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  #1  
Old 9th July 2020, 06:47 PM
Nat Polton Nat Polton is offline
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Default Spotmeter with 5x4 and 35mm

Quite a few times in the past I have read about spotmeters.
Having just started on the book by Harry Fearn, called Better in Black and White, my interest has been rekindled.
He was dammed good at not trying to show off to you with his technical knowledge.
He tells you how to use the zone system in a simple no nonsense manner.
Further investigating on the web reveals that a fair number of people will use a spotmeter and the zone system with their large format 4x5 and larger, but do not use it in their 35mm work.
Why would they use it for one but not the other.
They have the gear and the knowledge?
Am I missing something?
Cheers.
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Old 9th July 2020, 07:14 PM
Collas Collas is offline
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There is one 35mm camera that would work very well with the Zone System as you could have one film back for Normal, one for Normal +1, Normal -1 etc, etc.
It's the Rolleiflex SL2000/3001/3003 which is the only, I believe, 35mm system camera that has interchangeable film magazines.
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Old 9th July 2020, 07:56 PM
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Martin Aislabie Martin Aislabie is offline
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When I started doing LF, I fully intended to use the Zone System for all my shots.

However, I quickly began to cluster the SBRs in to 5, 7 & 9 zones - just as a matter of convenience and development times.

However, as time progressed, I realised that about 90% of my landscapes were 7 stops.

So, when taking landscapes, unless I have particularly low or high contrast conditions, I assume I have 7 stops unless I mark up a film-holder.

If you are shooting something other than landscapes, you might want something other than 7 stops - for instance, portraits under a north light might only be 5 stops.

If you have multiple 35mm bodies you can use the Zone System for 35mm - each body having one Subject Brightness Range (SBR). But, you then need to mark-up each cassette with the SBR, so you can develop accordingly.

However, you need to ask yourself, why bother ? - what are you trying to achieve.

If you achieve acceptable (printable) negatives without using the Zone System - why are you bothering - it is a PITA to use.

Martin
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Old 9th July 2020, 09:35 PM
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skellum skellum is offline
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Good evening Nat.
Youre looking at two completely different ways of working.
5x4 makes use of indiviual sheets of film. Each sheet can be exposed at a particular EI and given a specific development to expand or contract the tonal range. The spotmeter allows you to first measure the range of tones by picking out the lightest and darkest tones. Once you've decided if the scene needs N, N+ or N- you have the EI you're going to use for that scene. Then, spotmeter the most important tone in the scene and decide how you'd like to render it in the print.
In the hands of a patient, careful worker the system is capable of delivering superb, nuanced black and white images.
It also gives you plenty of ways to mess up!

When shooting 35mm you can have 36 frames shot under a huge range of conditions and simply cannot vary the develoment for diffferent frames on that single roll. On any given roll there will be frames for which your standard development time is perfct. Others perhaps would benefit from a little more, or less, but all will be adequate. I mostly use my Minoltas on automatic exposure, and they're very good.

What I finally realised was that when I used my Mamiyas with an incident meter Igot more consistently pleasing results than I was managing from spotmetered 5x4. With the spot meter I just wasn't good enough at selecting the ideal part of the scene to read from. The incident meter evaluates the strength of the light falling on the subject, eliminatin the need to select a 'key' tone and make a decision on which tone it needs to be in the print.

I would still carry the spot meter if I went out shooting tomorrow, but for me it is a tool with very specific uses. If I could only keep one meter, it would be the incident one.
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Old 9th July 2020, 09:38 PM
John King John King is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Collas View Post
There is one 35mm camera that would work very well with the Zone System as you could have one film back for Normal, one for Normal +1, Normal -1 etc, etc.
It's the Rolleiflex SL2000/3001/3003 which is the only, I believe, 35mm system camera that has interchangeable film magazines.
The Zeiss Contarex and one or two models of the Zeiss Contaflex had interchangeable backs, but these were back in the 1960's-70's
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Old 10th July 2020, 10:23 AM
alexmuir alexmuir is offline
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There is a book called ‘The Zone System for 35mm Photographers’ by Carson Graves. It gives some good advice on maximising the quality of your negatives. It’s worth a look if you are interested in what the possibilities are for 35mm work. I personally do the same as Colin, and use an incident meter most of the time. I have a spotmeter which I use with 4x5, but only indoors.
Alex


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Old 10th July 2020, 11:00 AM
Mike O'Pray Mike O'Pray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexmuir View Post
There is a book called ‘The Zone System for 35mm Photographers’ by Carson Graves. It gives some good advice on maximising the quality of your negatives. It’s worth a look if you are interested in what the possibilities are for 35mm work.

Alex


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I'd endorse Alex' recommendation on the Carson Graves book. The added bonus is that everything in it is presented in a down-to-earth manner.

Mike
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Old 10th July 2020, 11:27 AM
EdmundH EdmundH is offline
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As Skellum has clearly described, proper implementation of the zone system isn't possible with roll film where all the negatives get the same development.

However; A spot meter plus a knowledge of zone placement can be very useful for roll film. For example to get the key element of a scene properly exposed, or ensure that important shadow area doesn't end up black. It is admittedly tricky to judge which zone things come in, but in my mind, moderate shadow is exposed 2 stops under the spot meter reading, grass as read, and a 'white caucasian' face 2 stops over the reading.

To be honest I find that careful incident readings work well most of the time.

One final thought on light meters in general, which I know some forum members will disagree with. Most old light meters seem to be inaccurate and unreliable, they caused me a lot of grief in my early attempts, and I wasted a lot of money on various iconic models. Buying a new Sekonic L-308s was my best investment. It's small and accurate, and better than smartphone apps (The exposures they give are geared towards digital, not film exposures.)
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Old 10th July 2020, 07:02 PM
Svend Svend is offline
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Nat,

+1 to what Martin, Skellum and Edmund have said. I too found that when metering shadows and highlights with a spot, I almost never found a subject that went outside the range of what an average film and developer combo could handle. So now for average brightness range scenes I usually just meter what I want to place as middle grey and take the picture. Simple. However, for scenes with a wider range I will meter the extremes and expose in the middle of that and pretty much always get a usable neg. Incident metering also works very well, but I have become so used to the spot meter and like it...to each their own.

One thing that helps tremendously with roll film shot in varying lighting conditions on the same roll, is using a forgiving film and a compensating developer. This is a roll film shooters best friend, in my opinion. If you've never used one before, there is a lot of writing out there on compensating developers, so I won't go into detail here. People have their favourites, but I like dilute Perceptol at 1+1. If used with HP5 I can shoot on a cloudless afternoon in July and get good negs -- nothing blown or lost. Wonderful combination. Extremely forgiving and beautiful tones. You might try FP4 with the same developer. Don't dilute Perceptol more than 1+2 otherwise it will go all greys on you though. Rodinal at 1+50 can also work well, but I didn't get on with it so well, especially with HP5. Dilute HC110 is said to give compensating effects, so check that out too...should give nice gutsy tones. And then there are two-bath developers that are designed from the get-go to be compensating. A few people here have used Thornton's Two-Bath, so take a look at that one (but it is roll-your-own from raw chemicals).

As for films, traditional grain films probably have more latitude than flat crystal films like Delta or T-max, but I haven't used many of the latter so really can't speak from experience.

I hope this helps, but bottom line is that I wouldn't recommend fussing around too much with zone system metering and all that if using roll film. You can get great results just with careful choice of your film and developer combination. Makes things so much easier and enjoyable. Just relax and go shoot
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Last edited by Svend; 10th July 2020 at 07:12 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10th July 2020, 09:00 PM
Nat Polton Nat Polton is offline
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http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...ad.php?t=13302
As part of my effort to try out The Zone System, have a look at my latest topic here.
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