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  1. #1
    Daniel_OB's Avatar
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    Where Zone System Fails --- and 35 mm

    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. #2

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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.

    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.
    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. #3

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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. #4
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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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. #5
    ann
    ann is offline

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    LOL

    especially the first post.

    please, this is old old fodder
    Last edited by ann; 06-15-2006 at 05:46 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: spelling
    http://www.aclancyphotography.com

  6. #6
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Here we go again...

    R.

  7. #7

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

    Another thread to place on ignore...

  8. #8
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob F.
    Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
    I smell the blood of a... Troll. ...
    Maybe a bit more than just a troll. On his website, he says he is working on a book in which he will "[color=black]expect to make clear many many things in photography".[/color]
    David
    Taking pictures is easy. Making photographs is hard.

    http://silverdarkroom.net
    http://silverdarkroom.wordpress.com

  9. #9

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    Oh my. That will take half the fun out of it.
    I feel, therefore I photograph.

  10. #10

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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.

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