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Thread: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

  1. #1

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    Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    I have to point out from the start I am using B&W film stock scanned to output on an inkjet.

    With my analoge hat on, to obtain predicable results with my materials and equipement setup, I would normally with a new setup do some zone tests with different development times making a number of gray scales with straight prints to find the optimal settings for predictable results when I'm shooting.

    I can do the first part of this test with the film with a straight scan but what is the best thing with the workflow from then on, I sure there are some sites out there about this ?
    http://www.architecturalphotos.net

  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    Maybe I am missing something but isn't the reason you are scanning, rather than printing on photo paper that you can adjust the contrast digitally? Why open the "N+1, etc" can of worms if you don't have to?

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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    "The Practical Zone System for Film & Digital Photography", Chris Johnson.

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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    Maybe I am missing something but isn't the reason you are scanning, rather than printing on photo paper that you can adjust the contrast digitally? Why open the "N+1, etc" can of worms if you don't have to?
    Hmmmm, not exactly.

    There is a little more leeway, but not that much. You can still overdevelop and have a contrasty result that you can't correct for, or in the modern films, explode the grain. The zone system is still a viable tool, I use it all the time. If you can get the negative as close as possible, then all the rest of the process will be fairly easy, vs using the tools for a medical emergency. It can bring 4x5 very close to the capabilities of an 8x10 - if you get the neg just right.

    The issue here is what the correct target is for the maximum density of the negative. Drum scanners can scan into the depths of those very dark negs, but that doesn't mean you should develop that long. My guess is that top-end density ought to be around 1.6 or so. Some like it lighter than that, others a little darker. Flatbeds can't handle as much density, but that's another conversation.

    There are so many variables, curves and masking, etc., that come in to play. I would use the same techniques you use for making darkroom negatives, but just add a little development time. I'd say a minute or so, but it depends on your development system. Add a little more, see what kind of print you can make... then add some more, or lessen, etc.

    That's my 2 cents.

    Lenny
    EigerStudios
    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  5. #5
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    I agree with Lenny. I like a negative that will print or scan well. So I don't do much different than I ever did. I also "believe" that a well targeted exposure and development results (when you get a first class scan from someone as good as Lenny) in a file that will require less manipulation in PS and also runs less risk of posterization etc. with serious manipulation of tones in PS.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    Thanks chaps, I will look out for Chris's book Tony.
    I was hoping there would be an online site aimed at those who already use the zone system as an expressive tool & just want to take it (with film) into the digital arena.
    http://www.architecturalphotos.net

  7. #7
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    I have found that if you use the L channel to look at density , and understand how the numbers relate to the materials you are using then you are off to a good start.

    For example in my darkrooms... if I am placing highlight with detail for silver negative or silver paper I will put the numbers around 94 or 96 which is within the top limit towards pure white.
    Anything above 95 or 96 in the file will burn out to white.

    The same is true for the shadows ,,, you decide where to show detail and by knowing how your numbers relate to the materials you are using ,,, you should get detail in the shadow, lowering the numbers will only block up .

    different materials will have different end points and there fore you can set the end points with confidence and let the inbetween areas go where you want.
    Silver has a extended range than inkjet, RA 4 is in between.



    As I see it this is exactly like exposing carefully to a set lighting ration and developing the film to the correct time. can we call this the zone system. 10 zones - 100 units of density on the L- just know that you can put the detail at 95 L and 4 L is a very powerful tool.


    Trying to force detail will not work.. at least in my experience... knowing where the limits does work...

    My experience with Zone system was more practical than charting as some can do really well... But with PS the charting side has made me a better technician..
    I see a direct link between Photo Shop and Zone System.


    Quote Originally Posted by Rudgey View Post
    Thanks chaps, I will look out for Chris's book Tony.
    I was hoping there would be an online site aimed at those who already use the zone system as an expressive tool & just want to take it (with film) into the digital arena.

  8. #8
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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    What the others have said is very valuable, and you might find this article interesting: Testing B&W Film With the Zone System.

    Lately I have been studying BTZS to get a different perspective. The article contains a few statements that I may revise, but you still may find it helpful. Using it, I have managed to get some nice exposures.

    Zone System testing is basically empirical. You have to expose and develop a larger number of negatives than you do with BTZS, but with the approach outlined in the article, there is no need for a densitometer, which may be an advantage for some.
    Last edited by Ken Lee; 2-Apr-2012 at 07:30.

  9. #9

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    Re: Is there an equivalent to the analoge zone system test in digital?

    Thanks Bob & Ken, some great information you suggest.
    http://www.architecturalphotos.net

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