Zone System and film procesing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all,

I am looking for ZONE SYSTEM sites to find out as more informations as possible. Can you help me?

After sheet film developing in trays i can switch on the dim light? Can i use the ordinary red bulb light as dim light?

with thanks


-- Martin Kapostas (, December 19, 2000


Response to ZONE SYSTEM and fil procesing


Although I'm sure that there are some exceptions (film and developer combinations that can be developed by inspection, for example), generally, a safelight cannot be used when developing film.

Photodo has a few articles on the Zone system. However, they seem to be more of an overview rather than a step-by-step procedure on aclibrating your processing. You can go to the source and read "The Negative" by Ansel Adams. "Using the View Camera" by Steve Simmons also discusses how to actually calibrate your process.

-- John H. Henderson (, December 19, 2000.

Response to ZONE SYSTEM and fil procesing

For information on developing by inspection, see past View Camera magazine issues with articles by Michael A. Smith. A Wratten #3 safelight four feet from the film, using a 15 watt bulb is all the light you will tolerate. This is after film processing is about half finished, and then for a second or a few. If you are really looking for the classic Adams/Archer zone system controls you won't be doing them if you process by inspection. You will use the basic principles but not all the testing and control procedures. Why would you do all the testing if you are watching the negative come up under the green safe light? If you do go this way, some films read easier under the light than others. TMax films are a pain in the butt under green safelight and(for me) take a much finer touch than FP4+, TriX or HP5+. Delta films aren't that easy either. If you work with one film you will get to know it well & inspection will be easier to do. It isn't hard, but if you aren't a careful worker, normally careful, not fanatically precise, you should do OK. If you want to learn from the masters, check out and take a workshop from them.

-- Dan Smith (, December 19, 2000.

Response to ZONE SYSTEM and fil procesing

I have an article on development by inspection for large format films on my web site at You must use a very dim green safelight. Developers containing pyro- gallol or pyrocatechin have a tanning effect that desensitizes the emulsion somewhat, so negatives developed with such developers can be inspected for longer times.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, December 19, 2000.

Response to ZONE SYSTEM and fil procesing

I picked up a green party light at the hardware store for about $2. This is all I use for development by inspection with 4x5 and 20x24. DBI is the only way to go but I dreaded the thought of sheet film when roll film seemed so easy. I've tried many films and developers with DBI in trays. I go with emulsion side up and when areas of the neg. start turning jet black I pull the film and put in the next tray. Doing multiple sheets in trays using DBI is easy, just flash the light to view each sheet separately. You don't have to worry about exposure in the field, chemical temps, watching the clock, and you can reuse the film developer by leaving the film in longer. I just put on my Bible study tapes from and away I go.

-- Mark Stevenson (, December 19, 2000.

Here we go again......

-- Sal Santamaura (, December 19, 2000.

"God over gamma"?

-- Wayne DeWitt (, December 20, 2000.

Martin, if you speak Swedish take a look at, where there is a fairly complete set of articles about the zone system. Lars Kjellberg, who wrote them, also has published a book on the Zone system which is also in Swedish. I don't know if it is still in print, but my local library (Lund) has a copy, so yours might too.

The clearest, shortest and simplest explanation I have seen in English was in the catalogue of a UK company, Silverprint. Their latest cataloge is available as a PDF file ( but despite the wealth of useful information in it, the zone stuff is gone.

If you're buying the Ansel Adams series or any other English-language books, don't forget that the UK has cheap postage and no VAT (MOMS) on books. Swedish book sellers need a firm kicking, so don't give them your money.

-- Struan Gray (, December 20, 2000.

Pete Andrews, where are you on this one? Last time you posted an eloquent argument against inserting religion here. I say our moderator's stance prohibiting Bob Solomon from using the board to promote commercial interests should be applied to uniformly to those who would advance any such activities. Notice the URL ends in ".com." Deleting Mark's last sentence, as well as what Wayne and I have posted, should do nicely.

-- Sal Santamaura (, December 20, 2000.

Martin - AFter sheet developing in trays, and transferring the film to a stop bath, you can turn on a dim normal light. My light is a 50 watt bulb that is about ten feet from the stop bath tray. However, since the film is in the stop bath for only 30 seconds, just to be safe I usually wait until the film has been placed in the fixing tray and sloshed around a couple times before turning on the light. At that point you don't need to worry about how dim the light is.

-- Brian Ellis (, December 21, 2000.

Regarding The Zone System and Ansel Adams. is selling hard copies of Ansel Adams' The Negative and The Print for $6.95 each.

-- J. L. Christman (, December 24, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ