Life of selenium lightmeters

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by S Raff, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. S Raff

    S Raff Member

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    I recently acquired a Sekonic auto-lumi 86, it's been out of action and stored for the past 27 years. It is in mint condition and would of been looked after well in its working days days.

    Do the selenium cells fail to work accurately over time or should this small and handy meter still be a reliable addition to my pocket?

    Thank you
     
  2. Muihlinn

    Muihlinn Member

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    I have one too, it has been in service since 1971 and still dandy.
    Selenium cells give up reactivity with exposure to light, so keep it with a dark cap over the cells when you're not using it. Anyhoo I compare its readings with my other light meters and no significative deviation is happening, but there are a number of factors involving accurate reading apart the cells itself, so better check its readings often, and do not ask so much to this meter under low light conditions!
     
  3. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I got a "junk" Olympus Pen D the other day and it has a selenium light meter. Luckily it is working fine. Just to be safe however, I cut out a piece of a film box and taped it over the meter like a flap. Whenever I'm not using, I keep it covered.
     
  4. S Raff

    S Raff Member

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    Thanks, luckily it has alway been kept in a fitted leather case.

    Any good links known for these? I've found a couple of basic spec pages but nothing of detail.
     
  5. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I have a Weston Euro master that uses a selenium cell that I've had for about twenty five years that's in semi retirement , I just checked it against my Sekonic L358 Flash master and they give the same reading, although as you remark, I have heard that selenium cells deteriorate with age.
     
  6. Fred Aspen

    Fred Aspen Member

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    I have had a Sekonic 398 operating since the 70s and it is doing fine. One thing, however, is that I live at 5K elevation and the UV at this altitude suggests closing down another half stop. If I put a UV filter in front of the cell, it reads the same as my battery models.

    Just one of the peculiarities of the selenium cell although their spectral response is superior to SBC meters and is unaffected by IR.

    -Fred
     
  7. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I've had a couple of old models - different brands - that were given to me. They were from the early 50s and were off by 2-3 stops; reading low.
     
  8. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    I have both a Weston Master (Weston speeds) and a Weston Master II (ASA speeds). When I compare them with my modern meters they are still accurate. The disadvantage of selenium meters is that they are not sensitive enough for very low light.
     
  9. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Selenium cells will work for a very long time if they are well made and sealed from moisture. There is a perception they wear out with exposure to light, this isn't the case: the culprit is moisture getting to the cell in combination with exposure to light - the light sets up a current and the moisture then 'corrodes' the cell.
     
  10. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I regularly use and rely on Weston, GE, and Norwood selenium meters from the 1950s or a little later. Over several decades I've also accumulated quite a few such meters that either don't work or have weak cells. Like all electrical measuring instruments, light meters should occasionally be checked for accuracy. Analog meters should also be checked for meter armature balance.
     
  11. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Selenium cells take a time to die, and the linearity of response seems to go first. I was having periodic underexposure problems and eventually traced it back to my Weston V in the mid to low EV range. Spot checks in good light failed to show up the discrepancy.
     
  12. J Ollinger

    J Ollinger Member

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    I have meters from the 1930s (literally) that are still active and lively. I've got selenium meters that are dead. A lot of it depends on how well they were kept. Humidity kills cells. Dirt and grit foul meter movements. Dropping them doesn't do them any good at all.

    It's a good idea to check any meter against a known-good one for accuracy across the range you expect to use it. Any meter, expensive, cheap, old, new, can be off.
     
  13. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

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    Good morning;

    I am still using a Weston Master II from around the late 1950's. It still seems to be working when checked on the Kyoritsu and the good old "1/film speed = seconds at f 16" guide line in daylight. I even bought a Weston Master V to be sent out for repair to go along with it. I like them. They do not require batteries, even if they go not go down very far in low light. If I really want take a photograph in moonlight, I will drag out the Gossen Luna-Six or something equivalent.

    If you keep the Weston meter in a dry environment, it should last a very long time and give you very good service, except for the extreme low light level thing. Low light level; OK. Extreme low light level; no.

    I still believe in older technology. Just because something has an excessive accumulation of years does not mean that it is obsolete. (I hope that statement applies to me also.)

    Enjoy;

    Ralph Javins
     
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  15. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    I've had very good luck with selenium meters, although I do have a Olympus Auto Eye where the cell has definately degraded over time. Nicholas' explanation of the combination of light and moisture degrading the cells is the best and most logical I've seen. It also explains why meters (kept in the dark most of the time) hold up better than cameras (exposed to light and moisture much more). I have had more problems with CdS meters than selenium.
     
  16. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I must report that my trusty Soviet-built Leningrad IV selenium cell meter has worked fine since I purchased it in Czechoslovakia, for 14 bucks equivalent, in 1978. All remarks about selenium cell meters at very low light obtain for this one, as well. BTW, despite its provenance, I have detected no excessive red sensitivity. Nyuck, Nyuck.
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You can be lucky and they keep working, or like in my case the Weston Master V cell gave up. Many Weston's sold second hand have cells that are on there way out.

    I use a Leica meter, which I want to replace, the Leica dealer I use won't sell the ones with selenium cells at all because hesays they are nowhere near accurate. Mine is but it's damaged and temperamental.

    You run the risk of not noticing your meters failing so it's important to check it every few months, (about twice a year).

    Ian
     
  18. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    My experience mirrors what others have posted. About 1/2 of my selenium meters are shot. The other 1/2 work fine.
     
  19. AgX

    AgX Member

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    In case of need, this company offers custom cut, contacted selenium cells:

    http://www.megatron.co.uk/homepage.html

    (I posted this here a year ago; perhaps someone has given this a try by now.)
     
  20. J Ollinger

    J Ollinger Member

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    Interesting. I've seen the Megatron site but for some reason I never really looked at it.

    "Our experienced exposure meter specialists also recommend a wide range of repairs and servicing to all Weston Master & Euromaster exposure meters: Calibration check - £22; Recalibration, servicing and minor adjustments - £36; New photocell fitted, recalibration & servicing - £42; New movement fitted, recalibration & servicing - £55; New photocell & new movement fitted, recalibration & servicing - £66. All prices include UK carriage and VAT."

    That's a lot of money, especially at current exchange rates. But if you love that Weston Master, that might be worthwhile.
     
  21. AgX

    AgX Member

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    That special service is new to me. I rather thought of ordering just a cell of the size needed to substitute for a died cell. Especially for in-camera meters.
     
  22. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    Megatron replaced the cell in my Master IV three years ago. I initially just wanted to order a new cell, so that I could install it myself, but they said:

    ---
    Selenium photocells are all different - very individual, therefore, it is
    important to first - choose the right cell to match the movement, and then
    calibrate the instrument to give correct readings with the new cell. You
    would need a specialist equipment to do that. We can carry out the repairs
    for you (fitting a new cell, servicing and minor repairs & recalibration).
    ---

    So, I sent the meter to them, the cell was replaced and the meter calibrated. It works perfectly now. Personally, I prefer to have my equipment properly serviced and calibrated, even though it often is cheaper to buy a "new" meter, or camera for that matter, on eBay. But then it's very easy to end up buying several meters before you get one that works properly.

    Trond
     
  23. J Ollinger

    J Ollinger Member

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    How much did they charge you for the new cell replacement?
     
  24. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    They charged £42 for the replacement, including shipping.
     
  25. J Ollinger

    J Ollinger Member

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    Thank you. That's good to know.
     
  26. D1v1d

    D1v1d Member

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    I've had good luck with the selenium meters in my growing family of Olympus Trip 35 cameras. I keep each covered with a lens cap when not in use. Metering seems fine and even works with transparency film.