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The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography, 6th Edition by Chris Johnson

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Appendix E Exposure and the Digital Linear Effect

Linear versus Nonlinear

Although the light meters built into digital and film cameras are essentially the same, the way these two processes record and respond to light is different in ways that are important to understand. One simple way to begin looking at this is to consider the graphic systems we use to record the relationship between exposures and print tonalities.

In 1890, the photographic researchers Ferdinand Hurter and Vero Driffield published a seminal paper demonstrating what happened when you plotted exposure and film density on a graph with logarithmic intervals.

If the relationship between light exposure and film density were consistently simple and proportional (or “linear”), the ...

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