View Full Version : ZONE SYSTEM paper grade

9-Feb-2001, 04:48

How can I define the grade of my printing paper in the darkroom. Which is the ea syest solution?


P.S. how can i make an ordinary green bulb for developing by inspektion.


Pete Andrews
9-Feb-2001, 06:26
1)Buy graded paper(s)2)You can't. You need to buy a safelight. Even then, you'll probably find that the light is too dim to see anything, unless you use a desensitising bath on the film.

Charlie Stracl
9-Feb-2001, 14:24
If you insist upon developing by inspection, why not start of with orthochromatic films? You can use a red safelight and they are quite common.

When in high school I made some B&W enlarged negatives for Christmas cards using ortho copy film. I found developing by inspection wasn't very useful for me, but the safelight helped me in processing just because I could see what I was doing.

You can barely see an image by inspection. Not like a print at all.

Pete Caluori
9-Feb-2001, 15:49

To define the grade of your printing paper, print a transmission density step tablet and develop the paper. The range between base paper white and black will determine the grade and is based on ISO range numbers. The Variable Contrast Printing Manual by Steve Anchell describes the process and gives the relationship between density steps and range numbers.


Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
9-Feb-2001, 17:23
Development of film by inspection is easier than some seem to think. If I can do it, anyone can. The misconception seems to revolve around seeing an entire image on the negative. When you d.b.i. all you are interested in is the density of the highlights relative to the base.

You can judge by reflection - looking at the base side, allowing the safelight to reflect off the films surface - or by transmittance - judging a shadow cast by your finger against the density of the highlights when viewing the film with the light behind it and the base facing you.

You DO need the appropriate filter (Wratten #3 Green) and bulb wattage (15 watts) and distance between bulb and negative (4 feet) and you DO want to allow at least 2/3rds the development time to elapse before judging for a few seconds. As development proceeds the film becomes progressively less sensitive to exposure - this is especially true with staining developers.

It is easier to judge larger formats (8 X 10 +), but it can be done with 4 X 5 and 5 X 7. It helps if you start with "test" negatives with simple compositions with clearly defined highlight areas and use your standard developer and time. With experience it becomes quite simple - although some negatives will always be easier to judge than others.

You can read more about this here:


and here:


and in the 2nd edition of Steve Anchell's "Darkroom Cookbook"

Brian Ellis
10-Feb-2001, 19:05
I would add only two things to Sean's message. First, make sure you have a foot switch with which to turn the safe light on and off. It's much too cumbersome to try to hold the negative in one hand and look for the highlights while using the other hand to try to find an on off swith. A foot switch eliminates this problem. Second, if you develop by inspection it's very helpful to make notes that indicate where on the negative the brightest highlights are located. As Sean said, you don't look at the entire negative under the green light, only at the highlights, and it's helpful to know where they are in advance.

mark lindsey
12-Feb-2001, 03:31
why develop by inspection when you can test your film and be confident in your results instead of going to all that trouble with each and every negative???

Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
12-Feb-2001, 12:09
"why develop by inspection when you can test your film and be confident in your results instead of going to all that trouble with each and every negative???"

I would turn that around. Why go to the trouble of testing and trust that every element of your system is absolutely correct throughout all the time, every time when you can simply D.B.I. ?

If you want the ultimate in control over the outcome, why deny yourself the opportunity at one of the most crucial steps? You went to the trouble to expose the negative, and you've got to develop it anyway, right?