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  1. #1

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    I have a problem that has baffled both myself and my photography teacher.

    I set up my Nikkormat EL on a tripod and shot a gray card three times on succeeding days--FP4, 36, shot the whole roll. Shooting at indicated meter reading I should have had negatives that printed at Zone 5. The first roll printed at Zone 7—I have already calibrated my in camera meter and it is right on. I shot another roll, same procedure but I cut back development time by 10% i.e. I went from 8.5 (8.5 was indicated on the D-76 bottle) minutes to 7.39. These negatives printed at Zone 7 also, no change. I thought I made a mistake and re-shot and re-developed at 7.39—no change in the print zones! I shot yesterday and cut development time 20% i.e. to 6.42. There is a very, very slight change in the negatives and print but hardly noticeable. What, oh, what could be wrong that my negatives aren’t thinning as a cut back on development time? Here’s the kicker. I followed the same process with my 120 film and when I cut development by 10% my print moved right down from Zone 7 to Zone 5!!! Yet, every step in the processing of the two films is exactly the same.

    Following instructions in Brian Lav’s book, Zone System: Step By Step Guide for Photographers I am attempting to calibrate my in camera light meters with my film and find the correct length of time for my film development.

    1. I am using Ilford FP4.
    2. My cameras are a Nikkormat EL and a Mamiya 645E.
    3. I am using D-76 at a one to one ratio at 68 degrees as my developer. My fix is Lauder 763 Rapid Film Fixer with Hardner. I also use HG85, Heico Perma Wash.
    4. On step one I found that my in camera meter in my Nikkormat EL was correct but that I had to make a correction to my ASA on my Mamiya . I did the latter.
    5. Following step two of Brian’s process I put up a ‘gray card’ (in shade at 12:30 pm) and shot an entire roll of FP4 using the Nikkormat’s indicated meter readings. I should have then had negatives that printed as zone 5. Instead they printed as Zone7—Ok, that would indicate that I needed to cut back on development time. I shot the next day and cut development time by 10% (from 8.5 to 7.39). No change, the negatives were still printing at Zone 7. I cut development time 20% (8.5 to 6.42) and there is just the slightest thinning of my negatives.
    6. Checking my Fixer chemicals I put a piece of film leader in the beaker and the film went clear within 30 seconds so I am assuming my fixer is still potent.
    7. When developing I agitate on the minute and at 30 seconds.

    Can you think what might be wrong?

  2. #2
    Les McLean's Avatar
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    There could be a problem with the shutter of the Nikormat.

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Why are you targeting Zone V for your development test, and have you done a speed test first, and how are you determining what your negative densities are?

    If you are following the instructions from this book carefully, you might want to consider using another book. Too many things seem to be missing from the process.

    Ansel Adams' _The Negative_ is the classical source. _Beyond the Zone System_ by Phil Davis is a popular alternative approach.
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  4. #4

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    Thank you both for your replies.

    Les, my teacher thought of my shutter also but I have never had a problem with any of my negatives other than that they have been thick to very thick. Wouldn’t a shutter problem reveal itself either consistently or randomly as ‘unexplained’ negatives? All 36 exposures on all the rolls of film in question are consistently at Zone 7 and ‘unexplained negs’ way off in the ether some place are very rare. I have in the past and still do take pictures with this wonderful camera under very trying conditions (bright or dark) and it has always come through or I see where “I” have messed up.

    Thank you David. I have Beyond The Zone System but found it difficult to understand. The book I am following, Brian Lav’s, is logical and easy to follow but than I am really just an amateur at this so let me explain his process a little further.

    The first thing he has you do is shoot a gray card—bright day, card in deep shadow—but adjusting your f-stops so that you should be getting a Zone 1—this procedure is to eliminate normal film fog. Then you are instructed to shoot one below that reading, one at +1 and one at +2 and then finish the roll.

    You take a clear piece of film and set your enlarger at a good height and stop your lens down to some middle f-stop. You then do a contact test strip at three second intervals until you have ten or so of them—You always use the same paper for all tests of course. You then determine how many seconds it takes to reach maximum black. If the test strip says it is 15 seconds he has you retry at just that interval because five 3 second intervals may not be the same as one 15 second interval. This is the amount of time to get ‘through’ the film fog. This is your Standard Contact Time (SCT).

    Now you take the film that you shot with a Zone 1 frame from above and contact print at SCT. If the frame shot at Zone 1 shows just decernable gray than your meter is correct. My Nikkormat was correct, my Mamiya first showed discernable gray at the +1 setting and he had a chart for adjusting your ASA setting in such situations.

    At this point you are advised to do the test as described above for Zone 5 i.e. shooting for the Zone and using standard development times and then changing them until ‘shot at’ and ‘printed zones’ are the same.

    As I said when I first saw that I needed to lessen my 35mm development time (down 10%) when I didn’t see a difference in the contact print (came out as a Zone 7) I re-did the test with a new roll of film arriving at the same results. What drives me crazy is that after I developed the first roll of 35mm at 10% less time and seeing that I needed to do the same with my 120 film I developed the latter using exactly the same temperatures and times and the negatives dropped right back down to Zone 5!

    I am going to do all the tests again but I wanted any input from experienced people before I did so. School is in session Monday morning again and I’ll have another go. Any suggestions you can provide would be absolute gold to me. I'd like to know any problems you see with the process, I'll abandon it and try a new method if I have to.

  5. #5
    lee
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    I say you need to take the zone I negs to a place that has a transmission densitometer. The correct density is .10 above or minus film base + fog. That means subtract the clear frame density from the ones that are suppose to be zone I. Once that is found, use that for your ei and re-shoot the gray card but open up 3 stops. That should be zone VIII. Once that is done measure the z VIII frames on the same densitometer. Zone VIII is 1.20 minus fb+f (This is assuming you are using a condenser enlarger) (on the chance that you are using a diffusion type enlarger the density should be no greater than 1.30 minus fb+f). This may take you several attempts to get there and you need to make sure the temp of the developer is what you think it is.

    The reason you need to use the densitometer is there are way too many variables to deal with when you make the Max black tests. With the densitometer it is pretty cut and dry. Look for a custom lab in town and call them and see if they will read your negs. Another place is a good size print shop. Just make sure they understand that you need to read the negs on a transmission densitometer.

    good luck,

    lee\c

  6. #6
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter38
    —I have already calibrated my in camera meter and it is right on.
    Just how did you calibrate that meter?
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  7. #7
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I'll Echo Lee's remarks and suggest using a densitometer to find Zone I and testing development time on Zone VIII rather than Zone V.

    Zone I is determined almost entirely by exposure. Once the Zone I area on the negative has been fully developed, you can increase development time all you want, but you won't increase Zone I density--and therefore you won't increase film speed--by changing the development time or temperature (though you can genuinely increase film speed sometimes by changing developers). The reason the film speed test is based on Zone I, is that you want to find out what the minimum exposure is to effect a significant change in density.

    Now the fact that Zone I doesn't change significantly with development time, while higher values do change significantly with development time, is what allows you to use development time to adjust the contrast of the negative to the brightness range of the scene. You test for Zone VIII, because that is the highest value that shows detail, and your goal in using the zone system is to get as much detail as possible on the film at both ends and good tonal separation throughout the range.

    When you use +1 development, you want to push Zone VIII up one zone to increase contrast, but note that not every value will increase by one zone throughout the range--Zone I will stay approximately the same, and Zone V will usually increase by some value less than one full zone. That is why one should test for Zone VIII to determine development time, and not Zone V. If everything went up by one zone when you used +1 development, then +1 development would give you no change in contrast.

    A couple of qualifiers--

    If Zone I isn't developed fully, say when you reduce the development time for -1 or -2 development, then you may want to increase exposure to support the shadows.

    After doing all the tests properly, you might find that the film isn't giving you the look you want, so you can adjust your EI to emphasize different parts of the film curve. Say for instance, that you have a film with a long scale (plenty of room before the highlights hit the shoulder) and a long toe--you might reduce the EI (or increase exposure), to push the shadows off the toe.

  8. #8
    lee
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    that is what I meant to type but I got tired of typing so thanks David for clearing the muddy water I passed. I would be willing to bet a small sum that when he tests zone VIII he will see that his development is pretty still far off .

    lee\c

  9. #9
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    We'll cross that bridge when we get there.
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  10. #10

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    Thank you again David and Lee. It’s late and I’ve already had my wine so I hope I don’t make a complete fool of myself with this post.

    Ed, I felt that when I shot the gray card for a Zone 1 and it came out on my contact sheet as a “1” that I had calibrated my meter. Am I incorrect?

    I understand much of what you way but certainly not all. I will look for a place with a transmission densitometer tomorrow.

    <<That means subtract the clear frame density from the ones that are suppose to be zone I. Once that is found, use that for your ei and re-shoot the gray card but open up 3 stops.>>

    But once I have subtracted my clear frame density what do I do about changing my meter? Lets say I have a “number” how do I translate that into changing my ASA setting for my meter? I don’t recognize “ei”. What is it and what are its implications.

    <<Zone I is determined almost entirely by exposure. Once the Zone I area on the negative has been fully developed, you can increase development time all you want, but you won't increase Zone I density--and therefore you won't increase film speed--by changing the development time or temperature (though you can genuinely increase film speed sometimes by changing developers).>>

    I understand this except that portion about “increase film speed”. What do you mean increase film speed when you are developing? I believe if you use a compensating developer that you can increase film speed when you shoot but I don’t see how film speed increases in development.

    &lt;<If Zone I isn't developed fully, say when you reduce the development time for -1 or -2 development, then you may want to increase exposure to support the shadows.>&gt;

    Ok, and after increasing exposure it’s back to the densitometer right? And you contact print to find the standard contact time to print z 1??

    &lt;&lt;After doing all the tests properly, you might find that the film isn't giving you the look you want, so you can adjust your EI to emphasize different parts of the film curve. Say for instance, that you have a film with a long scale (plenty of room before the highlights hit the shoulder) and a long toe--you might reduce the EI (or increase exposure), to push the shadows off the toe.&gt;&gt;

    “EI” again, I looked in my books and can’t find a reference. Sorry, I’m slow on this. Also, when you say “push the shadows off the toe” you mean bring them up Zone so they have more detail, right?

    Of course what I am seeking here as an end goal is that my meter will read the scene well enough that when I spot meter or “see” a shadow and want to make it a z 3 or what ever that I will have a reasonable chance that I have accurate enough information to do that. Then I want to establish standard development times that will give me a ‘normal negative’. All this can be calibrated to one paper.

    Now if need be I can push or pull my film to gain more control over my final negative. A question at this point really is how much do you change development time up or down to push or pull one Zone?

    Also, my instructor suggested that I should switch to Ilford developer. Sounds good to me since I only use FP4 film. What developer would you suggest?

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