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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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$10,000 Question
Old 05-28-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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$10,000 Question

I downloaded a number of Fujifilm GFX 100 raw files and jpgs from the internet. These large medium format files are capable of making highly detailed large prints. But, in conventionally sized test prints I made on 11x14 paper, a size that does not reveal the finest of subject details, quite a few of the images still showed an improvement in detail and tonality, much like the difference between 35mm film and 120 film.

In the film world this was the result of both the larger film size and the way photographers chose to work with “medium format,” methodically, carefully and often on a tripod. What do you think the reason for improved quality in conventionally sized prints from a “medium format” sensor - sensor size or working more methodically or both?

Do we have any experts that can answer this question. It could be important to someone who was going to spend $10,000 on a camera body.
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Old 05-28-2019   #2
taemo
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I've debated selling my A7RIII (FF 42MP) for a GFX50R (MF 51MP) as I like to print large, at least 16x24 or 24x36 and from my experience, I couldn't notice any major advantage shooting with the Fuji MF, I tried all the GFX lenses and TBH I found my A7RIII files having more detail and sharper
X-T2 files on the other hand (APSC 24MP) did not cut it for me past 12x18.
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Old 05-29-2019   #3
Dogman
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Not an expert, can't answer.

I was never a methodical shooter to begin with. My favorite medium format film camera was the Pentax 645, a camera I used like a 35mm, mostly handheld.
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Old 05-29-2019   #4
charjohncarter
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Hard for me to answer too, because I just recently bought a FF digital. I still prefer the look of film, but the ease of use is certainly welcome. I find that for what I do even sending files is hard. They are too big and I don't feel like loading up my computer with those monsters or always having to down size them. I don't print large so buying a MF digital is way beyond my needs.

I do find that there is a slight reason to be more methodical with the FF digital as you can squeeze a little more 'quality' into your files. But I have slap my hand with a ruler to remind me that I shouldn't care.
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Old 05-30-2019   #5
pluton
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3 quasi-random observations:
1. The photo-chemical print medium was not [practically] limited in resolution by having a 'DPI' that it couldn't exceed.
2. I've still never seen inkjet prints that looked as sharp and as finely detailed as a contact print from an 8x10" negative, or a good coffee table-sized book with good quality lithographic reproductions of 35mm, medium-format, large-format, OR digital photographs. Is lithography the best print medium?
3. Part of the reason---maybe the main reason---that large format film looked so good is that the degree of enlargement was substantially lower than 35mm. This factor relaxes the demands on both the film and the camera lenses.
Sure...you can get super resolution from a 24x36 sensor of 50MP, but you'll have to buy a really expensive lens, not shoot hand held, AND focus it really, really carefully(= slowly).
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Old 05-31-2019   #6
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I think the big Fuji makes real sense for two reasons. (1) Until now, big digital was expensive and, even then, the cameras were incredibly limited in what you could do with them. So a lot of photographers who wanted detailed images, large images or both shot medium format or sheet film instead of digital. A few that come to mind are Gregory Crewdson, Leibovitz, Edward Burtynsky, Nick Brandt and Lee Friedlander. (2) On the commercial side, you can crop the crap out of 100MG. Anybody who has shot commercial or advertising has had some art director crop the crap.

In the past a lot of photographers owned both little film cameras and big film cameras and picked the right one for the job. This will be the first time the little camera and an affordable big camera were made by the same company.
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