Zone system

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by Actor, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    One of the criticisms you hear about the zone system is that you really cannot use it with 35mm and 120 film because some shots need to be pushed or pulled, and you have to either push or pull the entire roll. As I understand it this is to control contrast on the negative. But do you really have to do that? I mean, variable contrast papers are sort of standard in the darkroom, are they not? So why not just process the whole roll normally and fix the contrast in the darkroom?
     
  2. CSR Studio

    CSR Studio TPF Noob!

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    That is the way it should be done in my opinion. Pushing and pulling should only be done in the direst of circumstances or when you are experimenting. I use the zone system all the time.

    FYI, you can clip the film and push or pull however many frames you want and not necessarily the whole roll.
     
  3. ann

    ann No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have been using the system sense 1979 and have rarely ever found the need to use anything but normal development, with the rarely being making negatives for alternative process and those where 4x5 negatives.

    on the other hand , understanding the concept and how to view what is in front of the camera is very productive
     
  4. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    In theory, yes. But if you want to pull frame 3, push frame 7 and develop the rest normally, isn't it kind of hard to find frames 3 and 7 in the dark on unprocessed film? :lol:
     
  5. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    1. In order to fully implement the Zone System, you must be able to do plus and minus developement. With roll film (e.g 120, 35mm, ...) you must have multiple bodies or film backs to do this.

    2. Using different contrast papers when printing will not accomplish the same result as plus or minus developement. It does approximate the effect, but is not a match.

    3. Using a limited version of the Zone System where plus and minus developement are not available is still a very reasonable method to use in order to get near optimal results. It is the only thing you can do with color film or digital and in "ancient time" all you could do with instant films, like Polaroid Land materials. Even Ansel Adams dealt with this limitation when shooting the Polaroid P/N materials (e.g. Type 55, 665, ...) where there were only two processing choices, normal and normal plus selenium toning. The latter almost approached a plus one developement.

    In my old film days, I lived by the zen of the Zone System. I first learned the simplified version built in to the calculator dial on Weston light meters (I used the Master V primarily) and later the full Zone System as Adams specified. In practice, I only very rarely relied on plus or minus developement. I had my "normal" development and used that for almost everything. My normal with Type 665 P/N was to selenium tone. I treated the ability to not tone as my "minus 1" processing, but rarely used it.
     
  6. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    1. You can get a simple description of 'Zone System Lite' at: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/articles-interest/147250-b-w-film-photography-part-vi.html

    2. If you must get yourself into a mess where you have to push or pull development, you've just given yourself the very best reason in the world for popping for a bulk loader and some reuseable film cassettes. Go ahead and load them with short runs of, say, 6 exposures. Shoot and process as required.

    Piece of cake.

    [Nb: If you have any questions with regard to the linked article, please feel free to PM me. I have some small acquaintance with the author.]
     
  7. CSR Studio

    CSR Studio TPF Noob!

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    Actually it isn't, especially if you load your film the same way every time. You measure. :lol:
     
  8. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I do not use the ENTIRE zone system as I primarily shoot 35mm. However, I use all portions that I possibly can with every shot, every roll and every print. I use it to determine the best exposure I can make given the light available, whether natural or otherwise. I may make only a few photographs per roll if I decide I wish to augment processing. And of course, the printing is the best of all. I generally go through about ten to twelve test prints going through a gambit of dodging and burning areas to get close to where I wish to be.
     
  9. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You really cannot use the Zone System completely with roll film ... unless you use the entire roll for the same scene.
    Another way is to use half a roll ... then cut it in half for processing.

    As some have mentioned, you can use parts of it.

    When shooting the image you know how much zone shift is needed by varying the exposure. You expose scene based on what zones you want everything to fall into. The frame would be marked with the appropriate zone shift amount. Then during processing you would push/pull the development to shift the zones again. Then you do it again during printing.

    You cannot get the tonal range just by manipulating the print ... if the negative does not have the range, you are just compensating during printing.


    FYI: when fully using the Zone System with sheet film ... the results can be amazing if executed properly.
     
  10. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    But surely the range of the negative is a function of the latitude of the film. From Zone 0 to Zone X is ten stops, a range of 1,000 : 1 if measured in candles / square meter. I don't think you have to far to find a film that can handle that. Try Ilford XP-2.

    The mantra is "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights." Textbooks say to choose some shadow important to your composition and expose for that, then choose some equally important highlight and meter it. If the difference between the two is not what normal development is going to give you, then make a note to push or pull the film.

    But if both the shadow and the highlight fall within the latitude of your film surely there's no need alter processing. You've collected all the raw data you need on your negative and manipulation of it can await the darkroom or the computer.

    Now I would bet that most scenes cover a range of luminance greater than 1000 : 1, which forces the photographer to choose what he wants. If he wants shadow detail then he has to give up details in the highlights. If he wants details in the highlights he must surrender shadow detail. What I can't see is how pushing or pulling the film (the negative) in any way adds more information to the process.

    Please understand that the above arguments are not those of an expert but of a student trying to learn.
     
  11. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    It think you are using the term "latitude" incorrect. Either that or you really don't understand the Zone System. In the zen of the Zone System there is no such thing as latitude, that is "extra range to allow for error" or "tolerance of error".
    Again, you use "latitude" incorrectly, presumably you mean "tonal range". If the existing highlight and shadow do fall within the tonal range of the film you may still need to alter processing. If the subject has a 7 stop range and your film with normal processing delivers, say, 9 stops then simply centering the subject's brightnesses within the film's range will work, but it won't deliver the best tonality the film can deliver. Altering the developement to fit the subject's brightnesses across the full range of the film's possible densities will yield smoother tonality.
     
  12. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    Let's do a thought experiment. Let's take a gray card outside on a "sunny 16" kind of day and take a reading of the card. Next let's take 15 shots of the card and label them -7 through +7. Frame -7 is to be underexposed by 7 stops, -6 by 6 stops and so on, with frame 0 correctly exposed and frame +7 overexposed by 7 stops. Now lets make 15 8x10 prints (the size of our gray card), likewise labeled prints -7 through +7. Since this is a thought experiment let's grant ourselves the luxury of assuming that our print paper has infinite tonal range and any limitations come from our film. Let's also assume that our lab does not make any mistakes in temperature, timing, etc. They're perfect.

    Theory tells us that print 0 should match the gray card. Print -7 should be black with absolutely no texture. Likewise print +7 should be white with no texture. Furthermore prints -7, -6 and -5 should all be black and indistinguishable from each other whether by visual inspection or by densitometer measurement. Likewise prints +5, +6 and +7 should be white and indistinguishable. If this is the case then print -5 is Zone 0 (maximum black) and print +5 is Zone X (maximum white). Prints -6 and -7 are blacker than black and print +6 and +7 are whiter than white.

    If all the above is true then I would suggest that the "tonal range" of our film is 11, i.e., it displays 11 distinguishable tones, one stop apart, between and including maximum black and maximum white. Anything darker or brighter cannot be distinguished from Zone 0 or Zone X respectively.

    However, suppose that we cannot distinguish print -5 from print -4, and that we also cannot distinguish print +4 from print +5. That would mean that -4 is maximum black, +4 is maximum white and our tonal range is 9. How can this be? Many explanations come to mind: 1)The zone system is totally invalid. 2)This is crappy film; don't buy it again. 3)The film speed on the box is not the speed of the film in the box; 4)The camera or the meter or both are off and the actual spacing of the zones is not one stop; etc, etc.

    At this point my train of thought has reached the switch yard and doesn't know where to go next.
     

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