# Thread: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

1. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Originally Posted by Luis-F-S
Fred used a two step process. 1. Meter the palm of your hand and place the value on Zone VI. 2. Take the picture. The KISS method.
He probably used this method when shooting portraits, but his main technique for outdoor scenes, etc, is what he called MPD (Maximum Printable Density.) His theory was that since Zone VIII is the maximum negative density that can realistically be printed, meter for Zone VIII, set shutter speed and aperture accordingly, expose, and develop normally. He rarely, if ever, did minus development and if he felt he needed expanded development, he'd still shoot a "normal" neg, then expose another sheet for an N + 1 1/2 development.

2. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Here's an interesting piece on meters and metering that puts the Zone System into a larger context: http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subsc...0metering.html

3. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Originally Posted by Corran
Forgive me, but from your previous posts I thought you were already well versed in the Zone System? If not, buy Ansel's "The Negative" and read it. Twice, if necessary. Others have their preferred Zone System book but that's my opinion.
I know about it and have used it for things like putting this metered area into a particular zone, like from V to III or V to VII, but not when developing and printing. I understand it, but have not entirely practiced it to the full extent it was intended to be. I want to get Ansel's book, but haven't gotten to it yet.

4. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

There is no silver bullet. Scenes vary, as do films and how they are developed. That's what's so nice about a spotmeter. You can compare values all the way from highlights to shadow. An intelligent strategy takes into account the variables actually present in the scene, not some unrealistic generic "one shoe fits all" default like some of those previously described on this thread. The Zone System is a teaching model that facilitates learning how to handle various conditions. But when it comes to the learning curve, standardizing on just one film and developer at a time can make things a bit less mystifying. What specific film and developer do you have in mind?

5. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Originally Posted by pepeguitarra
Or as Peter said: Many others would worry more about the shadows and place the darkest value you want to have detail shown in Zone III. Some take the meter reading at the highest value and the meter reading at the lowest value and average them.
That's what I do. Find the highest and lowest value of the scenes, and then set the dial directly in between those two readings. If they extend beyond what the film is capable of, or if there's something in the scene to leads me to believe that method won't work (like if it might set some skin tones out of where they should be or I purposely want to blow out some highlights or bury some shadow detail), then I slow it down and use the zone system to figure out what I want to do. But most of the time, the zone system isn't necessary. Still, it's a great tool to have on those occasions where you need it.

6. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Originally Posted by jim10219
That's what I do. Find the highest and lowest value of the scenes, and then set the dial directly in between those two readings. If they extend beyond what the film is capable of, or if there's something in the scene to leads me to believe that method won't work (like if it might set some skin tones out of where they should be or I purposely want to blow out some highlights or bury some shadow detail), then I slow it down and use the zone system to figure out what I want to do. But most of the time, the zone system isn't necessary. Still, it's a great tool to have on those occasions where you need it.
Correct. I have a Pentax spot meter (the best), I measure the highest and the Lowest and check the difference in stops. If it is five stops, then fine, the dark goes to Zone III and the highlight goes to Zone VII. As Ansel said, the white snow in the sun will go in between VIII and VII. If there is more than 5 stops, then keep my dark in the III, and develop the negative +1, or +2 depending on whether the highlight goes to VIII or IX. If more than that, time for filters.

7. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Back to it ... I find Zone III shadow placement to be downright ridiculous. "Fred" (presumably Fred Picker) made some nice products; but some of his advice could sure be hokey. I meter for the shadow values a particular film is actuall capable of rendering. With Pan F it might not be much below ZIII, but with most sheet films ZII is more realistic, and with something like TMax, Zone I placement is entirely realistic. Why waste a lot of valuable real estate in the basement and then risk blowing out the highlights with overexposure? It takes awhile shooting, developing, and printing to get all this under control, but after awhile it all becomes instinctive and easy. But the briefest way of explaining this is, indeed, "expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights". You have to attain a sufficient threshold of exposure to get printable shadow detail, and you have to develop in such a manner as to rein in the highlights enough to make them printable too. I have several Pentax digital spotmeters, and have standardized on them for years. Like you, not too long ago, I too stumbled on another barely used one which had a Zone label on it, which I immediately removed. No need. The original Pentax scale markings are a lot more sensible. Despite what some people believe, God did not create the world in eight distinct light zones, each a stop apart. It's not like artificial Time Zones. Some situation are low contrast, and some relatively high contrast, up to 12 or so stops or "Zones" of range, especially under bright open light in the mtns or desert; so the strategy has to be customized to the actual circumstances. Ansel's "The Negative" book is a good basic introduction. Just realize that specific films and papers have changed since he wrote it; and a lot of new tricks have be learned in the interim. A good companion book is his, "Examples", where he illustrates and describes various specific instances.

8. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Agree on the T-Max. Took me a couple years to figure that out and stop overexposing it in the Florida sun. Read The Negative or any of the Zone System books, and then practice/experiment.

9. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Oh boy, here we go...

Steven,

First things first. Don't go choosing this or that exposure and development system till you understand a bit about the principles involved. You likely do already, but I'll give you my take anyway, so bear with me. Possibly it will be useful.

Note, in the below I'm talking about black-and-white negative film. Color film, and especially color transparency film, have a slightly different approach.

Most important is to recognize that film needs a certain amount of exposure to render any kind of image at all. When this level is reached (call it the threshold), you don't automatically get all the tonal separation the film has to offer. Even pretty big variations at very low exposures aren't separated very well. As the exposure level increases, the separation of tones becomes greater till, at about two or three stops above the threshold, the film is at its best, separating tones as well as it can. This lasts up until about 10, or even 12, stops above the threshold, when the separation of tones gets reduced again, and even levels out to the point that differences in exposure make no difference on the film. What I'm describing here is the film's characteristic response curve.

Naturally, we want to have the range of tones in the images we take fall in the portion of the film that gives optimum separation. That's the part that's from two or three stops over the threshold to the 10 or so stops over point. In Zone System parlance, Zones II or III through Zone X or so (i.e., a nine-stop range). One refinement here: keep in mind that most images don't need all of that exposure latitude. Actually, an image that has important elements along the whole range is pretty difficult to print traditionally unless you take steps to reduce the contrast on the negative from what is considered "normal," because printing papers don't have as much latitude as the film. Digital has even less. Most "normal" scenes have their important values between Zones III and VIII or so (i.e., a six-stop range from lowest to highest).

So, as you can see, it's important where you place a low value and it's important where the high value falls, but there's a pretty big window to hit. Since most average scenes have brightness ranges that only take up part of the film's "capacity," so to speak, there are a lot of ways to get them in there. Below are a few exposure methods, from less to more accurate.

1. Sunny 16. This was a favorite of amateur photographers for years (even professionals) since you don't even need a meter. On a sunny day, set your film speed as the shutter speed and use f/16. 100 speed film? 1/100 sec. (or as close as you can get) and f/16. This puts a surprisingly large amount of scenes with different brightness ranges in the sweet spot on the film. Cloudy? no problem, open two stops. Bright sand or snow? Close a stop, etc. Every Kodak film box had these exposure guidelines printed on the inside for years. Sure, a certain percentage of shots were ruined with this method (backlit scenes, scenes with extreme brightness ranges, etc.), but it works for the majority of photos.

2. Average metering. A meter measures the average brightness from a wide angle and gives you a reading that gets interpreted into exposure information (f/16 at 1/125 sec, etc.). Average meters are great for scenes that have brightness ranges that aren't very wide and where the distribution of tones includes roughly equal amounts of both dark and bright. Average meters tell you where the middle of the brightness range is and, whether you know it or not, you're placing that in the middle of the film's response range. Such meters don't do well with polar bears in the snow or cats in coal bins; they'll underexpose the former and overexpose the latter. That's why there's exposure compensation on cameras with such meters; the photographer is supposed to recognize the scenes where the meter will fail and compensate. Matrix metering, etc., etc. are just refinements of the average meter.

3. Incident meters do a similar kind of averaging, but they measure the light falling on the subject, not the subject itself. Same problems.

So, why do some people meter a highlight and place it in Zone VIII? That's because that will work too, for most scenes. It's kind of like averaging metering, except we choose a highlight that we want detail in and base our exposure on that. For any scene that doesn't have a brightness range greater than six stops or so, the shadows will fall nicely on the response curve of the film. More than six stops? Well then you're underexposing shadows. Sure, this method works for the majority of scenes, but basing your exposure on a shadow value is superior if you want to ensure that you don't underexpose.

So, why do Zone System practitioners and others spend so much time metering both shadows and highlights? That's because of the second half of the photographic process that I haven't dealt with yet: printing. Traditional photo papers have a pretty narrow range (even the VC ones) and won't easily accept all the information that film can contain along the length of its response curve. Average scenes in the six-stop range do fine in this regard (as long as film speed and development are correct, of course). Scenes with more contrast end up giving you negatives with a contrast range that's difficult to print straight. Either the shadows are good and the highlights are blown out or, if you print the highlights right, the shadows are too dark. You can dodge and burn and mask such negatives or even use low-contrast filtration on your printing paper or... You can develop them to less contrast than normal! If you meter shadows and highlights with your spot meter and find that your important low and high values are too far apart, you can adjust development time from "normal" to give you a negative with a smaller overall contrast range.

The opposite is true for flat, contrastless scenes which would print with no real black or white; you can develop them for longer and increase the contrast range of the negative. This "tailoring" of the negative so that it prints well is what the Zone System is all about. The advantage it has over other systems is it allows you to see in your mind's eye what your results could be so that you can make informed decisions about exposure and development before exposing the negative.

Here's the Zone System in a nutshell:
1. You base your exposure on a shadow value, choosing a value that you want rendered as a detailed black in your print (or whatever; a luminous shadow or a jet-black void) and place it in the proper place on the film's scale.

2. You check the highlights to see where they fill end up given the shadow placement you've chosen. If you like where they fall, then all is well, just make the exposure as indicated on the meter. This is the Zone System normal, or "N." This, of course, assumes your film speed and development times are correct, more later.

3. If the highlights fall too high on the scale for your taste, the scene is too contrasty. N- development is indicated. One-stop too contrasty? N-1. Two stops? N-2, etc. You'll need to reduce development to get the extra contrast to fit in the right contrast range on the negative. But, since reducing development slows film speed a bit, you'll have to give a bit more exposure too. More later.

4. If the highlights fall too low on the scale, the scene is too flat. N+ development is indicated. More development actually speeds the film up infinitesimally, but so little that we don't have to worry about it usually.

That's basically all there is. The question is, where to start. Here are my recommendations:

1. Rate your chosen film at 2/3-stop slower than the ISO and save yourself the Zone System film-speed calibration. This is in line with 99% of Zone System testing and gives you a bit of a buffer so you don't underexpose. FWIW all the films I use and have carefully calibrated end up being 1/3-2/3-stop slower than box speed.

2. Use a common developer and the manufacturer's recommended time for developing your film. This will be your "N."

3. Plan tentative N-1 and N+1 development schemes as follows: for N-1 increase you exposure 2/3-stop and reduce the development time by 15% from N. For N+1 increase the development time 15% from N; no exposure compensation is needed.

Now, go out and make images, keep notes and print. For each development scheme be ready to adjust things as follows: If your shadow detail is too little for your taste, rate your film a bit slower (this will likely never happen, since you've got a 2/3-stop buffer already). If there is really a lot more shadow detail than you want (could happen with N+ development), rate the film slower. If you find yourself printing consistently with a higher contrast setting (all those N+ negative need a no. 5 filter?) then increase development time another bit, say 10-15%. If the opposite happens, you find yourself using a lower contrast setting consistently, then decrease development by 10 or 15%.

That's really all you need; no densitometers or step-tablets needed.

Sorry this got so long! Go have fun with your new spot-meter.

Best,

Doremus

10. ## Re: Just acquired a Pentax Spot meter with Zone V Conversion

Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
Note, in the below I'm talking about black-and-white negative film. Color film, and especially color transparency film, have a slightly different approach.
Apologies to Steve. I should not have assumed he was asking about b&w film. Perhaps he can tell us more specifically, as all the images I have seen from him lately were on color films. In Post #7, Steve mentioned b&w film, so hopefully that is what the question is about, as I think all of us were assuming the above.

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