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The Digital Zone System: Taking Control from Capture to Print Paperback – 31 Dec 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Rocky Nook; 1 edition (31 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937538133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937538132
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 1.1 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 672,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Robert Fisher is a commercial and fine art photographer and freelance writer based just outside of Toronto, Canada. His love of photography began nearly 15 years ago when he was first exposed to the impressionistic style of photography. This style captivated his imagination and served as the red pill for his journey into the photographic rabbit hole.

Robert holds an honors Bachelor of Administration degree from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and his photographic knowledge has been gained through trial and error, asking questions, and informally studying photography and photographic techniques.

Robert has held several solo and group shows and his work has been exhibited in a number of local galleries. He has traveled as far as the Czech Republic to cover events and has drawn upon his education in business to publish several articles in finance industry publications.

Outside of photography, Robert is an enthusiastic and experimental amateur chef, gardener, player of really bad guitar, and owner of two adopted dogs he affectionately refers to as The Idiots.


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Derek Watkins on 15 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a user of the Zone System with film for some 35 years, I found this book extremely interesting. After taking you through the principles it shows you in great detail how to apply those principles to digital photography to give you ultimate control over your images. However, I thought there were a few things missing; for example, I've used a system to determine the true 'speed' of my camera's sensor so that I don't over or under-expose. But having said that, the book is well worth studying.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By freezeframe on 25 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the best book on the zone system by far, gives very good technical analysis but with practical application as well.Not normally given to reviewing books ,but this is by far the best .
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An easy to understand volume on the subject which is well produced, illustrated and written. Chris Johnson's Focal Press book digs deeper and goes into far more detail but this is an easier read and covers the topic well.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Heavey on 7 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book was new. Very well packed. A bit more technical than I expected. Still working my way through it. It was received very quickly after I placed order. No problems.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 32 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Not really about zone system but about luminance masks 4 July 2013
By Leslie E. Sparks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In spite of what the title says, this book is about luminance masks not the zone system. The author provides a set of Photoshop actions to generate a set of masks that cover the various zones of the zone system. In keeping with the ideas of the zone system the masks are separated by a factor of 2 in exposure. The masks area combined with adjustment layers in Photoshop to fine tune an image by confining the effect of the adjustment to a limited area.
The author provides a nice color image showing the advantages of using the masks. The demonstration would have had more instructional value if the author had provided the same same kind of detailed descriptions that are used in Oz to Kansas.
The color chapter is followed by a chapter on black and white conversions. The best part about this chapter is the discussion of the importance of color in the black and white conversion. This is a valuable discussion. The color image used in the color chapter is used to demonstrate the author's black and white conversion method. This is followed by a second demonstration using red peppers. Then a comparison between the zone system system conversion and a Lightroom conversion.
One drawback to the demonstrations is that the author doesn't provide sample images that you can use to follow along.
The black and white discussion is followed by a discussion about using the digital zone system in high dynamic range (HDR) applications. I don't know enough about HDR to comment on this chapter.
The book concludes with a discussion of printing and the importance of soft proofing and color management. This is a clear and useful discussion.
This is one of the few books where the screen shoots showing layers/etc. are printed large enough to read. The reproduction of the the photos is good. I know some reviewers disagree with me here so I just rechecked to see if my memory was right.
I've had the book for several months (since the first of March 2013) and have used the techniques on several images. Some of the images showed slight (but worthwhile) improvement in print and others didn't benefit. I did not find that the black and white conversion method offered improvement over other methods that I used--Lightroom conversion, Photoshop black and white adjustment layer, or Silver Efex 6 Pro.
If you're looking for a way to get the last bit of image quality from some of your color images, you can benefit from the book. You probably won't use it on all your images, but you can get noticeable improvement in print on some images. The effort to learn to use the digital zone system is worth it--especially if you're interested in printing your images. If all you want is to display your images on the web, you probably won't see any significant benefit.
The first part of the book is devoted to a brief discussion of the zone system and really doesn't add anything to the book. Those pages would have been better used by providing more examples with detailed discussion of the changes made to the image to get the final result--see From Oz to Kansas for examples of this.
As I look that the book again and the prints I've made using the system, I think that 3 stars might be a little low but four stars is too high. So I'll suggest that my real rating is 3 1/2 stars. Worth buying and spending the time to learn how to apply the information, but not an essential book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Improving your photos is easy 8 April 2013
By Mark Mattson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For those of you who grew up in the black and white film photography days, the phrase `Zone System' should ring a bell for you. For those of you that have never heard of it until now, this book should be on your reading list, especially if you want to improve your photography skills.

The Zone System was developed by Ansel Adams
In an effort to allow the capture of the widest possible tonal range in images possible. It is a ten step (eleven, actually, counting zero) exposure system, where exposures are separated into zones, with zero being pure black and zone 10 being pure white.

The concept and use of the Zone System is to give photographers a guide to allowing their photos to be properly exposed across the entire tonal range. In the simplest terms, to make use of the Zone System, you expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights. In other words, you want to make your exposure such that there is sufficient detail in the shadows, but you also will need to develop the image so that the highlights also retain detail, and do not burn out.

This was oftentimes a long involved process I the old wet darkroom days. Adams would make countless prints to arrive at the desired look and feel he wanted, and he set out to make it easier on not only himself, but countless other photographers. The result was the Zone System.

The digital darkroom is a much different place than the old wet one. Computers, software and digital imaging have made the production of outstanding prints even easier than before. One would think that the Zone System would therefore be outdated and not much use any longer.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this volume, author Fisher explores the background behind the original Zone System, and goes from there to reveal the logic and details of the Digital Zone System.

Built upon the original system, the Digital Zone System takes into account the technology of today, and adapts it to the digital world. For example, an entire chapter in the book is devoted to exposure and metering in the Digital Zone System.

One important point to remember: the Zone System was originally designed for black and white photography. But with the widespread use of color, the Zone System would be much harder to implement for color shooting. But these issues are also addressed in the book, allowing you to use the system for all types of imaging. Chapter two is devoted to Color management and setting up Photoshop correctly to allow proper use of the Zone System.

If you want to make the best photos possible, this book should be one you read, no matter how much experience you have. It will get you closer to capturing images that reflect what you see, and spend less time correcting things afterwards. I used the original Zone System in my early days of photography, and this book brings it back in a new and fresh way. I can't wait to fully implement it into my workflow and see what happens!
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Tonal Control the Hard Way 6 Jan 2013
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ansel Adams and Fred Archer designed the original Zone System to extend the range of light of film and to better control tonalities within the print.

The Adobe Corporation, over time, designed Photoshop and related raw converters, like Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Lightroom, to extend the range of light of digital images and better control tonalities in a variety of output media,

Now Robert Fisher offers what he calls the Digital Zone System (DZS) which applies the tools in Photoshop and related raw converters in ways never contemplated by the designers to fit into the schema of the original zone system.

In reviewing books concerned with image post processing, I usually consider the effectiveness in the explanation of the use of the software, but in the case of Fisher's work I wonder if the underlying concept is worth the work. Essentially, Fisher constructs a number of masks, each of a zone of tonality and then adjusts them, claiming this method creates better images. It appears to me that the DZS adds unnecessary complexity to the use of post processing software with no advantage.

Even with DZS it appears that one must still recover the data at the extremes of a digital image's tonal range by manipulating the image with ACR or Lightroom's basic sliders, and manipulation of tonality within a zone must still be accomplished by using a curve function. Although he alleges that DZS can be more precise, nothing convinces me that careful use of, say, the curves panel can't achieve the same thing. Moreover, one will not be fighting against the design of the software, which I conclude one is doing when Photoshop repeatedly warns that no pixels are more than 50% selected, a warning which Fisher tells us to just ignore. Similarly, the author says the user will have to guess which one of the zone masks to manipulate to achieve a desired tonality adjustment when Photoshop already provides an on-image adjustment tool which allows targeting an exact tonality. Precision in adjusting a specific tonality can be achieved by a generous use of control points in curves.

There is a chapter on applying the digital zone system to HDR but the chapter ultimately boils down to telling the reader that adjustments can be made to the HDR image after it has been processed through the HDR software. The chapter on printing is quite good, but there is little relating to the DZS in the chapter.

I also had complaints about many of the screen captures which were too small to see without a magnifying glass. Given the large amount of black screen in the captures and wide white page margins, these screen captures could certainly have been larger.

It's hard enough to learn to use Photoshop when it is applied as its designers conceived. No beginner or intermediate user should confuse him or herself with this book. Advanced Photoshop users are warned that DZS may be a waste of time.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is not for beginners! 16 May 2013
By Grits - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First the cautions (not negatives, just cautions). If you're not an advanced photographer and very familiar with Photoshop, you'll have a very difficult time with this book.

Second, I consider myself a moderately skilled amateur with far more film experience than digital (40+ years as opposed to less than 10). I have a reasonable understanding of the "old" zone system pertaining to black and white, and thus was able to follow this in concept fairly well. However, I am not a full-blown Photoshop user (just Photoshop Elements), and this is aimed particularly at the full Photoshop user with considerable experience. Instructions throughout the book pertain to Photoshop CS6 or Lightroom 4. You'll have to do some of your own "interpretation" for using other pieces of software, and obviously the results won't be as robust.

In the positive area, this is exceptionally detailed in virtually everything the author presents. That helps make it at least "followable" for a non-Photoshop user. There is a good opening overview of how Adams used the zone system, and how this is different.

It will take several times through it to fully (or even reasonably) follow everything the author presents, and to that I'm looking forward to multiple readings. But don't buy this expecting to do a quick read and begin using it in a weekend, for example. Again, this is not for those with limited digital experience, and those with limited high-end photo editing software experience. It is, however, very detailed and well written. I frankly wish I had the experience level to do it sufficient justice in a review. Unfortunately, it's not immediately apparent upon reading the product description just how advanced it is.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fisher: The DIgital Zone System 20 Dec 2013
By Marshal Shlafer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So many books on the Zone system, most rightfully targeted on black and white sheet film (where each neg can be exposed AND processed individually to optimize the exposure and print); and most giving an extraordinarily complex description of Adams' methods. Applying the zone system to digital isn't as straightforward as one might like, but Fisher does a fine job of showing where exposure technique for BW film and digital color do -- and don't -- overlap. I've purchased (or read samples) of many current books on zone system/digital and concluded that this book provided the best and clearest explanations and guidance. In addition, there are no pages wasted on bare-bones basic stuff like "what is an f-stop," or "1/2 sec at f8 gives the same exposure as 1/4 sec at f5.6" and so on.
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