The BTZS, was it ever useful?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Jorge, Sep 15, 2002.

  1. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I dont know folks, I was in another forum and the guy was worried because his step tablet was not uniform from one step to the next. Of course he was doing the BTZS testing regime. Did anybody here ever used it? I read the book and thought, heck this guy has made such a simple concept a way too complicated method, just to arrive at the same place....
     
  2. paul owen

    paul owen Member

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    I suppose that some people are interested in pure zone system - that's why some still insist on testing and determining personal settings for film speed, etc. I (sort of) use the zone system but don't worry about testing etc. I for one let the guys and girls in the R&D labs do this and then "tweak" the film / developer to suit! It may not be "pure" but it gives me the results I'm after. BUT, for those who still work to the "original format" - keep at it!! Without you the "pure" form of the ZS will die out!!
     
  3. edbuffaloe

    edbuffaloe Member

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    While I do think some people get carried away with testing, I have nonetheless found Phil Davis' book to be very educational and I have great respect for his knowledge. His analysis of how light meters work and how they can be used accurately remains the best I have ever read.

    I haven't bought it yet, but I know a number of people who swear by his BTZS Plotter software.
     
  4. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Well, I guess I am going to have to eat crow here. Day before yesterday I was bored and with nothing to read so I picked up my copy of the BTZS. This time I read it more carefully and decided to give his method a try. I did not do all the film testing but I did try the incident metering in the field and I was surprised at how easy it was to arrive at an exposure. Much, much easier than the regular ZS. Since I am doing DBI I guessed at the EI when doing the metering. That is I did 1 stop more when doing N-2 or 1 stop less when doing N+2. Surprisingly the negatives came out great. Of course I took 2 shots each, one with the ZS and one with the BTZS method. Frankly I thought the BTZS methid was too cumbersome, but now I am rethinking and eating some crow..... [​IMG]
     
  5. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    I seem to find for myself that testing makes it easy to just leave the camera on the shelf.

    I did it once when I was trying to teach myself the zone system. A whole bunch of pictures of the house nextdoor, with it's white textured wall and dark bush. Nowadays I just keep guessing and adjusting. I see that the negatives are a little thin in the shadows and I lower my ISO next time. I see that the highlights are a little too thick in the negatives, and develop a little less next time.

    Do you think it will take me significantly longer to find the right combo this way? I often wonder, but then the journey itself is now filled with some very good pictures that, chronologically, are kind of hard to print, not too hard to print, printable, easy to print, and practically print themselves. Instead of a dozen or more test pics that are of no use.

    I don't know.

    And I agree with Ed and Jorge...Phil's book is one of the most informative out there.


    dgh
     
  6. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I hate testing also, so it is hard for me to say yeah you will be better off doing the whole enchilada. But judging from my recent experience it seems that greater control is obtained by following the method. Am I excited about doing all those step wedges? no, not one bit. But if I have to do it only once and it will make my life easier down the road, I just might have to.

    Once thing is for sure I think is better than the trial and error method you are using now, or at least less wasteful. If you stick to one film and one developer then in time I am sure you will become very experienced and you wont need to do the testing, but is sort of which road you want to take, the highway and get there faster, or the small roads, maybe you wont get there as fast but enjoy it more.
     
  7. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    Jorge,

    I am shocked. What self respecting LF photographer opts for the big interestate? Isn't it always the little dirt road that really gets is where we're going?

    dgh
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    David, I think that Jorge is traveling the interstate since he says that the "Cigarettes in the Parking Lot" photographic series will be more easily accomplished there. Something about a better and fresher source of material. I look forward to seeing it when he gets it finished. Probably next week, I imagine.
     
  9. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    I guess I am thinking that we're all pretty advanced, it seems. We're all past the point of of pulling almost completely clear film out of the fix and then realizing that the winter tap water wasn't heated first.

    So I am assuming that all we're really talking about is fine tuning, which I see as a constant anyway. Why spend all the time shooting something you're not interested in to make sure you have your film/devel/paper/devel combo down, when in reality, if you're wrong you still have a printable negative, just a negative that's a little harder to print?

    Dirt roads. The finer strokes.

    dgh
     
  10. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

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    I actually took a class in college that dealt with BTZS. The testing was very tedious and time consuming. But I did end up with negs that were easy to print.

    I think now I would rather go by trial and error and have fun shooting at the same time. Besides, I don't have access to a densitometer anymore.
     
  11. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    The new BTZS program for the palm pilot already has a lot of developer/film tests loaded in, ready to go. I know Phil encourages you to test under your own conditions, but I have found through a two month long experiment that the data included with the programs is really very good. I decided to bite the bullet and try the incident metering system and the recommendations from the palm pilot for a while. So far, every exposure has been close to perfect. As long as you use some of the more common film and developers, it will work fine.

    As far as it being tedious - well, that is relative. What I find more tedious is fighting a difficult negative when printing. That said, if I am out with a small camera, I just generally make seat-of-the-pants adjustments in the field and rely on the magic of VC papers to pull my bacon out of the fire. When I'm doing big negs for platinum that cost $8 every time I push the shutter release, I am a little more careful about exposure, and I think the program will quickly pay for itself. If you read the book carefully, you quickly discover that Phil's big contribution has been to rid the Zone system of a lot of impenetrable jargon that was intended to make sensitometry accessible, but may have actually added an additional layer of confusion to the whole business. It reminds me of how truly hard it is to teach physics without calculus. If you know a little calculus, you don't have to remember nearly as much. Anybody else have a daughter taking high school physics?
     
  12. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I guess we should call him Dr. Phil [​IMG]
     
  13. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

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    Maybe Dr. Phil's new book will be "Zone System Matters". [​IMG]
     
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  15. Johnny V

    Johnny V Member

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    I use the "traditional" Zone System. Was taught by Howard Bond out of Ann Arbor, MI. He's buddies with Phil and mentioned he and Phil did a test shoot together - Howard's traditional way and Phil's way. They both wound up with the same exposure and development times. Didn't really understand Phil's way - some shooters love it!
     
  16. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I'm not familiar with the BTZS but I've done a lot of awful, boring testing over the years and I honestly think that the pay off in my pictorial prints is visible and well worth the effort. It's not fun but there are so many things that affect the contrast and density of the negative and finally the print. Camera, Lenses, shutters, meter, enlarger, metering technique, processing techniques, film, developer, paper choice even your local water, to mention just a few.

    The only way to take into account all of the dozens of variables in the unique, personal choices of equipment, materials and techniques that are made between first evaluating the scene to be photographed and the final dry print is through tests that account for all of these variables.

    As far as the ZS is concerned. I don't shoot much sheet film but having a solid normal process to start from, I can make expansions and contractions based on general lighting conditions, for instance if I pop a couple rolls on a flat, cloudy day I can bump the contrast.

    -Neal
     
  17. edbuffaloe

    edbuffaloe Member

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    Does anyone have knowledge of the variations in the editions of BTZS? I think it is up to the 4th edition now (I probably have the 1st--must check when I get home). I just wonder if I need to buy the latest and get caught up, or if the updates are simply software.
     
  18. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Ed I have the second edition and Phil sent me the third edition in spanish for a friend. There is a fourth edition which apparently has a better apendix section for things like the N to SBR range convertion, etc. What phil told me is that the formulas are better explained and written in the last edition. The book seems to be the same otherwise.
     
  19. dng88

    dng88 Member

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    The BTZS book filled in a lot of gap between the Ansel Adams 3 books and beyond mono. Still waiting for the delivery of 2nd ed. of beyond mono but there is no handheld assisted tool. Unfortunately still one of the best for understanding and as tool.
     
  20. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    I learned to use BTZS in school too, and it made really good negatives and taught me a lot about the B&W photographic process.
    I used it a few years later to dial in my negatives. Then I stopped shooting for a while, and by time I got back into serious shooting, all my favorite films had either been discontinued or reformulated or otherwise changed. The papers I used for testing were extinct. If I do use it again, I'm faced with a lot of testing. I'm not looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'm using a lot of Pyrocat-HD in divided development and getting good negatives without a lot of fuss. Close enough for now.

    Peter Gomena
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The irony of reopening such an old thread is the OP - Jorge Gasteazoro - went on to use BTZS extensively. "I felt like such a fool for not giving the BTZS a fair chance."

    There was an excellent article in Magnachrome magazine by Jorge with a free downloadable BTZS Excel set of worksheets, there wasan upgrade as well.

    Ian
     
  22. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    How interesting to see this old thread and remember the folks who are no longer with us.

    All of the changes are frustrating, but with the computer programs, a lot of the data is retained. Do the film test once, then you can adjust for paper changes rather quickly.
    juan
     
  23. frednewman

    frednewman Advertiser Advertiser

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    Hi Jorge

    In the 4th Edition of the BTZS book he added the chapter on gradation which he was working on using the Matcher program in the Plotter program where he put a particular film curve with a particular paper curve to see the results. We used to show some prints with one negative printed on a number of different papers and to tones shifted all over the place, depending on the paper curves shape. He matched a light tone and a dark tone in each print. It's a really good chapter to read. I never heard anyone talk about it until Phil did. His first write up on gradation was for Photo Techniques and then added a chapter in his book on gradation. Phil was always trying new things. When I did workshops with him - he always added something new every workshop.

    Fred Newman
     
  24. frednewman

    frednewman Advertiser Advertiser

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    Hi Jorge

    I've tried to make film testing more easy and user friendly with our film testing service. So now all you have to do is process some film. The processing times we use are 4, 5.5, 8, 11, and 16 minutes. I expose the film with a calibrated light source, read the densities of the 21 steps and enter the values into to Plotter software. You don't have to be real technical to do film testing, so now it's just the amount of time it takes you to process some film.

    I have changed the testing procedure slightly. Now you process a roll/sheet of film for 4 minutes and send it to me for reading. I'm looking for a specific contrast negative and if it is too contrasty or not contrasty enough you can adjust the dilution of your developer and try again. I started doing this because I would get the test back and the dilution of the developer would be too strong and all the tests would be too contrasty and you would have to start all over again. If they were doing their processing in a Jobo processor that's a lot of time. I really didn't like calling up a photographer and saying that the film you just tested was too contrasty and we are going to have to run the whole test all over again. It doesn't take a lot of time to do one roll/sheet for 4 minutes. I now send out 7 rolls/sheets with each test so we have 3 tries to get the right developer dilution.

    Once you find the proper dilution you process the other 4 rolls/sheets for the remaining times. You don't have to own a densitometer, but the plotter program or work on calibrating your light source.

    When I first started doing film testing I had a photographer call me and he said I want to do your film testing but just give me the numbers. All he wanted was the normal film speed and developing times. He was a commercial photographer who at the time was shooting roll film 35mm and 120 and he said that he was able to produce better prints than his competition having calibrated his film.

    The other thing you have to remember about Phil was that he love teaching and testing and that after he tested 9 film and 5 developers for the D-Max newsletter he went on to test the reciprocity for these films. The reciprocity information is incorporated into the Plotter program and the reciprocity information is also imported into the Expo/Dev software along with your film test information.

    So I don't that investing some time in processing some film is a lot of work for doing a test. That's been one of the most fun things about doing BTZS workshops and teaching is helping photographers get better negatives which makes going into the darkroom a pleasure rather than a chore.

    Fred Newman
     
  25. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    That was one of the best articles I ever read in that magazine.
     
  26. dng88

    dng88 Member

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    @fred, may I ask what is the contrast range you are looking for the 4 minute film. I guess it is something about some of two key steps in the film coming out from that development.

    I just finished my paper grade test (using contact print) per your shipped items and Phil's book. Would start the film test (contact "print") plus the paper grade test (using projection method). As I am using Jobo, it takes quite a bit of time to do the test.

    Hence, would interest to know any way to cut this a bit shorter the time.