Zones System - 10 or 11 zones? : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I've read several books dealing with the Zone System. Some describe densities as falling from Zones 0-IX, while others range from 0-X. The longer scale includes an "extra" zone in the light areas, giving an inclusive range of 6 Zones with full detail; while the shorter scales indicate a subject brightness range of 5 as normal. Which is more useful and why is there a difference? I'm guessing that the 0-IX system is older and perhaps the 0-X system takes into account greater highlight separation of newer emulsions. If anyone knows the answer, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks. Chris

-- Christopher Giglio (, August 19, 2001


Yeah Chris, it's confusing. I always hear there are 10 zones. I've seen the system starting at Zone 0 or 1 going up to Zone 10 or 11. In "The Negative", Adams says there are 10 zones, but he showes a gray scale including Zone 0. I guess Zones 0 and 10 are the absolute black and white produced on the paper... even though the negative is supposed to capture more information than this. Very vexing, isn't it?


-- floren (, August 19, 2001.

Thanks for your response, but what I've noticed is that some books describe a 10 zone range of densities, with 0 being maximum black and IX paper white; while other books describe an 11 zone density range, from 0 as maximum black to X as paper white. I'm wondering how to reconcile this. Chris

-- Christopher Giglio (, August 19, 2001.

in "the negative" Adams states that there have been variations in the concept of the scale of zones--for modern materials he choose the "0" to "X" scale. (eleven zones) pg xi in the introduction.

also on page 50 you will see a tonal representation of the scale....0- x....eleven zones.

-- mark lindsey (, August 20, 2001.

Actually, you can have more than 10-11 zones depending on the type of film you use and how well you process it. Unfortunately, even if you can discern 12 or more zones on the film, your paper will only be able to respond to about 6-8 zones depending on your printing capabilities.

-- (, August 20, 2001.

From someone with a vicarious experience with the zone system: If you have 11 zones and set zone V to midpoint, you will have a notation system with as many zones above midpoint as below. I don't know if this is a big deal, but it appeals to me because of it's symmetry.

To touch a bit on another point, many modern negative emulsions have an extended shoulder with up to, say 5 more zones. Bruce Barbaum describes this best in his book "the Art of Photography". I wonder if papers incorporating optical whiteners have also made an additional zone possible in the actual print?



-- Duane k (, August 22, 2001.

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