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Thread: Zone system metering

  1. #1
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    Default Zone system metering

    Are you doing zone system metering and when is it most useful to apply it?

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    Senior Member ZerocoolAstra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Zone system metering

    i'm not sure what you mean by that term.
    care to explain further?

    You talking about matrix (or evaluative) metering?

    My cam only has spot, center-weighted, and matrix metering (i think).
    Exploring! :)

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    Default Re: Zone system metering

    I borrow a DVD frm the library. Title "Perfect Exposure for digital photography. The Zone System of Metering" by Tim Cooper.

    This is how I understand from the DVD.

    Colors ares divided into Zones. Zone 5 is 18% average colors, zone 6 and 7 are lighter colors. Zone 4 and 3 are darker colors. If the subject does not fall in zone 5, we need to over or under expose to get the right exposure to show the details.

    I wonder how to effectively use the metering options available in the camera based on the zone system concept. Most of the time, people are talking about metering on highlight or shadow (bright and dark) but not much on color tones.

    For example, if we are taking pictures of five kids, each with different skin tone, they are under the same lighting condition, then we need to have an idea of what zone their skin tones belong to?
    Last edited by LBL2009; 29th October 2009 at 06:57 PM.

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    Senior Member ZerocoolAstra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Zone system metering

    woah... that's an interesting concept.
    Yes I'd have to agree with you that different colours would result in different metering values. How to overcome this 'hurdle', I'm not too sure.
    To me, this is one more thing to consider in trying to get the shot technically perfect. But it's probably something I'll not consider for the time-being, lest I overwork my little brain...
    Exploring! :)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Ansel Adams' zone system was created in the black & white era, some feel that it doesn't translate that well into modern colour photos.

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    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Zone system are develop by the late Adam Ansel. but it is on originally for B&W only.

    using it on color has a different approach, let say Caucasian skin tone is zone VI, if you meter the skill tone as zone V (mid tone/18% gray) using TTL metering, you will underexpose the skin tone...

    to use it effectively, in the first place, you must understand and remember what the tone value / zone of all different subject.
    after you compose the scene, you need to evaluate the scene to know where is the highlight? where is the shadow? take meter reading of different areas, decide where you want to place the mid tone, where is the important highlight with details, where is the important shadow with details, from there, you will decide how you set your ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

    so it only work on spot metering and manual exposure mode, if you want to make you life simple, skip this zone system and use P mode.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    .....if you want to make you life simple, skip this zone system and use P mode.


    In B&W already so headache, but when used correctly ... !

    Anyway, some of Ansel Adam's work in korror:

    http://www.time.com/time/photogaller...974604,00.html

  8. #8

    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Quote Originally Posted by ZerocoolAstra View Post
    woah... that's an interesting concept.
    Yes I'd have to agree with you that different colours would result in different metering values. How to overcome this 'hurdle', I'm not too sure.
    To me, this is one more thing to consider in trying to get the shot technically perfect. But it's probably something I'll not consider for the time-being, lest I overwork my little brain...
    Use an incident light meter lah.. Don't even need to care what tone the skin is. I'm sure you don't want to turn an African into a Chinese and make the Caucasian disappear from the image or turn the Chinese into an Indian and make the African disappear from the image, right?

    Zone system is something easily misunderstood. It's not just a metering method, it is an entire workflow from the metering, calculating the desired exposure knowing the exposure latitude of the film used, all the way to the proper film processing and choosing which grade of paper to print on and the desired exposure during printing and processing to give the desired output.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Quote Originally Posted by cks2k2 View Post
    Ansel Adams' zone system was created in the black & white era, some feel that it doesn't translate that well into modern colour photos.
    In black and white, we deal with grey tones. In colour, different colours can have the same luminosity. So, how to meter? I think Nikon's 3D Matrix metering is smart enough for most applications but I still prefer centre weighted.
    Last edited by lsisaxon; 30th October 2009 at 10:43 AM.

  10. #10
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Zone system metering

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    Use an incident light meter lah.. Don't even need to care what tone the skin is. I'm sure you don't want to turn an African into a Chinese and make the Caucasian disappear from the image or turn the Chinese into an Indian and make the African disappear from the image, right?

    Zone system is something easily misunderstood. It's not just a metering method, it is an entire workflow from the metering, calculating the desired exposure knowing the exposure latitude of the film used, all the way to the proper film processing and choosing which grade of paper to print on and the desired exposure during printing and processing to give the desired output.
    yes, DM is correct, is not just about metering, to understand the zone system completely, just read these three books by Adam Ansel..

    The Camera,
    The Negative,
    The Print
    Shoot to Live, Live to Shoot
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