How necessary is a 1 degree spot meter for 35mm & MF shooting?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Huram, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Huram

    Huram Member

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    Some newbie questions:

    I shoot BW with my 35 mm Canon EOS-Elan II and my Rolleicord Va. Never done anything bigger than 6x6 negs. My Canon, obviously has a TTL meter. I recently purchased a good all-around reflective/incident light meter for the Rolleicord -- a used Luna Pro F. It measures light a 30 degrees, I think.

    How crucial is it that I have a 1 degree spot meter for my 35mm and MF work?

    The reason I ask is that I am going through Les McLean's "Creative Black and White Photography." In the first chapters, he mentions the importance of film testing which is aided by a 1 degree spot meter. I haven't finished the book, but I assume a 1 degree spot meter is essential for shooting all the time. But, I have heard that it isn't that useful for 35mm and MF photography (esp. if you do not have an interchangeable back on the camera). Is this true?

    If a 1 degree spot meter is an essential tool in making "fine BW prints," what would be a good beginner model. (Hopefully less than 100 bucks on eBay)?

    Also, I do not have the spot attachment for the Luna Pro F, but it would give me the options of measuring 7.5 to 15 degrees. This doesn't seem to really be a true "spot meter" that would give me a 1 degree reading. This 7.5 degree attachment could not substitute for a 1 degree spot meter, or could it?

    Thanks again in advance for the replies!

    Huram
    (David Nelson)
     
  2. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Depending on your subject, the 1 degree spot is handy, but the spot attachment for the Gossen works really well for most things for medium format. I use the spot attachment for medium format work, and yes, it isn't a 1 degree angle but for most things, it works out really well. I can meter what is important (to me) without guessing at where the meter is actually pointing at :smile:. Cheers!
     
  3. haris

    haris Guest

    Huram, I don't think that you will need more "precise" meter that 9 degrees partial metering circle of Elan... But, If you constantly work with dificult scenes in which you have lots of vrey contrasted parts, or work with zone system, that 1 degree spot meter will be needed. For 99,99 percent of "normal" lightning conditions, Elan's partial meter circle will be enough...
     
  4. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    A one degree spot meter is not essential. However, it is very useful for understanding scenes in detail. It is most useful for slow photography: landscapes, still lifes, macro photography, and portraits. It is not useful at all for street scenes, sports, etc. Things move too fast in those worlds.

    The reason it isn't as useful for 35mm or MF photography (without interchangeable backs) is that folks who carefully analyze their images are likely to want to adjust the contrast of the negative in the darkroom by altering development times. You can't alter development on individual images of a roll, obviously, so with roll film you have to designate development times on a roll-by-roll basis. Thus, having interchangeable backs is really useful.

    You can achieve most of what you need to do by general scene metering and bracketing. Meter the scene in camera, then take shots one stop over and one stop under exposed (or two stops, or whatever - film is pretty cheap). Then choose the best negative of the set. Take lots of notes and develop an intuition about scene contrast through your experiences.

    But in the end, if you really want to understand your images, I think you'd appreciate a spot meter. It can be a very useful, but not critical, tool.

    -chuck
     
  5. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    It doesn't matter what format you shoot in. When you measure light I think you want to be as accurate as you can be. To me that means a 1 degree spot meter is better than a 30 degree. Other photographers feel better suited in using an ambient meter, I disagree.
     
  6. Joe Symchyshyn

    Joe Symchyshyn Member

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    While it may be great for film testing as well as metering for some people... It really comes down to what tools and working method YOU find comfortable in the field and in the studio.

    Do what works for you.

    joe
     
  7. mark

    mark Member

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    I agree with haris, that the incident meter will take care of most of your work. but my spot meter has gotten me out of some binds in BW and color photography. I carry both all of the time.
     
  8. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    IMHO the 7.5 degree spot meter with it's viewfinder should handle the majority of your spot metering needs (measuring brightness ranges etc.). The 1 degree might be convenient or even neccessary in certain circumstances but at the cost of a lot of extra bulk and expense.
     
  9. Wally H

    Wally H Member

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    I feel that spot metering can increase one’s accuracy and aid in exposure and developing films but one should be aware of its limitations and how spot meters may be misleading.

    1) I have yet to find a truly accurate small area spot meter in that the ones I have tested have all been affected by the lighter areas around the small area metered (1 degree or whatever degree). This includes the Zone V modified meter which is the one I generally use. The way I test is to put a black card on a white background. Make a reading where the black card completely fills the picture space and then make another reading where the black card only occupies the sport meter’s metering area and the entire rest of the image area is the white background (could be any degree at this point). I have yet to find a meter that will read the same. I do the same test with an 18% gray card and the meters still don’t measure the same both ways.

    2) I find a most accurate way to measure a small area (using your feet, long lenses, spot meters, and/or a combination of these) is to fill the picture space with the image area one wants to meter. Not very practical for a lot of long landscape scenes, but yet workable in a lot of situations too.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2005
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    In my experience, not at all.

    A 1 degree spotmeter is a useful tool for the Zone System, but even that can be done without.

    A narrow reflected meter is useful too, but there is no way a 15 degree meter can replace a 1 degree meter - when "spot" is what you need.

    A simple incident reading gives you good exposure in more than 99% of all situations. Good exposure, not "perfect"; since no two photographers agree on what that is or indeed whether it exists at all.
     
  11. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    You indicate you are a newbie, I think that spot meters can be a little dangerous for those who are not used to them or understand the philosophy of their use. What I see a lot with new photographers is that they think that the spot meter is merely more "accurate" and disregard that it is not an accurate representation of the whole scene unless they take several readings. Of course, the spot meters built into the cameras are more of a problem in this regard, where the beginner just points the camera in the direction and takes the picture, even though the spot may be pointing toward a particularly light or dark area.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that spot meters are great as long as you also take the time to learn how to use them well. In untrained hands, they can create more problems than they solve. I also don't believe that they are necessary unless you are going to be using the Zone system, and it is not easy to use the zone system with roll film.
     
  12. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    Never had one, never used one and I seem to do OK, but I do like the wider spot mode in my OM4Ti cameras. I also agree with Paul: if anything, too narrow a spot can lead you astray unless you really know what you're doing with it.

    David.
     
  13. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Paul is right. It is more important to know your meter and use it correctly than the metering pattern. Using your meter in the wrong way will ruin more shots than using a meter not perfect for the job. That goes for all lightmeters
    Regards Søren
     
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  15. Ornello

    Ornello Inactive

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    I doubt that you need a spot meter at all for 35mm work. Today's 35mm cameras have a variety of built-in meters that can vary in acceptance angle. I see no need for the separate meter at all. It will slow you down way too much for 35mm work.
     
  16. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Ornello, welcome to the forum. I didn't see your introduction, but wanted to welcome you anyway.
     
  17. Ornello

    Ornello Inactive

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    Grazi!
     
  18. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Ornello: I see no replies which I would disagree with. All have merit. I used a reflection/incident meter for years to augment my "practical" (read: the parts which work for me) 35mm and mf zone system work. However when I obtained my one degree spot meter, the work was made much much easier.
     
  19. Ornello

    Ornello Inactive

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    If you learn to memorize the exposure, you find any meter superfluous. Try living with an M4 for a few years, and you'll never miss a meter.

    It's exceedingly easy to judge exposure (for B&W at least) based on experience.
     
  20. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    I also agree with the above. I can usually "guess" the correct exposure when photographing outdoors in conventional lighting, but unfortunantly many of my pictures are made under unusual lighting conditions where my meter readings have been suprising and very valuable. E. g., see my gallery.

    OBTW, none of my active cameras have meters or batteries.
     
  21. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    David, the spot meter is a relatively recent invention. People did quite well without before it was invented.

    Do you need one? No.

    Might you find one helpful? I don't know, the question has more to do with you and your practice than me and mine. FWIW, I often use my Luna Pro with its tacky little 7.5 degree finder, prefer it to my Master V which sees everything and then some. But in truth I get as good results metering with the Master as with the Luna Pro.

    Have fun,

    Dan
     
  22. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I think the one pitfall tha must be warned against, especially that the originator of this thread calls himself a "newbie", is the whole gadget trap.

    I am a beginner myself, and I get cought up in the chase after that elusive piece of equipment that I absolutely need (being a typical photographer, and a gear junkie doesn't help...:wink: ) - but the fact is, you NEED the following:

    I) a decent, reliable body
    II) as good a lens as you can afford (read: if its between a spot meter and a nicer lens - buy the glass)
    III) a bunch of film

    Everything else ranges from nice-to-have to completely needless (although most things are on the nice-to-have list...:wink: )

    As far as one beginner to another, specific spot meter advice - if I was to buy one or the other, I would by a spot meter. Simplky because it is easier to get the spot to to the job of a wider meter, than to do the reverse.

    But with a little ingenuity and imagination (like finding comparable surfaces you can get right next to, using grey cards, your hands, etc...) you can really common-sense your way to excelent exposures.

    Oh, one more thing - with a spot meter you lose one excuse for why that photo didn't turn out... the fault is all yours - which it usually is anyway :wink:
     
  23. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Some personal sentiments and thoughts. Spot meters are very tricky to master. You need to be careful of the color it is pointed at, take into account the distance to subject, the flare contributed by the meter, it subseptibility to IR light. For a skilled user they offer the capabilty to evalute a scene very well. Incident meters are easily used. They leave you without any real evaluation of the contrast of individual elements of the scene. Perhaps their biggest failure is that they have no response to flare whatsoever. You may be certain that your camera, lens and film will be affected by flare.

    Now we come to your question: How important is a spot meter when using a 35mm camera and a 6x6 camera? Well are you going to devote an entire roll to each scene and develop accordingly? Are you going to record this information scene by scene? Are you just going to use a single development time for the entire roll? With all due respect to Mr. Mclean I will suggest that either a spot or incident meter used with the skill borne of experience can serve you equally well. Using either one of them in a half-assed fashion will give you a silver based migraine.
     
  24. Peter Rockstroh

    Peter Rockstroh Member

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    I use a Minolta Spotmeter F to photograph wildlife. I can take a very accurate exposure measurement of animals sitting in trees in the shade or backlit in Flash mode, something that would be very difficult with a lightmeter covering a wider angle. It is also, as several people pointed out, very useful for Zone System exposures. Other than that, its use is limited.
     
  25. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    For 35mm and medium format I use a Minolta III incident meter. In fact I use it for LF too in addition to the spot meter. I just use the spot to determine SBR or for really tricky lighting situations.
     
  26. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    I normally use a hand held incident/reflective light meter, the camera’s built-in center-weighted reflective light meter, or the camera’s built-in matrix (also called zone, evaluative, or multiple pattern averaging) reflective light meter.

    However, when I am shooting theatre or some other stage performance, I find the spot meter (hand held or built-in) invaluable for measuring the changing stage light levels.