modified to Zone VI : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


Could please explane me why to modify the meter to Zone VI ?


-- Martin Kapostas (, May 17, 2001


I believe that Zone six would add additional infrared filtering to a lightmeter and then re-calibrate it for you. Zone VI appear to be out of business now anyway.

-- Pete Andrews (, May 17, 2001.

I have one and it works very well. Not only are they modified to block out infared and ultraviolet, but they are also fitted with a filter pack so as to make the meter more accurate with regard to metering color. Zone VI is not out of business. But you cannot buy directly from them anymore. You would have to buy the meter from Calumet. I believe they cost around $605.00 now. I believe that over time it would be money well spent. Kevin

-- Kevin Kolosky (, May 17, 2001.

Zone VI is not out of business and yes Calumet is the only place where you can buy them. A huge difference when the meter is modified is that the originals have a chrome {yes reflective chrome} housing around the light sensor. The Zone VI is matte black. It also has baffels to reduce flare within the lens. What does this mean? A true 1 deg spot unlike any other brand. A perfect test of this is point a Zone VI meter at a lightbulb so it fills the circle guide. Move the circle away from the bulb. You will see a fast and sharp drop in EV. A true 1 deg metering area. Do this with any other meter and it will fall of gradually. 1 deg with fuzzy edges. Way more accurate and way more specific. Hope this helps.

-- john (, May 17, 2001.

Martin: There are many prior and lengthy discussions on this site about the Zone VI modified meters. I have two of them and they seem to work as advertised. Many people (most people, surely) do fine without one. The claimed benefits are primarily better reduction of internal flare (covered by an earlier posting), more uniform readings due to a better photo cell, and additional filters inside which allow the meter to react more predictably to colors. Zone VI claimed you could meter through filters and get predictable results and in my experience this is a valid point. Have I gone and done the same thing with an unmodified meter? No. All I can tell you is that I don't get surprised by my exposures when I use it. Some people (see earlier threads) think it is just a marketing scam and some people have very strong negative opinions about the former owner of Zone VI.

-- Kevin Crisp (, May 17, 2001.

I use the unmodified Pentax spot meter, and point it through a cardboard toilet paper roll, when I feel the need to baffle. This seems to work quite well for my exposures, and will save you some $$ over the Zone VI. You can get creative and use metalic paint on the cardboard, add gliter or sequence, or even add a gold chain and wear it around your neck. It contributes in this way to freer thinking and better photos as well. ;) Chris

-- Chris Jordan (, May 17, 2001.

What I don't understand is why Pentax doesn't do the mods themselves. They could sell two levels of meter (Zone and non-zone?) and cut Calumet out altogether.

-- Sean Yates (, May 17, 2001.


Go over to the Calumet site ( and check out the Pentax ZVI spotmeter page. They have a description of the benefits of the modifications, and a testimonial of sorts from a professional photographer who uses one.

You might also want to contact John Hicks (you can easily find his e-mail address on this site), he has some good info on the purpose and usefulness of the ZVI mods. This issue has been discussed many times here, so additionally a search on this site would turn up some good threads.

I own one of these, and had it modified after the fact by the old ZVI studios. Cost me a bundle to modify. I honestly cannot say that it really improved the meter, though the little zone system scale they glued to the adjustment dial on the outside is a wonderful idea. BTW, ZVI used to sell these little stick-on zone dials by themselves (for about a dollar or two); maybe Calumet still does.

If I were replacing my Pentax, I don't think I'd go to the extra expense of getting the ZVI version. The regular one (less than $400 at B&H) would do just fine.

And why is everyone so down on old Fred Picker?

Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, May 17, 2001.

Pentax is based here in Colorado and when over there recently I asked one of their tech guys the question as to why they do not do the Zone VI modifications themselves and his response was that based upon the number of inquiries they have received on the subject, only a very small number of users are concerned enough about this subject to bring it to their attention. The vast majority of other users in the smaller photo formats and the movie industry continue to praise the meter as it is currently manufactured and the results they regularly obtain. From the manufacturers perspective, they are already doing what they feel the market needs to keep the customers happy and their costs down (and profits up). Anytime you make product changes, all incremental costs need to be economically justified by incremental sales. As a result, these meters will continue to be made and sold as they are now. Those that can justify the additional expense of the Zone VI modification no matter if they actually do the testing or take Calumets word for the improvements, will do so. Others that feel that the modification is money down the drain will use the meter in its original form just fine. This is a situation where there is not a right or a wrong answer, but an answer that is right for you, the user based upon YOUR choice. Personally, I appreciated the spirit of improvement that was represented by Zone VI that I feel is currently missing from the palate of the large format user.

The bottom line is that if enough people continue to find justification in sending their meters to get modified

-- Michael Kadillak (, May 17, 2001.

I believe that the Zone VI modified meters are optimized to best translate colors into black and white zones on film. (i.e. Tri-X.) My question is how well these meters work for color negative or positive photography?

As to strong feelings, I still vividly recall reading in an older Zone VI catalog how the pre-Calumet Zone VI enlarger had "generous" coverage for 5x7. It was on this basis that I purchased one of these enlargers used, only to find that it's coverage for 5x7 was inadequate. I would hesitate to put into words how I feel about being misled in this fashion.

Still, I would also suggest that some of the Zone VI optimizations have been a real benefit to B&W photography. For example, their efforts to make coldlite printing more consistent, their timers, electrostatic brushes, etc., have been worthwhile contributions.

-- neil poulsen (, May 19, 2001.

My contentions with Fred relate to some of the advertising in his catalog, what he wrote about the Wisner products - hypocritcal considering who designed and built the first original Zone VI cameras, how many different incarnations of the Zone Vi camer there has been, etc. - and his "My way, or the highway" attitude expressed in the catalog and his book.

HOWEVER - when I saw his video - "Photographing with Fred Picker" - he seemed QUITE different on camera than in print. Although he was weighted down with accoutrements from the Zone VI catalog, not ONCE did he try to sell them or expound upon their virtues. And he did express the idea that you have to do what YOU have to do, not what someone else thinks you should do, to get the picture.

So I am wondering if the Fred Picker of the catalog was not some sort of advertising construct, like Bartles and James, entirely different from the Real Fred Picker.

-- Sean yates (, May 19, 2001.

And, now that I think about, don't forget that every time Calumet sells a Zone VI modified Pentax meter, PENTAX just sold one more meter.

-- Kevin Crisp (, May 19, 2001.

I have found it very well, compair to the other meters.

-- Abbas Kasbi (, December 20, 2001.

Zone VI modified meter? I bought my first spot meter from Zone VI back in the late 70's. It was a Soligor spot Sensor and it worked great until it took a dive down the back stairs and broke beyond repair. I bought a used Soligor of the exact same model at a local photo shop for $50.00 about 5 years ago. I then sent it into Zone VI for modification and have had years of flawless use for both B&W and color. I essentially got a new meter for $125.00! Nice savings!

-- Rob Pietri (, December 27, 2001.

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