The beauty is that 9x12 sheet film is readily available as well plus roll film backs are easy to find.
Here a Patent Etui and a Crown Graphic plus my 6x4.5 Ikonta :D Should add that the Crown & Etui both have 135mm f4.5 CZJ Tessars, the Etui's is about 10 years older and a far better lens, (The Crown had a redesigned 1932 Tessar and the glass is softer less contrast with ageing).
The Patent Etui is light but rigid, I'm in the process of fitting a modern lens to my second camera as I prefer coated lenses.
Here is how I approach the actual practice of it:
A. Find a working exposure index
B. Find a normal development
C. Find plus and minus development, and corresponding EI changes
A. Decide to take a picture
B. Decide what you want the picture to look like
C. Decide how to expose and develop
1. Meter the brightness range of the composition to see what you have to work (or contend) with
2. Meter a tone you want to place (any tone; it need not be a low tone in every case)
3. Place the tone (by deviating a specific amount from what the meter sez, or going with it in some cases)
4. Take note of where other tones fall tonally when you place that tone
5. Plan to use one of your predetermined development procedures, and apply any needed EI changes to the meter (for instance, if you need N-2 processing, you may need to increase your EI a bit)
III. Film processing
A. Follow the plan decided upon in II.C.5
A. When printing, think about whether your neg is truly ideal for the print you want to make
B. Make changes in your procedures based on your printing experiences
The most important parts are II.A, II.B, and II.D. Everything else can tolerate some error and slop. But you need to be able to find pictures, decide what you want them to look like, and go through the work of actually shooting them before anything else in the Zone System becomes worth the trouble at all. In other words, don't do what most people do, and use the System "just because;" do it to help you achieve a personal artistic vision.
Second most important is learning to print well, IMHO. You simply cannot give yourself any feedback as to the whole Zone System process if you don't know what you are doing to at least some degree in the darkroom. Everything in the Zone System is designed to serve the vision of the print. If you don't know what steps to take in the darkroom to get yourself there from what is on your negative, then you don't know how to properly judge and tweak your shooting and developing to help you out.
Here's a twist I don't think I've seen before: My aim point is mid-way between Grade 2 and Grade 3 instead of the traditional Grade 2.
I defined this by setting my upper and lower control limits by picking a negative that printed properly on Grade 2 with a moderate amount of burning, and a negative that printed well on Grade 3 with a little dodging. Naturally, I want to have my aim be in the middle.
case for placing the shadows on Zone IV.
I was actually talking about something different, the calibration to print grade. Grade 2 is the traditional standard. I aim between Grade 2 and Grade 3. (Because Grade 1 paper is not available).
I was wrong to bring that wild idea into this beginner's conversation. My unusual tactic is relevant only for large format on graded paper.
For roll film, I have seen advice to develop to N-1 1/2 rely on variable paper grades instead of variable development times. I would recommend following the advice of someone who has adapted the Zone System for rollfilm.
I love the Zone System, but not a slave to it. It was invented during the days of graded paper. How does modern MG paper effect ZS users today? I use it for pre-visualization and keeping shadow detail when it's desired and keeping highlights from blowing out. I've also heard that older films with thicker emulsions tolerate N+ and N- development better. Is that true?
You are not alone. All a matter of choice. Grade 2.5 gives a bit more midtone contrast and many people prefer that. But when you are talking 1/2-grade differences, the question becomes: How do you know what paper grade you are getting from your filter or filtration method?