The Practical Zone System Film Developer Testing Method

Many years ago as I was learning the Zone System I went through the frustrating process of designing home film and developer testing methods that attempted to reproduce the procedures I read about in articles and technical books. This included building handmade densitometers out of wooden index card boxes and setting up lights in my musty basement; none of these approaches were either simple enough or precise enough to teach me what I wanted to know or how all of this applied to the photography I wanted to do. Eventually I learned enough by trial and error to make the system work well, but when I decided to write the first edition of this book I knew I needed a better solution to this problem.

The challenge was to create a film and developer testing method that was precise and consistent enough to give me accurate results, pragmatic enough to include all of the factors that operate for photography in the real world, and efficient enough to allow me to test many different film brands in a variety of different developers.

The following is a description of the process my collaborator and I used to prepare the test results published in this book, but first I want to acknowledge the indispensable support provided by Kodak and Ilford for their generous donation of hundreds of rolls of film over the years. Most especially I want to acknowledge Iris Davis whose custom labs have provided the setting for all of the developing and printing involved, and whose enthusiasm and patience helps make this all possible.

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