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The Practical Zone System: For Film and Digital Photography Paperback – September 15, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0240807560 ISBN-10: 0240807561 Edition: 4th

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

California photographercollege teacher Johnson was a friend and follower of the late Ansel Adams, whose development of the "zone system" for black-and-white film exposure and processing was a major contribution to American photographic art. The author here undertakes instruction in that system without "highly technical explanations that confuse." Clearly and logically, with illustrations and helpful diagrams, he tells how to "pre-visualize" a picture and explains zone system requirements of contrast control, using a zone scale of gray areas linking the subject to shutter-speed and exposure choices, and similar analysis of elements in a scene to be coordinated with later developing and printing. A basic photography primer and glossary of terms are appended for reference. This is a job well done, but as is perhaps inevitable, the subject remains complicated.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Praise for previous editions:

"The Practical Zone System is one of the easier books to understand on the zone system for better black-and-white photographs... Its takes the complex issues of the zone system and removes the calcualtions and just gives you what you need to know."--The Midwest Book Review

"I have found this new book on the zone system to be one of the best I have seen so far, and as an added bonus, it is even easy to understand. . .” - Apogee Photo Magazine Nov. 2006

Diagrams and illustrations show readers how to previsualize a picture and master the Zone System requirements of contrast control. It explores use of the system in digital photography.-PC Photo, February 2007

The book includes testing methods, test results for 10 major films in Kodak's XTOL developers, an overview of color photography, a listing of Internet resources for professional and fine art photographers, a primer on basic photography, and examples of how commercial photographers use the Zone System in their work.-Studio Photography, February 2007
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 4th edition (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240807561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240807560
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Just save your time and read in the order I suggested above.
Purple Bacteria
Most important is that using the methods in the book you will get the the best results possible creating a photograph.
Joseph Pica
It is a very informative book concerning the "Zone System" that was created by Ansel Adams.
Patricia Brouillette

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Appelbaum on October 30, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is the current bible of the zone system. Everything you want and need to know about it for both film and digital.

But Focal Press once again comes through with crappy illustrations. The key to the zone system is being able to discriminate tones. The copy of the book I received has such muddy printing that it is impossible to see any difference between zones 0 to II and VIII and IX on the step diagrams provided. The black and white photos used for examples are equally muddy, making it difficult to follow the discussion in the text.

Text gets 5 stars, production gets 1, average = 3
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the easier books to understand on the zone system. It does not get too tied up in the details of the system but describes enough detail to allow the reader to understand the basics of the system. This book is really targeted to someone who is not familiar with the zone system or who has studied it in more complex books and did not really comprehend the system. For this intended audience the book is right on target. It takes the complex issues of the zone system and removes the calculations and just gives you what you need to know. Think of it like the difference between an art teacher who says "Color the grass green" versus one who says "The grass must be green because chlorophyll absorbs the green portion of the light spectrum and so reflected light appears that color". If you just want to know how to use the system without a lot of detail behind why the system works then this is a good book selection for you.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kai Conragan on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent introduction to the Zone System. If you are looking to learn about the Zone System, it is hard to go wrong with this book. However, if you are somewhat familiar with the Zone System and are looking for more advanced info, this may not be the book for you. I had read Ansel Adam's book "The Negative" (which is an excellent book if you are looking for a bit more technical and in depth study) before this book so I felt that the book was a little simple. However, the thing I love about this book are the appendixes Chris includes. In them are a wealth of info for developing times for many developers and films, as well and a plethora of additional useful information. I also found the two testing methods Chris provided to be extremely accurate and useful. In summary, this is an excellent introductory book on the Zone System, and intermediate users will find the appendixes extremely useful. However, if you consider yourself an expert in the Zone System, I would not recommend this book. However, if you consider yourself an expert, you probably won't be looking for a book anyway.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a clear and excellent description of what the zone system is and does. Useful are the included tables for various film development times and chemicals. It is ironic however, that the litho plate print examples of the different zones are not executed carefully enough. Some of the examples of contrast look pretty much the same when compared to each other and therefore, are not useful examples. Perhaps the next edition will correct this oversight.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Gould on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutly easy to understand and read. Very well presented, and may well be the only book on Zone System you will ever need. For those wanting to delve into the chemistry of exposure, pass on this book. If you want to learn what the Zone system is and how it works, this book is great. "Everything you need, nothin' you don't"
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Pica on March 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have found this book, The Pratical Zone System, by Chris Johnson to be the best book that I have read on the Zone System. It explains every detail of the Zone System. Some of the other readings that I have read on the subject make it a complicated system. Mr Chris Johnson's book is very easy to comprehend and it is very interesting. It also makes a great reference manual. Most important is that using the methods in the book you will get the the best results possible creating a photograph.
Anyone that is planing on using the zone system or is having trouble understanding the zone system will have all the problems resolved with this book. Joe Pica
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Purple Bacteria on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I never developed a film in my life, but despite the fact that the original edition did not deal with digital photography and this book still talks a lot about film photography, this is one of the best most useful books on photography I've read so far. The author emphasizes important points by repeating them many times, so if you want to save some time I recommend reading this book in a different order. Start with Chapter 10, which is about Digital Photography. Most concepts are pretty intuitive and because this is the last chapter, he does not repeat them so much here. It is actually easier to see the important ideas in this chapter because he explains the differences between film and digital photography. Then read Appendix D because that's where he explains in more detail what makes digital photography different, i.e. why you expose for highlights and process for shadows in digital, instead of exposing for shadows and processing for highlights in film. Then go read Chapters 4 and 5 where the zone system is explained, now it will take you at most a couple of hours to finish these chapters since you pretty much saw it in Chapter 10. Play around with your camera as you read, it makes a lot of sense. Skip chapters 1,2 and 3; you will get bored before you get to the main point. Appendix A on Color Management is a must read!!! I am using Gimp to process my photos and I could never understand why the colors of my photos look different in gimp, in preview, in quick look, after applying g'mic filters, after uploading on flickr. I read a good book on gimp and it just glossed over Color Management, saying most people will never need to worry about this. Wrong. Most people need to understand it right away; and I didn't even start printing yet! The same with gimp documentation, no details at all!Read more ›
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