Where Zone System Fails --- and 35 mm

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Daniel_OB, Jun 15, 2006.

  1. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    As the name say it is a system. And the system consist of:

    1. figuring out the film speed
    2. figuring out the developer and the developing time
    3. knowing our lenses aperture and shutter errors
    4. knowing to use exposure manipulations to get specific tone (found in A. Adams books).

    It could be broken down into more parts, but I think it is enough.
    And if any point of the system fail the whole system shall fail too.

    What is offered today in the literature to learn are points 3. and 4., and they are analyzed in great details.
    The point 2. discussion can be found in just some specialized books (e.g. advanced photography…), but anyway it is accessible somehow. And it is in connection with the photo paper photog use in darkroom, for now.
    The most blur point is point 1. Some will say there are more than hundred ways to find out the film speed. These ways are, I think, the reason many say zone system does not works, or even many abandon use of the zone system and cling to bracketing. The most reliable way to find out the film speed is densitometer, which good and new is more than $1000us, but used on e-bay can be found and for $100us + custom and shipping + risk + …. For most photographers around the planet, this out of reach, too much money. And more, it gets practical photographer into too technical side. The next option is to deep into darkroom and work for hours to figure out the film speed, which I found too bothering and too long. All of other ways are so unreliable that easy can fail (or error) and the whole lens opening. And more, measuring density using densitometer can yield correct film speed but wrong density-exposure curve slope, if one is not a scientist. All of these errors are heavily reflected also onto point 2. of the system which make things more complicated. This is where photography slips into science and many try, with good reasons, to skip it.
    As a result the zone SYSTEM do not works.
    And what smaller negative size is, the more pronounced errors are, so 35 mm is completely out of order if one is not a scientist.

    However knowing points 3. and 4. helps to understand many things around exposure no matter format and is good to know, and helps to use the zone system in some approximation, larger error for smaller negative. Well better than nothing, but it is not “real” zone system.

    Many that realized above problem clings to the systems as: measure exposure from the shade and live highlight to their own,….

    Is there solution, YES, always yes, and it will make that really good lenses and for 35 mm show its own and full power. Without the solution 35 mm will always be the second class.
     
  2. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Mate I have no idea what you are referring to, I have all my 35mm, 120, 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 film zone tested with proper speeds (personal index speeds) and development time that gives me prints that print almost properly on grade 2 for the paper, developer and film combination I am using. I also use different developers and papers as well.

    Sure 35mm is harder to do if you only carry one body but one solution is to load your own film and have multiple canisters of 12 frames ready to go. That way if you come upon a situation where the light is different, just remove the 12 frames from the camera and pop in a new canister and mark it as N, N+ or N-. With 120 it is easier as you can have multiple back with different exposures fro each one, N,N+, N- and LF is the simplest as you have a sheet per exposure to makes changes as you need depending on the light falling on the scene.

    The zone system is not broken or flawed it is a tool to use and that is it. Now if you do not use the tool properly then of course you will have bad results.

    In your points 1 and 2 they really go had in hand

    1. figuring out the film speed
    2. figuring out the developer and the developing time

    In order to get to #2 you also have to expose for #1.

    Zone system is about exposing for shadow and developing for highlights. The speed is easy, it is the highlights you have to worry about, as you have to match your paper to your negs to get optimal results. The reason why the Zone System fails for people is that they do not take the time to do the proper testing.

    In order to find speed it is as easy and exposing a frame or sheet of film at zone 1 then on the next frame or sheet exposing for zone 8 and develop them together then read the results to see where you are. Zone 1 gives you speed zone 8 give you length of development. And you don’t need a densitometry either even though it helps. You can use a paper test to figure out your times and speed, a spot meter to get close and of course a densitometer.

    Again the problem is that people do not take the time to learn it and apply it properly and when there negatives lack they got to have something to blame so might as well be the zone system.

    This information is readily available on the Internet if you search for it. It is by no means hard to find at all.
    http://www.zone2tone.co.uk/testingm.htm#film_speed
    http://www.sbccphoto.org/show_tip.asp?ID=6
    http://www.zonesystem.com/
    http://photography.cicada.com/zs/filmtests/
    http://www.zone2tone.co.uk/testingm.htm

    Again the zone system doesn’t fail the person using it someone misunderstands how to use it so therefore it fails.

    Just my two cents.
     
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Daniel,

    It works for some people. For others it is simply a restatement of basic sensitometry in a form that is oversimplified in some ways and overcomplicated in others. This is why there's a module called 'Why we don't use the Zone System' in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com.

    If it works for you (obviously a generalized 'you', not D. Ob), great. If not, abandon it without a rearward glance. The real poison of the ZS is those photographers who try to make you feel that if you don't use it, there's something wrong with you.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  4. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
    I smell the blood of a... Troll.


    Ok, I know it doesn't rhyme but it's as close as I could get....
     
  5. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    LOL

    especially the first post.

    please, this is old old fodder
     
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  6. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Here we go again...

    R.
     
  7. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Looks like it is "TROLLS-R-US" week.

    Another thread to place on ignore...
     
  8. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Maybe a bit more than just a troll. On his website, he says he is working on a book in which he will "expect to make clear many many things in photography".
     
  9. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Oh my. That will take half the fun out of it.
     
  10. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    Gee, I had no trouble at all figuring out my EI. It took all of one evening. But I was educated as a scientist and even a natural log function doesn't scare me. Even so, I found the original post baffling. Must be something new age or metaphysical.
     
  11. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Ah ha! The plot thickens, Watson...

    I just hope Daniel and timester (of " A Passionate believer in Film with some Scientific Info for you" fame) never meet in an enclosed space. The resulting critical mass could wipe out half the planet (possibly all of it if Scarpatti/Ornello happened to be in the room next door)...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  12. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Crap. I knew something was wrong.

     
  13. Pragmatist

    Pragmatist Member

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    Brane Fart

    To all APUGers, I now serve notice that I have been given by elves and trolls (especially the trolls) all of the dark secrets of photographers, known only to those of the 32nd ISO and with piles.

    Hence, I shall take it upon myself to be the illuminator and arbitrator of all things photographic; for my knowledge is full and ripe and perhaps something else. Stand in awe my little friends, while you bask in my radiant glow and await the pearls that droppeth from my keyboard.

    Your first lesson is this: Dont open the back of the camera whilst the film is unwound. It will cause your halides to dye...

    Asstounding, ain't it???
     
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  15. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Hope he has a good - no, GREAT editor. This guy is even more longwinded than I am. Making clear many things in photography will only be possible after making clear your means of conveying your knowledge.
    Besides, that book already exists - actually its a phrase, or even less: Sunny 16:D

    Peter.
     
  16. Marc Leest

    Marc Leest Member

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    Interesting case of wrong reasoning: you give some related arguments and then draw a wrong conclusion.
    eg. Building a Diesel engine.
    I know it's principle;
    I have fuel ;
    I have no lathe;
    hence
    a Diesel engine does not work

    ....

    M.
     
  17. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    I noticed from Daniel's web page that he works in NYC (as I do) and uses a Leica R (as I do). Maybe I should invite him to our current show*, I thought. Maybe not.

    Hey ho,
    Helen

    *nudity/naughty bits warning
     
  18. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    It is so obvious that my story about zone system is not intended to guys owning 2000 MHz computer with 17 inches Sonny color screen, sitting in leather sofa and wondering how nice is a Gossen Lunastar or minolta SpotMeterF, and always using cache instead of brain whenever they get a problem. And even and brain can order from a local butcher using the cell phone. So what one can expect from them to create or investigate. And all they “know” is “nooooo way maaaaan, you wrooooong”. Guys you are not interested to me.
    And to Diesel guy could you see that I put “…yes there is a solution…” But your problems are different and no solutions for them. You are too ironical.

    The target are guys sitting in their rooms with old and bellowed Retina or Leica, simple lightmeter, developing film in the plate he eat from, and Opemus enlarger, with $50 or less as daily salary in pocket to pay bills and feed family. They do not own grade 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 ilford galerie paper for some, to many people, strange reason. But he still would like to make nice photograph and to know the process he can control in full.
    One of them asked me a question: Daniel and have read about the zone system but what I should to do if my density at zone I is 0.10 and density at zone II, due to shape of the toe, is 0.12 and can I figure out all of that densities within 20 minutes with my old lightmeter. And he investigated way to solutions. That is something cache guys never think about due to lack of imagination that there is life outside US and they do not sell their work on e-bay. And they are the best photographers for they are full of love and passion, so strange things to find among cache guys in the west.

    Helen
    I do not make photographs of gay and lesbians with rings through the genitals or involved in sexual trans in the way to celebrate their “passion”. So I think they will not fit very well into your collection as you already marked.
     
  19. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Well let me weigh in on this illuminating discussion that is masquerading as a bashing of an individual who doesn't agree with the annointed masses. Addressing this to the originator of this thread, you should not feel abused because some people are just normally abusive in the manner that they conduct themselves towards others who disagree. Please forgive them for their immaturity and insensitivity...as one spiritual leader once said "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

    Continuing on, you may think that you have discovered something new for yourself that many others have totally missed in their photographic experience. I will allow you the latitude to consider that as being the case. While the annointed masses may never have had an "ah hah" experience...a personal epiphany, if you will, I recognize that these do occur for many people.

    The zone system is simply a system. It has major glaring deficiencies, no doubt. Unfortunately for you, to address these dificiencies and bring them to the attention of the annointed masses is akin to shitting in the Sistine Chapel. It just aint nice!!!

    Meanwhile let me assure you that I applaud you for your bravery in the face of such daunting and abusive diatribe by the annointed masses.
     
  20. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Damn, I wish someone had told me 25 years ago when I was using my 35mm with the zone system that it did not work......... :rolleyes:
     
  21. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Whew. Just finished getting the oil out of my hair. You know, being anointed is messy!.
     
  22. Stephen Benskin

    Stephen Benskin Member

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    Always question, and never just accept doctrine. It's the best way to learn. Just don't dismiss anything out-of-hand. Keep it up Daniel.

    Exposure theory is a particular interest of mine, and after years of research and thought, the simple fact is that factors associated with the subject and your personal metering style have the greatest influence on tonal placement. Also, what most people think about film speed is mistaken (including ZS), yet they still produce acceptable images. So, you shouldn't sweat it too much. My advice is to explore your personal metering style and adjust accordingly.

    Good luck,
    Steve
     
  23. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I've had enough of this so I'm asking Al Gore, he invented the Zone System.
     
  24. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    "Helen
    I do not make photographs of gay and lesbians with rings through the genitals ..."


    Neither do I. We appear to have a lot in common.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  25. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    LOL......Thanks for that Helen!
     
  26. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I always make a point of not having any rings through my genitals when photographing persons of any sexual orientation.