View Full Version : BTZS vs VIDEC system

5-May-2014, 13:18
I'm currently looking at adopting one of these systems. What do you currently use, if any?

I am reading the VIDEC system at the moment. I have read through it but i cant quite understand how the graphs are used practically. Moreover, I am worried i will struggle with the testing due to the equipment i have and potentially waste 24 sheets of film.

I do not have access to a densitometer (still looking) and I use a Pentax spotmeter V with zone VI modification. My main concern here is that my light meter is not electronic. Has anyone tested negative densities with one of these meters? How did you find it?

Andrew O'Neill
5-May-2014, 14:28
I've never heard of the VIDEC system... I just downloaded the pdf, so I'll take a look at it. In regards to using a light metre as a densitometre, I did so for years before I got one. It worked okay but not as accurately.

5-May-2014, 14:57
I have no knowledge of the VIDEC system so I can't compare it with BTZS. But I find the latter to be easy to understand, it is a very good system and it has improved the quality of my output quite a bit.

5-May-2014, 15:16

IMO, you're better served ultimately at coming to grips with AA's Zone System – see The Negative. For many, that requires a bit of time and some head banging. I wish I knew of a workshop that I could recommend that taught it effectively, but I don't, so I can't.

5-May-2014, 17:00
I looked through the .pdf of the VIDEC system. It seems pretty straight forward and could no doubt serve as the basis for a precise system of exposure and enlargement.

That said, BTZS does the same thing but is better documented, and has software for both field controls and for plotting film curves. VIDEC, by comparison, is something of an orphan with no significant advantage over BTZS that I am able to discern.

In answer to the question about using an exposure meter to measure negatives, yes that works. In fact, some of the early BTZS manuals contained directions for adapting spot meters to the task of reading negative densities. I used one myself for many years before purchasing a transmission densitometer.


Jason Greenberg Motamedi
5-May-2014, 17:22
For what it is worth, the View Camera store will do all of the densitometer work for you.


All you do is send them film, they expose it and send it back to you. You develop it according to their directions send it back to them, and they send you back all of the files.

Jay Decker
4-Jul-2014, 15:25
Is there a through source of information, e.g., a PDF book, on the BTZS available on the internet?

Ken Lee
4-Jul-2014, 15:36
I believe the best resource aside from BTZS.org is the book BTZS by Phil Davis.

4-Jul-2014, 17:34
I believe the best resource aside from BTZS.org is the book BTZS by Phil Davis.

I agree that the best resource is Phil Davis' book, Beyond the Zone System. And you don't have to buy the latest edition, either. All of editions back to the first have the basic information on how to understand practical sensitometry and use it to test film for exposure and development. Just take your time and re-read each section until you understand the material before moving on to the next chapter. Eventually it will all fall into place and you will wonder why you did not take the journey earlier.


4-Jul-2014, 18:12
Hmmm... Sorry guys, I must politely disagree. The BTZS book is not the most clearly written in my opinion. It may be the only book but easy it aint. I'm about to do a run of tests having purchased many of the necessary evils and have tried to make summary information on BTZS and I think the Zone System is probably all that is needed in the end. It has been tough going. Even if I might seem to not be all there, I do admit to being very much more educated by reading the BTZS book though!

Jim Noel
5-Jul-2014, 07:59
I read completely through the PDF of the Videc System and see no reason for it.Why do people continue to attempt to re-invent the Zone System? All they do is make it more complicated and usually require the obtaining of more expensive equipment. There is really nothing simpler than the Zone System as originally laid out by Fred Archer and Ansel Adams. The simplest explanation is in "Portraiture" by Archer. Adam's two series of books continued to refine it, but often these are more than most people attempting to use it need. BTZS and Videc are among the many attempts to alter it , but when the physics and chemistry of photography are taken into account the worker will find there are errors in some of their presumptions.
Pick a film and developer combination and then go back to the basics and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! After you have carefully thought through production of several dozen images you should begin to become competent. Don't expect to expose part of a box of 25 sheets of film with an untested shutter and un-calibrated thermometer and become an expert regardless of any system you might use.

5-Jul-2014, 09:54
I agree with you completely, Jim. As I reviewed the materials, I found myself continually asking of what value VIDEC was, and how it differed from any standard ZS appreciation as set forth by AA and others. My (unverified) suspicion is that the system began as some kind of academic exercise, and that the author pulled it out of retirement to make whatever strengths it may have available to others. However, in my own final analysis, since it did not appear to violate any accepted ZS theory or practice, I concluded its value lies mainly in that its distinctly visual approach – though unnecessary for some, had the potential of offering another route into a system of exposure and printing that so many have found either arcane or indecipherable. If I had not personally experienced the difficulties and prejudices (to be kind) of so many, most of whom inhabit internet photo forums, I would likely conclude, as you, that it had no value. But the methods and intents of the ZS are often so poorly understood that I feel that any tool that has the potential to assist others in a fuller understanding and appreciation of light as it interfaces with film and the final print has some value.

Bill Burk
5-Jul-2014, 10:04
...I feel that any tool that has the potential to assist others in a fuller understanding and appreciation of light as it interfaces with film and the final print has some value.

I agree, this is one of the main benefits of going through the exercises.

Bill Burk
6-Jul-2014, 10:17

Have you decided on a system yet?

You know how the gray patch Zone System stickers for light meters only really "work" for "N" development time? For example, when you develop N+2, a Zone VI reading will be close to paper white on your print. Expansions and contractions are difficult to visualize and there have been a few attempts to help in that department.

I would say BTZS and VIDEC both try to help you with this problem (visualizing place and fall at different development times)...

In the VIDEC system, you draw an ISO-Density graph. This puts development times on the x-axis, and follows all the "Zones" to their resulting density on the negative at the different development times. If you can visualize how a density on negative will turn out in a print, then this graph will help you in the field.

VIDEC doesn't depart from traditional Zone System here. Minor White showed a similar cross-reference graph in his Zone System booklet. I haven't seen Minor White's graph in other Zone System tutorials so it must not have caught on.

BTZS describes a "Wonder Wheel" that is extremely difficult to make. I would be surprised to find a real one in the wild. You can purchase the "Power Dial" from the View Camera Store that serves the same purpose, but doesn't have the actual grays printed on the wheel. There are also computer programs.