# Photographic Myth Buster #36

#36. Exposure Range for Color Negatives

True or False?

The standard width of the photosensitive exposure range for color negative emulsions is 6.2 stops.

True.

As discussed in the explanation in Photographic Myth Buster #31, the standard width of a photosensitive exposure range for a photosensitive array in stops

Width of a Range in stops = 2 x [ log2(δ) + log2(M) ]

can be calculated the shift δ from the minimum usable exposure Hmin to the speed point exposure Hsp

δ = Hsp / Hmin

and from the shift M from the speed point exposure Hsp to the midtone exposure, Hm.

M = Hm / Hsp

The speed point shift δ is given in terms of densities in the sensitometric (film speed) standards for emulsions and must be divided by log10(2) = 0.30… to convert it to stops. The density associated with the speed point exposure for monochrome negatives is 0.15 density units above the density associated with the minimum usable exposure Hmin, so the speed point shift for monochrome negatives is 0.15/0.30 = 0.50 stops.

The midtone shift M is determined from the value of the reference exposures Ho given in the sensitometric (film speed) standards for emulsions using an equation implicit in the exposure meter standards.

M = qo K / Ho

The reference exposure, Ho, for monochrome negatives found in the definition of the photosensitivity

S = Ho/Hsp

is 1.414 lumen seconds per square meter, so the midtone shift is 5.97 using 12.70 candela seconds per square meter for the exposure meter constant K and using 0.21π lumens per candela for the conversion constant qo. The binary logarithm of the midtone shift is 2.58 stops.

The standard width of the photosensitive exposure range for monochrome negatives is, therefore, twice 0.50 stops plus 2.58 stops, that is, 6.16 stops–something close to what most photographers expect.

Calculating the midtone reflectance for a 6.16-stop exposure range as described in the explanation in Photographic Myth Buster #32, we find that monochrome negatives have a midtone reflectance of 11.8%. This is a lot different from the 18% midtone reflectance that most photographers expect.

The diagrams that support the calculation of the standard width of the photosensitive exposure range for various types of photosensitive arrays can be found in the book Photographic Exposure Calculations and Camera Operation.

Copyright 2008 Michael G. Prais, Ph.D.

For a readable but in-depth analysis of this concept along with many other concepts associated with photographic exposure, take a look at the book Photographic Exposure Calculations and Camera Operation. This book provides insight into the equations that govern exposure, exposure meters, photosensitive arrays (both solid-state and emulsion) and the Zone System as well as concepts associated with resolution, dynamic range, and depth of field.

The book is available through Amazon.com (ISBN 978-1-4392-0641-6) where you can Search Inside!™.

Check https://michaelprais.me under Photography for the table of contents, an extensive list of the topics and subtopics covered, the preface describing the purpose of the book, and a diagram central to the concepts in the book.