Best Neutral Metering Card(s)

Discussion in 'Product Availability' started by Trail Images, Jan 16, 2014.

  1. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    Like many I've carried a neutral gray or grey card into the field with me for years. However, the old Kodak 18% card is about done for and I started looking on line for a decent replacement that is somewhat "weatherproof" if not totally "waterproof".

    In searching on line with a large variety of vendors there seems to be a lot of products offered up as 18% gray, but immediately followed up with statements of confusion and product reviews of more or less 12% gray and or used for white balance too. Say what? Is it a true 18% or not?

    So, I'm looking for a product that is say 4x6 inch card, weatherproof, and must be considered 18% or neutral gray. Specific product names or direct links would be of help.......thank you!
     
  2. jwd722

    jwd722 Member

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    My search turned up a Kodak 18% gray card not followed by any disclaimer as to being only 12%. http://www.amazon.com/Kodak-1903061-Gray-Card-R-27/dp/B00009R7B0
    I have had my Kodak gray card for about 25 years, I sprayed it with Krylon Matte Finish which makes it not totally waterproof but pretty darned weatherproof. It measures 4.5 by 6.5 and it's in a plastic folder which I'm not sure where I got but it works great.
     

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  3. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    I have found all of the following are both neutral in WB and also 18% tonality
    • Douglas gray card (vinyl)
    • PhotoVision (coated cloth)
    • Kodak grey card (cardboard)
     
  4. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    Thank you for this information, both comments are helping me narrowing things down to what I need. I appreciate the input.
     
  5. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Camera meters and light meter are calibrated for 12% gray cards not 18%. That means they're off by approx 1/2 stop. See this discussion or google it. There are loads of links discussing this issue.

    http://www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thread_id=252541
     
  6. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    Good point Alan, which leads to the question, where do you find a 12% card? 1/2 stop is not a deal breaker, but why not sell and advertise 12% cards I wonder.....thank you for your comment and the link too.
     
  7. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    In all my years, I have only learned of ONE product with 12% tonality, the Lastolite EZBalance 12%, and they don't seem to import it into the US (made in Britain).

    Meter 18%, add 0.5EV more exposure, per Kodak instructions.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I like the plastic ones. I chop the 8x10 into quarters and put them in my bag.
     
  9. Dr Croubie

    Dr Croubie Member

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    For weatherproof (I presume because it's made of plastic, but haven't used one), how about a Spyder Cube?
    OK, so it's meant to be used for digital white-balancing and all that, but it's still got an 18% grey surface or two.
    Only downside is that it's a bit small, but if you've got a 1-degree spot meter and stand close enough, it'll do the trick...
     
  10. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Buy at the godfather of grey-cards, Dietmar Meisel.
    This guy has devoted part of his life just to designing and producing grey- and color-cards.

    http://fotowand.de/
     
  11. momus

    momus Member

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    Use the palm of your hand, add 1/2 to 1 stop. But I always hunt up a bit of grass on the ground and just go w/ that reading w/o any adjustments.
     
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  12. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Some years ago I was able to get a couple of plastic gray cards that have seemed to be very close if not right on. I too cut them into manageable pieces which if not 100% accurate at least had also come in handy to scrape ice off the windshield on a September visit to Yellowstone Natl. Park a few years ago.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  13. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    Thank you all for the ideas overall.

    @ AgX, I followed the Fotowand link and by using the link to the USA site found a vendor who sells a nice 3x5 plastic card made by Fotowand.

    Fotowand Grey Card
     
  14. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Can't you just print an 12% sheet and paste it to a gator board. YOu'd have to measure it to see if it's the correct "gray" and adjust to get the right darkness.
     
  15. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    @ Alan, yes I'd thought of that approach too. Although I'd want to devise a weatherproof finished product in the end. After seeing the shipping price on some of the cards at more then what the cards actually go for it might be the answer. :confused:
     
  16. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    I use a pocket size Whi-Bal.
     
  17. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Nat Geo makes Adventure Paper. It's about $20 for box of 25-8 1/2 x 11" sheets. They have larger sizes as well. It doesn't rip, it's waterproof, you can fold it without leaving creases, and you can run it through your ink jet printer. I use it to print out topographic and trail maps and other paper stuff I need when I go hiking so it's convenient and protective for using out in the field. I never tried it to make a gray card, but it seems like it should work.
    http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3656654

    http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/member-products/adventure-paper---single-pack-letter---25-sheets%2F8.5''x11''
     
  18. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    At one time I had a really good spectrophotometer in my shop and plotted readings from a whole stack of gray cards from different manufacturers. Not only
    were none of them 18% gray (or even within 4% of that), but the point of highest spectral sensitivity varied all over the place within respect to what
    "gray" actually is, as a hue. Even cards from the same manufacturer varied, depending on age (fading, even when purchased new) and general lack of
    quality control. So just for the hell of it, I mixed a batch of paint that was true 18% over the entire visible spectrum. It became a backboard in the studio,
    but had fabric or studio paper dropped over it for the actual shot. I'd hate to try to replicate it. What I have discovered, however, is that the gray patches
    on an unfaded MacBeath Color Checker chart are quite neutral, and one of them is a reliable equivalent of 18%. These cost a lot more than gray cards and
    aren't really practical in the field, but give a good reference for checking your ordinary cards as well as color film testing.
     
  19. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I might add that serious equipment is never calibrated to any of the above, but to nonfading ceramic tiles which have themselves been carefully measured and labeled with any correction factors. With the programmed software in many bench devices nowadays this is fairly
    easy. Back in the old days a calibration standard could cost you a thousand bucks. I'm very skeptical of TTL metering in general, since there are so many complicating factors, but everyone just gets accustomed to the specific idiosyncrasies of their own metering system with practice anyway. I use several exactly matched Pentax digital spotmeters which are recalibrated if one of the goes off even a third stop over the whole scale (maybe only once a decade per meter). The nature of peak sensitivity of the meter is just as important as the hypothetical percent. But I alway work with the
    18% formula, and I'm about as nitpicky with color film as people come. But again, once you get used to however your own boomerang
    manages to correctly return to you, that is all that is really important.
     
  20. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    Anyone using the "Novoflex Zebra Check Card"? Apparently made of polymer and gets good ratings for all around field usage.

    Again, thank you all for your input. It's been educational with regard to the collective ideas. After using a standard Kodak gray card for 20+ years in the field I had no idea how many products were actually being offered on the market these days. Most all include "white balance" on the back of the gray cards. So no doubt a lot of items released with the advent of the digi-world and the need to check white balance in the field too.
     
  21. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Fine for WB adjustment, but wrong tonality for light metering purposes
     
  22. Bill Burk

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    There are some fun articles about 18%.

    Any known value could be used to determine exposure. In Zone System terms you can hold up a black card and stop down 3 stops to "place the reading on Zone II" for example.

    If you plan to take a photograph of the target itself, for example film testing... Then the actual reflectance is irrelevant...

    But to take a reading from a target as a "proxy" stand-in for the subject, the reflectance of the card should probably be about 12%.

    To make it neutral, I wouldn't do an inkjet (if the inkjet uses dye-based ink). Maybe something carbon based would be neutral, maybe a laser printer or artist's charcoal. For example, to make a target yourself... If you have a combination incident/spot meter, you could switch modes back and forth and color a board with charcoal until both modes read the same.

    Still, there are adjustments that may be appropriate if the subject is "predominantly dark" or "predominantly light shades". I guess there isn't a hard and fast "one percent solves all problems" answer.

    This is one fun article though not very indepth: http://www.bythom.com/graycards.htm

    For an explanation of K, which puzzled Ansel Adams and which I think may be responsible for the choice of 18%, I don't know a better write-up than Stephen Benskin's tutorial on the K factor:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum37/85217-k-factor-relevant-me-should-i-cancel-out.html
     
  23. RalphLambrecht

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    it is not too hard to make your self any gray card%as long as you have a densitometer,some mount boardand weatherproof paint in neutral white and black.t's what i used for my zone cube:
    :cool:
     

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