Buying a used Pentax Digital Spotmeter questions

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Atari1977, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. Atari1977

    Atari1977 Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    So I'm getting into large format photography and decided to get a Pentax digital spotmeter. So, what should I look for while buying one used? I'm terrified of buying a mis-calibrated one. How would I test calibration? And where would I be able to get one calibrated.
     
  2. wildbill

    wildbill Member

    Messages:
    2,851
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    test against another recently calibrated spot meter. buy it with a 7 day return policy.
    richard ritter calibrates/repairs them.
     
  3. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,769
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2003
    Location:
    NH
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have two of them. I calibrated my film to one of them. The other is off by 1/3 of a stop. But it's just as linear as the other. So when I made a zone dial for the second one I just shifted it by 1/3 of a stop. Now both meters give me the same exposure even if they are slightly off on the internal EV unit display.

    Remember if you only have one meter it doesn't really matter if it's truly accurate. You just need it consistent and you can adjust your film speeds. But I tested the meters against the spot meters in my Nikons with simple lenses. It's a good way to get a rough idea if the meter is correct.
     
  4. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,405
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2005
    Location:
    NE U.S.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You can compare to another trusted meter by metering off the same target. A non-spot meter will need to be close enough to the target that it only sees the region the spot meter is looking at. Greycards are ideal, and would let you compare with an incident meter.
     
  5. Atari1977

    Atari1977 Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Emailed Richard Ritter and he said his rate for calibration is $87. So I think I'll just try to get one tested by someone who actually knows what they're doing and then compare to a greycard with my DSLR meter.
     
  6. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    They periodically need to be recalibrated regardless, so there is no guarantee a used meter is exactly reading. I find my meters need recalibration about every ten years, and made it a habit to
    keep an unused one to check the others. Richard Ritter or Quality Light Metric in Hollywood can do
    the work. They need to be calibrated across the range, and not just at the middle. And commercial
    gray cards are rarely good enough - you'd be amazed at how much they vary, even within the
    same brand! DLSR meters also function in a wholly different manner, so you're likely to get off on a
    wrong foot altogether is using one of them as a reference.
     
  7. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,210
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    calibrate against 'sunny16'
     
  8. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Gosh. What's the point in even buying one of these things if you're just going to wing it? Properly
    calibrated, a Pentax spotmeter is going to be invaluable for all kinds of exposure situations, esp when
    working with LF films. But I use one in preference to thru-the-lens small camera meters to - once you get the hang of it, it will be more accurate evaluating lighting ratios, and makes Zone System work a piece of cake with any camera, if that's what's in mind. Locate someone else who has an
    accurate meter of the same species and compare them, then in necessary have it calibrated. But
    don't guess or try to guess what some other kind of instrument is thinking!
     
  9. Atari1977

    Atari1977 Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm still going to try and get one that it is known to be accurate, which most ebay sellers have no idea of. So I guess I'll just watch the classifieds here.
     
  10. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

    Messages:
    2,229
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    You will find out pretty quickly if it is way off just by trying it and seeing what you get. Otherwise you need to test your film to find out your proper speed anyway. I had one I had been using heavily (for everything) for 30 years, it was scarred up and a little rattly and if I pushed the trigger in too far it stopped reading. I found someone selling one in mint condition on craigs list for (probably stolen) cheap price. I checked them against one another and found they were a third off... in linear fashion. I took them to a local camera repairman who was able to check them against his source and found the old one was correct so he adjusted the new one to match it with out a lot of trouble and charged me 40.00
     
  11. Gimarc

    Gimarc Member

    Messages:
    8
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I also was interested in getting one. I own a Sekonic L-558 Dualmaster - anyone here know how it compares with the Pentax Spotmeter?
     
  12. wildbill

    wildbill Member

    Messages:
    2,851
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The pentax never has matched any sekonic I've tried it against. That said, my pentax gives me chromes that are 100% on. If you aren't using the zone system, also look at the minolta F, easy to find, easy to "self-calibrate". Its the only modern meter i know of that can be user adjusted.
     
  13. Gimarc

    Gimarc Member

    Messages:
    8
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks wildbill. Forgive my ignorance, but do you mean that the Sekonic is no good? Could you please make an example, for me to better understand? I am trying to understand how worse off I am with what I have and if there is anything I can do to partially make up for the quality loss.
    The Sekonic is all I have for now - I'll keep an eye out for a Pentax, although they are pretty rare where I live - and I just want to make the most of it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2012
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,210
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    sekonic has good reputation, and their spotmeter ang their combo meters are probably fine for what you want to do. the pentax has a few ergonomic advantagesbut it's more important fo you to be really familiar with your meter and that your film testing was done with your meter.
     
  16. mandoloid

    mandoloid Member

    Messages:
    15
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Location:
    Michigan, US
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I agree with Ralph's sunny 16 standard so long as your readings are consistent. Why stress over the meter too much when your shutters could be all over the place. Familiarity with your set-up is key.
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,210
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    shutters are easily 1/3 stop off. apertures are usually within 1/10 stop.errors may add up or average out if your lucky. your film will forgive some error.if in doubt over expose and under develop.multigrade papers help to correct exposure and processing errors to some extend. as long as you err on the plus side of exposure. meter accuracy is not a big deal.
     
  18. wildbill

    wildbill Member

    Messages:
    2,851
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "meter accuracy is not a big deal" that's just ludicrous!
    Ralph, while I do own your book and respect your knowledge, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that statement. The op didn't say whether they were shooting b+w, color neg, or transparency film. There isn't room for error when shooting transparency film and I don't think most folks here can afford to bracket it. Having the meter set on 100 asa for example instead of 64 or 160 decreases the chance that a beginner (or pro) will make an error when changing films or adding filter/bellows factors. Starting with an accurate meter rules out one of many variables in the equation.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2012
  19. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,657
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It (L558)does a lot more in terms of functions and features. As for spot metering capability... not much different except it (L558) will integrate multiple readings, which can be a valuable feature.
     
  20. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,075
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    If you use a meter, any meter, and shoot some chrome with it, the results will tell immediately tell you if the meter is reading somewhat "correctly" (assuming the camera is in the ballpark)

    Reading a spot meter in and of itself is a bit subjective, as is the exposure that one might choose from the readings. One can easily use any meter, calibrated or not, so long as its roughly correct and so long as one is familiar with the meter and camera. It's the desired exposure that one is after. How that is arrived at is less important.

    Most modern meters don't need calibration to be close enough. How you use the meter, and how you interpret the results is a vastly larger variable that is only mitigated with experience with a specific regimen and the results thereof.

    A day of testing handily trumps an infinite amount of calibrations.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2012
  21. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Suggesting that some error on a meter is tolerable because the shutter speeds are likely to be off
    anyway is ludicrous. That's what shutter testers are for. First thing I do with any new leaf-shutter
    lens or even curtain shutter in a small camera is to test the shutter speeds. It's like telling the highway patrolman that it doesn't matter what the speedometer said, because the weight of your
    foot on the gas pedal is the real variable! I'll agree that the most important thing is just getting accustomed to your own specific meter and what results it produces. But the advantage of a spot
    meter like the Pentax is quickly comparing mids, high, and low values. So you need linear accuracy,
    not just hypothetical gray card value. Sometimes a meter which still reads correctly in the middle
    nonetheless is due for a recalibatration at the extremes.
     
  22. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Mr Brunner - why not test your theory on people in Hollywood who makes their living using Pentax
    spotmeters. Bet they'd get a good laugh.
     
  23. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,075
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I'm one of them. They haven't laughed:

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1591348/

    Now that isn't a huge credit list because I have to be bribed or otherwise coerced into shooting movies. The bulk of my career has been television, and the bulk of that is TV commercials, a couple of thousand of them over the last three decades, many for national clients. I'm retired these days, hate and avoid LA, work on my art and my vineyard, and sail my boat. I still shoot a few local spots for folding cash. The point is that trying to impune my street cred is a backfire.

    I do occasionally have a meter re-calibrated if it seems to be misbehaving, but specifically on movies or big commercial projects we shoot tests with the specific emulsions and batch we are going to use, using the meters lenses and bodies that will be on set. If the batch number on an emulsion changes, we would test that other batch as well. That's how its done.


    Again, a day of testing is worth an infinite number of calibrations.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2012
  24. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Well, glad to hear your admission that even you believe in recalibrating meters when necessary. I don't think it's any coincidence that Quality Light Metric is stationed in Hollywood, and that all he
    does is work on Pentax meters. But like you, I avoid LA whenever possible. I'm in favor of a border
    fence across the Tehachapis isolating LA from Calif proper, or else a good earthquake that snaps
    its off and lets it drift.
     
  25. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,657
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When did George (Quality Light Metrics) start limiting his business to just Pentax meters? Last time I talked to him he worked an all sorts of meters.
     
  26. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,657
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    p.s. LA isn't half as bad as you make it sound. :smile: