I am making a go at learning the zone system. I process my images with Silver Efex Pro, which has a feature that "maps" the zones in the photo. I am having a bit of difficulty with this, and am noticing that when, for example, I attempt to place part of an image in zone 3 by closing 2 stops (-2 EV), it actually ends up in zone 2. I am, of course, spot metering. I'm wondering if an adjustment on the camera under tone compensation is in order. Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated!
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#1. "RE: Zone system on D2X" | In response to Reply # 0Len Shepherd Nikonian since 09th Mar 2003Sat 26-Mar-11 07:45 AM
It is a bit difficult to comment because, apart from historical interest, the zone system is redundant - by many decades.
Whether your D2x can record as many stops exposure as negative film is something I have never investigated - but at base ISO it probably records fewer stops - a problem before you get going.
More recent DSLR's record more stops DR at base ISO than presumed in the zone system.
The zone system was relevant for photographing in an era when film and paper speeds and camera shutter speeds were rarely accurate to half a stop - it was in effect a "do-it-yourself" fairly basic densitometry measuring system for whatever you were using.
Far more is possible with modern levels of equipment accuracy, highlight and shadow protection and high dynamic range techniques.
Far less is possible with most modern lenses because what is often called focus breathing frequently cause the aperture for external manual exposure to change by up to 1 stop - something equipment from the zone era heyday more than 50 years ago did not do.
If your aim is to learn about using the zone system despite it being far from satisfactory for modern digital equipment - fine.
If you want to be a better photographer or printer using digital equipment my advice is forget the zone system as a means of improving.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.