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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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A collection of habits
Old 08-20-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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A collection of habits

When the Fuji X-H1 came out, adding camera body image stabilization to the Fuji line up, I thought, “Here is a camera that is really going to do well.” While it was slightly bigger than many APS-c cameras, more in line with a size we associate with full frame cameras, the smaller lenses in short and normal focal lengths kept the operating size down and equipped with a vertical grip / auxiliary battery pack, the bigger body balanced well with big zooms and long lenses. And the stabilization was really useful.

The X-H1 was initially sold at a price of $1900 and the vertical grip cost $330 more. It’s now being sold at prices as low as $1000 for the camera body and vertical grip. It looks like I was wrong about the H1. It looks like it’s being dumped.

I know of one photographer that I admire who owns three of them. I own two. They’re work horses. Why is Fuji dumping them? I asked Jeff Hirsch, the head of Fotocare, and he said it was the Leica M5 all over again - the camera that’s just different enough that you have to change a few truly ingrained habits.

I can understand that. It’s wonderful when you know a camera so well that you can use it without thinking, at least not thinking about operating the camera. The H1 has slightly different controls and control positions than the other mirrorless TTL bodies from Fuji, just enough to slow you down at first. This is apparently worse than a lot bigger and really different controls a la the GFX 100, an extremely expensive body/lens package that is apparently selling very well. It sort of makes sense - annoyingly different as compared to completely different. How do you feel when you work with a new camera and different controls? I know that a collection of lenses often makes us reluctant to change systems. Does a collection of habits do the same thing?
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Old 08-20-2019   #2
Dogman
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The XPro and X100 series were what attracted me to Fuji to begin with. I've owned XE and XT models but they never moved me like the window viewfinder models. The XH series seems like a fine line but it doesn't appeal to me personally.

Working with a new camera with totally new controls isn't usually that difficult for me. People are adaptable. We can adjust. I've recently started using Nikon DSLRs after having used only Canon DSLRs and SLRs for about 20+ years. It hasn't been hard to adapt. But then again, I only use a limited few of the features on these cameras.
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Old 08-20-2019   #3
charjohncarter
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I've had three DSLRs and a mirrorless from the same manufacturer. Each one presented a new learning curve. But this last one the learning curve was not as bad. So maybe you adapt faster with some familiarity.
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Old 08-20-2019   #4
Takkun
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I’m with you and Mr. Hirsch, Bill. I have no trouble switching between Auto SLRs and RFs, and 35 and larger formats with wildly differing controls. But it’s the different iterations, especially among digital with dozens of menus thrown in, that throws me.

Over the years I’ve owned or used several generations of Nikon AF SLRs—N90 (I guess the start of the “modern” design language, or the 8008), F5, F100, F6, D1, D2, D3, D300, and so on. The core is generally there—metering on the prism, drive mode on the left, focus point joystick—but each generation adds something, or moves something around. I was really thrown for a loop using the D850, where all the same buttons are there from my old D3, but do entirely different things.


I had to look up the X-H1 just as reference before remembering I’ve played with one. I don’t see what’s not to like. Lots of (marked!) dials, big top deck display, beefy grip. And yet the reviews all are critical of the ergonomics.

When I worked for a publication I shot with a D3, and D300 as backup. The interface differences were enough to throw me off when the former came out of the bag, but that obviously wasn’t enough to keep Nikon from dropping it from the lineup. I won’t speculate on the demise of the Fuji, but I do appreciate offering similar-spec cameras in very different packages.
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Old 08-20-2019   #5
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Something that would attract myself, who likes more traditional controls, is the shutter speed dial. But for any D=D (Digital=Disposable) a grand is too much for my income demographic.
(Please pardon the D=D snarky comment, couldn't help myself.)

Anyway, a OMD-EM10 just arrived. Total was $238 out of my pocket and appearance at least is pristine.

If I can adapt to a electronic VF (that question is still open) I should be able to get enough years out of it to amortize the cost. The only lenses I have are Zuikos from my Pen F film camera, a 20mm f3.5, 25mm f4, 38mm f1.8, and 100mm f3.5 used via an adapter. If they work out I may spring for one of those 25mm 1.8 manual focus lenses you see all over the place for about $80.

Well....we shall see what we shall see.
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Old 08-20-2019   #6
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Well, I couldn’t pass up the X-H1 at $999. Wasn’t interested at $2000, but now? Ok. I think it’ll be a nice dedicated body for the 56mm 1.2.
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Old 08-20-2019   #7
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Could the price drop indicate that the new version is in the wings?
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Old 08-20-2019   #8
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I can relate to the "slightly different can be annoying" sentiment. For years I've used two Nikon DSLR bodies with the 24-70 on one and the 70-200 on the other. The 24-70, though optically superb, is rather fragile, and after the second trip to have the zoom/focus repaired, I went looking for an alternative. Found the Canon 24-70 Mark II to be almost as good optically, and a lot more robust, so I picked up a refurbished Canon body and now use a Canon/Nikon combo. And they're just enough different that I regularly find myself messing up little things like image review, changing from S to A exposure mode, etc.

Switching from that combo to my Leica M, no issues because they are so different. Same with going to the Nikon mirrorless. But the Canon/Nikon combo can get frustrating.

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Old 08-20-2019   #9
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I think the X-H1 was cannibalized by the X-T3 which was released earlier and has everything people wanted in a mirrorless camera, plus it is smaller, lighter, has a longer battery life, and is $500 cheaper. Nobody cared about the "burst mode" and "5-axis gimbal stabilization" of the X-H1, and professionals who might care about this are not using Fuji anyway. They tried to create a "flagship" model which they already had in the X-T3.
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Old 08-20-2019   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saul View Post
Could the price drop indicate that the new version is in the wings?
Not anytime soon according to rumors sites.... I have a feeling that the X-T4 will have IBIS.
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Old 08-20-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
I think the X-H1 was cannibalized by the X-T3 which was released earlier and has everything people wanted in a mirrorless camera, plus it is smaller, lighter, has a longer battery life, and is $500 cheaper.
X-H1 = February 15, 2018
X-T3 = September 6, 2018

Quote:
Nobody cared about the "burst mode" and "5-axis gimbal stabilization" of the X-H1, and professionals who might care about this are not using Fuji anyway. They tried to create a "flagship" model which they already had in the X-T3.
Nobody? I know a few people, personally, that love it.
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Old 08-20-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
...and professionals who might care about this are not using Fuji anyway.
I'm not aware, never seen any active professional with Fuij. In fact I have Fuji much more less than SLR in use. Not only professional but amateur.

Every time I took Fuji in my hands I quickly realize I don't want it. Especially fake SLR cropper.
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Old 08-20-2019   #13
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Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
I'm not aware, never seen any active professional with Fuij.
David Alan Harvey comes to mind
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Old 08-20-2019   #14
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Somewhere in there is a guy who does the Nikon shuffle when he shoots his Fuji...lol

To me cameras are three things...aperture, film, and shutter speed...i figure that out and go from there...lenses...well that can mess with your habits...good ones are not cheap!
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Old 08-21-2019   #15
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Especially fake SLR cropper.
haha, you have a way with words... poetic almost.
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Old 08-21-2019   #16
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No discount here (Tokyo)... 2,300 USD for the X-H1 body and Grip... I played with the camera at Yodobashi today... seems like it was designed / built by a different team... first impression is not friendly at all, but I am sure I could manage at USD 1,000 for the set ; )

For now I stick with the x100t, but it would be nice to have a 50mm equiv.
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Old 08-21-2019   #17
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I bought the X-H1 in June last year, and paid the full price. No regrets, it fits in my hands much better than the X-T series and it is a fantastic all-round camera. A comprehensive review here: https://theonlinephotographer.typepa...12/x-h1-2.html
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Old 08-21-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shimokita View Post
No discount here (Tokyo)... 2,300 USD for the X-H1 body and Grip... I played with the camera at Yodobashi today... seems like it was designed / built by a different team... first impression is not friendly at all, but I am sure I could manage at USD 1,000 for the set ; )

For now I stick with the x100t, but it would be nice to have a 50mm equiv.
Why? Because it has an info LCD and a larger grip? What other changes are there that make it unfriendly?
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