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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”  

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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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Just In Case
Old 07-07-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Just In Case

Many folks carry a camera with them all the time. It’s their cellphone. Would you consider purchasing and always carrying a more fully featured camera with more megapixels and higher image quality if you could fit it into your pocket or a belt pouch. I ask because the Ricoh GR III fits in a loose shirt pocket or small belt pouch but has all the features we associate with semi professional cameras, a 24 mg APS-c sensor and the 28mm equivalent lens we associate with cellphones. Yes, it delivers very good image quality for $900. Too much? It’s predecessor, the GR II, is now available for $547.

Would you purchase an advanced but small camera in order to, like a cellphone, always have it with you? Or would you add another camera to your collection just because it was smaller and wouldn’t attract as much attention as your current camera when you were shooting candidly? I know two very good photographers who have bought cameras for that purpose - but also find that they now often pocket that camera all the time “just in case.”
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Old 07-07-2019   #2
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Well not being digitally inclined, i just bought an Olympus XA2 (smaller than the stylus & the Rollei 35 or Leica iii '35) for just that reason
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Old 07-07-2019   #3
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i carry my fuji xe3 all the time...sometimes even around the house.
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Old 07-07-2019   #4
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Always have a camera with me. I'm still not comfortable shooting something I have to hold at arm's length. If small matters, if it's digital, an old M8. If it's film, a IIIA and a Summar.
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Old 07-07-2019   #5
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I'm on and off with "always carry". But those weeks when I'm "on", I carry a Leica M4 with a 35mm lens and Tri-X. That's how I see the world.

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Old 07-07-2019   #6
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I have phone with me due to my job all the time, it takes pictures.
I used to have digital with me all the time as well, due to my nature.
Yet, I prefer M4-2 or else with film.
If you are really into something in-front of you, it is not size of the camera. It is where it is located. I lost some moments because I had camera in the bag.
Bag, pocket, trousers, underpants, pampers. Not gonna work. It is in your hand or at the neck strap and it should take less than three seconds to get it.
For me.

But who knows that OP was talking about. Perhaps it is idyllic sunset and your SLK compartment could only fit pair of gloves and GR III.
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Old 07-07-2019   #7
Larry Cloetta
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I almost always have a camera with me, no matter where I go. I could not care less if it fits in a pocket. If there was a pocketable one which was, in my opinion, “just the same” as the ones I do carry, I would not be opposed to using that one instead, but there isn’t, so I just grab what I have, and go. Not usually the 4x5, there’s a limit, even for me. That one isn’t for “just in case”, but pretty much everything else is, including the medium format ones.
I took a Rolleiflex to an American Legion game last night, just in case. Was there a lot of thought that went into that choice? No, hardly none, just felt like it would be fun. Would I have rather had a GRIII? Not at all. Did people think I looked stupid, or weird? Probably. I’m not particularly attractive at this point anyway, so that doesn’t change my calculus. I take the camera I like the results from, no matter how big it is. If I can physically carry it , it’s small enough. I had an XA2 I bought new, when they first came out, kept it for 20 years, mostly because it was cute. Were the results, and there were a lot of them, as good as what I got from other things? No, not at all, so I finally sold it for $50, which is pretty much what they are worth. Some love them I know, but for me itself main attraction was its cuteness, not the results, which I found to be, let’s say, workmanlike.

Why is keeping it in your pocket even a thing? It’s a factor, I’m not seeing that it has to be the deciding factor in what to take photos with. I can, and do, take an unpocketable camera with me almost everywhere, because those are the cameras I like the results from. It’s not difficult. Then, I can’t see why people say loading a Barnack poses difficulties either. Simple.
But, I’m hardly normative. Most people find small cameras somehow “easier”, I just don’t, and I have had them.

If someone feels that cameras are better when they are smaller, they should use those. I’m certainly not giving advice here, just answering the question. Everybody’s happy, since choices abound.
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Old 07-07-2019   #8
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If I really just want something that fits in my pocket, I'll just carry my iPhone 8 Plus. It makes photos as good in quality or better than most other pocketable cameras, and there are excellent accessories and apps that extend its capabilities even further that also fit in my pocket.

Why spend money for something that is only marginally more capable when if I need a truly more capable camera, I already own several that I'll carry already?

G
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Old 07-07-2019   #9
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I carry a good camera with me at all times. Cellphone cameras give crap image quality. I know a million people will start telling me how awesome the photos they shoot with their iPhones are. No, they're not. They're crap. Make a 16x20 print and compare it to one made from a pro level camera. There's just no comparison.


Because I cannot carry a lot of weight due to my health, I use Micro Four Thirds. The higher-end M43 cameras give incredibly good image quality. Most of my work now is done with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II with the 12-40mm f2.8 Olympus Pro lens. Its a large setup compared to most M43 cameras, but tiny compared to the Canon 5DmkII I shot with previously.
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Old 07-07-2019   #10
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Yes, that's why I have a Ricoh GR. What I would like is for camera manufacturers to take a leaf out of the cellphone book and fully seal their cameras. Any camera that's likely to spend time in a pocket - especially ones with fixed lenses - should be dust- and moisture-proof.
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Old 07-07-2019   #11
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I always have a camera with me although this weekend whilst at an horse event I left it in the car because I was asked to shoot video instead.
Of course sod`s law came into play and I saw a still shot and only had my iPhone 6.

Horrible quality .
So never again and its back to carrying my GR2 as a minimum requirement when I`m out and about.
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Old 07-08-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Would you purchase an advanced but small camera in order to, like a cellphone, always have it with you?

Well I guess so, given I've owned the GRI, own the GRII, and will probably buy the GRIII
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Old 07-08-2019   #13
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I have a phone, with a great camera..
I don't carry my phone everywhere or ever all the time!
It's for being in contact with Family on that wonderful "app".
I carry a camera always, mostly a small point and shoot digital.
It's need due to age but often carry a real film camera...
Owning lots try using different one's with BW film.
Cameras are faster than phones to activate!
Leica-M fastest to focus, followed by my SLR's Nikons, Pentaxes, Canon A series.
I have prints made done every so many weeks..
I laugh at need for huge MP's as most post on facebook, Tumbler, etc..
I noted at a Nikon presentation that actual images projected were 640 x 480..

My favorite quote "Leica-m a pocketable camera". sigh!

Last edited by leicapixie : 07-08-2019 at 03:39. Reason: left out a few lines..
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Old 07-08-2019   #14
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Fuji X20 or Leicasonic D-Lux 6. One or the other is usually along even when I have the M9 or D700 with me.
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Old 07-08-2019   #15
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What? You can take pictures with a cellphone? Huh. I keep forgetting that.

I have a GRII for exactly the purpose mentioned. It fits nicely in a pocket. Usually I carry it when I don't think I'll be taking any pictures but I want to be prepared...just in case. It comes in handy.

A few weeks ago, a friend invited my wife and myself to his father's birthday celebration at the church his father pastors. I wasn't sure taking pictures would be allowed during the ceremony so I dropped the Ricoh in my pocket. Lots of people were using their cellphones or "real" cameras so I snapped a few shots from my fourth row seat. The quality of the Ricoh photos was excellent and I could crop the 28mm perspective Raw images fairly heavily without too much loss in details.

In addition to the GRII I also have the Fuji X100S, a great little camera as well. It's not pocketable but it's small and carries easily. I like using the X100 better than the GRII but neither camera can replace the other for me.
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Old 07-08-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
If I really just want something that fits in my pocket, I'll just carry my iPhone 8 Plus. It makes photos as good in quality or better than most other pocketable cameras, and there are excellent accessories and apps that extend its capabilities even further that also fit in my pocket.

Why spend money for something that is only marginally more capable when if I need a truly more capable camera, I already own several that I'll carry already?

G
For me, the pocketable camera far outpaces any phone i have tried, Including modern iphones, in function and image quality. I have been using pocketable cameras personally and professionally for a long time and would LOVE a phone that matched their useability. I have yet to find one.
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Old 07-08-2019   #17
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Yes. I own a Ricoh GR III, but I am not enamored by 28mm.

If anyone ever makes anything like a GR, but with a 45-50mm lens (non-zoom), I might not use any other cameras. It would have to have an APSC sensor or larger though. It would be ideal if it had a pop-up EVF like the Sony RX1 or RX100 series currently does.

I just don’t like having a lot of stuff with me all the time... but I don’t like to completely compromise either. I’m in the cellphone isn’t good enough category (though I've made some photos I really like with the iPhone Xs in good light). So, currently, I use bigger cameras.

I hope someone will make my dream camera one day.
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Old 07-08-2019   #18
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I always carry a day pack so big pockets are not required... the current model is the "Deuter Spider 25 [liter]". It goes everywhere... except for formal events (weddings / funerals) and then it's a shoulder bag which can accommodate the Fuji x100t. I don't carry a camera when I buy groceries or have a local coffee, but I always carry my Kindle.

The x100t is about the smallest I would go... my cell phone is only used to take photos of supermarket items, books, signs, etc. rather than using pen & paper.
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Old 07-08-2019   #19
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Well personally I never leave the house without my Speed Graphic.
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Old 07-08-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley View Post
i carry my fuji xe3 all the time...sometimes even around the house.
Guilty of this as well, I carry my Leica M 262 pretty much everywhere ( Yes in the house). I have tried those little guys and I just didn't care for the performance or the feel. Since I am a Optical VF bigot, the Fuji X100 series got pretty close.
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Old 07-08-2019   #21
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Well personally I never leave the house without my Speed Graphic.
4 x 5, 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 or 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 ???
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Old 07-08-2019   #22
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I carry my iPhone with me most of the time, but rarely use it as a camera. I have no need for a pocketable camera. Just like I have no need for a pocketable hammer.
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Old 07-08-2019   #23
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Quote:
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I carry a good camera with me at all times. Cellphone cameras give crap image quality. I know a million people will start telling me how awesome the photos they shoot with their iPhones are. No, they're not. They're crap. Make a 16x20 print and compare it to one made from a pro level camera. There's just no comparison.
Chris has much more experience than me, but I think I have to respectfully disagree with the "crap image quality" assertion. Cell phones certainly can't compare with a pro level camera on the 16x20 print level, but that doesn't mean they can't take decent enough photos. I can think of many scenarios of photos you'd never print to 16x20, but where a good cell phone capture would be more than sufficient. On the more benign end of the spectrum, perhaps documenting a fender bender for insurance purposes.

Obviously you use the right tool for the job, but for the "just in case" scenarios that the OP mentions, having a cell phone with a decent camera is better than nothing. If I had to choose between no photo at all, and a "crap" photo that doesn't print well at 16x20, I'd most likely choose the latter.

p.s. I still carry a good 'ol film camera most places I go.
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Old 07-08-2019   #24
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I carry a good camera with me at all times. Cellphone cameras give crap image quality. I know a million people will start telling me how awesome the photos they shoot with their iPhones are. No, they're not. They're crap. Make a 16x20 print and compare it to one made from a pro level camera. There's just no comparison.
Says the guy shooting m43. We all draw the line differently. And print different sizes.
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Old 07-08-2019   #25
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I use my Olympus RD when I want a compact camera.
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Old 07-08-2019   #26
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I use a nice long camera strap, a small prime lens, and sling a FF DSLR around my back. I keep a plastic bag in my pocked in case it rains. Yes. I walk around with a FF DSLR -- not all --but a good bit of the time.
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Old 07-08-2019   #27
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I use a nice long camera strap, a small prime lens, and sling a FF DSLR around my back. I keep a plastic bag in my pocked in case it rains. Yes. I walk around with a FF DSLR -- not all --but a good bit of the time.
Yep …. wish I`d have done that today.
Out with a few friends buying a horse , thought I`d just take some static shots so only took an A7r2 and a 50 cron.
Whole job turned into taking riding shots and I was struggling with manual focus.
For the sake of a light carry I lost a great deal of flexibility.
So that's twice I`ve been caught out in one weekend all because I wanted to save carrying a few pounds
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Old 07-08-2019   #28
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Says the guy shooting m43. We all draw the line differently. And print different sizes.
So, are you saying an M43 camera cannot make a good 16x20" print?
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Old 07-08-2019   #29
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I forever forget to carry my phone, but rarely forget my camera. I have a Fuji X-E3 that is my constant companion, well that and my wife, any smaller than that I get uncomfortable. I have a Lumix LX100 that makes a fine image but it's too small for my very clumsy, arthritic hands.
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Old 07-08-2019   #30
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So, are you saying an M43 camera cannot make a good 16x20" print?



He's trying to be snarky. I make my living selling my prints. I used the fullframe Canon 5DmkII before switching to M43, and before I switched I did a lot of test shots with the camera I ended up buying to be sure it was capable enough for someone as exacting as I am.


It was. In fact, the images had more fine detail resolution. Canon uses rather strong anti-aliasing filters on their sensors. Olympus uses none on their 20mp cameras (the Canon I used was also a 20mp camera). On top of that was the optical quality of the lenses. Olympus's Pro Series lenses are just plain sharper than Canon's L lenses.
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Old 07-08-2019   #31
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I carry my iPhone with me most of the time, but rarely use it as a camera. I have no need for a pocketable camera. Just like I have no need for a pocketable hammer.
No need for a pocketable hammer? What an odd thing to say... Is this a thinly veiled cameras must be BIG and laborious to carry/use to be credible thing?
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Old 07-08-2019   #32
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I find the phones impossible to use and I will not invest in the Ricoh...small for sure but the lack of a viewfinder kills the deal. The Fuji X-100 series fit in my cargo pant shorts...better since carrying a camera in your shirt pocket in SE Asia is asking to be robbed.
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Old 07-08-2019   #33
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Olympus XA is the perfect carry it everywhere then accidentally throw it forwards and to the ground when something interesting is happening camera for me.

A digital camera to overcome the shortcomings of a phone camera seems like a short odds bet with the current pace of change in that sector - I agree phone images can currently look terrible but maybe quality isn't the deciding factor for this use. I certainly never printed anything 16 x 20" for myself.

Advanced but small camera with rudimentary phone included would be the gamechanger here maybe - networking + whatsapp capablity = no more need for a phone at all.
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Old 07-09-2019   #34
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Olympus XA is the perfect carry it everywhere then accidentally throw it forwards and to the ground when something interesting is happening camera for me.

A digital camera to overcome the shortcomings of a phone camera seems like a short odds bet with the current pace of change in that sector - I agree phone images can currently look terrible but maybe quality isn't the deciding factor for this use. I certainly never printed anything 16 x 20" for myself.

Advanced but small camera with rudimentary phone included would be the gamechanger here maybe - networking + whatsapp capablity = no more need for a phone at all.
I thought you were going to say we need a digital XA... which is something that I’d personally love to have. My god, a tiny digital with a mechanical rangefinder ... drool.
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Old 07-09-2019   #35
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I once tried carrying an Oly digital around all the time but soon discovered that it didn't work for me. So it was back to a small bag and the slr/dslr. If I were more methodical about my photography I could see using a pocketable as sort of a "sketch" book for a later shot with the slr/dslr.

I would like to try the concept with a Rd1
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Old 07-09-2019   #36
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I carry a camera with me most of the time. It is usually an SLR or RF (film), but I also have a pocketable Olympus Stylus Infinity and a Olympus 35RC. These work great for me.
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Old 07-09-2019   #37
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I find the phones impossible to use and I will not invest in the Ricoh...small for sure but the lack of a viewfinder kills the deal. The Fuji X-100 series fit in my cargo pant shorts...better since carrying a camera in your shirt pocket in SE Asia is asking to be robbed.
Peter - I think the Fuji X-100 series is great and, for me, a more all purpose focal length. But the lack of a viewfinder isn't a killer on the Ricoh, at least among the folks I know. We all use an old Leica 28mm bright line finder in the shoe of the Ricoh. I understand the Ricoh also makes a bright line finder. I also have to confess that among the folks I know, the Ricoh is in your pocket or on your belt when you are "not carrying a camera" or at least not a body that won't fit in your pocket or one that is normally in a bag with a few lenses. That said, the image quality of both recent Ricohs is quite amazing, especially compared to the 1/2 frame film cameras that a number of us used to carry for the same space saving purpose. Yes, it is the PHONE KILLER.
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Old 07-09-2019   #38
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But the lack of a viewfinder isn't a killer on the Ricoh, at least among the folks I know. We all use an old Leica 28mm bright line finder in the shoe of the Ricoh. I understand the Ricoh also makes a bright line finder.
I've always used a black Voitlander finder in the shoe of the various Richo models I`ve owned over the years.
It makes a big difference.
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Old 07-09-2019   #39
jsrockit
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It’s funny, but the Ricoh GR is the only camera I can use without VF.
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Old 07-09-2019   #40
Dogman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
It’s funny, but the Ricoh GR is the only camera I can use without VF.
Same here.
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