does the zone system work with slide film?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by DrPablo, Oct 9, 2006.

  1. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

    Messages:
    796
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2006
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've found that zone 6 is pretty washed out and zone 7 close to blown with slide film (Velvia 100F mostly).

    In fact most of the color interest in slide film seems to occur between zones 4-6.

    So is the zone concept germane to slide film, or does it make more sense to stick to middle of the road gray card metering?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,978
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    It is possible to use the zone system for slide film in a limited way, but it's reversed--expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows. Or it's the same, if you think that you need to expose for the thinnest part of the film, and develop for the densest part of the film.

    In other words, if you know that the contrast range is within the range of the film, like in the studio or flat natural light, you can often just take an incident reading or gray card reading and come out okay.

    If you are in contrasty lighting conditions or have a contrasty subject, you might want to place the brightest highlight that you want to show detail about 1-1/3 or 1-1/2 stops over neutral gray (i.e., around zone VI-1/2), and then you can let the shadows fall where they may, or if you want to calibrate it, you can make a development test to see how development time changes the shadow placement. If you use a lab, see what happens if you ask them to push or pull while keeping exposure constant. You might find that the lab's "1.5 stop pull" for instance, is a -1 development in ZS terms.

    Still, you're not going to get the kind of compression with slide film that you can get with B&W neg film, so a better solution is to use grad filters where possible and when you need them.

    If you're in flat light, you can boost contrast by increasing development time or asking the lab to push. Practically, you don't have as much control as you would with negative film, so the way I usually apply this principle is just to push one stop in flat light, and if it's really flat, I may switch to a more saturated film.
     
  3. noseoil

    noseoil Member

    Messages:
    2,898
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Location:
    Tucson
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Paul, David has covered it pretty well. I would just add that you will have about 3 or 3 1/3 stops of useful information in most settings. Go beyond this amount of contrast and you have to decide which portion of the scene will be lost to the film's lack of range. This is why lighting is so critical in E6 film and why many landscape pros are out at first light and late in the day for shooting.

    If you have a spot meter, there is plenty of information available with this simple tool. A gray card and spot meter will give you all you need to make good decisions. Until you have a system which works well for you, it helps to take notes about values in a scene, then look at the film after processing for your feedback. tim
     
  4. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Member

    Messages:
    669
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Rochester, N
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And don't forget the "false contrast" had by colors - green and red may be similar shades in B&W but will be very different in color.

    How does the Zone system apply to color?
     
  5. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    A lot probably depends on which film you're using, but the Zone System has always worked well for me using Ektachrome 64T. It yields a good solid 5 stops of detail without applying any controls (Zones iii to viii), and can be expanded or contracted two stops. If you'll be pulling in development, give 1/2 stop additional exposure for each stop of contraction.
     
  6. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

    Messages:
    796
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2006
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks all, esp David, for the very thorough perspective.

    That's a great point. In my DSLR experience at one point I was doing intricate B+W conversions and then applying that as a luminance map to the color version of the same image. It tended not to work very well, and I think for the same reason as with slide film. Reds and greens will be most saturated and vivid if they fall on ~ zone 5. Trying to exploit a luminance difference between them might actually diminish the more important color contrast.