Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home
 

Reply
Show Printable Version Search this Thread
05-05-2010, 06:34 AM   #1
Veteran Member
hockmasm's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2010
Photos: Albums
Posts: 354
Who uses the Zone System?

Another poster recommended I read up on the Zone system.

Seems logical. I tested it real fast yesterday taking readings off a white wall next to an air conditioner, and some trees.

On the wall i made the EV +2 and expsoure looked good

is that al there is to it? Find somethign in the shot that is either white or grey that you want to expose for.....and let the meter read 0 for gray and +2 for white if you want detail in those areas?

Do you use this system when you shoot? Have you memorized it?

05-05-2010, 07:20 AM   #2
Forum Member




Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: New York
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 66
QuoteOriginally posted by hockmasm Quote
Another poster recommended I read up on the Zone system.

Seems logical. I tested it real fast yesterday taking readings off a white wall next to an air conditioner, and some trees.

On the wall i made the EV +2 and expsoure looked good

is that al there is to it? Find somethign in the shot that is either white or grey that you want to expose for.....and let the meter read 0 for gray and +2 for white if you want detail in those areas?

Do you use this system when you shoot? Have you memorized it?
That's not all there is about the zone system. The traditional zone system (designed for B&W film) has three components to it: Exposing for the shadows by finding the area that you want to be the darkest and yet fully textured (often zone III). Then you take a second reading of the brightest fully textured area and place it in the corresponding zone. This tells you the important parameter for the second step: namely how to develop the film. This works because overdeveloping the film will lift the highlights but leave the shadows largely unchanged. It's this non-linear behavior of B&W film udner different development times that is at the heart of the zone system. The third aspect of it would be making the print, but it is maybe less crucial than the first two steps.

With digital, you get only a very watered-down application of the zone-system. I shoot almost exclusively B&W film which I develop myself so I could use it although in practice, it's not easy because it would require you to shoot all frames of the same roll of film the same way. It's really perfect for the large-format shooters who have one 4x5 negative which contains exactly one image. I can still (and certainly do so) make use of the film's behavior under different development times to control the overall contrast.

Cheers,
Tassilo
05-05-2010, 08:45 AM   #3
New Member




Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 6
I used a modified method. When I used to shoot slides, it was better to underexpose about half a stop, so as not to burn the highlights. I found my palm is about 3/4 a stop lighter than 18% gray. So I meter my palm in the same lighting as the subject and exposure will turn out about half a stop under exposed. Easier than carrying an incident light meter.

There are many books written on the Zone system, which can tell you much more facts than I can.
05-05-2010, 09:00 AM   #4
Inactive Account




Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Michigan, USA
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 7,484
QuoteOriginally posted by hockmasm Quote
Another poster recommended I read up on the Zone system.

Seems logical. I tested it real fast yesterday taking readings off a white wall next to an air conditioner, and some trees.

On the wall i made the EV +2 and expsoure looked good

is that al there is to it? Find somethign in the shot that is either white or grey that you want to expose for.....and let the meter read 0 for gray and +2 for white if you want detail in those areas?

Do you use this system when you shoot? Have you memorized it?
If you are referring to my post in another thread, I'm glad you took the advice. As stated, the actual zone system is meant for film and is best applied on a single frame camera, like a 4x5.

Some would say that it's an outdated school of thought with auto exposure cameras and with modern films. I disagree. If nothing else, it suggests what to do with a given scene with respect to exposure. That is what I wanted you to get out of it. The reason I asked you to set your camera to show you a B&W images was so that you could see what it really does. If you take a photo of a white object, you want it to be white. If you've metered For that white object and make no adjustments, it will Not be white but will be a shade of gray (whatever shade the meter interprets it to be). That is the ONLY color or shade that your meter sees. Once you have that understanding under your belt you'll be in a better position to take those high contrast shots and get what you really want without resorting to things like fill flash (which also has it's uses).

There are many books published on the subject. One I would recommend is this one (get a used one)..

Amazon.com: The Zone System for 35MM Photographers: A Basic Guide to Exposure Control (9780240802039): Carson Graves: Books

It gives practical plain English examples of what each Zone represents. While the Zone system is better suited to film and wet printing (and processing) you can also apply the methods to digital work. In most cases, exposing for the shadows, and processing for the highlights (the basic get down to it goal of the Zone system), will get you the photos you want. In my experience, when it really matters, it works far better than Expose To The Right (ETTR), the histograms, the blinkies on the screen, etc. Know what you're looking at, what you want in your photo and the basics of how to get it, and you can rule your photography world instead of letting the camera do it for you.



05-05-2010, 11:10 AM   #5
MSM
Veteran Member
MSM's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Alabama
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 994
^great advice. I took a course here regarding a simplified zone system. I really learned a lot. The instructer is also the author of the course book.
This is a great book. Very easy to understand.

Amazon.com: The Confused Photographer's Guide to Photographic Exposure and the Simplified Zone System (9780966081718): Bahman Farzad, Linda Voychehovski: Books
05-05-2010, 11:35 AM   #6
Ira
Inactive Account




Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Coral Springs, FL
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 5,216
Ansel Adams did, and it killed him.
05-05-2010, 11:40 AM - 1 Like   #7
Veteran Member
mithrandir's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Maryland
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,890
I just use the shotgun system. 5 shots from -2ev to +2ev. I then determine in PP what I need to do to achieve what I envisioned. Could be HDR or just working one of the 5 exposures if Lightroom. I started doing this after having been too often rushed by a tour guide. I have many more keepers now. Inexpensive memory cards make it painless.
05-05-2010, 04:56 PM   #8
Pentaxian
Wheatfield's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: The wheatfields of Canada
Posts: 10,157
The zone system is actually something that can be applied to digital photography, though I wonder why someone would bother when they can just take another picture.
I spent many, many sessions dialing in film, reading gray patches with a densitometer, and timing film development to the second when I was learning the Zone System when I bought my view camera.
The expose for the shadows concept, which is fundamental to the Zone System is flawed to a certain extent with film, and may be even more flawed with digital.
Anyway, I spent years in the field taking numerous readings to find the darkest value so that I could set the shutter speed, and then finding the brightest reading so that I could jot down in my notes how to develop the film when I got home.
Then one day, in a Zone VI newsletter, I read how Fred Picker did metering.

He said figure out what your film speed really was, and how long it had to be developed to print correctly on grade 2 or 3 paper.
This would be your standard developing time.
After that, you metered the brightest thing that you wanted to hold detail (think blowing the highlights in digital), presume that it is Zone VIII because that gives you a stop of padding, and set your exposure 3 stops over the meter reading.
Develop the film as per your standardized development time and print it on a grade 2 or 3 paper.
It is a method that worked very well, and served me for years.
One thing that Picker was incredibly anal about was metering accuracy, and something he discovered was that not all meters are accurate regarding colour.
For example, a meter may be red deficient, so if you meter off a red barn, you could be over exposing the scene.

So he invented a better light meter.

He started with a Pentax Spotmeter, first the moving iron one, and then later the digital meter and he built the Zone VI modified Pentax Spotmeter.
He put a filter pack in that ensured that colour deficiencies in the meter cell sensitivity were addressed, and then he calibrated it to be at SIO standard for sensitivity.
And life was very good for large format photographers.
One thing I've not bothered to check is if the meters in our DSLRs are colour sensitive, and I haven't really given much thought to how I would test for it.
But, for anyone who is insistent on using a spot meter, I think it is an important consideration.

05-06-2010, 04:43 AM   #9
Inactive Account




Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Duncan,OK
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 71
Great info again from Wheatfield! I have used a Pentax Spot Meter for years in landscape shots and Zone system in BW. The tonal qualities of the images were very pleasing. If any of us put the time into waiting for the light, testing and formulating developing solutions etc... we could become a landscape photographer on the order of Mr. Adams. Our craft has changed and the skills to capture a great image have evolved. You can't tell me that Ansel Adams wouldn"t have been wagging around a digital backed view camera with a tethered laptop with a 1Tb drive, using HDR multi-layered images to achieve views of grandeur like we have never seen! Remember we all have a spot in time which we must function to the best of our ability. So take the best from the zone system averaging and incorporate it into your technique. I began noting exposures on particularly tough shoots. That kind of thing is what develops a photographers particular style. Remember the camera is a key to unlock the vision in your mind. Remember YOU are the one that decides the merits of any image you create, THEY will pay for it when those two sets of values meet!
05-06-2010, 07:07 AM   #10
Pentaxian
Digitalis's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Adelaide.
Posts: 8,796
I typically use incident light meter readings, I have used the Zone system* and I have tweaked in in similar fashion to wheatfield. When I know where my theoretical Zone 5 is I just use my knowlege of my film's DR and the DR of my printing paper(ilfobrom FB) to get the best results. I rarely messed around with my film development times, because I could intensify or reduce the negative after the fact, if I needed to Which is easier to do with 4X5/8X10 format than 35 or 120. Dodging and burning for 13X19 prints is a bit ridiculous and it gets tiring if your making multiple copies.

*also note that Ansel typically treated his prints in Selenium toner to create richer blacks in his prints the archival properties were just a boon.
05-06-2010, 10:37 AM   #11
Veteran Member
ChrisJ's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Eckington, Derbyshire UK
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 316
I thought the Pentax Spot Meter used a Pin diode as the sensor which are pretty much colour neutral and view the Luminence as if it was illuminated by White Light (which it usually is of course). So whether the barn was Red, Blue or Green it would give the same Luminence level, or am I wrong?

Chris
05-21-2010, 09:06 AM   #12
Site Supporter
cheekygeek's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Alda, Nebraska USA
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 1,254
I think if you understand what a histogram is, and have it turned on so you see it overlaid on your shot, then you can do what you need to do to make sure your scene isn't getting cut off on the "top end" or "bottom end". I also agree that with digital it is more important to make sure your highlights aren't getting blown out (at least the highlights that are important to you). Tools like the histogram (and the "blown highlights pixel blink") are tools that obviously weren't available to film shooters (that's why Polaroid backs were used).

I still think understanding the principles of the Zone System are important, but the exact methods they used are less important if you aren't shooting/developing film.

This is a good book on the Zone System covering film AND how to apply it to digital:
Amazon.com: The Practical Zone System: For Film and Digital Photography (9780240807560): Chris Johnson: Books
05-21-2010, 09:53 AM   #13
Veteran Member




Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 1,812
I used to use Ansel Adams' Zone System, as advocated by Minor White.

It is quite a bit more than just finding the white- or gray- point -
although that is a very good but very limited application of the Zone System

The principle is to be able to map/place each important part of the picture in its ("gray") Zone - there are 11 zones from 0 to 10.

It's really to do with pre-visualization and the ability to place one's exposure to reflect that visualization.

This was used for mostly black and white photography -
and it may be a bit more involved to use it for color -
since different colors may appear at different brightness/vividness visually - than the actual illumination (luminance) may indicate.

Even though I used this at the shooting stage with an Olympus OM-4 which had multiple spot metering capability -
I really used it much more at the printing stage -
where I used an enlarger meter and spot read different parts of the projected negative so I'd know how to treat - ie: dodge or burn-in - those parts.......

Here's are a few ancient examples:






the last is worth talking about - I confess I did not pre-visualize this shot - it was taken with a film rangefinder compact (before everyone called them point & shoots) and was exposed for the average scene so was overall mid-gray pic. It was only when I came to print that I thought this was mundane shot - but could well work out as a dark low-keyed photo -
so I used my enlarger meter to plot out where the tones ought to be and printed for a dark photo - but had to dodge a few areas to keep the contrast.......
As it turned out the negative was in a way a "perfect" exposure - as the wood grain would not be quite as well defined/detailed if it were exposed as a low-key in the first place as it probably would have been buried in the shadows..... so it was actually better as a post-visualization.

call it a fortuitous accidental shot......

Wikipedia on Zone System

Last edited by UnknownVT; 05-21-2010 at 11:20 AM.
05-21-2010, 10:55 AM   #14
Moderator PEG Judges
Kerrowdown's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Highlands of Scotland.
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 32,762
The purchase of a proper Grey (or Gray in US) Card, which is Zone V, can make life easier for both white and colour balance set up, especially when trying to get repeatable consistent results.

They don't cost the earth either, I have a Kodak (must be good then, eh) example.

This is an 8x10 card, one Grey side @ 18% reflectance and a white reverse side which has 90% reflectance.

There are heaps of reference books and articles on the web on this subject, I would suggest just try it and see if it works for you, it may not.
05-21-2010, 11:29 AM   #15
Veteran Member




Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 1,812
QuoteOriginally posted by kerrowdown Quote
The purchase of a proper Grey (or Gray in US) Card, which is Zone V, can make life easier for both white and colour balance set up, especially when trying to get repeatable consistent results.

This is an 8”x10” card, one Grey side @ 18% reflectance and a white reverse side which has 90% reflectance.
Although a grey or white card is an extremely useful exposure item -
this is really strictly speaking only the equivalent of an incident light meter reading -
which does not take into account any of the subjects/objects in the scene -
so really this is not the Zone System - merely placing a grey point for the lighting.

I apologize if this may sound pedantic - but take for example a scene comprising of mainly light (colored) objects and one really wanted a photo showing mainly mid-tones.

A grey card (= incident light) reading would render the scene as-is ie: mainly hi-tones - which is "correct" if that was what was wanted -
but incorrect if mainly mid-tone were wanted.

This is different from the Zone system which meters the actual objects in the scene then the photographer decides where to place the tones.

So mid-grey may not necessarily be the Zone V -
it is only if one wanted mid-grey to be Zone V in the photo.....

Wikipedia on Zone System
Reply

Bookmarks
  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
camera, dslr, photography, system, wall, zone
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Zone system Spot Meter pacerr Pentax Camera and Field Accessories 3 10-08-2009 01:04 PM
77 zone matrix metering wolfier Pentax DSLR Discussion 11 06-05-2009 05:36 PM
Zone VI spotmeter aaron Pazanti Troubleshooting and Beginner Help 1 03-27-2009 02:03 PM
AF Zone Experiment NeverSatisfied Pentax DSLR Discussion 44 03-26-2009 11:21 AM
Light Zone available for trial! bc_the_path Digital Processing, Software, and Printing 0 09-19-2007 03:30 AM



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 10:07 PM. | See also: NikonForums.com, CanonForums.com part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
register
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]
Top