Densitometer qusestion? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Although I have been a working professional photographer for most of my adult life, I have not used the formal 'zone' system, but one I developed for my own needs. I am interested in learning the formal 'zone system'. I know I will neet a black and white transmission densitometer and thought I would check Ebay. Any recommendations? This will be used for black and white only...and I have no need for color. Thanks for any input. Richard Boulware

-- Richard Boulware (, July 11, 2001



If you have a relationship with a good Pro Lab they should be able to make the measurements for you. Or sign-up for a Zone System Course at a local college. My local community college has a densitometer available for regular use during our open lab every Sunday. IMHO buying a densitometer is a waste of money. As once you get your system calibrated, there is no need to take further readings unless you change films or developer.

-- Dominique Labrosse (, July 11, 2001.

If you plan on using pyro or pyrocathechin then you might want to get a color densitometer. The ones to get Are Eseco speedmaster trc 60d, X-rite 810 and there is another one that escapes my mind. They go on e bay from 200 to 600 depending on the shape and greediness of the seller, but of course this is a lot less than what they would have cost you new. Cheers!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, July 11, 2001.


About 6 months ago I went 100% digital and sold my X-Rite 811 color densitometer. It was a great unit. They sell used on Ebay for around $800-1200. New they are over $3K.

The Palm Beach Photographic Centre will be offering a zone system workshop with Tom McCartney this fall. You may want to check them out at They are a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to enriching the lives of "at-risk" children through photography and the arts.

Check it out.


-- Mike Kravit (, July 11, 2001.

Why do you want to do this? My guess is that whatever you have developed yourself is probably be less technical and more successful than a study of the Zone System. Why not buy a used copy of Ansel's Negative and read up on it. If it strikes your fancy. then sign up for a workshop.

-- Joe Lipka (, July 12, 2001.

My thanks to each and all who have emailed me on this subject. The last email asking the question about...'why I want to do this'..should be answered. Yes, it's true that my own personal system works well. I have been fortunate in my life to have seen so much and done so much and having 'photography' as my magic-carpet...for such an exciting life and having been rewarded with so many awards and acolades. For me...the answer to the question of 'Why', is that for a young-'Senior' like me...having another challenge, or mountain to climb, makes me feel alive and well. My only concern for myself is that I hope I never run out of challenges and questions....or mountains to climb and explore. Best regards to all. Richard Boulware - Denver.

-- Richard Boulware (, July 12, 2001.

Instead of buying an instrument which will rarely be used [unless you change films frequently], look for a company [e.g. insurance company] which puts its documents on microfilm. They'll have a densitometer to check their processing from time to time. That's where I started using one. I later found a used one in a pawn shop for $75.

-- Alec (, July 12, 2001.

Getting a densitometer for my darkroom is one of the best things I ever did. Although anyone can get along with out one it makes life so much easier when you change films and paper. No more hit and miss with new films. I can nail the speed and the contrast the first time around. Not guess work needed. In addition densitometers have become cheap, cheap, CHEAP! I just picked up my second tobias (TCX) on Ebay for ~$170 to equip the darkroom at work. A real deal when you think that these instruments cost thousands new. I choose the tobias because I have used it for years and find it to be tough and acurate.

-- Pat Raymore (, July 12, 2001.

gosh, if you haven't found one yet, send me your negs and I will read them for you.


-- Kevin Kolosky (, July 14, 2001.

While you are looking for a densitometer, I'd suggest you read The Zone VI Workshop by Fred Picker- if you follow his practical advice you'll find yourself using the Zone System very fast. I also recommend reading Steve Simmon's article in the May/June issue of View Camera Magazine- about finding your correct film developing time.(but you need to establish your film speed first, see Picker).

If you have plenty of time (in your "retirement") than you don't really need a transmission densitometer, use the visual method (Picker). It means a bit more darkroom work- the densitometer would give you a short-cut in arriving in what you are looking for: your actual filmspeed and your developing time: for Normal, N+1, N+2 etc etc.

Good luck.

-- Hans Berkhout (, July 15, 2001.

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