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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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Why??????
Old 02-19-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Why??????

What camera do you use, and, more important, why do you use it? I started out with a 4x5 Speed Graphic that the local Associated Press photographer got a discount on. It was the standard “news photographer” camera, and I was the photographer for the high school newspaper. My father came back from a trip to Germany with a 35mm Zeiss Contax IIIa with a 50mm Sonnar. The AP photographer said, “What are you going to do with that? Take pictures in a courtroom?” Sneaking “miniature” cameras into courtrooms was an occasional news photographer practice.

But the little camera became a favorite. When I came to New York, Leica, the other leading maker of 35mm, rangefinder cameras, would give “loaners” to some photographers. It was a little like a drug dealer handing out samples at the playground. And I got hooked. It should be said on Leitz’s behalf, they made the cameras that were used as salesmen’s demonstrators and at trade shows available to young photographers for a scant $200. They barely qualified as used, and a number of us could afford to build a working rig. The bright line finder, the high speed lenses that helped with the less-than-high-speed high speed films of the day and the fact that you could carry a full range of gear in a shoulder bag made them a better news rig than the 4x5 Graphic with its one slow lens that meant a lot of flash photography and a lot of cropping. In truth, in many areas of photography, the versatile and convenient small camera was making inroads. When the SLR, which added close ups and long lenses to the convenient list, came along, 35mm was fully accepted as a professional tool.

I added Canon SLR’s to my bag. Eddie Adams won a Canon SLR in a contest. He showed it to me, and it focused in the same direction as my Leicas. Nikon focused in the opposite direction. That simple delay of asking which direction do I turn this lens could be a disastrous delay in the world of news photography; so, I chose Canon over Nikon for just that reason and bought Eddie’s camera from him for $10.

So, that’s why when the world turned digital, I went with a Leica M8 and a Canon DSLR. I went through 3 M8’s before I got one that worked out of the box. In spite of that, I use an M10 today. I have too many lenses and too many years that have made the camera an extension of me. I can use it without thinking - or at least not thinking about the camera. And that’s why I use a Leica.

I also use Fuji. That’s right, I started with a Leica-like, bright frame findered X-100, moved to the X Pro 1 rangefinder lookalike and eventually to a full line of their current APS-C cameras. I still use the M for personal work, but the “professional” work is done with the Fujis, in no small part because they have a second back up card in case of card failure. And what about a “big sensor“ - two old sheet film cameras - a Speed Graphic (with a better lens than the “kit” lens and an 8x10 view. At those film sizes an Imacon scan of the 4x5 is spectacular as is an economical Epson V750 scan of the 8x10. They’re not used much and spend most of their time resting in the studio. But when they do, they have no problem competing with the big buck big sensor digitals.

So, why do I choose the cameras I use? It looks like HABIT to me. I’m still reverting to that Contax IIIa or maybe that first Leica M3 only in digital form with cameras that are comfortable to me.

More important, why do you use the cameras that you do? I hope it’s for a more intelligent, image specific reason than mine of being comfortable.
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Old 02-19-2019   #2
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I realized I don't need more than 16mp most of the time and have grown to over all prefer the 4/3 or 645 aspect ratios. m43 gives me both, and they can be very small as faster than f2 is not required. Also I think something you are comfortable using both ergonomically and physically is a good bit important, for me the cameras I use fill all I ask of them.
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Old 02-19-2019   #3
KenR
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Fuji X-100 when I want a small travel camera.
Otherwise I use film:
Bessa R4 for the tiny but sharp lenses
Nikon F100 when I need autofocus
Mamiya 6 for a travel film camera
Fujica GSW or GW when weight is not that much of an issue
4x5 when I have a static subject within 100 yards of the car.
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Old 02-19-2019   #4
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I like then Bill adds personal story. It makes it much more valuable, IMO.

First camera I was able to use was FED-2. Then switched to P&S and in the nineties to Canon EOS 300. Never had more than one lens.

After we came to Canada and family grown, again, we purchased open box Canon 500D.
To stop paying for prints, film, developing and paid pictures. Nikon d90 was more expensive.
With 500D I took 100K+ of exposures. I used it yesterday.
Then I went to film as DIY, I started to use same FED-2.
Then as usual, Bessa, Leica and digital Leica.

For now it is Canon SLRs and DSLRs and film, digital RF.
Every time I get enthusiastic about new system it ends fast, because gear I have works.
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Old 02-19-2019   #5
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Started off using canon DSLRs - 5d and 1d series as I worked as a photojournalist doing interior photography as a side hustle. Shot OMs and had a brief stint with a Leica m6 for personal stuff. After a while I became bored with the size and computer-like interfaces of the canons despite their excellent performance, and experimented with Olympus 4/3 and m4/3 systems, which didn't last long as I have never been enamoured with the small sensor 'look'.

Switched to Fuji the moment the x100 and x-pro1 came out, and have been with Fuji's since. If I could afford a digital Leica M I would use that. The Fuji's suffice as a reasonable and frugal alternative and are a pleasure to use.

More recently, over the last two years I have shot probably 95% film. I've gone back to it in a big way after a sort of 'digital fatigue'. I spent so long trying to make my digital shots more film-like, the realisation that I should just shoot film instead pushed me to invest more in 35mm and 120. The results are more satisfying to me.
So currently, I'm with a nikon f3hp which is one of my favourite cameras of all time, a Pentax 67 for more serious portrait and themed work, and whatever little compact PnS is available to me for carrying around daily (at the moment it's a canon MC).

As I go forward, I only keep the digital gear around in case I need it for a quick job, otherwise, I'm not particularly interested in using it. I plan to start using a wet darkroom soon and printing more things. I'm re-investing in flatbed for my 120 work and every time I compare a scan from 120 with an equivalent digital file shot with my fuji's/canons etc it positively re-affirms my commitment to film.
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Old 02-19-2019   #6
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Everyone says cameras are tools, and I like to use tools that feel comfortable in the hand, work intuitively, are reliable, and produce the results I'm looking for. Whether it's a Vaughan finish hammer, an Emco lathe, or a box for making pictures.

Leica rangefinders fit that description, as does the Nikon S2, and with a little bit of effort, the Nikon Df.

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Old 02-19-2019   #7
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Started out shooting with SLR, Pentax than Nikon, took a break from photography for about 10 years start out back up around the time when DSLR became semi affordable 2003/2004 first DSLR was a Canon D30, shot with Canon DSLRs for about 6-7 years before moving to film mostly medium format but did get my first Leica M (M4-2) in 2009 used a mix of film and digital camera until about 2016 at which time I went to 1 camera the M9 which I find meets all my needs while keeping things simple for me.
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Old 02-19-2019   #8
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In high school I saved up for a Kodak Tourist. The Tourist II had just come out. My aunt wanted me to have the latest model and gave me the extra money to get a Tourist II 800. After many years of one slow (f4.5) lens and the inability to see exactly what I was focused on, I got a Nikkormat with 50/1.4 lens. At the time the Nikon F had the gigantic metering head, the removable back for loading, the need for mods to use a motor drive, and other features I didn't like. I considered Canon, but at the time it did not have open aperture metering. Why put up with that? A year or so later everything changed in a big way. It was the glorious Canon F-1! It corrected most everything negative about the Nikon F.
Later I got into Canon autofocus SLR's. The cameras I currently use are the EOS RT and the Kiss IIIL Why in the world a Kiss IIIL? Well, in addition to doing everything else I want, I can illuminate the screen (ever try to set a camera that did not have an illuminated screen while on a cave tour) and I can shift to panoramic mode mid-roll with automatic view screen resizing.
I also have numerous other cameras from 110 to 4X5, but I don''t use them as much.
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Old 02-19-2019   #9
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I will start my story with my dad, primarily to tie into Bill's story of starting with a Speed Graphic, but also since he was a major influence in my photography. My dad attended Fremont High in Los Angeles, graduating in 1949. Fremont High had a well known vocational photography program taught by CA Bach. The program became famous because several of the students over the years ended up as Life or Sports Illustrated photographers. To join the program, my dad had to buy a Speed graphic outfit. I like to share this picture of some of his classmates:



In any case, he became a high school photography teacher, and I started in photography by 11 years old. I bought his hand me down cameras (baby Rollei, Zeiss Icarex SLR, Mamiya TLR), and also got to play with some that the school had (including a Nikon rangefinder that really got me interested in rangefinders; though until recently I never owned one).

By the 1980s I was using Mamiya TLRs, and doing some professional work. As time moved forward and digital started to enter, I was slowing down, supplementing with PS film cameras, then digital cameras. By the early 2000s, I all but stopped using the TLRS. From then until last year I kept thinking 'I need to get a good digital camera'. With my dad's passing at the end of 2017, I finally did in early 2018- a Fujifilm XT-2. The experience of shooting the XT-2 coupled with retracing my dad's life and my involvement with him in photography really reawakened my interest in photography. The XT-2 was everything I ever hoped for in a camera and more. At the same time as I moved around the internet and thought about my film cameras, plus seeing film was still well alive, I started reshooting film also.

So the XT-2 is my main general purpose camera. It is great for travel, and just to pick-up and shoot color or B&W. For film, my current favorite is a Contax iia I picked up last year, mainly for B&W (I am also setting up to develop at home- something I have not done for a few decades). I revived the 50mm f1.8 Zeiss Ultron from my Zeiss Icarex, picked up some M42 bodies and other lenses, plus bought an adapter for my XT-2, so I have M42 capabilities. I have shot a little with my Mamiya TLR outfit also, and intend to do more once I start developing film. Finally, I have an old Speed Graphic from my dad (unfortunately not his original one) that I would like to get working to shoot some 4x5 (as well as a Graflex 4x5, but I do not have a lot of supporting supplies for it- film holders, etc., and it needs a lot more work).

At this point it is 65% XT-2, 25% Contax iia, and the rest 35mm SLRs, a Kodak Retina IV with two lenses (I also adapt them to the XT-2), and the Mamiya TLR. Sorry if it was a bit long winded!
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Old 02-19-2019   #10
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I started with a Yashica TLR, because a used one was all I could afford in 1970 when I started shooting as a teenager. I went fallow on photography after college until completing law school some years later. At that point I badly needed some diversion from law practice during my very limited free time. I went through a succession of Nikon 35mm SLRs and eventually also got back into medium format with a Hassie 500C/M "Classic Kit" and a Rolleiflex 3.5 F. I got a few more lenses for the Hassie when they got much cheaper after digital became practical for wedding photographers and Hasselblad equipment got dumped in a flood 10 or more years ago. Finally got bitten by the Leica M bug (MP) later. I resisted digital, then tried several brands and formats before settling on Nikon full frame (D4), mainly because I had Nikon lenses already, and Olympus micro four thirds (EM1 v1) because it was very good and was lighter for travel that was not strictly photo oriented (and where I didn't want to drive my wife nuts). I've settled on the equipment I have now because (a) it is paid for and (b) is better than I am. It will never be the limiting factor in my photography; I fulfill that function.

Having retired a year ago, I am shooting a lot more now. I too am back to shooting mostly film, most recently predominantly the Hassie on a tripod, but the Leica and Nikon film cameras still get a lot of use too. For me, film is for B&W and digital for color. I started in B&W and still mostly see that way. On both the film and digital sides, I can't see the need to upgrade from what I have now. Assuming that film still exists when I can no longer shoot or I die, some person or persons can take over a nice equipment legacy.
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Old 02-19-2019   #11
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My camera history is relatively simple. I began using my father's Exakta VX with waist level finder in January, 1973. It was so unreliable that six months later I got a Pentax SP500 as a high school graduation gift. Five years later I shifted to the Olympus OM system, and have kept with it since. I also have a Minolta Autocord and a Linhof Technikardan. I continue to shoot film, and process and print in my darkroom. I bought my first digital ILC in 2014. It was a Fuji XE2. I have since added an XT2 which I like because it is the same size and handles like my film cameras, with the aperture ring on the lens, and the ISO, shutter speed dial, and exposure compensation on the top plate. Very little need to ever access the menus. I am thinking about adding a GFX50R to the mix for better image quality. I have no current interest in any of the FF offerings.
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Old 02-19-2019   #12
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My first decent camera was a Mamiya-Sekor, around 1972. I bought it because I had seen some drugstore 3.5x5 black and white prints a friend had done with a borrowed Pentax and I loved the way they looked. I caught the bug pretty badly because within 6 months I owned a couple of Nikon F's with several lenses and I had a darkroom in my bathroom. Before I thought too much about it, I quit my job and began working for a weekly newspaper. After a year or so there, I was hired by fairly large daily that covered an area including sections of three states. I used Nikons throughout my 15+ years there. I tried using Leicas during this time but, as Bill reported, Leicas focused in a different direction from Nikons and I couldn't get used to them. My next encounter with Leica came almost 20 years later and it was much happier.

When I realized the future of daily newspapers was not too bright, I quit and took a job outside photography with more stability and better long term benefits. Photography became only an occasional thing at first but eventually I decided to upgrade from my ancient Nikons. I wanted to try AF and Canon had the best technology at the time. Since I didn't need pro gear, I bought an EOS A2E and a couple of consumer zooms, soon moving to an EOS 1n with some of the better Canon lenses. I decided to give Leica a try again and this time it fit me much better. I really enjoyed the handling, size and image quality of the Leicas. I used two M6 bodies, mainly with 35mm and 50mm Summicrons. With digital coming along, I continued to use Canon equipment. Again, pro gear wasn't necessary so I used a series of several APS-C Canon DSLRs over the years. I also used Olympus 4/3 and micro 4/3 gear along with Canon. Going fully into digital, I sadly sold off my Leica gear. But it was getting harder for me to use the Leica due to my vision.

Although I was happy with Canon, I was intrigued by the Fuji X-Pro1. When it was being discontinued, the prices were too good to pass up and I ended up with a pair of them and several fine prime lenses. Eventually I bought a couple of X-Pro2 bodies and I also use X-T1 and X100S fairly regularly. I'm constantly impressed by the Fuji images and I totally enjoy using the Fuji cameras. Although I lusted for a digital Leica for a time, the fact is my eyes haven't aged as well as the rest of me (and the rest of me hasn't aged well at all). Rangefinder focusing really kinda sucks when you can't see the focus patch very well. I need AF and Fuji's AF works exceptionally well for me. I like the bright lines in the X-Pro and X100 finders and I like that there's the option of an EVF for more critical framing. As for image quality, Fuji exceeds my needs. So far it's been the best of all the various cameras I've owned.
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Old 02-19-2019   #13
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I see some trends emerging (using boolean notation to summarize, not to be confused with my new verb Summicronilize):

Nikon NOT Leica
Canon AND Leica
Film AND Fujifilm Digital
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Old 02-19-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
What camera do you use, and, more important, why do you use it?
....I hope it’s for a more intelligent, image specific reason than mine of being comfortable.
Thanks for the interesting story Bill.

I use a number of cameras, and for different reasons:
- an OM4-Ti because I love OM cameras and lenses - my first "serious" camera purchase was an OM1 when I was 18. Let's call this sentimental, but also practical as the OM cameras are a natural fit for my small hands. Using the OM is being comfortable with an old friend.
- a Leica IIIc and IIIf because the first time I handled a Barnack I was amazed at the design, build quality and heft of it.. it was another 35 years before I managed to buy one, and then never looked back. I'm interested in the history of photography, so let's call this sentimental too, though I find them practical for discreet street photography and very compact with a few lenses. Ah yes the lenses - a compelling reason to use a Leica. I can use them on my CL with an adapter. The CL gives me a better viewfinder and allows me to use the lovely M-Rokkor 40mm f/2, but the Barnacks have my heart.
- Olympus XA4. 35mm in your shirt pocket, a very nice 28mm lens and close focus, what's not to like? A great little camera to take everywhere. Let's call this one practical and convenient. The image quality is nothing to complain about.
- A Yashica Mat 124G. A TLR was the cheapest way into medium format and the 124G didn't disappoint. I bought it specifically for portraits. The addition of some Rolleinar auxiliary lenses extended its capability to head shots, although at closer focusing distances. I also occasionally use a Bessa II 6x9 folder when I want more detail for subjects like landscape.
- Canon 6D. Years ago a friend asked me to photograph his daughter's wedding on digital but all I had was Nikon film SLRs. He offered to buy me a DSLR. I looked at the Nikon D200 which was APS-C. Loved its handling but there were reports and examples of serious moire and colour fringing issues with high-frequency wedding dress fabrics. The Canon 5D was newly released, full frame and a superior imaging tool, so I bought it instead and never looked back. Eventually I dropped it in sea water and replaced it with a 6D, which is now mostly used for family pictures as I've gone back to using film. Let's call this legacy.
- my cell phone. Who ever would have thought it? It's always with me. It's not a fancy one, just a cheap MotoG3 but the image quality is surprisingly good, particularly the pleasing colour. Less useful in low light. Maybe one day I'll get a Pixel 3 on runout. Let's call this being practical.

Also, I wouldn't ever underestimate the importance of being comfortable with a camera. It's one of the best reasons for using any camera as long as it meets minimum requirements. Sure you can make great portraits with a Hasselblad, but look at what Jane Bown did with an OM1 in her handbag.
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Old 02-20-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
What camera do you use, and, more important, why do you use it? ...
I use two cameras – FUJIFILM X100T and X-Pro 2.

The primary reason I use these is I can operate them as I operated my Canonet G-III QL17 and Zeiss Ikon M film cameras, respectively. I prefer using the OVF where I can compose while viewing what's outside the frame lines. When precise framing is required I just switch to the EVF. The EVF is also useful for very short focal lengths or medium and telephoto focal lengths.

My other why factors are:
  • I like their size and weight (including prime lenses).
  • The FUJINON primes are excellent lenses. I much prefer their rendering over Nikon's primes (even the Gold Ring versions) I used with FX cameras.
  • The build quality is solid. I have never had an issue with the seven X Series comara's I've owned. I used X-T1 bodies commercially (Photography For Real Estate) and they held up as well as the D700/300 bodies I used for the same purpose.
  • Their dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio performance is competitive. This is especially so for the X-Pro 2 as it has a dual-conversion gain sensor.
  • They are quiet (I never use the electronic shutter).
  • The X100T leaf shutter means very short flash sync shutter times are possible. A 1/800 shutter time with off-camera YN-560 flashes at 1/2 power can be useful. Wired or hot-shoe sync shutter times can be even shorter. When the flashes have enough output, you can knock the ambient down even more using the built-in ND filter.
  • For quick raw-file rendering the FUJIFILM Camera Profiles in Lightroom are convenient starting points. Incidentally, Adobe Camera Raw (LR) finally does XTrans demosaicking properly. My preliminary results indicate Enhanced Details is not required most for XTrans raw files. In some cases ED does make small improvements. This is also what I found (but in different ways) with, my Nikon D700 raw files.
  • The manual focusing aids are very useful. For most of my work I use simple focus and compose manual-focus mode. I don't use fly-by-wire, lens-barrel manual focusing often even though the newer lens and the camera CPU technologies mean this is finally a practical option. Compared to the early days (X100 and X-Pro 1) my in-focus keeper rate is very high.
  • The X100T leaf shutter allows very short flash-sync shutter times. A 1/800 shutter time with off-camera YN-560 flashes at 1/2 power can be useful. Wired or hot-shoe sync times can be even shorter. If the flash has enough power you can knock the ambient down even more using the built-in 3X ND filter.

What I don't like about the FUJIFILM X Series are:
  • Battery life is short and recharge times are long.
  • The user interface and menu system are about a decade out of date.
  • The small body size affects user ergonomics. The controls and camera buttons are small. In some configurations it's easy to inadvertently change parameters.
  • There is a significant learning curve to adapt to the FUJIFILM environment. Besides the menu system and poorly written manual, raw rendering with Adobe products also has a learning curve. I had to adopt a completely different rendering-parameter optimization workflow to for X-Trans raw. If I render FUJIFILM raw using parameters that optimized my Nikon raw renderings, I still see artifacts using Lightroom Classic CC is 8.2 (even when I re-render using Process Version 5).
  • The X100 lens rear element is very close to the sensor. Their optical design has two disadvantages. Below f 4, X100 the lenses are not sharp for subjects close to the lens. I find the widest aperture suitable for close ups is f 5.6. Veiling flare levels can be high below f 4 as well.
  • For my cameras, the AF is only just adequate for action photography. Other brands are much better.
  • Full automatic metered flash is available with a limited selection of flash options. Except for the built in X100T flash, I always use manual flash operation.
  • The faster prime lenses have petal hoods. I purchase third party hoods for those prime lenses. (Except for the new 16/2.8, the compact primes don't use petal hoods.)
  • Many photographers value IBIS over in-lens stabilization. I'm not one of them. However, FUJIFILM does not make prime lenses with optical image stabilization.
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Old 02-20-2019   #16
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I've settled on the X pro 1 as my only camera. Over the past 10 years I've dived into about every kind of film camera, with smallish medium format being my favourite. However, I gave up film cold turkey. Got rid of everything. I've always tried to maintain a balance between as small an outlay of money as possible, ease of use, and max results for whatever goal I wanted. I shot mostly b&w film because of this balance; chems are long lasting, developing is fast and easy, enlarging is straightforward. I generally prefer colour but switching to colour film would require a lot of investment, perhaps not commensurate with what can now be had with digital . Also, the plummeting cost of used digital cameras in the 16MP range, combined with the crazy price increase in old film cameras, nudged me into the full time digital realm. I also view scanning as a compromise. A very useful and convenient one, but one nonetheless.


I picked the X pro because of the viewfinder, no question. And because it looks good. None more black! Happily, the rest of it works pretty well. After using MF for so long I came to prefer larger cameras. Even though I will probably only use the 23mm f2, I didn't get another X100 because it was too small for my needs. Also, I usually have a bag with me so smaller cameras lose their charms. Pretty happy, so far. Quality is excellent.
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Old 02-20-2019   #17
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I started with a Nikon F2 in '73 and from then always had F-series , still have them except my F . Now I use Leicas M6TTL and Nikon D3 . The focussing ring turns in a diferrent way , but I use the Nikon with autofocus , so no problem .
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Old 02-20-2019   #18
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I use several cameras.

- Leica M or R film cameras when I want to shoot some B&W 35mm film, Leica CL and M digital cameras when I want to capture images digitally. I bought those a) because I already had the lenses, and b) because they are great general purpose cameras that do a lot of different things well.

- Light L16 when I want a lot of features and a lot of resolution in a digital camera that is compact and light weight. And for different processing options.

- A rash of Polaroid SX-70 and Instax based cameras for when I want to capture photographs with instant film.

- A RYLO 360° camera for when I want to capture motion work while riding my bicycle, or bungee jumping, or zinging along a zip line.

- A small passle of medium format film cameras for when the unique look of medium format film is what I'm after ... Hasselblad, Voigtländer Perkeo II, custom-made pinhole camera, etc.

The bottom line is that I pick cameras based on how well they work in my hands and use them for what I like about their imaging qualities and functional capabilities, depending upon my intent for a given photographic effort.

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Old 02-20-2019   #19
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Of the cameras I've got today, I got the:

1) Nikon F301 for the built in winder, the flash metering and the versatility of it.

2) The Ricoh 500GX 'cos it's dinky and has full manual control as well shutter priority and it only needs a battery for the meter.

3) The Agfa Super Silette, Agfa Super Solinette, Praktica FX2, Gevaert Gevabox 6x9 mk1, Ferrania Elioflex mk1 and the Welta Perle 6x9 for the challenge of making different cameras that need different methods of use to produce reasonable photos.

4) The Ansco Super Regent 'cos it's a re-badged Agfa Super Solinette and for some reason that appealed to me.

5) The Ensign Selfix 1620 'cos it's 6x4.5, has a big viewfinder and I thought I ought to have a British camera.

6) The Welta Weltax (Rheinmetall) originally to use as a 6x4.5 but the viewfinder mask doesn't work quite well enough so now I'll be using it as a 6x6, which is convenient as now i can hold it vertical and my nose won't get squashed up against the body so I'll actually have a decent view through the tiny viewfinder.

7) The Minolta 110 Zoom SLR MK2 as it's the best specified 110 camera you can get and I wanted to try one. Mine only cost £25 plus about £5 p+p, and it's more or less 'mint'!

8) The Weltax, Perle, Gevabox, 500GX (and possibly the 16-20) for their ability to do multi-exposures.
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Old 02-20-2019   #20
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SLRs and DSLRs are all Pentax with the exception of one Canon 5D.

Why?

Because the camera that started this all for me was a Pentax K1000 which I bought used at a Reno pawnshop in the very early 80s. It came with a nice little M 50mm f/2 lens. A really basic kit but it worked continuously and flawlessly in the middle of the Nevada outback for over 30 years before I finally sent it in for a cleaning in 2015. I still own it and it still works perfectly.

I now use several Pentax film SLRs and a nice Pentax K5iiS digital SLR.

As for rangefinders it all started with an article by Mike Johnston title "The Leica as a Teacher." I am pretty sure a number of people here have read that article. Needless to say that started a huge GAS attack that has only slightly subsided.

Today I bounce between my Leica M-A, my Zeiss Ikon and my Leica III.

I think that I am most fond of small and handy cameras which is why I have settled on Pentax and Leica primarily. This trend is obvious even with medium and large format. I shoot folders or TLRs a lot, though the Fuji GA645 Pro and the Lomo LC-A 120 are my newest favorites. In large format cameras my two favorites are the Travelwide and the Intrepid.


Far too many cameras and far too little time.
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Old 02-21-2019   #21
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When I became interested in photography my first camera was digital - a 3 MP pixel Fuji I bought 20 years ago in 1999.

I've tried film since but it doesn't feel like real photography to me - instead, it feels contrived, like dressing up in Victorian clothes and listening to rock music on a wind-up gramophone player!

So, to me photography = digital cameras. I've given up up on film and my analogue cameras are now decorations. (I last used film 7 years ago, and the roll's still half used in my camera!)

As to my camera choice - it's a means to an end. Photography to me is all about the end result: the picture. I don't care about usability, ergonomics, the camera as a pleasurable object to use and own, aesthetics, etc. It's a tool and has a job to do. Full stop.

I didn't always think that way. I used to use Epson R-D1 and Leica M8 digital rangefinders - neither practical nor efficient tools. But when I went to university to study photography I needed a tool and sold the Leica to buy a digital SLR. I now use a Sony A7R II. I think mirrorless electronic viewfinder digital cameras are the future if a photographer is serious about wanting the most efficient picture-taking tool.

I've no affinity for my digital cameras as objects (unlike I had for the Epson or Leica) and when they get dinged and scraped and worn out I buy a cheap used replacement. Like cars, digital cameras suffer massive depreciation, so I never buy new but instead look for cosmetically damaged ones in perfect working order - which can be picked up at little cost.
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Old 02-21-2019   #22
Yokosuka_Mike
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When I became interested in photography my first camera was digital - a 3 MP pixel Fuji I bought 20 years ago in 1999.

I've tried film since but it doesn't feel like real photography to me - instead, it feels contrived, like dressing up in Victorian clothes and listening to rock music on a wind-up gramophone player!

So, to me photography = digital cameras. I've given up up on film and my analogue cameras are now decorations. (I last took used film 7 years ago, and the roll's still half used in my camera!)

As to my camera choice - it's a means to an end. Photography to me is all about the end result: the picture. I don't care about usability, ergonomics, the camera as a pleasurable object to use and own, aesthetics, etc. It's a tool and has a job to do. Full stop.

I didn't always think that way. I used to use Epson R-D1 and Leica M8 digital rangefinders - neither practical or efficient tools. But when I went to university to study photography I needed a tool and sold the Leica to buy a digital SLR. I now use a Sony A7R II. I think mirrorless electronic viewfinder digital cameras are the future if a photographer is serious about wanting the most efficient picture-taking tool.

I've no affinity for my digital cameras as objects (unlike I had for the Epson or Leica) and when they get dinged and scraped and worn out I buy a cheap used replacement. Like cars, digital cameras suffer massive depreciation, so I never buy new but instead look for cosmetically damaged ones in perfect working order - which can be picked up at little cost.
Wow! Hallelujah! What a refreshing post. Damn, I love this guy!

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Old 02-21-2019   #23
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Back in the 70s, my high school had several Pentax K1000 cameras to loan to students--those of us who were "working" on the newspaper or the yearbook. I did both and had that camera until I graduated.
Then did not own a camera for the next couple decades.

I was about 10 years into a pretty decent career as a cook/chef and a short while before I joined RFf, I decided I needed some creative outlet that was not on demand for someone else. I didn't have room to make sculpture or furniture, and writing much of anything beyond a letter or a rude limerick feels too much like actual work to me so, photography.

I enjoyed that K1000 but, at the time, didn't have enough extra money to buy one. I did have enough for this weird rangefinder camera that the local camera shop had--some one had been on vacation in Europe and brought back a FED 5. That one I could afford.

Currently, I am using my Bessa R, an Intrepid 4x5, and my phone. Because those three cover 99% of what I want to do. They are each simple enough machines* to mostly get out of the way and let me capture some of the world around me.

Since that FED 5, I have bought, sold, and used a wide variety of cameras, most formats from Minox to 8x10 paper negatives. RF cameras, TLRs,SLRs, P&S, scale focus, and homemade pinhole cameras.

Why, those cameras for me? Because they are good enough. They fill my need to make something creative and while they are certainly not the best examples of their type, they are, for me, affordable and relatively replaceable should they fail.

Rob


*OK, the phone itself is not a simple machine but the camera in it is pretty basic.
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Old 02-21-2019   #24
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1. Leica M9, because it is the best balance of size and image quality, handles wonderfully, and produces images that I love.


2. Sony RX0 as a pocket camera, because it is tiny, silent, water and shock resistant, and has surprisingly rich, dense files with loads of sharpness and detail.


3. Panasonic GM1/GH3/GH4, because I need small but high quality cameras that shoot good video.


4. Ricoh GR, which would normally be my pocket camera, but it's got a lens fault which needs to be fixed. The Sony RX0 has taken its place.


5. Contax T3, because the images are just gorgeous and I love the smallness, quality and form factor.


6. Fuji Natura Black, because it's the fastest 24mm 'lens' I own, and the images are unique and awesome.


7. Leica M7, which feels just that much better than the M9, but I don't shoot film anywhere near as much as before, if at all.


8. Sigma DP1/DP2, because the images have a translucent wondrousness which I can't get with any other camera.


There's more, but what it boils down to is: small cameras with high quality build and excellent/unique image quality. I often think about getting a Nikon Z6 or the upcoming Panasonic S1, but I hold my chunky Canon 5D Mark II and remember why I stopped using it years ago.
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Old 03-03-2019   #25
Harry Lime
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I'm shooting a mix of film and digital.

Film:

M2, M4, M6ttl, M7, R8, R6.2, Nikon F3, FM
Rolleiflex 2.8 / Hasselblad 503cx

Well, I still love film. But I do hate scanning and our options have become limited.

It's also getting to be very difficult to get film cameras properly serviced. Leica and Hasselblad are pretty much the last ones standing for reliable, professional service. Rollei has Harry Fleenor or you can send it to the Rollei group in Germany. With the Nikons you have to make sure you're sending it to the right person.

I still shoot film 6x6, because I can't afford medium format digital. And 6x6 film looks incredible. I would like a Mamiya RZ or RB 6x7. That would be a great portrait camera.


Digital:

Leica M10, Nikon D600, iPhone

Basically digital replacements for my film cameras. Simple manual operation, good dynamic range.

The M10 is a delight, because it's basically a true digital M, while being an exercise in frustration, because of it's dumb-as-a-brick metering system. The solution is to know when to use a handheld or built in meter and to 'learn' the sensor like we used to with film. Also the battery life is mediocre at best and the batteries are $200 a piece.

I shoot 28/35 on the M10 and 50mm on the Nikon, just like my film kit. I use the D600 primarily with manual focus lenses, but routinely curse Nikon for eliminating the ability to swap focusing screens... Some day I would like to upgrade the D600 to a D750 or its successor, because of the highlight weighted metering mode.

The iPhone is always with me and I've come to appreciate the aesthetics of phone photography. The arrival of the iPhone 7 with its dual 28/50mm lenses was a game changer for me. That said I really think Apple screwed up the metering system in their cameras starting with the 7. Since then iOS seems to favor exposure for the shadows over the highlights, which is ass backwards. AT least that's how it is on my iPhone 7.

The Ricoh GR III looks really interesting. I've always liked that camera and the 28 has grown on me over the years. I may rent a X-Pro II for a week to see what it's all about. I had the X100T, but found it too fussy, with too many buttons.



I think that once I get my Piezography setup going and I can generate archival carbon ink prints I'll be shooting more digital. I've neglected prints for too long and ultimately they are what matters. As Bill has often said, "Nobody hangs a negative in a gallery. It's the prints that count."
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Old 03-03-2019   #26
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[quote=Harry Lime;2873038]
The M10 is a delight, because it's basically a true digital M, while being an exercise in frustration, because of it's dumb-as-a-brick metering system. The solution is to know when to use a handheld or built in meter and to 'learn' the sensor like we used to with film. Also the battery life is mediocre at best and the batteries are $200 a piece.

/QUOTE]

I`ve never heard this mentioned before.
It`s a shame that they still can`t get the basics right after all this time.
I`m using a 5D3 more and more ,that and the latest Richo
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Old 03-03-2019   #27
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I started off with contax slr's and a leica rf. Mainly habit kept me in those camps until digital came along. Then went through the d1x, d2hs, d2xs, d3 path until i became utterly fed up with huge cameras. I also migrated to the M8 when it was released however it didnt end well for me.

One year i working in a place where cameras attract a lot of unwanted attention. As a result i shot the assignment on a digital point and shoot. SHAZAM! Epiphany moment for me!

Now i shoot point and shoots or compact mirrorless cameras for everything. I suppose its because im lazy and thats ok by me. Ive never had an editor complain about IQ and small, pocketable (truly) cameras afford me a degree of anonymity/disinterest/lowprofile that i have learnt to take advantage of.
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Old 03-03-2019   #28
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Quote:
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I`ve never heard this mentioned before.
It`s a shame that they still can`t get the basics right after all this time.
I`m using a 5D3 more and more ,that and the latest Richo
The metering system is a more sophisticated variant of what is used in the M6/M6ttl/M7/MP etc.

Because it's not a 'smart' matrix metering system, but more of an averaging system it can be fooled by promient bright or dark objects.

That said I am consistently surprised by how good it actually works in real life.

But you have to know it's limitations. If you shot slide film, you'll be fine. It's just a matter of learning how the sensor reacts at various ISO settings and lighting conditions.
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Old 03-03-2019   #29
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So much of my life is driven by chance and circumstance. I start out heading down one path only to find myself on another. I go into a camera store intending that my next camera will be a Sony. But sitting in the cabinet is a beautiful fully accessorized Olympus OM D EM5 at a reasonable price. So now I am a M 4/3 shooter.

So in answer to your question "Why" I will give the only answer I can:

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Old 03-03-2019   #30
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Quote:
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The metering system is a more sophisticated variant of what is used in the M6/M6ttl/M7/MP etc.

Because it's not a 'smart' matrix metering system, but more of an averaging system it can be fooled by promient bright or dark objects.

That said I am consistently surprised by how good it actually works in real life.

But you have to know it's limitations. If you shot slide film, you'll be fine. It's just a matter of learning how the sensor reacts at various ISO settings and lighting conditions.
Thanks for that .
I shot slide film for twenty five years.
Still , I would have expected a more sophisticated system in a modern camera.
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Old 03-03-2019   #31
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Still , I would have expected a more sophisticated system in a modern camera.
Be grateful they have meters at all. I heard the next model Leica will introduce will be the M10-S. The S stands for Sunny 16. It won't have a built-in meter, but will retain the fake wind lever. With no meter, it will be manual exposure only. They are still debating whether to reintroduce the MC light meter. It would appeal to a crossover audience of film and digital Leica users. Of course, old hands won't need it. Closer to the true Leica experience.
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Old 03-03-2019   #32
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What a wonderful read! I would so much like to reply with a series of thoughtful camera selections, but alas, the cameras I use were often the result of wilful self indulgence, plain vanity, nostalgia, misplaced pride or the inability to resist a bargain.

A New Mamiya 6 was meant to mend a broken heart. I was so intimidated by the thing, I left in the box for 20 years. Thankfully, age if not wisdom gave me some courage and it has proven to be an astonishingly good camera.

A thrift store Nikkormat and Pentax SV are pure nostalgia. The first for the one my brother dropped from a ferry into the Aegean Sea so many years ago; the second for one my mom had when I was a kid. Yet, the Nikon has a rugged simplicity and the Pentax an elegant beauty that few cameras can match.

Replacing the lost Nikkormat lead to a Leica. In the Ontario, Canada of my youth, Leicas were made along the shores of Georgian Bay, not too far from were I lived. It just so happened that the best conditioned used Leica I could find and afford happened to be an ELC M4-2. Dismissed by many, adored by me, it has been my main camera for 30 years now.

Last year, a deep discounted on the little Fuji XE-2s was irresistible and I joined the digital age. I even got an iPhone, made a photo with it, and joined the forum.

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Old 03-03-2019   #33
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More important, why do you use the cameras that you do? I hope it’s for a more intelligent, image specific reason than mine of being comfortable.
I've settled on Fujifilm cameras that are rangefinder shaped as my most used cameras (since they came out in 2011). I have used others extensively (namely the Leica X1 and M9, the Ricoh GR, the Nikon Df and a Sony A7R) and many other not so extensively, but these Fujis have been the most comfortable to me and I keep coming back to them. I think it comes down to the Leica M6 and the Contax G1 being the first cameras that I fell in love with almost 25-30 years ago. I like the brick shape in my hand and I am not a big fan of huge grips. I also prefer digital and autofocus these days but I prefer traditional camera controls still. I like to make my shutter speed and aperture choices before I bring the camera to my eye.

Most people are clamoring for full frame cameras and I used to be the same way. However, I now find that I prefer the added depth of field that APSC offers and it is almost as good as FF in low light (a stop or two difference at best). I also prefer the size, weight, and price of these cameras as the overall best combination for me. The X-Pro2 is really like a modern Contax G Series. I love it. The Ricoh GR III will most likely throw a wrench into my fuji world though...
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Old 03-03-2019   #34
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What a wonderful read! I would so much like to reply with a series of thoughtful camera selections, but alas, the cameras I use were often the result of wilful self indulgence, plain vanity, nostalgia, misplaced pride or the inability to resist a bargain.
Yep, that's me too.
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Old 03-03-2019   #35
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Lens quality is primary driver of my choices for cameras. If I could afford it, I'd use Leica digital. But since I can't, I use Fuji cameras and their fine choice of lenses.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #36
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I have a large Flickr account, and when I select a camera to search MY account I find I like my Olympus 35RC photos better than any of my other cameras (or more expensive cameras). I'm not sure WHY??, but I don't think it is camera performance. I think it is the way I fit that camera. I have complaints about the 35RC; but I must have some unknown connection with it. HELP!
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #37
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Until very recently I was regularly doing studio set-ups of fairly small products. Thought the Nikon D300 w/ a 50/3.5AIS Micro was the bee's knees until I tripped into a can't refuse deal on a D750 with a 60/2.8. Other work is done with either a Minolta CLE or an M4-P, because, sorry, they're comfortable and I know what all the knobs and levers do. People tell me the CLE will vaporize any minute but it's been working for 20 years now.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #38
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I work with Leica M digital for both my professional work and my personal work. 2-M 10s, an M 262 and an M-E for color and an MM for B&W.

I use the equipment I use because it fits the way I see and work. Maybe I am kinda like Bill and maybe a little mussel memory? I don't have to think about the function of hte camera when I pick up my Ms. That part is just second nature after over 40 years. I just love the way they feel in my hands and the way they function. I don't like a lot of automation.

When I went digital in 2005 (had to because of clients) I left film kicking and screaming (plus a divorce, downsizing and other circumstances left me without a darkroom) Leica didn't have a full frame digital option or I probably would have gone Leica instead of Canon in 05.

I still have a couple of my old F-1s and a new F-1 and love those but I dreaded using my Canon digital cameras because of the way they function. For me they were not intuitive to use no mater how hard tried. I had them for over a decade and never warmed up to them.

I picked up an MM in 2012 after using a good friends M9 on a trip to the Fla Keys and Key West. Fell in love with the camera so I picked up the MM for my personal work. Liked that experience so mush when Leica introduced the M 262 I bought one, picked up an M-E for back up and sold all the Canon gear. That was almost 4 years ago.

Picked up an M 10 when they first came out and then another M 10 last year. NO REGRETS. I do not miss the Canon gear at all. I really thought I would miss longer lenses like the 200 2L. I don't.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #39
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I work with Leica M digital for both my professional work and my personal work. 2-M 10s, an M 262 and an M-E for color and an MM for B&W.

I use the equipment I use because it fits the way I see and work. Maybe I am kinda like Bill and maybe a little mussel memory? I don't have to think about the function of hte camera when I pick up my Ms. That part is just second nature after over 40 years. I just love the way they feel in my hands and the way they function. I don't like a lot of automation.

When I went digital in 2005 (had to because of clients) I left film kicking and screaming (plus a divorce, downsizing and other circumstances left me without a darkroom) Leica didn't have a full frame digital option or I probably would have gone Leica instead of Canon in 05.

I still have a couple of my old F-1s and a new F-1 and love those but I dreaded using my Canon digital cameras because of the way they function. For me they were not intuitive to use no mater how hard tried. I had them for over a decade and never warmed up to them.

I picked up an MM in 2012 after using a good friends M9 on a trip to the Fla Keys and Key West. Fell in love with the camera so I picked up the MM for my personal work. Liked that experience so mush when Leica introduced the M 262 I bought one, picked up an M-E for back up and sold all the Canon gear. That was almost 4 years ago.

Picked up an M 10 when they first came out and then another M 10 last year. NO REGRETS. I do not miss the Canon gear at all. I really thought I would miss longer lenses like the 200 2L. I don't.
I have there Leica film bodies but for digital use the glass on an A7R2.
I also use a Canon 5d3 with a 35/1.4 ,90/1,2 but mostly with the ubiquitous 70-200/2.8.


If I went Leica digital I would miss that long lens and wondering why you don`t.
Presumably your subject /type of shots have changed or do you use a 135 and find that suffices ?
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #40
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Hi Mike,

I hardly ever shoot anything longer than 90mm. The 90 I use for formal portraits and candids. The 200 2L was big and heavy. I used it but I really don't need it for what I mostly shoot. If I get something I need something longer than 90 I have friends that have both 200 2Ls and 300 2.8Ls and 1Dx bodies that I can barrow but I have yet to need to do that.

My personal work is usually the MM with a 35.

I would say 60% of everything I shoot pro is 35 (on FF). I tried Sony but just didn't fit well for me. Great cameras just not for me.
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