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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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Old 03-18-2019   #41
Huss
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
I find it ironic that he owns a Z7. Basically he is saying that the camera doesn't matter much, yet he owns the latest model. This happens quite frequently.
Yep yep.
I recently posted a link to the famous Magnum photog Ara Guler.
He in essence said the same thing, as they all seem to do.
And yet uses/used just the high end stuff.

Funny that.
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Old 03-18-2019   #42
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Yep yep.
I recently posted a link to the famous Magnum photog Ara Guler.
He in essence said the same thing, as they all seem to do.
And yet uses/used just the high end stuff.

Funny that.
Wonder if this falls under the reason; "Because I can afford it."
Although that said, I'm not always sure just how these folks make their money.
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Old 03-18-2019   #43
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All those numbers are marketing's little helpers to get to your hard earned money.
Every season there are new numbers ... hey you got new money that someone wants you to spend.

At the end of the day, the print on the wall ... it 's not the specs of the camera that make a great picture, it's what you see and how you are able to capture that with the tool you have in front of your eye. A boring image with a lousy composition doesn't get any better with more mp's.
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Old 03-18-2019   #44
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OK not always but a good amount of the time the gear used matters about as much as what day of the week the photograph was taken.
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Old 03-18-2019   #45
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a higher price may not get you higher image quality, but there is something else that it gets you: status.

spending more money will get you more social capital. that's why leicas, contaxes, hasselblads, rolleiflexes, and various other examples of expensive gear make such good instagram fodder.
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Old 03-18-2019   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aizan View Post
a higher price may not get you higher image quality, but there is something else that it gets you: status.

spending more money will get you more social capital. that's why leicas, contaxes, hasselblads, rolleiflexes, and various other examples of expensive gear make such good instagram fodder.
From that perspective (and I think you are correct), Contaxes, Rolliflexes, and possibly Barnhardt Leicas are probably the best values in status.
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Old 03-18-2019   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
I have a question for Chris Crawford. How did you find the transition from an optical viewfinder to an electronic viewfinder? The few mirrorless cameras I've had a chance to look through have not been very impressive, at least compared to my OM-1 with an all matte screen, which is my benchmark. The latest electronic vf I've tried was a OMD-EM5 so I suspect there have been improvements. Unfortunately I live in the sticks and even finding a store that would have the Olympus line.....well I might have to travel several hundred miles roundtrip. That, I don't want to do.

I haven't used the OM-D EM5, so I can't comment on how it compares to the much newer Pen-F and E-M1 mk II viewfinders.

I don't think the electronic viewfinders are as clear and sharp as a good optical finder like that in the OM-1. For autofocus, they're fine, but for manual focus they're a bit of a pain.

Because its is near-impossible to judge sharpness on them when manually focusing, the Olympuses and many other mirrorless cameras offer a magnified mode on the EVF where it magnifies part of the image to facilitate manual focusing. Even with that, manual focus works best if you activate focus peaking (it can be turned on and off).

It works, but feels like a kludge. Also in very dim light, MF is hard. That's true also of many optical SLR finders, too, though.

So, my verdict is that the EVF in the newer Olympus cameras is ok. It takes some getting used to and if you only do AF, it works well. Its the price you pay for having such tiny, lightweight cameras.
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Old 03-18-2019   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I wonder how important camera price is these days in terms of image quality?

About the same as it ever has...


My M2 is worth about 10x as much as my Spotmatic F, but I stick the same film in both...
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Old 03-19-2019   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taemo View Post
I've come to a conclusion that for IQ, it all depends on your final output.
For my large prints (16x20 and higher), IQ is very important and to achieve that I use a high MP camera (42MP Sony A7RIII) and lenses that can resolve it.

However, for social media or printing 8x10 photo books I actually find smaller sensors are more than capable. I've done 8x10 prints of photos taken with my iphone that I'm proud of.

Right now I'm exploring photography using P&S cameras, I purchased an Olympus Tough TG-5 (1/2.3" sensor size) as my daily/street camera as it is more rugged than my iphone and less intimidating than a more professional looking camera.
Indeed. Discussions about image quality are pointless unless you're also talking about final output. Pretty much anything can do a really nice A4 print and you don't have to spend a lot of money on a camera to get nice A3 and greater sized prints.

People who obsess over tech specs for camera are mostly gear heads who like to pixel peep with their eye pressed up to a monitor.
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Old 03-19-2019   #50
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There is only so much technical perfection one can take.
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Old 03-19-2019   #51
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It’s never smart to spend using someone else’s hypothetical wallet. There are various reasons for choosing what we choose. But... if you can afford it and you enjoy it, you’ll tend to spend more and tend to want more perceived quality. I think everyone does this within their own comfort zone. What is expensive for me, is cheap for someone else depending on what you earn.
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Old 03-19-2019   #52
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Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
It’s never smart to spend using someone else’s hypothetical wallet. There are various reasons for choosing what we choose. But... if you can afford it and you enjoy it, you’ll tend to spend more and tend to want more perceived quality. I think everyone does this within their own comfort zone. What is expensive for me, is cheap for someone else depending on what you earn.

Agree!


Additionally it depends a lot on one's obligations for example someone might earn as much as someone else but live where the cost of housing is much lower thereby have more disposable income. Also other things such as the choice of a >20k vs a 30K+ vehicle can greatly affect a person's disposable income.
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Old 03-19-2019   #53
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Good addendum Mcary... I agree.
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Old 03-19-2019   #54
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Excellent!

G

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yokosuka_Mike View Post
I don’t have a car anymore,
I quit driving because I fear
Dying much more
What’s this have to do with
The camera I shoot with
I don’t know but I’ll play along
Just because of the watch
I wear is not so expensive
So, what’s the size of my sensor
Is it related to the price of my
Lens or the grip on my Bessa
Or my Panasonic or my Sony
Or should they be put in the dumpster?
‘Cause they’re not so expensive
Afraid to contemplate
the direction this is going
Price, performance, results
Is getting to be a little bit
Boring
Never understood the desire to talk
About it
I think I’ll just grab my camera
And go out and use it

Mike
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Old 03-19-2019   #55
Michael Markey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
It’s never smart to spend using someone else’s hypothetical wallet. There are various reasons for choosing what we choose. But... if you can afford it and you enjoy it, you’ll tend to spend more and tend to want more perceived quality. I think everyone does this within their own comfort zone. What is expensive for me, is cheap for someone else depending on what you earn.
I agree .
I see plenty of Canon/Nikon camera and lens outfits costing as much as a Leica when I`m out and about.
Nobody seems concerned about the perceived value as regards their own photography .
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Old 03-19-2019   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mcary View Post
Agree!

Additionally it depends a lot on one's obligations for example someone might earn as much as someone else but live where the cost of housing is much lower thereby have more disposable income. Also other things such as the choice of a >20k vs a 30K+ vehicle can greatly affect a person's disposable income.
I don't know about anyone else, but I buy 30k+ vehicles when their sale value drops to <10k, in good shape, do whatever repairs and service are needed (usually ~5k), then drive them until they are worn out. I also only buy cars with cash money.

By doing this, the ownership of a fine car becomes relatively inexpensive. Much less expensive, in terms of utility vs expense, than buying a lot of high end photographic equipment.


Total cost when new: >60k
My cost @83k miles with all details taken care of and a couple of upgrades: 18k.

Still purring along nicely at 120K miles.

G
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Old 03-19-2019   #57
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Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
I don't know about anyone else, but I buy 30k+ vehicles when their sale value drops to <10k, in good shape, do whatever repairs and service are needed (usually ~5k), then drive them until they are worn out. I also only buy cars with cash money.

By doing this, the ownership of a fine car becomes relatively inexpensive. Much less expensive, in terms of utility vs expense, than buying a lot of high end photographic equipment.

Total cost when new: >60k
My cost @83k miles with all details taken care of and a couple of upgrades: 18k.

Still purring along nicely at 120K miles.

G

An excellent choice which of course leaves you more disposable income vs buy a new 30K+ vehicle
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Old 03-19-2019   #58
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I made some family photographs with my iPad mini that turned out just fine.

Why are people so obsessed with equipment? Even the smart phone and tablet computer do a fine job in the hands of a capable photographer.
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Old 03-19-2019   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Clark View Post

Why are people so obsessed with equipment? Even the smart phone and table computer do a fine job in the hands of a capable photographer.
So imagine how much better those pics would have been with high end gear!

and so it begins..
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Old 03-19-2019   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I haven't used the OM-D EM5, so I can't comment on how it compares to the much newer Pen-F and E-M1 mk II viewfinders.

I don't think the electronic viewfinders are as clear and sharp as a good optical finder like that in the OM-1. For autofocus, they're fine, but for manual focus they're a bit of a pain.

Because its is near-impossible to judge sharpness on them when manually focusing, the Olympuses and many other mirrorless cameras offer a magnified mode on the EVF where it magnifies part of the image to facilitate manual focusing. Even with that, manual focus works best if you activate focus peaking (it can be turned on and off).

It works, but feels like a kludge. Also in very dim light, MF is hard. That's true also of many optical SLR finders, too, though.

So, my verdict is that the EVF in the newer Olympus cameras is ok. It takes some getting used to and if you only do AF, it works well. Its the price you pay for having such tiny, lightweight cameras.
Thanks Chris, your real life experience with this emerging technology is worth more than all the advertising blurbs.
On the one hand, m4:3 appeals to me for the small size and short register distance. I'm of the "If I can mount it, I'll shoot it" school of fooling around with cameras. But it sounds like manual focus is problematic with electronic vf's, which sort of negates the advantage of being able to adapt any oddball lens I happen to come by. I'm sure
Olympus's modern m4:3 AF lenses are excellent but I'm a hobbyist and a cheapskate and don't want to pay the price of admission.
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Old 03-19-2019   #61
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aizan View Post
a higher price may not get you higher image quality, but there is something else that it gets you: status.

spending more money will get you more social capital. that's why leicas, contaxes, hasselblads, rolleiflexes, and various other examples of expensive gear make such good instagram fodder.



This is it, really. Quality of results- if the object has been marketed as a "tool" of some kind- is a red herring. After all, you can carry a few items in a plastic bag just as easily as in a $20,000 hand bag. So, function of course does have its place but it doesn't need to be better. It helps if the object is beautiful to look at and use.

The social capital of having the perception of being one step ahead, having specialist knowledge, the wealth to procure, and the leisure time to use, is an important, and exploitable, aspect of human relations.





Summed up nicely by Thorsten Veblen, over a century a go.
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Old 03-19-2019   #62
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Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
Thanks Chris, your real life experience with this emerging technology is worth more than all the advertising blurbs.
On the one hand, m4:3 appeals to me for the small size and short register distance. I'm of the "If I can mount it, I'll shoot it" school of fooling around with cameras. But it sounds like manual focus is problematic with electronic vf's, which sort of negates the advantage of being able to adapt any oddball lens I happen to come by. I'm sure
Olympus's modern m4:3 AF lenses are excellent but I'm a hobbyist and a cheapskate and don't want to pay the price of admission.
I also use a EM10 Mkii (same evf as the PenF) and as Chris mentioned mf can only be nailed with the magnifier mode. Just like the add on EVF for the Leica M camera!
I bought some adapters for the EM10 as I thought it would be fun to use my existing lenses, but the harsh reality is that the AF lenses work so much better. They are extremely sharp, focus perfectly and make for a seamless experience. The adapted lenses lose their native focal length eg a 50mm lens acts as a 100mm lens due to the crop, and are just fiddly to use. Very difficult to shoot w/ adapted wides, because once adapted they are no longer wides! Even my 18mm lens becomes a 36mm lens..
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Old 03-19-2019   #63
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Quote:
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.... the harsh reality is that the AF lenses work so much better. They are extremely sharp, focus perfectly and make for a seamless experience. .....
Sad, but sometimes reality bites.....

Image quality is more than just sharpness these days. I think with PS and a bit of time, many of the other aspects can get adjusted to taste. While you can adjust sharpness in the computer to a point, you run out of headroom to adjust quicker than other aspects.

More money gets you more features that might be important to getting a great type of picture.

B2 (:->
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Old 03-19-2019   #64
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They are not just sharp. The Oly 25 1.8 has beautiful rendering too. The moment I use it I realized that it was just perfect with the camera, much preferable to adapting my Leica glass.
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Old 03-19-2019   #65
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In January 2009, I bought my Canon 5D Mark II. Iit was a state of the art full frame camera with what Canon said was the best image quality of their lineup at the time.

One year later, I bought the Leica M9 for 2.5x the cost of the 5D Mark II, and it absolutely blew the doors off it. I was constantly amazed at how rich, sharp and 'deep' the images of the M9 looked in comparison with the 5D.

Having said that, the lenses were also an important factor. The main lenses I used with the Canon were the 24-105L and 35L, neither of which are known for their sharpness. I bought the 70-200 f4L and 16-35L later, and while they are very decent lenses, they still didn't have the oomph of the Zeiss 21mm Biogon or 75mm Summarit.

In many ways, I prefer the images of my tiny m43 cameras like the Panasonic GH3, GH4, GX85 and GM1 to the 5D Mark II. The Panasonic f2.8 zooms and Olympus f1.8 primes are extremely usable, especially the Olympus primes. Their image quality isn't as good as the M9, but they are far smaller, lighter, more flexible and less expensive to replace.

These days, I'm sure that a Nikon Z6 or Sony A7 III has better image quality than the M9, and a 2.5x the cost, but the are still more bulky in terms of lenses and overall shape. Not to mention the upcoming Panasonic S1, which promises to be slightly bigger and heavier than my Canon 5D Mark II from 2009.
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Old 03-19-2019   #66
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They are not just sharp. The Oly 25 1.8 has beautiful rendering too. The moment I use it I realized that it was just perfect with the camera, much preferable to adapting my Leica glass.

The Olympus f1.8 primes, especially the 25, 45 and 75, are ridiculously good for the price, and even without factoring price. I love the way the 25 renders, and some of my favourite images have been taken with it.


The Olympus 17/1.8 and 12/2 are pretty decent, too, although not quite the same awesomeness of the 25, 45 and 75.
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Old 03-19-2019   #67
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Quote:
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The Olympus f1.8 primes, especially the 25, 45 and 75, are ridiculously good for the price, and even without factoring price. I love the way the 25 renders, and some of my favourite images have been taken with it.


The Olympus 17/1.8 and 12/2 are pretty decent, too, although not quite the same awesomeness of the 25, 45 and 75.
Wow !

I see what you mean now.

That Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens is very bokehlicious !



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeXHy0JHIFs
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Old 03-19-2019   #68
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These images show why I find micro four thirds perfectly acceptable for everyday photography and for certain kinds of paid work. The cost of this kit is minimal compared with any Leica setup. The image quality isn't up to the standards of the TL/CL or M, but is fine enough.



Panasonic GH3 with Olympus 75/1.8
GH3 - New and Old by Archiver, on Flickr


Panasonic GM1 with Olympus 25/1.8
GM1 - Girard by Archiver, on Flickr


GM1 - Lumix by Lumix by Archiver, on Flickr


GM1 - Lemon Lime and Bitters by Archiver, on Flickr


Panasonic GM1 with Olympus 45/1.8
GM1 - Waiting For Dinner by Archiver, on Flickr
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Old 03-19-2019   #69
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I can answer that!

I shot for several years with a Canon 5DmkII, which is a 20mp fullframe camera. For the last year, I have been shooting with 20mp Micro Four Thirds cameras (Olympus Pen-F and Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II).

So, we have two 20mp systems, one fullframe, the other Micro Four Thirds. Huge sensor-size difference. I think that fullframe has almost 4 times the surface area of m4/3. I have made and sold 16x20 prints from each.

The difference? To be honest, the m4/3 sensors give the finest detail resolution! Why? Part of it is that Canon uses a rather aggressive anti-aliasing filter on the 5DmkII's sensor. This softens fine detail, not all of which is recoverable through image sharpening. Olympus's 20mp sensors have no anti-aliasing filters. Another thing is that the Canon lens I used for the photos I printed large just plain aren't as sharp as the Micro Four Thirds lens I used.

I used the Canon 24-105mm F4L-IS lens for fullframe and the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens for m4/3. The Olympus lens is equivalent to a 24-80mm fullframe lens. I am continually amazed at the image quality of this lens.

So, a smaller sensor with better lenses and no anti-aliasing filter beats a much larger sensor with poorer lenses and an anti-aliasing filter that blurs the finest details.

There is one other difference, and that is noise. The fullframe Canon sensor has less of it than the Olympus Micro Four Thirds sensors. I've found, however, that even using more noise reduction in Lightroom to eliminate the m4/3 noise, the m4/3 images are still better, with more fine detail resolution. Even at high ISO.

More modern fullframe sensors have less noise than the one used on the Canon 5DmkII, so at high-ISO speeds a modern fullframe sensor might be superior to the m4/3 sensors.
So from your perspective, with some subtleties, a pixel is a pixel is a pixel.
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Old 03-19-2019   #70
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Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I haven't used the OM-D EM5, so I can't comment on how it compares to the much newer Pen-F and E-M1 mk II viewfinders.

I don't think the electronic viewfinders are as clear and sharp as a good optical finder like that in the OM-1. For autofocus, they're fine, but for manual focus they're a bit of a pain.

Because its is near-impossible to judge sharpness on them when manually focusing, the Olympuses and many other mirrorless cameras offer a magnified mode on the EVF where it magnifies part of the image to facilitate manual focusing. Even with that, manual focus works best if you activate focus peaking (it can be turned on and off).

It works, but feels like a kludge. Also in very dim light, MF is hard. That's true also of many optical SLR finders, too, though.

So, my verdict is that the EVF in the newer Olympus cameras is ok. It takes some getting used to and if you only do AF, it works well. Its the price you pay for having such tiny, lightweight cameras.
I have been using my XT-2 with both adapted lenses and for slide copying with an enlarging lens (where focus is critical) and feel the same way. I am able to get it sharp, but really did not think about the fact that is actually an EVF. In general use the EVF is so good on the Fuji that I take it for granted, but in these cases, the optical reality of the EVF is important. These cases may may ones where DSLRs still have some advantage over mirrorless.
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Old 03-19-2019   #71
Chriscrawfordphoto
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So from your perspective, with some subtleties, a pixel is a pixel is a pixel.



Yep! At least in good quality interchangeable lens cameras. Point n shoot cameras often give far lower image quality than a DSLR with the same number of pixels, but those p-n-s cameras have ridiculously tiny sensors.
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Old 03-20-2019   #72
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What is image quality? A couple of students I share a darkroom with produce better images with under $100 film SLRs than anything I've lately seen posted to a Leica forum.
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Old 03-20-2019   #73
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AND is there a difference between image quality and quality of the image?


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What is image quality? A couple of students I share a darkroom with produce better images with under $100 film SLRs than anything I've lately seen posted to a Leica forum.
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Old 03-20-2019   #74
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And that Sigma Merrill is the best of the lot
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