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Thread: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

  1. #1
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    I am just curious about who is using what. Don't worry, I am not constructing a Zone Wacko hit list. I am curious because it appears that more people on this forum use BTZS or at minimum they are the most vocal. I understand that there are levels of investment in these approaches, but give it your best shot.

    Do you use the Zone System, Beyond the Zone System BTZS, no formal system, or something like the old YOB?

    I use the Zone System at varying levels of complexity, right now pretty bare bones. It works for me and has for 30 years.
    Last edited by Kirk Gittings; 28-Aug-2006 at 08:12.

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  2. #2
    Eric Biggerstaff
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Denver, Colorado

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS


    I use the Zone System, similiar in method to what you do - very simple and straight forward.
    Eric Biggerstaff

  3. #3
    Cooke, Heliar, Petzval...yeah
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    Hi Kirk,

    You can actually use poll option to do your survey. I am using both.
    So do four options ZS, BTZS, Both and Other - Specify in a thread.

    My two cents.
    Peter Hruby

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2006

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    I have been using BTZS since 1995. And in the last 6 years without needing a palm pilot, just my field notes.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    Spot metering, no deeper knowledge of the Zone system or its derivatives. 15-20 years (I've lost the count) of work for stock agencies on two continents.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    I don't feel a need to control development on a sheet-by-sheet basis. I use a shaded reading with an incident meter set for a conservative EI to expose for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may, then almost always just develop for a standard time determined for each film/developer combination. Once in a great while, if I've exposed several sheets under the same very extreme conditions I might push or pull a Jobo drumload by a modest amount to partially compensate.

    FWIW, I've studied BTZS and have had the experience of working through its basic procedures during a visit with Phil Davis. I think BTZS is a superb system for learning practical sensitometry. I think it's better than the Zone System in that respect because it integrates all the pieces, including the understanding of film and paper characteristic curves and how they interact to produce the tonal scale, within a consistent framework. With that understanding, you can apply as much or as little of the procedural apparatus as you need to meet your objectives.

    It's also clear that photographers who have figured out what characteristic curves are about and know how to interpret their ZS readings in light of that can use ZS very successfully.

    As for Y.O.B., I've got Parry Yob's book on my shelf. I picked it up for a buck or so as a remainder maybe 20 years ago, worth it as a souvenir of the wacky early days of Petersen's Photographic magazine.

    PS: In response to Ed's later post, I'm printing exclusively in traditional mode, on variable contrast silver paper.
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 28-Aug-2006 at 09:14.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Baton Rouge, LA

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    We need another bit of info: how are you printing? If you are scanning, then BTZS is not very well defined. I use a simplified zone system with incident metering, and scan my negatives.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Westport Island, Maine

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    I have to admit that I've read Mr. Davis' book twice, and can't for the life of me figure out how it applies to photography... For all the folks who use BZTS, my experience clearly says more about me than about BZTS!

    I use Picker's system, modified slightly: Place brightest thing on Zone VIII, make exposure, develop normally. Flip holder. Place same brightest thing on Zone VI 1/2, make exposure, develop N+1 1/2. Good choice of negatives, one with more contrast. Never fails unless I experiment and place 2nd neg on Zone VII to push the envelope. Only works sometimes. Proofs are gorgeous and negs print like butter. Even-numbered holders are always N, odd-numbered holders are always N+1 1/2. Almost impossible to confuse, and no notes required. More brain available for finding good pictures (and we established my amount of brain as "small" in the first paragraph...).

    Close Enough for Photography, as we say in New England.

    I've done the tests to establish proper ISO and proper development time for my developer and "house" paper, so all the pieces are trimmed up. It took one day's testing, and most of that time was spent aggressively waiting for negatives to dry. I have different development times for Azo, and follow a similar procedure for Azo 2 and Azo grade 3 with even and odd holders. Since all those are 5x7 and 8x10s for contact prints, there's no way I'll confuse development times with 4x5 negs that I'll enlarge.

    I don't think I'd have the patience for the level of precision BZTS gives, nor have I found that such a level of precision is necessary. There are so many other places where error and imprecision can creep in, that it seems like those small discrepancies would run roughshod over the precision I'm trying to achieve through BZTS.

    Now, will all of you please try to play nice?
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Virginia Beach, Va.

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    I use the zone system but I don't expose for low values, I expose for highs. I place my highest value that I want to have detail on Zone VIII and let the lows fall where they will. I believe Fred Picker called this Maximum Printable Density. The idea is, as I understand it, to get your values on the linear part of the curve. Since you can always burn or expand your low values down, but tryng to dodge a zone I up will just give ligher shades of gray with no detail. If I get in situations where I have 5 or fewer zones of light available I will place the high values on Zone 6.5 and develope them up to zone VIII. But to do this you really have to do developement/print tests so you don't over develope the high values out of existence.

  10. #10
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Re: Survey on Zone System vs BTZS

    In the field, I use the BBZS (bare-bones Zone System), aka MCZS (minimum-complexity Zone System) (with a Sekonic L-508 or L-778), usually "placing" values for "normal" development, but making adjustments where really needed.

    In the studio with electronic flash, I use incident readings, but double-check highlights with spot readings.

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