advise to move into zone system : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

ok i red the camera the nagetive the film for ansel adams and the zone system for 35mm camera and other books actualyy many... i got the concept. my system is not calibrated i did not made my EI test i did not do anything reason i am using 35 slr. i finaly decides to practice it. I will use 5 films one for N, N-1, N-2, N+1 and N+2. i will not load the film till i know what the situation i am in if for example it reqiures n-1 i will load the film markes n-1 shoot then unload it other case if it is n+1 i will load n+1 marked film and shoot and so on noting down the frame number and escaping one fram to be sure i wont multi expose. this is the best sulotion i think of after been patient and educatin myself for years. i know it will be bulky and bla bla to load and unload the film but my camera Z1p will help me for it's fast motor drive to rewind the film.!!! got my point. before i do my EI and to caliprate my system cuz i will do this only if some one tells me to go ahead. and my brains did the calculation right. please advise.

-- hamad sharif (, October 04, 1999



This could work, but it's so much trouble that no one does it. Rewinding and reloading film is rough on the film, as you're apt to have scratch and dirt problems. In a perfect world (the 4x5 world?) you'd calibrate everything so your negatives would print perfectly on one grade of paper, and at one time. That's the goal of the zone system. Since the scenes you shoot rarely use the entire range of the film, and you have 4 or 5 grades of paper available, there's no good reason to go through all this pain. If you really want to do it, you should get a camera with removable backs, or go to large format. If I read between the lines, it seems you believe the zone system will provide some magic cure for a problem you haven't specified. What exactly is wrong with your photos that you feel you need it?

BTW, years ago I did a complete zone system calibration using my 2 1/4 TLR. It was very educational, but totally useless in any practical situation. Film and paper were much cheaper then, so it was a good exercise. Today I recommend that people learn sensitometry. It's no more difficult than the zone system, which is just another way of expressing the same thing.

-- Conrad Hoffman (, October 04, 1999.

The first benefit that the zone system (or densitometry, or BTZS, or whatever) will teach you is what happens at different exposure levels. If you shoot an object at the metered exposure, what will the image look like? At one stop less, two stops, four stops, what happens? Four stops over? You can do this test with a single roll of film, colour or B&W, slide or negative.

With that knowledge, you will know what subject brightness range you can cope with. You will also know the correct EI for your methods. It is worth doing this, even if you take it no further.

The next step, if you wish to persue it, is control. You can vary the film contrast, and hence the subject brightness range that you can comfortably shoot. You might do this by varying development, or choosing a different film.

With 5x4, I can readily develop each sheet according to the exact needs.

With 35mm, I personally would not unload/reload films. It really is asking for trouble. I do sometimes carry two bodies, with identical films, knowing in advance that I will develop one for low-contrast subjects, the other for high. Yes, this is a compromise. I have quite a few 35mm bodies, but very rarely carry more than two.

With multigrade papers, is B&W contrast control by varying development worthwhile? Yes. Using a higher grade paper gives me inferior results (more grain) than increasing film development time.

-- Alan Gibson (, October 04, 1999.

Hamid, Pick a film. Pick a developer. Pick a temperature. Shoot a roll of film. Bracket the exposure by +/- three ISO numbers. Develop the film as recommended by the manufacturer. Pick a paper. Enlarge your negatives. Decide the minimum exposure which produced adequate shadow detail. In the future use that as your ISO number. Decide if your highlights are too light, too dark, or just right. If too light, next time increase development time by 10%, if too dark decrease by 10%. If just right, thank the Gods and don't concern yourself about the zone system any more. Bill Mitchell

-- Bill Mitchell (, October 04, 1999.

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