras that make all the smartphone-users shake their heads when they ask me the price of, and teenagers laugh out loud when they hear some of these cameras use film, a more or less everincreasing bunch of lenses as well.... God!!!!!

I don´t care about the photo quality of smartphones, as the cameras I own deliver more quality than I can ever exploit. No more need to upgrade since..... say five years, that´s when they built the D300 and M9. I can have incredible postersize prints of them, so what else should I want.
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Old 01-04-2014   #12
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Again, the emphasis is on image quality and megapixels, rather than user interaction and creative control. I truly enjoy the one-finger-focusing that Leica lenses give me, the simple ring to adjust exposure and focus depth. I still rather turn a ring, twist a dial, have that physical feedback while shooting than swipe a screen and tap a focal point. Exactly the same reason I don't enjoy dslr's and prefer digital rangefinders: I experience the technology as alienating to the process of shooting, where the photographer 'hopes' that the machine understood his intentions.
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Old 01-04-2014   #13
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It is DSLR vs Phones vs Film, actually. Another gearhead article. It means he compares pixels and gears on snapshots crops (page 1).
How new and exciting...

I have all three. And using all three to take pictures. Why? Because all three are different and serve different purpose. This is why any "VS" article is stupid waste of time.

My avatar was taken and processed on my phone, bTw.
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Old 01-04-2014   #14
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Tools for the job. That is the only important thing: use the tool that gives you the results you want - be it a smartphone, film camera or digital.
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Old 01-04-2014   #15
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Smartphone cameras have clearly improved enormously in recent iterations and clearly provide quite good photographs for some purposes. The author's data clearly show this, but he is drawing spurious conclusions from that data. The author repeatedly claims that the smartphones are only about 6 years behind DSLRs in "technology". I think that's simply wrong. The smartphones are using the same CMOS design and fabrication technology as the DSLRs: the same foundry processes having the same line widths; the same types of internal processors running with the same firmware coding practices; the same memory technology; the same optical technology of aspheric elements. The fact is that smartphone cameras only became practical when technology reached an adequate level. This has happened only in the recent past and accounts for the very rapid increase in capability of the smartphone cameras that has the author so impressed. Rather than catching up with DSLRs as "technology" evolves, the smartphones will always lag, so long as they can't match the bigger pixels and faster lenses that DSLRs will continue to develop and exploit from any and all future technology advances. Such developments will maintain the DSLR photographic strengths as being very different from those of smartphones. Rather than catching up with DSLRs as technology advances, the DSLRs' difference will most likely approach a fixed amount rather than continue to diminish as the author contends it will by falsely extrapolating the recent advances that he measured in smartphones.

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Old 01-04-2014   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmeadows View Post
Smartphone cameras have clearly improved enormously in recent iterations and clearly provide quite good photographs for some purposes. The author's data clearly show this, but he is drawing spurious conclusions from that data. The author repeatedly claims that the smartphones are only about 6 years behind DSLRs in "technology". I think that's simply wrong. The smartphones are using the same CMOS design and fabrication technology as the DSLRs: the same foundry processes having the same line widths; the same types of internal processors running with the same firmware coding practices; the same memory technology; the same optical technology of aspheric elements. The fact is that smartphone cameras only became practical when technology reached an adequate level. This has happened only in the recent past and accounts for the very rapid increase in capability of the smartphone cameras that has the author so impressed. Rather than catching up with DSLRs as "technology" evolves, the smartphones will always lag, so long as they can't match the bigger pixels and faster lenses that DSLRs will continue to develop and exploit from any and all future technology advances. Such developments will maintain the DSLR photographic strengths as being very different from those of smartphones. Rather than catching up with DSLRs as technology advances, the DSLRs' difference will most likely approach a fixed amount rather than continue to diminish as the author contends it will by falsely extrapolating the recent advances that he measured in smartphones.

--- Mike
Good point - so long as both smartphones and DSLRs use the same sensor technology DSLRs will always fare better.

One fair statement the author makes though is that likely far more money is put into the development of in-phone cameras than traditional mono-purpose digital cameras. While phones might not ever exceed dedicated large sensor digital cameras, I think it's fair to say that the gap will be narrowing.

I also think that talking about this as in terms of "versus" is not so fair, smartphones have particular strengths and weaknesses, and particular cultural associations we have with the aesthetic we associate with each tool. I think Damon Winters did a great job with his iphone documentary photography because these days when look at an instagram photo we think of it as being much more personal, immediate, relatable, and accessible than more "serious" image making.

Also, I really really disagree with Philipus. Sure, instagram could be seen as a platform for narcissism, but at the same time photography has always been (and will always be) a medium for communication. Instagram has as much to do with photography today as telephones with talking. Today we communicate faster, more pictorially, and more directly than before, which isn't a fad, and is really important for photographers to understand, even if they don't participate in it. I think to earmark all this instagram stuff as shallow egotism is really a bit of a shallow, shotgun assessment. I'm not necessarily defending all aspects of photographic social media, but to dismiss the whole field categorically is to misunderstand what photography is today.
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Old 01-04-2014   #17
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I just like the way film (velvia) did so well. For detail it smoked all those older DSLR bodies. People used to claim the Canon 10D was as good as 35mm film then the 20D and so on. It's today with the D800 that we really get there, great to see they used a good film scan. Were we ripped off. What about all those famous online reviews. How did the Canon D30 really equal 35mm film. It all kind of makes you wonder. Why didn't Kodak and Fuji ever really put up a fight. They both could have demonstrated quite easily back in 2003 how good film was but they didn't got to wonder why.
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Old 01-05-2014   #18
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Point-and-shoot digital cameras and now cell phone cameras are the eqivalent of the old Instamatic film cameras for snapshots by the masses who are not into photography and just want an image (don't mean that derogatorially). So why do people here, who are more serious about photography, get involved in these arguments?
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Old 01-05-2014   #19
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When people asked me if digi was better than film, my stock answer was (and still is) "Depends..." There were always articles claiming film was x megapixels. Perhaps they were using generic supermarket special 400 ISO bargain bucket films

For the record, I use and enjoy both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuart John View Post
I just like the way film (velvia) did so well. For detail it smoked all those older DSLR bodies. People used to claim the Canon 10D was as good as 35mm film then the 20D and so on. It's today with the D800 that we really get there, great to see they used a good film scan. Were we ripped off. What about all those famous online reviews. How did the Canon D30 really equal 35mm film. It all kind of makes you wonder. Why didn't Kodak and Fuji ever really put up a fight. They both could have demonstrated quite easily back in 2003 how good film was but they didn't got to wonder why.
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Old 01-05-2014   #20
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The other day i was able to handle the sony module that attaches to a cell phone, it´s impressive somehow clunky to use but i could see clearly it´s potential...

That module has two option sensors...and therefore IQ depends on which one you choose, this says celarly that IQ is possible and a market target.

There is no new that small camera (small sensor) niche is disappearing in favour of cell phone cameras...

If cell phones enter directly into producing quality images i have no doubt that they will geopardize many formats, from smaller to medium ones.

Barnack cameras succeded making small format quality photography.

Some member posted some time ago a link about an old magazine from the times when just appeared the 24x36 film format...and as i recall it said something like this...small format has a huge dof and lacks the quality of 6x6 and larger format pictures....

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Old 01-05-2014   #21
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My neighbor was in the market for Dslr. I brought a Nikon D40, D7000, D700, and D3 to her home.

This Christmas she was using some kind of smart phone for photos. She is not a photog and has no interest in learning, all she wants is proof is her dog is cute and the grand child walks. She wants auto everything and to heck with quality.
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Really Mr. Pierce?
Old 01-05-2014   #22
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Really Mr. Pierce?

It's a slow news day everywhere I guess. The Republicans in the US are dying from refusing to take flu shots. The nuns are giving the Pope the cold shoulder. Children are no longer taught cursive in school. Bill Pierce wonders of cell phones are somehow related to full sized cameras. Jeeesh!

It's just the further dumming down of our society.
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Old 01-05-2014   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post
It's just the further dumming down of our society.
Could it get any more dumb? BTW I (mis)read in your post that the nuns are giving the pope a cold shower–that I'd like to see even if taken on an iPhone
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Old 01-05-2014   #24
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[quote=It's just the further dumming down of our society.[/QUOTE]

Dan -

Believe it or not, my attention to the D preview post came from an email that Eric Meola sent me that he headed “Whether we admit it or not.’ Eric has been a full framer since the beginning of time, and I don’t think that some his large exhibition prints or even his books would have quite their impact if shot with a phone. But in the news world, where digital photography let us quickly transmit images back to our publications from almost anywhere, we started with DSLR’s that probably didn’t have the image quality of the best phones of today, much less tomorrow. It is that same “shoot and send” aspect that has made cel phones so popular with so many folks with their family pictures. And, frankly, while my pictures of my dogs and grandchildren are examples of technical perfection, they probably could be taken with a phone. A small email jpeg is a small jpeg, regardless of its roots.

BTW, if you want to see some of Eric’s full framers

http://www.ericmeola.com/
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Old 09-11-2014   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nongfuspring View Post
Good point - so long as both smartphones and DSLRs use the same sensor technology DSLRs will always fare better.
They don't. Smartphones use (superior) BSI sensors. DSLRs, at present, do not.
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