Zone system questions . . .
I've been reading a lot of posts about this zone system, so I am reading up about it. This does bring up a very important question, though. Does the N80's spot meter work with the camera as something that one could use for the zone system? And how could you use it?
As far as I understand, you can use spot metering to select an area that you want to be Zone V - middle grey. But what if you use a flash? The N80's meter does behave like that, doesn't it? Finding what's needed to produce a middle grey?
I want to have more control over the picture than clumsily adjusting the shutter speed, aperature, or composition. Should I bother trying to learn this complicated (or at least it seems so now) system to create photographs that match the images in my mind, or should i just stick with matrix metering right now and hope that it comes out right?
The reason i purchased my N80 was because i felt limited by my old equipment - now i'm feeling limited by my knowledge (lack of). Any advice or help you could give me would be great.
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#1. "RE: Zone system questions . . ." | In response to Reply # 0BJNicholls Charter MemberWed 27-Dec-00 03:56 PM
The zone system isn't really intended for use with flash, especially not for auto or auto TTL flash using a built in camera meter.
Although it certainly doesn't hurt to understand the zone concept, the system was designed to not only to help you visualize exposure control, but to also modify the processing of film in order to optimize the results. There are very few folks who are willing or able to get into the darkroom techniques that give the zone system its real power. Most of those folks work with black and white, since manipulating color film processing is so difficult.
You certainly can and should use the N80's spot meter to help you get the best exposure for difficult lighting. It's not always easy to pick a spot to meter that will have the right grey value for correct exposure, at least not without training your eye. The technique that works best for me is to make my best spot metering pick and then shoot bracketed shots from there.
Digital cameras are opening the door to zone system techniques of image control, at least informally. I've yet to see a full correlation of zone technique to digital image captures processed with Photoshop, but the technology makes advanced techniques possible without the limitations and difficulty of playing lab technician.
#2. "RE: Zone system questions . . ." | In response to Reply # 0N80 Charter MemberWed 27-Dec-00 09:49 PM
LAST EDITED ON Dec-28-00 AT 00:57 AM (GMT)
The N80's spot meter is excellent for use with the zone system. It's knowing what to meter and what do do with the meter readings that is the trick. In any scene, every area that you spot meter will give you a reading that will make that area 18% gray or zone 5. With the zone system you meter the areas you consider important and make exposure adjustments to get those areas to correlate with how you 'see' the final print. Typically you find an area of important shadow that you consider to be the darkest area of shadow in the image that needs some detail in it. You spot meter this area. The reading you get is for zone V. Dark shadow with a hint of detail correlates to zone III which is two fstops less exposure than zone V. Once you have made this adjustment you have to meter the important midtones and highlights to see what zones they 'fall' into based on your adjustment. If they fit into the zones you feel they should then you have a normal contrast scene and you make the photo. No change in development required. If the contrast is high or low, you change development times to alter your highlights. If you don't develop, as I don't, you loose a great deal of control but you retain a firm grasp on previsualization and exposure that will improve your images. I feel it is a system worth knowing.
For those of us that shoot roll film and have it commercially processed there are gaps in available knowledge concerning the zone system. Already mentioned is digital imaging. I desperately need a how-to or 'cookbook' process for taking commercially developed B&W negatives, scanning them with a slide scanner and making adjustment in Photoshop that correlate to n- and n+ developing. I've looked and haven't found it. I wish I had the time and know-how to develop this technique myself. Of course there is the whole printer/ink selection bag of worms too.
Second, I need to know what to request of a good custom lab in regard to developing my black and white film. I do not understand the intricacies of traditional B&W development or of the newer C-41 B&W films. Should I simply ask them to use some standard level of printing for each individual roll, without adjustment for what they, or their machine, think is the correct exposure? Should I assume that their development times/techniques are standard from roll to roll? Can you request different exposure times (or whatever) if such an adjustment is appropriate for the whole roll? What about paper selection. I suppose this isn't that important for the 4x6's but would be for any enlargements. Advice?
I noticed that you _do_ develop yourself. In this case, I recommend getting _The Zone Sytem for 35mm Photographers by Graves. Good book even if you don't process.
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#3. "RE: Zone system questions . . ." | In response to Reply # 0kdsmithjr Charter MemberThu 28-Dec-00 12:30 AM
the Zone System goes back aways and I'd almost forgotten about it. The system is rather simple and help you render tones (it's really designed more for black and white than color) in proper relationship to one another. If Zone V is equivalent to 18% gray, then each Zone is equal to one shade darker or lighter and each shade is also equal to one stop's difference over the previous shade. The basic principle is that the highest Zone (i've forgotten what zone number it is) is the whitest white in which one can discern any detail at all; the lowest zone is the blackest black in which some detail can be discerned. For a particular film/developer combo, you can meter an 18% gray wall. If you follow the exposure given, the wall should turn out 18 percent gray and should match a gray card taped on the wall. Now take what amounts to a series of bracketed exposures plus or minus one stop at a time and you'll create a series where, eventually, the wall will be truly white and, at the other end of the series, the wall will be so underexposed as to be black.
The usefulness of the Zone System is to make you aware of shades and the interaction of a meter reading and the reproduction of that shade on film. For instance, if you are shooting snow and believe the meter, the snow will end up 18% gray or Zone V. If you want the snow to be, say, three Zones more white--about as white as you can get--then you have to overexpose the scene by three stops. That might seem like exposure suicide, but your snow will definitely be white then. The problem you have with color is that slide films can have a lot of trouble getting more than 2 Zones on a piece of film; negative film can probably get 4, maybe five Zones on a single piece of film.
By the way, the best way to always incorporate Zone into your work is to wean yourself off of reflected meters (that's every TTL system going) and get into incident metering. If you think it out, you can see why every incident reading automatically puts everything in it's proper relative zone. Just like a reflected reading gives an exposure to render what you read, i.e., the light reflected from what you read, as an 18% gray. An incident reading tells you what settings to use to render those things receiving that particular light falling on them that are already 18% gray as 18% gray. It follows then that the same setting will also render those things that are already 9% gray as 9% gray and those things that are 36% gray as 36% gray and so on. Back 25 years ago, I used to always have a Gossen Luna Pro in my bag and I always used incident metering. It may not be as convenient, but it will give you a spot on rendition of a scene.
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