The Wit and Wisdom of Herbert Keppler

A collection of memorable quotes from Herbert Keppler, drawn from the archives of both Modern Photography and Popular Photography.

The-Wit-and-Wisdom-of-Herbert-Keppler
The-Wit-and-Wisdom-of-Herbert-Keppler

On deciding whether to take any specific course of action:
"Could it hurt? No. Could it help? Maybe. Then do it!"
(Spoken on numerous occasions)

On the SLR:
"It seems impossible to turn out a camera free of all idiosyncrasies. Cameras are obviously like people-which is, I suppose, one reason why they make such a good combination."
(Modern Photography, January 1966)

On the Konica Autorex, the first auto-exposure SLR of its kind:
"The inevitable marriage of convenience plus accuracy inherent in automatic exposure systems and the versatility of the interchangeable-lens, focal-plane shutter, single-lens reflex has finally occurred."
(Modern Photography, March 1966)

On choosing a lens for an SLR:
"If you don't need a superfast lens (f/1.4, f/1.2) buy the slower (f/1.7, /1.8, 2), which will probably be cheaper, of as good or better quality, and far superior for getting good sharp close-ups."
(Modern Photography, January 1980)

On 'Analog Appreciators' vs. 'Digital Dandies':
"The next advance in finder information may bring peace at last to both warring factions. Japanese camera designers almost without exception predict the use of liquid-crystal display in future SLR viewfinders..."
(Modern Photography, February 1980)

On autofocus:
"What is needed is not a distance-measuring system, but one that analyzes and focuses upon the subject. The new Honeywell and Seiko modules for SLRs will do it."
(Modern Photography, February 1980)

On 16 'stupid, avoidable errors':
"There now, that's painless. If you can drill yourself to follow these easy, very logical steps in shooting, your chances of knuckleheaded mistakes will become much slimmer. And if I too can remember to follow 'em, so will mine."
(Modern Photography, May 1980)

On the privileges bestowed on photo magazine editors:
"Yes, some items I can get [cameras and lenses] on long-term memo. Some items I can buy at the price a manufacturer sells to his employees or best customers, but you'd be horrified at how much money I shell out, as you do."
(Modern Photography, June 1980)

Advice for camera makers:
"Why doesn't some enterprising camera company go and put together a group of advisers from leading magazines, from successful freelance photographers, from the scientific and industrial and commercial community? Meanwhile, my kingdom for an SLR I can operate when I'm wearing my winter mittens."
(Modern Photography, July 1983)

On zooms vs. primes:
"By the way, don't assume that a macro zoom provides sharpness at 'macro' equal to a good single-focal-length macro lens. It won't. It may be adequate and certainly convenient but if you want best macro sharpness, stick to a single-focal-length 'macro' lens."
(Modern Photography, September 1983)

On regular camera bags:
"What Domke bags will I carry? The Classique? Mercy, no! I like a camera bag that takes after me, sorta lumpy."
(Modern Photography, September 1983)

On the changing makeup of SLR bodies:
"More and more camera makers will switch to hybrid camera body construction...This involves bonding an all-metal focal-plane plate to a glass-fiber reinforced polycarbonate body, cutting manufacturing costs down considerably."
(Modern Photography, March 1986)

On gray goods:
"How long did it take for gray market batteries to get here? What were the storage conditions on the boat? How many months of life do they have? Nobody knows. Your best bet is to look for and buy Duracells made in the U.S. and marked in English."
(Modern Photography, March 1986)

On buying equipment:
"Your decisions on whether to buy, when to buy and what to buy should depend on careful consideration of your needs primarily, with a little of your wants thrown in for enjoyment, After all photography is a hobby, even for pros."
(Modern Photography, April 1986)

On zoom lenses:
"I am fed up to the ears with all the guff about 35-70mm zoom lenses. I don't think they're great, I think they will assure you of fairly ordinary pictures and are apt to stunt your growth as a photographer."
(Popular Photography, March 1988)

On lugging gear:
"The older I get, the less inclined I am to overload by camera bag and then stagger out to take pictures. I try to pick and choose equipment thoughtfully, with a view to low bulkiness and light weight. The last type of case I think of using is a giant hold-everything bag."
(Popular Photography, May 1988)

On the market for zooms:
"New zoom lenses too often resemble optical junk food more than solid fare for better pictures. 'Give us wider ratios; faster, more compact, and light zooms at better prices' is the clamor from the marketplace..."
(Popular Photography, August 1988)

On poorly translated instruction manuals:
"The writer had forgotten that in English, objects are not referred to by gender. I was instructed to 'grab her crank' to advance the film and wind the shutter. Further genderized instructions became too personal for me to relate in a family magazine."
(Popular Photography, September 1988)

On improvements in autofocus:
"Am I trying to get you to buy a new AF SLR? No. If you have iron resistance and resolve, good for you. I'm just trying to ease the pain of those who will inevitably succumb."
(Popular Photography, December 1988)

On embracing new technology:
"If you are the proud owner of an older, heavy, metal SLR camera and lens outfit, more power to you. If you have opted for one of the newfangled autofocus SLR systems, heave-ho with a light heart and camera bag, knowing you have gained much and missed little."
(Popular Photography, January 1990)

On lenses:
"Perhaps we should demand two grades of optics-one optimized for tiny size and tiny price, the other for maximum image quality and versatility with less regard to price. Sadly, if we all buy supercompact, gutless optical wonders, we will inevitably wind up using the types of lenses we justly deserve."
(Popular Photography, March 1990)

"If you trot home with a $2,500 Nikon F4S camera, you will be praised and envied even if you had to scrape the bottom of the financial barrel to buy it. Enter with a $3,000, 5-1/2-pound, 9-3/4-inch-long 300mm f/2.8 Nikon ED lens for it, and everyone will question your sanity."
(Popular Photography, July 1990)

On tripods:
"Be careful of mounting physically long lenses to the tripod rather than fastening the camera body to the tripod. What causes the major amount of vibration and thus picture unsharpness during exposure? Not the lens! It's the camera body's mirror and shutter action."
(Popular Photography, August 1990)

Advice to buyers:
"Kits can be padded, too. I remember a kit advertised as containing 72 different items. The only problem was that 50 of them were actually sheets of lens tissue."
(Popular Photography, December 1990)

Keep it clean:
"Ever think of how many dirty places your lens cap goes after you take it off the lens? It jiggles around in your pocket or in the bottom of your dusty camera bag until the inside of the cap has accumulated a fine layer of ick. Ergo, when you put the cap back on the lens, the dirt merrily transfers to the front lens surface."
(Popular Photography, December 1990)

More on zooms vs. primes:
"I am convinced that anyone buying an SLR for the first time for serious photography will be a better and wiser photographer if he doesn't buy a zoom lens right off the bat."
(Popular Photography, April 1991)

Evolving camera bodies:
"Where did all the leather covering and the precision metal bodies with chrome finish go? They were so delightful to hold, to stroke, to feel, to admire. Who strokes today's photographic equivalents of the kitchen appliance...[But] genuine leather creases, shrinks, invites fungus, and pops up when screw heads corrode beneath...Plastic materials can be formed and scored to provide excellent, nearly permanent, highly grippable surfaces, free from fungus."
(Popular Photography, August 1991)

A modest suggestion:
"Yes, there have been noble tries at eliminating the PC terminal, such as the old ISO bayonet post (too big and protruding) and the threaded PC terminal (scarce, and a pain to thread on and off); but on the whole the PC terminal carries on, camera after camera, model after model, with no relief in sight. Surely the brilliant minds that have created the Canon EOS-1, Minolta 7xi, Nikon F4S, and the like can do better,"
(Popular Photography, September 1991)

The "flimsy" tripod you take with you is better than the one you left at home:
"The truth is that I probably have collected more sturdy tripods than anyone else within a hundred-mile radius. But unless I'm within easy walking distance of home or can stash the tripod in the car for convenient transportation, you will find me happily taking pictures with a flimsy tripod at hand."
(Popular Photography, February 1993)

The price of technology:
"What has happened to photography since the exuberant, technically daunting days of our SLR innocence. Slowly but surely, zoom lenses and flash have screwed up our indoor picture taking."
(Popular Photography, May 1993)

Intro to a column on the origins of the modern 35mm SLR viewfinder screen:
"In the beginning, there was nothing. The viewing screen of the 1949 Contax S, the first commercially successful 35mm eye-level SLR, was a pristine area, bright in the center with edge falloff like all other cameras having ground-glass focusing screens."
(Popular Photography, July 1993)

The perks of office:
"Contrary to popular belief (some popular belief, at least) I am not an equipment-engorged emperor seated on a photographic throne demanding, as my due, all new lens and camera jewels from manufacturer vassals. To begin with, accepting outright gifts would compromise my independence in reporting to you."
(Popular Photography, October 1993)

On varifocal lenses:
"Here's how you can tell if your 'zoom' is actually a varifocal. Zoom to maximum focal length and focus on an object manually about 10 feet away. Now zoom back to the shortest focal length. If the viewfinder is still sharp, you have a true zoom. If it's hopelessly out of focus, it's a varifocal."
(Popular Photography, October 1993)

Buyer beware:
"Silly Tales Sometimes Told By Salesmen Selling lenses: Off brand lenses are really over-production from major lens factories. Lenses not having U.S. warranties are seconds. Lens advertised is really discontinued. You should buy the new one at a higher price."
(Popular Photography, November 1993)

Excerpt of a book review panning The Art of Photographic Lighting:
"English professional photographer offers 80 photos: glitzy, commercial illustrations; nudes (both good and silly); snapshots; and outdoor shots in which the lighting credit belongs to God rather than the author. Photo captions are often woefully incomplete. Rambling, poorly organized, dull text is often lacking in essential information. Avoid."
(Popular Photography, December 1993)

On going digital:
"Sitting over a hot computer ain't my idea of fun. My creativity goes almost completely into picture taking. (But) I suppose if I ever retired, I would enjoy learning the Photoshop craft far more than playing golf."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, January 2005)

Avoiding trouble:
"Afraid on some dark street, a toughie will wrench your SLR from your grasp? Don't sling it over your shoulder. Carry it cross-chest with your elbow and arm protecting it. Still antsy about exposing your precious Nikon, Canon, or whatever to harm? Cover its name with black masking tape."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, February 2005)

Specs for the ideal lightweight travel tripod:
"1) No more than 22 inches when folded...
2) No more than 32 ounces...
3) Extends to 60 inches, so the SLR eyepiece is at eye level.
4) Should be able to open fully and close in less than 45 seconds.
5) Leg tips should be rubber but changeable to spikes for slippery terrain."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, February 2005)

A case for eye-level viewfinders:
"When photographing people from mid or close distance, waist-level SLRs and TLRs tended to be angled upward, often capturing everything below the jawline-and the subject's nostrils-in great detail. Not a pretty picture."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, March 2005)

On using image stabilization:
"My advice: No matter the system, switch on image stabilization for all picture taking. I can guarantee you'll get sharper pictures."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, June 2005)

Long vs. wide:
"Why does the concept of 'telephoto' always seem more exciting than 'wide angle'? For many, it's the possibility of snooping. A newspaper front page sporting telephoto pictures of Jennifer Lopez will certainly garner more eyeballs than wide-angle photos."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, February 2006)

Film vs. Photoshop:
"A toast to film? You bet. But don't forget the Photoshop chaser."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, March 2006)

On interchangeable lenses:
"With the continuing march of new, improved, more-megapixeled camera models that replace each other with alarming succession, one manufacturer suggested that perhaps camera bodies are becoming mere accessories, and that lenses, whose lives are more stable (even rising in price) may become the true products."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, April 2006)

Price vs. quality:
"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a patch to your door? Not in DSLRs. It's the cheaper mousetrap that usually wins out."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, June 2006)

If you were alone on a deserted island and could only have one camera and lens, what would it be?
"An all-mechanical Nikon F with a coupled selenium meter (no battery) and a 105mm macro lens to photograph flora and fauna, big and small, and to take a fine portrait of the person who rescues me!"
(Popular Photography & Imaging, August 2006)

On viewfinders:
"What's the most exciting moment in photography? In my book, nothing equals the instant of shutter release, when you feel, 'Got it!' And for me, one of the prerequisites for obtaining this satisfying moment is a high-quality SLR finder image."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, September 2006)

How can you clean a really filthy lens in an emergency?
"Stop at the nearest bar, ask the bartender to moisten a clean, soft cocktail napkin with vodka, and proceed as if you had lens cleaning fluid and tissue."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, January 2007)

When shooting wildlife with a tele from a Jeep, what common errors should I avoid?
"Not only turning off the engine to avoid blurred pictures, but also waiting until the gas in a half-full tank stops sloshing around. If the hippo charges right at you, pray the engine turns on promptly."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, March 2007)

Relating a comment by renowned photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt:
"After Nikon introduced the first motordrive-compatible in 1954 (2.5 fps), I asked Eisie if he ever used a motor. 'Never,' said Eisie. 'It might miss something that this would have caught.' He wiggled his shutter release finger at me."
(Popular Photography & Imaging, April 2007)

On the joys of collecting:
"Among the many things I resent about digital imaging is the slamming of the door on one of my favorite hobbies, camera collecting. Aside from getting a discontinued model cheap to use as a backup, can you tell me why someone would be excited about buying an obsolete digital camera for any purpose other than to use as a doorstop?"
(Popular Photography & Imaging, August 2007)

Film is here to stay:
"No, no, dammit, film is not going to disappear, so stop writing me scaredy-cat letters about how 'we duffers are gonna fade away silently clutching the last rolls of Kodachrome to our breasts.'"
(Popular Photography & Imaging, September 2007)

Keep it simple:
"What do I truly hate about DSLRs? Menus. Particularly menus I need to consult for ISO settings and/or white balance. Buttons marked ISO and WB with direct access do me fine. But what do I really want? A comfy, rugged, gem-like compact, four-control, digital Leica 1(A). You can leave off all the ornamental stuff. That's not too much to ask, is it?"
(Popular Photography & Imaging, December 2007)

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