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Thread: The zone system

  1. #1
    rogueish's Avatar
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    The zone system

    I have seen many references to a book called BTZS or "Beyond the Zone System", and the general consenseus is this is a great book.
    Does one really need to learn the zone system? Can one step right into BTZS? If not, does anyone recommend a book on the Zone system for one who needs to learn it? A easy reading book not filled with a lot of dry tech talk, meant to lull one to sleep (thats what college professors are for).
    It's not for me of course. No it's for ... um... for a friend.
    Last edited by rogueish; 08-14-2004 at 05:22 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: ' cause I needed to add something

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    Quote Originally Posted by rogueish
    I have seen many references to a book called BTZS or "Beyond the Zone System", and the general consenseus is this is a great book.
    Does anyone recommend a book on the Zone system for one who needs to learn it? A easy reading book not filled with a lot of dry tech talk, meant to lull one to sleep (thats what college professors are for).
    It's not for me of course. No it's for ... um... for a friend.
    The book I liked the best on the zone system is the "Zone System Craftbook" by John Charles Woods. It explains things very well without getting overly technical. At the same time it has the technical background if you do want to read in small sections called the "monkey wrench".

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    Jim Moore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogueish
    I have seen many references to a book called BTZS or "Beyond the Zone System", and the general consenseus is this is a great book.
    Does one really need to learn the zone system? Can one step right into BTZS? If not, does anyone recommend a book on the Zone system for one who needs to learn it? A easy reading book not filled with a lot of dry tech talk, meant to lull one to sleep (thats what college professors are for).
    It's not for me of course. No it's for ... um... for a friend.
    I can tell you the the book Beyond the Zone System is indeed a very dry tech read.

    But with that said I can also tell you the the system when used with the ExpoDev and WinPlotter software is great!

    Once you get your testing done you can start concentrating on the creation of your images and not worry about your exposure.

    I highly recommend it!

    Jim
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...Wayne Gretzky

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    But you have to have access to a densitometer. Add that to the cost of the expo/dev software and you have one hell of a pricey system. The way I read BTZS you can't do it without a densitometer. If I am wrong please explain how to get density reading for the plotter program without one, I would love to know. I have given up on the method because I just can't afford a densitometer.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

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    Jim Moore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark
    But you have to have access to a densitometer. Add that to the cost of the expo/dev software and you have one hell of a pricey system. The way I read BTZS you can't do it without a densitometer. If I am wrong please explain how to get density reading for the plotter program without one, I would love to know. I have given up on the method because I just can't afford a densitometer.

    Mark,

    You are correct. You do need a densitometer.

    But they are cheap when purchased on eBay. In fact I just sold one for $75 to another forum member.

    Also, If you would like to try the system I would be more that happy to read your negatives with my densitometer and send you the results.

    I believe that the view camera store will also do that for a fee.

    Jim
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...Wayne Gretzky

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    Jim Moore's Avatar
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    Forgot to mention that I would also be happy to input your data into my WinPlotter program and send you the curves to get you started.

    The only thing you would need to get would be the Expo/Dev program.
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...Wayne Gretzky

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    I have been thinking about the view camera store and I have never seen a densitomiter on ebay that was not over my budget. When I was actively looking they were real expensive. It has been a while so I might just start looking again.

    The only problem with using the view camera store is changing film or developers. Then you have to pay them again. I have not found to completely stick with so this could get expensive. The zone system is working for now so I will stick with it, until I happen on that not too expensive densitometer.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

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    Jim Moore's Avatar
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    Mark,

    Yes it could get rather expensive if you had to pay for several film tests.

    If you should change your mind my offer still stands.

    I would read you negatives with my densitometer and send you the curves so all you would need to do is purchase a step wedge to do your testing and the Expo/Dev software.

    Jim
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...Wayne Gretzky

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    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    As far as books to read on the Zone System, I like Ansel Adams's venerable text on the subject, _The Negative_.

    Indeed there are some pretty cheap densitometers to be had on eBay. I had one for a while and then it blew a capacitor. Eventually I'll get another one.

    I think the Zone System was such a success when people like Adams, Minor White, and Picker popularized it, because a densitometer can help you get your negatives into the ballpark, and then you can fine tune them, if you don't have someone else, like a teacher (heck, maybe even a college professor!) who can show you what a good negative looks like, and even worse, if you don't have access to museums or galleries with fine prints on display (which was probably more of an issue at that time, when photography wasn't as widely accepted as a serious art form). Once you have a sense for what a good negative looks like, you can test new films and compare new negs to old negs (either directly or by contact printing them side-by-side), and a densitometer becomes less of a necessity.

    People who are good at development by inspection really apply the principles of the Zone System intuitively and visually, and get just as good a result, but the Zone System is easier to learn from a book. So if you have to learn from a book (I did), a densitometer and the Zone System provide a way to find your bearings.

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    OK, with the understanding that a densitometer is needed really with either the zone system or BTZS, which kind. My understanding is there are two types - reflected and transmitted. Is that correct? If so, which one is would be the correct choice or do you need both?
    Mike C

    Rambles

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