Subject: Re: raw 3.1 professional custom profiles for highend digital cameras
To me the Zone System is a useful theoretical concept, but unlike you I have never used in in practical digital photography and can't really advise you. It would seem to me that you should place Zone IX as close as is possible toward highlight clipping so as to make best use of the full dynamic range of the sensor. I would let the specular highlights blow out, but I would agree with Norman Koren that you can leave yourself a little headroom since 12 bit analog to digital converters give you a lot of levels to work with.
Jeff Schewe, who is a very good photographer and who has been nominated for the Photoshop Hall of Fame, does not seem to agree with this analysis and likes to stress that the rightmost stop contains fully half of the 4096 levels available in 12 bit capture. He does acknowledge that the tools for precise placement of the highlights are not available, and has not yet told us how he handles this problem.
For us less accomplished photographers, the camera histogram is a pretty good guide even though it may indicate highlight clipping where there is none. If you have the Nikon Capture program (heretical to mention in this forum) you can load the NEF and look at what the camera histogram would look like.
If the subject is static and you have a tripod, you can take several different exposures and combine them using the HDR facility in PSCS II. Clipping in both the highlights and shadows would indicate the need for this approach.
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