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Thread: Ansel's Zone System

  1. #1
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    Default Ansel's Zone System

    Anyone practise this in normal shooting ?
    Not sure if this works with matrix metering in modern SLRs ?
    Appreciate feedback.

    darkavgr

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ansel's Zone System

    Originally posted by darkavgr
    Anyone practise this in normal shooting ?
    Not sure if this works with matrix metering in modern SLRs ?
    Appreciate feedback.

    darkavgr
    The system is more applicable to large format (4x5, 8x10 and above) and individually developed sheets of film than 35mm. It's employed such that the full range of tones can be recorded on the film and subsequently printed, by means of metering and film developing.

    Can't really apply zone system to 35mm, unless you cut them up into individual frames and develop them manually.....

    As it is, the original Zone System is meant for B&W, so some adaptation is required for colour anyway.

    Regards
    CK

  3. #3

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    Matrix/Evaluative metering thinks for you. You're better off with spot or CW metering if you're doing the zone system.

    Strictly speaking, the zone system is aimed at the large format photographer, and it is a complete process where you control every step from the exposure, development to the printing and toning stages. Ansel used to expose each sheet in a particular way (film speed, over/underexpose etc), and develop each sheet accordingly. Meaning, if he shot 5 sheets of the same film, each one was typically metered, exposed and processed differently. You might achieve the same thing if you expose one whole roll of 35mm film in a particular lighting situation since you will give the entire roll the same development time in your film developer.

    You might want to read up Ansel's books - the camera, the negative and the print. They explain the ZS in great detail. I've played with the ZS for many months, but slowly came up with a much more simple system for my (non-professional) use. You'll probably want to do that yourself.

    Here's what I did :
    1. Determine the true film speed of my commonly used films (HP5+, Delta 400, APX 25) : HP5+ gave me 250, Delta 400 gave me a true 400 and APX25 in Rodinal gave me 25.
    2. Determine by trial and error which developer and dilution gives the best compromise in terms of acutance, grain, sharpness and tonality (Delta and HP5 did well in ID-11 1+1 and APX-25 is superb in Rodinal 1+25).
    3. Determine the correct grade of paper for each negative (frame) and print accordingly. Development of the print was the same in all cases.
    4. Tone if I want to.

    Now how does this relate to the zone system? Not much, but the key is to make sure that the important parts of the image (shadow and highlight details) lie within the straight line portion of the H-D curve for that film if you want good tonal separation. This is controlled by the exposure and development. For my (amateur) needs, I found this sufficient. No messing with zones.

  4. #4
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    Default

    It swings in roundabouts. Everyone who's into photography in a serious manner could benefit from a bit of the Zone system, in so much as it helps in the understanding of exposure systems and light and contrast in general.

    Matrix metering does render the Zone system redundant and in fact makes practicing it impossible as Sriram says. In fact, practicing it with centre-weighted would be a serious struggle as well.

    APX25 is lovely is just about any developer I've run it through. I wish I'd stocked up when I could have, I'm down to my last 2 rolls I think. Sigh.

  5. #5

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    Well Jed, you still get TechPan. Now that's my all time favourite. Rodinal 1+150 and TechPan make a perfect pair.

    Also, I agree that CW metering doesn't really help with the ZS, but it's more or less consistent across camera systems, unlike matrix/evaluative which is completely camera specific.
    Last edited by sriram; 3rd October 2002 at 11:08 AM.

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    Not quite such a fan I'm afraid. I can get Technidol over here, and yes I have tried Rodinal at high dilutions as well. I still miss APX. Especially larger format APX... ooooohhhhh....

  7. #7
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    well if u got the dynax 7 u can practice the zone system all u want... it's the only cam I know that shows what the metering system sees.
    "I'm... dreaming... of a wide... angle~
    Just like the ones I used to know~"

  8. #8
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    Default

    Yes, well done. And while doing so, you are so completely missing the point.

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