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Sunny 16 Rule Question
Old 03-27-2018   #1
ash13brook
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Sunny 16 Rule Question

I'm not sure why I'm agonizing over this at this point in my life.
I've been using a little chart made for 400 speed film in place of a meter for a long time. I even used it to shoot Kodachrome 200 at night.
It starts out at Sunny 16 - f16 @ 1/500 and works down from that.
I've never had a single problem with that. But, now, I'm wondering...
In reality, isn't that underexposing just a little bit? Would I get a better result by starting at f16 @ 1/250 for 400 speed film? I don't imagine I'll ever make wet prints from the negatives. Only scans and maybe work prints from them. If I decided I needed a"wall hanger", I'd send it out to be printed.

Thanks,
Matt
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Old 03-27-2018   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ash13brook View Post
It starts out at Sunny 16 - f16 @ 1/500 and works down from that.

In reality, isn't that underexposing just a little bit? Would I get a better result by starting at f16 @ 1/250 for 400 speed film?
Yes, f16 at 1/500th is a little bit of an underexposure. But 1/250th would be an overexposure.

I think on a vintage camera, the likelihood of it being right on the money at 1/500th is slim. So you might be looking at something clser to 1/400th anyway...
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Old 03-27-2018   #3
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Using a 400 speed film and applying the Sunny 16 rule, technically speaking a 1/500 shutter speed would be underexposing a bit indeed. Instead of f16, I would open up half a stop (between f16 and f11) in this case.
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Old 03-27-2018   #4
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I never felt that Sunny 16 works well because it doesn't consider the deep shadows that happen under direct sunlight, and leaves them very underexposed. So it was always Sunny 11 for me, which is similar to your suggestion for 1/250. And then from there, because I like shadow detail, I would keep the 1/250 for everything else, too--basically Sunny 16+1 stop, all the way down.
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Old 03-27-2018   #5
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Agreed, with negative film, only use 16/500 on the rare occasion when you don't want or need any shadow detail (basically only distant landscapes) and are between 40° North and South. At higher latitudes, mostly it's 11/500 (ISO 400) for these cases. Most of the time, you want to key your exposure to the shade with negative film.
They don't emphasize this enough on the internet.
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Old 03-27-2018   #6
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Always used sunny 11 in the Uk and 5.6/4 for the shadows.
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Old 03-27-2018   #7
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For modern panchromatic (negative) film, slight overexposure is preferred to dramatic underexposure. I should think that as long as your process has yielded acceptable results (given your processing, etc.) then why worry? Of course, you could experiment with tweaking exposure, but, all things being equal, I'm not sure that the results would be significantly different.
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Old 03-27-2018   #8
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I usually start estimation from 'Sunny 11' in the UK (unless an open scene on the clearest, hottest, of summer days).
I would also take a bet that, if your camera has a mechanical leaf shutter, you could also assume that your '1/500' marked is actually closer to 1/400 or slower. Goes conveniently with 400ASA .
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Old 03-27-2018   #9
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S16 is for critical thinking to be applied.
Taking pictures on Sunny and Snow, Sunny and White is even more than 1/500 f16 ISO400. But if you are on the regular street and it is Sunny and Shadows it is less than 1/500 f16 ISO400.

On practice with modern and good ISO 400 films f16 instead of f11 or 1/250 instead of 1/500 doesn't make significant difference under sufficient light.
Well, I don't think Foma 400 is ISO 400 film and some films like Pan F seems to be more demanding for accurate exposure.

Nor it is critical for printing from negative. If image is still visible on the negative it is printable, but might take extra time to figure it out.
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Old 03-27-2018   #10
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Using an ASA400 film at EI400 is an underexposure. Those films EI is anywhere from 200 to 320. Try using ASA400 at EI250. If in B&W, not much difference.
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Old 03-27-2018   #11
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"Sunny 16" works best for slide film, where typically a half to full stop underexposure accommodates the tendency of transparency films to blow out the highlights while retaining image well down in the denser parts of the exposure. Using a meter, it was standard practice to underexpose by that amount most of the time when shooting slides.

For negative films, I've always used a "Sunny 11" rule because with negative films the tendency is to underexpose the shadows creating a loss of detail and smoothness, and highlights can be pushed down in printing or image processing. They have all their overhead at the dense parts of the negative, the opposite of slide film.

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Old 03-27-2018   #12
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I think trying it will be the plan.
I had gotten to the point that I didn't need to consult my little cheat sheet. But, I've been away for a few years and have to relearn it anyway.
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Old 03-27-2018   #13
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Hi,

I've always assumed that the funny 16 rule was for summer time use and have, as there's a difference of about 2 stops between (say) January and July, adjusted accordingly.

I've a cabinet with a lot of old and antique exposure calculators in it and they almost all take the time of day and date into account. The youngest is based on the 1951 BSI's measurements, so should be reliable.

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Old 03-27-2018   #14
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If you want to get downright technical with Sunny-16, just look at the exposure calculator on the back of a Mercury II.


Univex Mercury II Back by P F McFarland, on Flickr

I found that I tended to underestimate the light because my eyeglasses have auto tinting, so I had to start either looking over the top of the lenses, or just take them off. Another thing is certain cameras will run either faster or slower on the shutter speeds, so one just has to get some practice in to see where the sweet spot is.

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Old 03-27-2018   #15
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Sunny 11 for the majority of the year, sunny 16 on really sunny days in the summer, high noon, hard light.
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Old 03-27-2018   #16
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Perhaps somebody can explain to me why there are recommendations to cut exposure by another stop on sand or snow. It always seemed to me that that would cut shadow details even more. Plus, shouldn't those light Zone 8-9 areas be dense on negatives?
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Old 03-27-2018   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doitashimash1te View Post
Using a 400 speed film and applying the Sunny 16 rule, technically speaking a 1/500 shutter speed would be underexposing a bit indeed. Instead of f16, I would open up half a stop (between f16 and f11) in this case.
While opening up 1/2 stop would, in theory at least, improve the accuracy, the correct correction would be to open up 1/3 stop. The 1/3 stop increments for shutter speeds are 1/250, 1/320, 1/400, 1/500, ... .

As has been said, shutter accuracy on a legacy shutter is not likely to actually deliver 1/500th with any accuracy so we are splitting hairs.

Also, if it is a leaf shutters, as in the OP's listed cameras except the Leica M, then even a properly calibrated leaf shutter will deliver about 1/200-250 when set to 1/500 at f/16. This is because the shutter starts opening at the center and finishes at the center. The center is open longer than the edges, making the effective shutter speed longer when using a very small aperture, compared to the effective shutter speed when shooting wide open.
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Old 03-27-2018   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KenR View Post
Perhaps somebody can explain to me why there are recommendations to cut exposure by another stop on sand or snow. It always seemed to me that that would cut shadow details even more. Plus, shouldn't those light Zone 8-9 areas be dense on negatives?
sand or snow depending on the brightness of the sun. For example, if you were at the beach at high noon you could expose sunny 16 or even F22 if your lens can do it. Same goes for snow.

In these high contrast conditions its best to use a lower contrast film or pull a faster film to help even out the contrast.
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Old 03-27-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KenR View Post
Perhaps somebody can explain to me why there are recommendations to cut exposure by another stop on sand or snow. It always seemed to me that that would cut shadow details even more. Plus, shouldn't those light Zone 8-9 areas be dense on negatives?
Reflective surfaces causing double sun radiation. Black surfaces are less reflective, white reflects most.
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Old 03-27-2018   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ash13brook View Post
I'm not sure why I'm agonizing over this at this point in my life.
I've been using a little chart made for 400 speed film in place of a meter for a long time. I even used it to shoot Kodachrome 200 at night.
It starts out at Sunny 16 - f16 @ 1/500 and works down from that.
I've never had a single problem with that. But, now, I'm wondering...
In reality, isn't that underexposing just a little bit? Would I get a better result by starting at f16 @ 1/250 for 400 speed film? I don't imagine I'll ever make wet prints from the negatives. Only scans and maybe work prints from them. If I decided I needed a"wall hanger", I'd send it out to be printed.

Thanks,
Matt
Hi Matt

Sunny16 is only a starting guidline.
If you are asking the question now, maybe you are not happy with your results ??

If you are happy with your results, carry on as you were.

I also use Sunny 16 often and adjust for different films, exposure situations/wants, and of course light conditions and lens filters.
July noon sun being different than November noon sun and all that.
The Sunny 16 rule is less a rule and more rather a template.
Slide the template around a bit now that you have used it for years and have some experience to back up your choices.

Cheers
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Old 03-27-2018   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
If you want to get downright technical with Sunny-16, just look at the exposure calculator on the back of a Mercury II.


Univex Mercury II Back by P F McFarland, on Flickr...

PF
Hi,

I always thought this version was better but, again, it's only a starting point.



Regards, David
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Old 03-27-2018   #22
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And, of course...



Regards, David
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Old 03-27-2018   #23
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I like the "cosmic symbol" - that one is for all eternity, while the Mercury is for those who understand the astrological dimensions of photography.
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Old 03-27-2018   #24
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I like the "cosmic symbol" - that one is for all eternity, while the Mercury is for those who understand the astrological dimensions of photography.
Quote:
Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
Hi Matt

Sunny16 is only a starting guidline.
If you are asking the question now, maybe you are not happy with your results ??

If you are happy with your results, carry on as you were.

I also use Sunny 16 often and adjust for different films, exposure situations/wants, and of course light conditions and lens filters.
July noon sun being different than November noon sun and all that.
The Sunny 16 rule is less a rule and more rather a template.
Slide the template around a bit now that you have used it for years and have some experience to back up your choices.

Cheers
I've used SUNNY 16 and yes 400 ISO = 1/500 especially on my IIIf where the next speed is 1/200. That kind of estimation is fine for me, no sweat (assuming b&w film with good latitude).

What turned me against SUNNY 16 is day break and dusk and fog and other strange light where I found my estimating to be wrong. Then I wish for a light meter.
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Old 03-27-2018   #25
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For me the “sixteen” rule works better “as sunny eleven” unless the lighting is especially bright. Then I will use sixteen.
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Old 03-28-2018   #26
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An aside but interesting; I've a VPK from the posh end of the range and the lens is a focusing Kodak Anastigmat f/7.7 (meaning 1924-26) and it just has the speeds 25; 50; B and T with the apertures marked as f/7.7 and so on to f/32; in other words no guide to exposure.

I've also an early one (1912-14) and it gives masses of exposure information on the shutter plate; 50th is Brilliant & 25th is Clear.

Then "B - Tripod" and

Grey ½ Sec
Dull ¾ Sec
Very D(ull) 1 Sec

Apertures are "Moving Object f-8" to "Marine,Clouds,Snow 32" .

Models in between 1912 and 1926) just have "25 B T 50" showing clear and brilliant and the apertures as 1,2,3,4 with the widest at (I think) f/11 called "Portrait Near View". It must have been fun in those days.

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Old 03-28-2018   #27
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Another vote for "sunny 11". The penalties for overexposure with negative film are very small: slightly reduced sharpness and (with non-chromogenic B+W films) slightly bigger grain. With chromogenic films, B+W or colour, "grain" is slightly smaller with overexposure.

The penalties for underexposure are much more drastic: empty shadows and poor tonality. As usual, it's quite a complex subject which is better covered in an article than in a short post: it goes back to the "First Excellent Print test."

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R.
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Old 03-28-2018   #28
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It took me a while to realize what I was doing wrong with Sunny-16. The hardest part was training myself to give the exposures another half or full stop more than what I usually did, especially in the winter. Welcome back, Roger.

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Old 03-28-2018   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
If you want to get downright technical with Sunny-16, just look at the exposure calculator on the back of a Mercury II.


Univex Mercury II Back by P F McFarland, on Flickr



PF
I like the exposure chart on the back of the Rolleiflex, or the calculator on the back of the Signet 35.
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Old 03-28-2018   #30
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I was living in Chicago when I first began using the Sunny 16 guideline.
Even in the brightest sunlight, it was about 1-stop too dark for my taste.
Sunny 11 worked better for me in Chicago.
It was not until I moved to Texas that I was able get the Sunny 16 to work for me.
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Old 03-28-2018   #31
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I'm pretty sure the bright sun box end of Tri-X exposure guide, no longer supplied, gave 1/250s at f16. It is interesting to see some of Lynnb's wonderful colour beach shots from Sydney in the Gallery here in high summer where he exposed Ektar 100 in a IIIf at 1/200, f8. I asked him about it and he felt this was the ideal exposure for the skin tones. Certainly worked well. It just shows that 1 stop more exposure than sunny 16 will work fine on an Australian beach in summer.
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Old 03-29-2018   #32
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Quote:
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I'm pretty sure the bright sun box end of Tri-X exposure guide, no longer supplied, gave 1/250s at f16. It is interesting to see some of Lynnb's wonderful colour beach shots from Sydney in the Gallery here in high summer where he exposed Ektar 100 in a IIIf at 1/200, f8. I asked him about it and he felt this was the ideal exposure for the skin tones. Certainly worked well. It just shows that 1 stop more exposure than sunny 16 will work fine on an Australian beach in summer.
Interesting. Your first statement begs the question: does the reformulation of TriX (now several generations) impact the "sunny 16" rule? In other words: does the TriX that I used in the 1970's have the same characteristics as what Kodak labels as TriX today?

I'm sure that someone on this forum knows the answer to this
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Old 03-29-2018   #33
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I'm not sure why I'm agonizing over this at this point in my life.
I'm not sure either. If you wanted exact exposure you would use a meter. Sunny 16 is an exposure guide.
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Old 03-29-2018   #34
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Very few people actually understand exposure -- or development. For the former, a great deal depends on how you determine it, and on the subject brightness range. Use a spot meter and its shadow index (and remember that shadow detail is the basis of ISO determination) and you can use the full ISO speed without hesitation. Use a broad-area or incident meter on a bright sunny day for a contrasty subject and it's a good idea to give at least 1 stop more than the meter indicates.

Many Zone System believers, in particular, are saved by the inherent latitude of negative films for over-exposure. Those who use printing-out processes are further helped by the self-masking property of printing-out processes, which automatically tames high negative contrast.

Cheers,

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Old 03-29-2018   #35
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As I said, not sure why I was agonizing over it. I drive a truck for a living and sometimes I start thinking about something trifling and it takes in a life of it's own.
I like my little laminated chart, so I'll just make a small adjustment and see what happens.
As to agonizing, I remembered as a 6 or 7 year old(1960ish), I was given a brand new Kodak Starflash(no aperture, shutter, focus setting) and a few rolls of Verichrome Pan film. I couldn't tell you what speed it was.
I went around Washington DC clicking away like the happy idiot I was. I don't recall ever having any bad pictures coming back.

Matt
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Old 03-29-2018   #36
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Hi,

The latitude of films and what could/can be squeezed out of them, especially in the days when enlargements were done by hand was/is incredible.

I've a copy of the 1930's or 40's "Selo Text Book of Photography" and it shows (as a double page spread) 6 or 7 photo's with the exposure varying from a 250th at f/11 to 6 seconds at f/8 and you have to guess which one was exposed correctly. Obviously they were the same subject and taken within seconds of each other.

They also point out that the development was identical but the appropriate grade of Selo paper was used. It made the point very well...

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Old 03-29-2018   #37
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I find with negative film a little over exposure is better than under. For me, it makes a better print when I’m working in the darkroom.

With transparency film and digital a little under exposure works best for me. Regarding digital I capture everything with RAW format and process with ACR/Bridge and Photoshop.
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Old 03-29-2018   #38
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I was living in Chicago when I first began using the Sunny 16 guideline.
Even in the brightest sunlight, it was about 1-stop too dark for my taste.
Sunny 11 worked better for me in Chicago.
It was not until I moved to Texas that I was able get the Sunny 16 to work for me.

Chalk that up to aerial pollution. When applying the Sunny-16 rule you need to keep in mind that in all modern major metropolitan areas the brightest you ever get is "hazy bright / f/11", and that's only if you are lucky enough to be in some of the less polluted areas. Some places, the best you get is "open shade / f/5.6".

Also, season makes a big difference at high latitudes (>40-45 degrees either north or south). The ancient definition of A.S.A. (as opposed to ASA and ISO) was the inverse of the shutter speed that produced the correct exposure at mid-day on the first day of summer in Washington D.C. Mid-winter and/or at extreme latitudes the light can be 1/2-3 stops lower. Many of the old charts would include a Summer/Winter conversion.
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Old 03-29-2018   #39
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. . . The ancient definition of A.S.A. (as opposed to ASA and ISO) was the inverse of the shutter speed that produced the correct exposure at mid-day on the first day of summer in Washington D.C. . . .
No. It wasn't. It really, really wasn't. ASA (the same as A.S.A.) was based on research done in Rochester done by Jones and Condit and published in (as far as I recall) 1940. Where did you find this "ancient definition"?

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Old 03-29-2018   #40
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I find with negative film a little over exposure is better than under. For me, it makes a better print when I’m working in the darkroom. . ..
Dear Bill,

While I completely agree, I'd be interested in your definition of "a little". For me, it's half a stop to a stop more than the meter indicates -- and even that can be inside experimental error with most people's metering techniques. Without a spot meter, 1/3 stop verges on meaningless for negative films: normally, well inside experimental error.

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