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Thread: Relevance of zone system when scanning

  1. #11

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    How do you scan BW negatives using the zone system that another person would do differently without using the zone system? Isn't just the development process that follows the zone system? But the scan procedure just catches the whole range of the negative like anyone else who scans without the zone system in mind. Unless you adjust the scan settings a special way?
    The zone system is used for visualization during image capture and planning for subsequent film development. It has absolutely nothing to do with scanning. For many years now, I scan to a 16-bit linear file and convert in PS using the ColorPerfect plugin.

  2. #12
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    The zone system is used for visualization during image capture and planning for subsequent film development. It has absolutely nothing to do with scanning. For many years now, I scan to a 16-bit linear file and convert in PS using the ColorPerfect plugin.
    Someone mentioned that they scan by the zone system. I questioned that. I thought the zone system was set up to effect the chemical process of printing the photo.

    So my question now is, does using the zone system have no point if you're scanning and printing digitally? Just capture a photo that captures the full range of zones. Does that make sense to you?

  3. #13
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    I meant to say...full range of tones ...rather than full range of zones...

  4. #14

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    I haven't done much in depth of the zone system but I have read about it over the years and finally got a spot meter to have greater control over my exposure. BUT I guess the point of my question was, zone system is meant to be used with darkroom printing on chemical paper. Scanning is a different medium. I guess you'd be shooting specifically for scanning. I was wondering if any of you have found that the zone system doesn't apply, at least, in the full affect as the paper/chemicals. Say, like my v700 is not able to capture the full range of a zone system neg. (I like shooting color as well). Also lets say the zone system used for velvia had a shorter zone range so you have to adjust your aim of zones for a small amount. Have any of you found that you need to change the way you shoot, specifically for scanning, as oppose to darkroom printing?

  5. #15

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    The image recording media is ..... Film.

    Film has a light response curve that is not escapable regardless if the print is made via wet darkroom or scanned. Image to be recorded is much the same. Better way to understand this is to spend some time with film speed (light sensitivity) to intensity of light exposing the film (f-stop) over a finite amount of time (shutter speed) to produce a range of film densities relative to the light intensity variations in a given scene to be imaged by film to produce a film density range on the film.

    Don't believe or think you're going to be able to "fix it" post process by digital.. This is a poor band aid at best and you're going to burn LOTs of time trying to do digital patch-up.



    Bernice


    Quote Originally Posted by DmaalaM View Post
    I haven't done much in depth of the zone system but I have read about it over the years and finally got a spot meter to have greater control over my exposure. BUT I guess the point of my question was, zone system is meant to be used with darkroom printing on chemical paper. Scanning is a different medium. Have any of you found that you need to change the way you shoot, specifically for scanning, as oppose to darkroom printing?

  6. #16

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    Someone mentioned that they scan by the zone system. I questioned that. I thought the zone system was set up to effect the chemical process of printing the photo.

    So my question now is, does using the zone system have no point if you're scanning and printing digitally? Just capture a photo that captures the full range of zones. Does that make sense to you?
    Perfect sense! Using the zone system enables me to capture and, as importantly, get on film a full range of tones. When I started using the zone system 40 years ago, I tailored my negatives to a specific grade 2 silver gelatin paper; when I started scanning 20 years ago, I modified my processes slightly to provide a more "general purpose" negative that can easily be printed digitally or in my darkroom.

  7. #17
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Quote Originally Posted by DmaalaM View Post
    I haven't done much in depth of the zone system but I have read about it over the years and finally got a spot meter to have greater control over my exposure. BUT I guess the point of my question was, zone system is meant to be used with darkroom printing on chemical paper. Scanning is a different medium. I guess you'd be shooting specifically for scanning. I was wondering if any of you have found that the zone system doesn't apply, at least, in the full affect as the paper/chemicals. Say, like my v700 is not able to capture the full range of a zone system neg. (I like shooting color as well). Also lets say the zone system used for velvia had a shorter zone range so you have to adjust your aim of zones for a small amount. Have any of you found that you need to change the way you shoot, specifically for scanning, as oppose to darkroom printing?
    Ambient light that you shoot can be a dozen stops beyond what film or digital sensors can catch with one exposure. That's why we sometimes use graduated neutral density filters. However, once the light is captured on the film, it's range is only a few stops. Roughly 5 stops with chromes and 7 stops with negative film. So the scanner can capture the full range in one pass. If you scan flat without adjustments while scanning, the scanned histogram usually is compressed and does not extend across the whole range. So you have too adjust the black and white points (levels) to restore the full contrast and exposure to give it a natural look.

    I don't think the zone system applies to this method. But I'm not sure either. I was wondering as you do whether there is some zone system approach that does work with scanning and printing digitally?

  8. #18

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    If I understand Alan9940, I'm with him. I am going back to scan a lot of my old work, and discovering that scanning handles a much wider range of negs than I was comfortable printing in the past. It's especially nice for thin negs with a lot of detail in the shadows, where I can bring out details that weren't printable in silver except with a lot of local bleaching, and though I dont have many of these, I'm discovering gradation in "burned out" highlights that I never knew was there. For one shot in particular it was very easy for me to go back and meter the original situation to discover that the scene had 17 stops of range. Printing it digitally was a snap; by silver it would have been impossible. I'm pretty much done with silver for printing!
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  9. #19

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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    ... However, once the light is captured on the film, it's range is only a few stops. Roughly 5 stops with chromes and 7 stops with negative film. So the scanner can capture the full range in one pass. ...

    I don't think the zone system applies to this method. But I'm not sure either. I was wondering as you do whether there is some zone system approach that does work with scanning and printing digitally?
    First, for negative film, especially black-and-white, the dynamic range is much larger than seven stops. It's the printing paper that is the roughly 7-stop bottleneck, and even then, you can squeeze a lot more onto the paper with lower contrast settings and manipulations.

    The negatives themselves can have much more information in them; 12+ stops for B&W, almost as much for color neg.

    So if your scanner handles more dynamic range than your paper, you can worry less about contraction developments and compensation.

    But back to my point: I'm not a digital printer and I don't know my way around scanners. Still, there must be a negative dynamic range that is optimum for scanning, i.e., a range of densities and tonal separations that work best. Maybe that is a rather large window, but it has to be there. I'm sure there are opinions about what kind of negative scans best; thin, dense, contrasty, flat or??

    And, Bernice's point hits home too: if you don't get enough exposure to get the information on the negative, if you underdevelop to the point of not separating tones or if you overexpose (or overdevelop) so much as to push highlight information up onto the flatter part of the shoulder curve, no amount of post manipulation will get you that information back.

    So, careful and adequate film exposure is as relevant for scanning as for wet printing, as are development to an optimum contrast index for the scanner. That's kind of what the exposure and development part of the Zone System was about iirc...

    And then there's the visualization aspect. Knowing how much separation there is between tones in the scene, how they are going to be rendered on the negative after development, when to use filters and which one, and even choosing a development to get more or less dynamic range for certain scenes to help the neg scan better are all Zone System tenets.

    I think, however, that the parts of the Zone System that deal specifically with tailoring the negative to the dynamic range of the paper need to be discarded if you're scanning (and don't want to ever print traditional darkroom prints). These need to be replaced with tailoring of the negative for the scanner, which may be a lot easier and more forgiving.

    Best,

    Doremus

  10. #20
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Relevance of zone system when scanning

    Yep. If you don't want to hear it from me, listen to Doremus here. All he says is true. And the detail backing all this up has already been posted ad infinitum, in a number of threads about this very topic made 15+ years ago, and still available on this LFPI forum. Search is your friend.

    Bruce Watson

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