Bulk loading and the Zone system

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Hi everyone, I read of an individual who bulk loads his 35mm film but only loads 6 frames a roll so that he can give the film N+ or N- development accordingly. This sounds like a great solution for the 35mm enthusiast who wants to use the zone system but not possibly ruin the rest of the roll because you are developing for one shot. The only thing is that you would have to carry around a lot of rolls of film. Anyone out there who is using this method with comments? Thanks!

-- Justin Fullmer (Provo.jfullmer@state.ut.us), July 25, 2001


Do you have to load only 6 pics? If it was me I would load 5 different rolls with 36 exposures labeled N-2, N-2, N, N+1 and N+2 and exchange the rolls as I needed them, when I first started and did not have a LF camera I used this method, of course everytime I changed rolls, I always went past the last exposure for at least one frame. For example if I was loading a N-1 roll and my last exposure had been 15, I would go back to the 17 exposure to make sure I had no registration problem etc. You should be able to gauge how many exposures you need per roll according to your shooting style, but IMHO 6 exposures is not enough lenght, specially if you mess up reloading the film and double expose! Good luck.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm@worldnet.att.net), July 25, 2001.


I normally load 12 frames (16 in all to account for the frames lost while loading the cassette and loading the camera) as a compromise between bringing many short rolls and being able to use different development times. I'm now saving up to buy a view camera.

Your idea will work but I personally don't have the patience to go through all this pain. More often than not I just end up adjusting for contrast using different filtration on VC paper. I've no doubt that the Zone System can be used with any format; however, horses for courses...

-- Bong Munoz (bong@techie.com), July 25, 2001.

In *The Book of Pyro*, by Gordon Hutchings (the creator of PMK developer), he mentions using 3 backs when he shoots rollfilm: one N, one +1.5, the other -1.5. This seems more workable to me than shooting with 5 different rolls in one stop increments. But I do agree, this approach seems a lot better than 6 exp. rolls.

The only reservation I have is you run the risk of picking up a bit of grit on one of the rolls by having them loose in your camera bag and repeatatively loading and unloading them. You could encounter some terrific scratches. I would, therefore, strongly recommend you keep the rolls in snap-top film containers. Grit is the bane of reloading, so I would also recommend you limit the number of times you reload cassettes to 2 or 3 times.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), July 25, 2001.

also think about how high your waste per roll will be if you only roll 6 exp on each. probably 50 % of each total roll will be leader or taped onto the reel!

-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), July 25, 2001.

This is totally silly. Keep the N in your Leica M6, the N-1 in the Nikon F5, the N+1 in the Canon 1V, the N=2 in the Contax RTSIII, and the N+2 in the Mnolta 9. Like everybody else.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), July 25, 2001.

Unless you approach 35mm photography like view-camera work, where you stop and deliberate over every scene you shoot and then shoot mutliple frames of it, trying to employ the zone system is going to tie you in knots. The 35mm camera is for walking and shooting. Wondering which lens to use is enough complication. Simplify your shooting routine as much as you can. Find the right EI for your film and a processing scheme that gives you negs you can print on a good graded paper or VC paper and do your fiddling in the darkroom.

-- Keith Nichols (knichols1@mindspring.com), July 25, 2001.

As an old bulk loader from way back, I say go for it. Bulk film is cheap compared to 4x5 film. I use to load all different lengths of film, 36 exp for long trips, 20 exposures for quick shoots and 10 exposures for testing. Also, I've been able to recycle cassettes several times by being careful how they are handled. You can take about 20,000 exposures on bulk film in short rolls for the price of 3 hasselblad backs.

-- Gene Crumpler (nikonguy@att.net), July 26, 2001.

"Unless you approach 35mm photography like view-camera work, where you stop and deliberate over every scene you shoot and then shoot mutliple frames of it, " That's how I do it. I usually load 12 frames per roll, but just ordered a bulk roll of Tech Pan and will be doing a lot of 6 frame rolls for testing! My favorite subject is the inside of an old school building (built like a cathedral). The lighting is very low contrast (only about 4 stops total), adding about 20% development time makes it much easier to print. The short rolls lets me shoot 3 or 4 scenes with minor adjustments.

-- Dave Mueller (dmueller@bellatlantic.net), July 26, 2001.

Justin: Keep in mind that when the Zone System was developed there were no VC papers or even various grades of paper-only Grades 2 or 3 at best. Then we had to tailor the neg to the paper. It still is worth it when shooting large format, as the much-improved quality of the print justifies the time, work and expense.

Now, with VC papers, the + or - developing can be made up for in printing, especially if one uses filters for local contrast control in burning in. There is no substitute for a "properly" exposed and developed negative, except perhaps one that is overexposed a bit and underdeveloped a bit. The shadows get well exposed and the highlights are not burned out. A better answer that I have found is to use a compensating developer such as split D23 which increases the tonal range by as much as 3-4 steps. If you are really interested I can explain that.


-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (richardjx@hotmail.com), July 27, 2001.

Richard, Many of the very best papers, such as Ansco Indiatone, and Kodak Illustrater's Special were only available in s single grade.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), July 27, 2001.

Thanks Bill.

I go back only to Kodabromide and Dupont Velour non VC, but I know of what you speak and the warmth and lustre of the old paper prints even today is beautiful. Then it certainly was the best way to compensate for the difference in dynamic range between our eyes and the photo materials.


-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (richardjx@hotmail.com), July 28, 2001.

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