Zone System: Zone 7 or Zone 8 for Highlight Testing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Different books say different things regarding testing for the highlights in the zone system. The Kodak book Advanced Black and White Photography suggests testing for a zone 7 density of 1.05. Most other books say to test for a zone 8 density of 1.30. With developers that produce a straight line, these two densities fall into place: when zone 8 is at 1.30, zone 7 is near 1.05. With D-23, however, this is not so. D-23 produces a shoulder for me, which throws these two densities off. With HP-5+ if zone 8 is at 1.30, then zone 7 is too high. If zone 7 is at 1.05, then zone 8 is too low. If I use zone 8 as the standard, 7.5 min in D-23 1:1 is an N-2 development, but if I use zone 7 as the standard, the same development time is N-1. So is 7.5 min. an N-1 or an N-2 development?

I am wondering, is it more important to get zone 7 or zone 8 in the right place. I would think zone 7 is more important, since this is the highlight with full detail, and when metering, one places the important high value on zone 7, not zone 8. What do you think? Should I test for zone 7 or zone 8 with a developer that produces a shoulder?

-- William Marderness (, February 12, 2000


William, I'm just do your prints look? Whichever looks best to you is the way to go.

-- Bill Moore (, February 12, 2000.

I agree with Bill, the test is not the final decider of your exposure or development times, they are just the beginning. Tweaking comes after the final neg/print.

-- mark lindsey (, February 13, 2000.

AA, or Kodak, or any other book, might give the answer, and they might well be different.

I agree with the other posters, you have to decide what is important, and you can only make that choice with prints in your hands, rather than densitometer readings. A densitometer will provide numbers so you can quantify your decisions, but it shouldn't drive those decisions.

You have discovered that your film/developer/technique gives negative densities that are very close for zones 7 and 8, and that is very useful information. You now have to decide how dark you want either of these zones in your print. Then with your Normal (there's that word again) enlarger and paper, which development gives you that print density.

I'm not a great fan of calling a certain development N or N-1 or N-2, because what is Normal for you may not correspond numerically to other people's Normal.

-- Alan Gibson (, February 13, 2000.

Assuming that one has the correct film speed (based on testing), I like to establish as my Zone 8 that film density which just begins to show perceptable texture in the whites on the paper adopted for the tests. This is just a personal preference. It gives me a more full Zone 7 that A.A. describes, which otherwise would be difficult to judge.

-- neil poulsen (, February 13, 2000.

I think the correct placement of zone viii is critical. One of the hallmarks of a fine print is excellent whites. All too frequently printers fool themselves by tweaking subpar thin negatives by using higher than normal paper grades leading to muddy low values or overly contrasty prints. A beautiful long scale is dependent on having fine high values which means being able to have full detail in zone vii not printing what is zone vii in the negative as a zone viii in the print in order to get a good white. Both of these values are important but they are also different and they function differently in the print. They need to be seen, placed and printed carefully. I think for careful and relatively easy printing a good solid zone viii, even if not present in the final print is crucial.

-- jimryder (, February 14, 2000.

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