Quote Originally Posted by DBP
The difference between using manual cameras and starting from scratch to make everything is that learning witha manual camera involves learning to control the variables that directly affect composition, namely plane of focus, perspective, depth of field, and shutter speed.
I am not saying it is not desirable to know these things. However, focus is neither the beginning nor the end of making a photograph. Neither is exposure.

And frankly some things are harder to do with an autofocus camera, unless you turn off all the features (and sometimes even then - the screens are designed for framing, not critical focus).
I agree - but that's just my opinion (and yours apparently). Others feel differently.

A good example is macrophotography. I usually find that people who learned to drive without power and automatic everything are more aware of how the car behaves under duress, and thus better drivers.
Define 'better' when it comes to photography.

I submit the same is true of photographers - those who know how to make the picture the way they want it will do better, even when using something highly automated.
Change 'will' to 'may' above and I'll agree with you.

I met someone last year who did a lot of macrophotography of flowers. Almost invariably, the plane of focus was the edge of the flower, while some of the body was blurred. She used one of the EOS models, I forget which. She was using the autofocus, which was picking the contrast at the tips of the petals as a focus point, about 1 cm closer than needed given the apparent depth of field. I found myself annoyed by the effect, and thinking how much better the shots could be if she had depth of field preview. I submit that a student is far better off learning with, for example, a old screw mount SLR, than an auto-everything wonder - even an F5. And the student can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the process. (I wonder when Epson and Cosina are going to partner on a screw-mount, or maybe F-mount, DSLR. It would seem the logical next step if the RD1 sells well.)
Most of what you say with regard to the positive aspects of understanding one's craft are true. A person who discovers that their choice of tool is negatively affecting their product and who wishes to improve will generally find out how to adjust the camera to make the choices they wish (if possible), or to take manual control (if possible) or replace the camera with one that will allow them to do what they want to do.

And many are the photographers who are perfectly satisfied with sharp infinity focus on the landscapes they prefer to shoot. If AF and AE produced what they wanted, why did they 'have to' learn MF and manual exposure control?

You fail to take into account that when producing a print - the ultimate goal of photography (?), there are numerous other factors, none of which was stressed, explained, or even explored in photography classes that I took as a callow youth. Choice of paper? Filtration in enlargement? Developers for film and paper and their effects on grain and edge effects? Sharpness? Lens formulae for particular use - say Petzval versus Double Gauss designs? The list goes on and on - and ALL of these can be said to have effect on a final print - one could affirmatively argue that knowledge and control of these aspects of photography would be a good thing. We do not deride a teacher who fails to teach, say albumen paper versus printing-out-paper - but we howl with indignation if a student is not taught photography on a Pentax K1000 with Tri-X and D-76. Why, they're not learning 'properly'!

Knowledge is good. Intentional control of the creative process is good. None of these can make a bad photographer into a good one, and true genius will out, regardless of how much the person knows about f-stops. Those with talent who choose to pursue the craft of photography will generally choose to learn more about it, just as a painter with real talent learns about brushes and paints instead of just using whatever is at hand - when the time comes to do so. Requiring it of beginners up front smacks of elitism and a determination to ensure that others go through what we went through - just because.