Zone system, Pentax digital spotmeter, Lambrecht zone dial
I am going to re-read Ansel Adam's Negative about the Zone system but dug up my Pentax Digital Spotmeter which I had affixed a Lambrect Zone System dial scale.
(It is under Library and look for the PDF: PDZD)
Can anyone help me with how to use the scale once it is affixed to the spotmeter?
You measure an important zone, you "place" it in front of any zone you want it and you can check where other zones will "fall".
Meter an area and determine what exposure compensation you need to have the metered area record at the desired tone (zone). Measure the contrast range of the scene to determine development of the negative.
In the classic Zone System, one "places" a shadow value. This entails exposing it less than the meter reads. With the Zone Dial (which I also use), you simply place the shadow meter reading opposite the desired shadow Zone on the dial. This just does the underexposing for you automatically. Notice that when you place a value in, say, Zone III, that it is two stops less exposure than Zone V (where the meter would normally "want" you to place the value).
After placing the shadow, you then take readings from other values, especially the highlights, and see where they fall. A development scheme (e.g. N, N+1, or N-1) is then chosen depending on where the highlights fall.
Reading Adams book (and others) will explain the system and theory in great detail. I the process, the use of your meter will become crystal clear.
Only very few combinations of film and developer can be used with the zone system. If not the curve is rather straight it is impossible to get the low, middle and high tones placed correctly. You can always get zone I and V correct, but then (usually) VII and VIII will fall far too high. Change of exposure and/or developing or dillution of the developer does not help.
My advice would be: Don't make the test as described by AA. In stead use half the ISO speed as exposure indexand find the developing time that gives you a good middle grey (suggestion: a negative density of 0.70). Then make a grey scale by enlarging your test negatives. Cut the prints and paste them on a strip of cardboard. Use that scale in combination with the spot meter and start making photographs. If you think you can only make good photographs after a complete and sucessfull zone system test, you are likely to vaste a lot of time and materials.
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A lot of different systems for negative exposure.
You might spend 3 or 4 bucks on Fred Pickers book on ebay. Testing film and for development times take an afternoon to complete.
I agree that making "Zone rulers" from test negatives for different Zones is a great idea. It gives you the information you need to know how your film/developer combination reacts to exposure differences.
I would call this practice "The Zone System." Sure, many film/developer combinations do not separate tones in nice, even steps, however, knowing what print density to expect from values that fall at different points of the scale is precisely what the Zone System is all about: it is a visualization tool first and a contrast control tool second. I make Zone rulers for all the films I use. They are useful for comparing film responses visually.
I tend to focus on shadow and high values (Zones III and VIII) and then see where the middle tones fall. Admittedly, with some combinations, Zone V is not 18% gray. However,with the Zone ruler, I know what to expect from my film/developer combination. This is the Zone System, how you use it and why it is useful.
First of all, you don't necessarily need to do all the preliminary zone system "stuff" just like it sez in the book in order to use one of these. They are usable in many ways that are not the by-the-book zone system. Through practical experimentation, you can place tones using this meter and get great results without doing the tests as explained in that book.
To do it, meter something that you want to be one of the lower tones in the print. Rotate the EV collar to place the same EV that popped up inside your meter so that it is adjacent to the tone of dark gray that you want it to be. The little black dash on the dark patches shows you what is theoretically the lowest threshold of printable detail. If you want something to have detail, the EV reflected from it should not be placed to the left of that line.
If, when printing your negs, you are not getting detail where you thought you should have it, try shaving one or two EIs off the next time you shoot. For instance, if you are shooting an ISO 125 film, try it at EI 100 or EI 80 next time.
The hash mark on the high end shows you the light-toned equivalent of the lower hash mark.
If, when printing your negs, something that fell to the left of this line prints too white to show detail, you should try reducing your development time next time. If something that you though should be white or right on the threshold of detail in the light greys ends up darker than you anticipated, you should try increasing your development time next time.
If, after placing a dark tone where you want it, the high tones are falling too high for what you want, you can still make the exposure to render the dark areas how you want them, but reduce development to keep the highlights from getting to thick on the neg. Vice versa: If, after placing your dark tone where you want it, if the high tones are falling too low for the print you envision, increase development next time.
Key, obviously, is *note taking*. You can't judge your actual results against your expected results if you forget the details of what it was that you expected.
Prints must be made to decide how to tweak things. How you want to expose and develop will also change with each paper that you use. Thus, it is easiest to have one paper that you use primarily. The paper grade or filter used for "calibration" should be something that will let you go either up or down at least a grade if you want to or need to. When I really got into the zone system testing (with Tri-X 220/120 and 4x5), I used Emaks Grade 3 as my main paper. Thus, my negs are softer than the ones Adams aimed for. Due to this, they also require a high filter when I go to print them on VC paper; often grade 4. The point is that you can pick whatever paper you want. Just be consistent at first.
I personally think that an incident meter is an invaluable tool to use, even when using a spot meter. It lets you know how much light is falling onto the composition. Besides the fact that this can catch errors with your spot metering, using it and a spot meter side by side also teaches you to judge certain situations and qualities of light. After a while, the spot meter can become the secondary meter and you can move more quickly, just using the spot meter to measure the differences in luminance between objects. In this capacity, the incident meter determines the "correct" exposure, and the spot meter determines what tweaks are needed to capture what you want to capture.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 06-03-2009 at 06:43 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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