The zone system

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by rogueish, Aug 14, 2004.

  1. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    I have seen many references to a book called BTZS or "Beyond the Zone System", and the general consenseus is this is a great book.
    Does one really need to learn the zone system? Can one step right into BTZS? If not, does anyone recommend a book on the Zone system for one who needs to learn it? A easy reading book not filled with a lot of dry tech talk, meant to lull one to sleep (thats what college professors are for).
    It's not for me of course. No it's for ... um... for a friend. :tongue:
     
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  2. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    The book I liked the best on the zone system is the "Zone System Craftbook" by John Charles Woods. It explains things very well without getting overly technical. At the same time it has the technical background if you do want to read in small sections called the "monkey wrench".
     
  3. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    I can tell you the the book Beyond the Zone System is indeed a very dry tech read.

    But with that said I can also tell you the the system when used with the ExpoDev and WinPlotter software is great!

    Once you get your testing done you can start concentrating on the creation of your images and not worry about your exposure.

    I highly recommend it!

    Jim
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    But you have to have access to a densitometer. Add that to the cost of the expo/dev software and you have one hell of a pricey system. The way I read BTZS you can't do it without a densitometer. If I am wrong please explain how to get density reading for the plotter program without one, I would love to know. I have given up on the method because I just can't afford a densitometer.
     
  5. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    Mark,

    You are correct. You do need a densitometer.

    But they are cheap when purchased on eBay. In fact I just sold one for $75 to another forum member.

    Also, If you would like to try the system I would be more that happy to read your negatives with my densitometer and send you the results.

    I believe that the view camera store will also do that for a fee.

    Jim
     
  6. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    Forgot to mention that I would also be happy to input your data into my WinPlotter program and send you the curves to get you started.

    The only thing you would need to get would be the Expo/Dev program.
     
  7. mark

    mark Member

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    I have been thinking about the view camera store and I have never seen a densitomiter on ebay that was not over my budget. When I was actively looking they were real expensive. It has been a while so I might just start looking again.

    The only problem with using the view camera store is changing film or developers. Then you have to pay them again. I have not found to completely stick with so this could get expensive. The zone system is working for now so I will stick with it, until I happen on that not too expensive densitometer.
     
  8. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    Mark,

    Yes it could get rather expensive if you had to pay for several film tests.

    If you should change your mind my offer still stands.

    I would read you negatives with my densitometer and send you the curves so all you would need to do is purchase a step wedge to do your testing and the Expo/Dev software.

    Jim
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    As far as books to read on the Zone System, I like Ansel Adams's venerable text on the subject, _The Negative_.

    Indeed there are some pretty cheap densitometers to be had on eBay. I had one for a while and then it blew a capacitor. Eventually I'll get another one.

    I think the Zone System was such a success when people like Adams, Minor White, and Picker popularized it, because a densitometer can help you get your negatives into the ballpark, and then you can fine tune them, if you don't have someone else, like a teacher (heck, maybe even a college professor!) who can show you what a good negative looks like, and even worse, if you don't have access to museums or galleries with fine prints on display (which was probably more of an issue at that time, when photography wasn't as widely accepted as a serious art form). Once you have a sense for what a good negative looks like, you can test new films and compare new negs to old negs (either directly or by contact printing them side-by-side), and a densitometer becomes less of a necessity.

    People who are good at development by inspection really apply the principles of the Zone System intuitively and visually, and get just as good a result, but the Zone System is easier to learn from a book. So if you have to learn from a book (I did), a densitometer and the Zone System provide a way to find your bearings.
     
  10. photomc

    photomc Member

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    OK, with the understanding that a densitometer is needed really with either the zone system or BTZS, which kind. My understanding is there are two types - reflected and transmitted. Is that correct? If so, which one is would be the correct choice or do you need both?
     
  11. mark

    mark Member

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    Not the reflective kind. That is the extent of my densitometer knowledge. I was going to ask the same question.

    Jim,
    Sorry I neglected to answer your offer. Sorry about that. I just might take you up on it when things quiet down here. In one month I will be able to breate again. The masters will be complete the teaching semester will be in full swing, and my son will have gotten over the seperation anxiety of me going back to work.

    By the way how does one take a picture of a step wedge? Something I have always wondered.
     
  12. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    reflective type is for paper.

    Try Fred Picker's book "The Zone VI workshop". an easier read,
    or check out Les's book where he discusses another way to test.

    The ZS, is helpful to understand tones , metering, exposure and a variety of other things in our field. It is not necessary to be a slave to the system. it is just a tool and langauge to aid in communication.
     
  13. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Thanks Mark and Ann..need to pick up Les's book anyhow, just another good reason to do so.

    Ann, I agree about the ZS, a tool not a do all/be all.

    Wondering, how many folks actually use a densitometer?
     
  14. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    I do, but have used a variety of other methods with success.
     
  15. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I do...I begin with testing the paper exposure scale using a reflection densitometer. I next match my negative density range to the papers exposure scale using a transmission densitometer. This is basic BTZS type stuff.

    One can get by without a densitometer. They just make things easier.
     
  16. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    WinPlotter?

    WinPlotter?
    ExpoDev?
    Densitometers?
    Sorry guys you lost me again. :confused:
    If I need gadgets and computers to tell me if my negs are good/bad, then I'm in real trouble! (I still argue with the scanner). I'll just stick with the way I'm going. My prints may not be professional level (or maybe even decent amature level), but i feel I'm getting better. And I'm happy with most of my prints. Perhaps TZS znd BTZS are not for me...
    Thanks for all the info anyway!
     
  17. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    I haven't tried this, but you might find you already own a densitometer of sorts.

    A program called Vuescan, which can run most flatbed scanners, has a function that allows film densities to be estimated. By all accounts, it is reasonably accurate and could be used with the BTZS method with some minor adjustments/calibration.

    So if you have a scanner with film capabilities, you may already own the densitometer you're after. Vuescan costs about US$80 and can be used with nearly every scanner on the market. Go to www.hamrick.com and have a look.

    Personally, I'd try getting one or two negs done by a person with a real densitometer first, then compare the results with the Vuescan estimation.

    Cheers,