Zone system and filmbacks

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by juke, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. I use zone system for my photography.
    I have 5 film backs, so my gear is ideal for full N-2,N-1,N,N+1,N+2 exposures. The 5 backs is OK in most situations, but sometimes extra weight (or space requirement) of 5 film backs is too much.
    What do you suggest on such situations? I have thought couple of options:
    • Limit amount of film backs to only three (N-1,N,N+1) and if subject requires N-2 or N+2 (or more extreme), then I expose whole roll using that subject. That works, but cost bit more film.
    • Limit amount of film backs even more, one back for N and one for other lightning conditions. Easy to carry, but again requires more film.
    • Use of three backs, but not in traditional contrast. Instead N-1 1/2, N and N+1 1/2 backs. Then do some fine tuning of contrast during printing for N-1 1/2 and N+1 1/2 negatives.
  2. Three backs and consider a masking developer.
  3. How about 1 polaroid back and all the Ready Load film that you think you'll need?
    I haven't been shooting 4x5 B&W film lately, so I'm assuming it's still available.

  4. Peter - he's shooting MF. Roll film.
  5. Oops! Sorry. I didn't realize I was in the "Medium format" forum. I read the posts from the
    "Unified View" and thought the question was about 4x5 film.
    Thanks for the heads up.

  6. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Well I shoot an RB67 and only get 10 pics per roll. Why do I need so many backs, one for each situation? I generally shoot an entire roll on one subject, which is in the same zone lighting situation anyway. Are you trying to make your life more difficult than it is already? Perhaps if you see different lighting/development situations, then why not blow an entire roll on each?

    That gives you more leeway to experiment on each frame or roll afterwars using selenium toner to boost contrast or developing the rolls differently if the first one doesn't turn out as you had planned.
  7. Hello,

    I read in AA's "The Negative" a chapter about pre-exposure for single frames on a film. As I hold it with paul I never tried this. At least you can manage some high contrast situations on a single frame for a normal developed film.

    I think 3 backs are really enough to carry. I have two, one for normal contrast and one spare that depends on the contrast of the subject to be N+1 or N-1, as you've mentioned in point 2. This works out fine, someday I'll invest in a 3rd back.

  8. Currently perhaps the main reason for carrying 5 different backs is the visualization; when I am shooting some subject, say for example ruins of old house, my visualization might vary quite much depending on viewpoint.

    <p>This is the situation where having dedicated film backs for each contrast really helps. I can quickly switch between different contrast to match my current visualization.

    <p>However, I think you all are right, shooting much more frames per subject helps to get 'perfect' negative.

    <p>Now I usually shoot 3 frames of each composition. But if I wan't to check whether pre-exposure helps, it's another 3 frames. That fills rolls quite fast. Taking photo with different filter, again 3 more frames.

    <p>So I am going towards conclusion that 2 or 3 backs is enough.

    <p>I found another point that speaks behalf of exposing whole roll on one subject: I can choose film speed depending on subject. Generally film/subject approach makes use of zone system on MF more closer to zone system in large format.
  9. It's been a while since I did this, but I hope it will be clear. You could also try exposing for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may. Doing this,you could use one back for all situations which are relatively low in contrast and give a normal development. You then adjust the shadows in printing by varying the paper contrast, or with split filtration. Then you only need extra back(s) for high contrast situations where you would need signifigant minus development. Probably get away with 2-3 backs this way. For MF pre-exposure works, but you have to take the back off and re-cock the shutter to make a double exposure: not a good way to photograph flying objects or fast growing plants.

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