Light Meter Recommendations.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by snegron, Jun 11, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I have been somewhat lucky in the past using the in-camera meters of my film cameras. I have recently started experimenting with older cameras, both medium format and 35mm. I know that the meters in these cameras will eventually fail and replacement parts will be almost impossible to obtain (especially with Nikon F metering prisms). I have been thinking about purchasing a handheld meter but I am not sure which one to choose and what the major differences are. I shoot just about anything ranging from portraits to landscape, so walking up to the subject and getting a reading might not always be possible for me. I have seen the spot meters but I am not sure how they differ from the other type of meters out there. Also, I don't want to spend a small fortune either. For the prices I have seen on new multi function meters I could purchase a near mint Nikon F2A with still some juice left in its original meter! Any suggestions?
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    A light meter in the hand is worth two in the camera.

    Pretty much can't go wrong with modern light meters. Sekonic, Minolta, or Gossen, take your pick of features that meet your needs.

    Some have both incident and spot, others also can read flash, and others do it all.

    You know your price range, look at those that meet your budget, and compare features. Easy.
     
  3. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I don't think you can go wrong with any of the suggestions above. I use the Minolta IVF, considered the industry standard. You will pay a premium for an added spot meter though.

    A spot meter isn't really that necessary for landscapes, you can work without one. Afterall, the light reading in the sun where you are standing is the same as the light reading 10 miles away in the distance! It isn't any closer to the sun :wink:
     
  4. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I was under the impression that with incident light meters you have to walk up to the subject, take a reading, then walk back to your camera to take the shot. I thought that with a spot meter it would save the trip because you could stand near the camera, point the spot meter at the subject for a reading, then shoot.
     
  5. snegron

    snegron Member

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    If I were taking a picture while standing on a city street with tall buildings (like NY for example), would it be beter to use incident or spot?
     
  6. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Even though Gary is correct, many photographers prefer a spot meter. In part this will depend on if you are shooting B&W or color negatives versus Color transparencies. Even for transparencies many shoot with either a reflected or incident averaging meter. However, if you are shooting transparencies (and you did not indicate your film choice in the original post) many transparency and even B&W and color negative shooters prefer the spot meters. In the case of the transparencies you can meter highlights and expose accordingly to maintain detail.

    Rich
     
  7. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I forgot to mention, for medium format I usually use Porta 160 VC negative film. For 35mm, I use a variety of films, all negative. I don't do too much BW only because I have been out of touch with developing my own BW negatives for some time now. I have the stainless steel tanks with reels for both 120 and 35mm film, but I have not done any recent research on chemicals.
     
  8. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    I have very good results from a few years of using a Sekonic L-358. However, it is not that small, and the spot metering attachments are nearly as big as the meter. You might want to check out the Gossen DigiSix and DigiFlash, both very compact units, and reasonalby priced.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  9. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    My main light meter is a Pentax Analog Spot Meter.

    My backup meter is :

    The Voigtlander VC Meter II, it's an Accessory Shoe meter, Small, lightweight, and easy to use
    Meter angle approximately 30 degrees
    Blue Silicon Metering Cell
    http://www.cameraquest.com/voivcmet2.htm
     
  10. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    Tho you are right with the price, but a Gossen Starlite ( about $ 600 in Germany) turned out to be for me an invest which I never had to regret.
    It has a built in 1° and 5° spotmeter, and I use it mostly to get a reliable information about the dynamic range of a frame . Metering sequentially the several relevant portions of the frame the Starlite stores all metered values and tells you quickly min, max and average and complete range in fstops..
    I consider myself still beeing at the lower end of the learning curve of getting the dynamic range of slide film perfectlcy under control, and so for me it is a useful and a really fast tool.
    It's got a built in flash meter too and a cine meter, the latter I do not use at all, so what, nowadays there is always something you do not need at all . :smile:)

    Bertram
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    In principle correct if you read off a gray card with the spot meter, but spotmeters and incident meters are quite different and both very useful for their intended purposes.
     
  12. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I ditched my spot meter when it got to be too confusing trying to figure out multiple readings visually and mentally when trying and get a contrast range between multiple objects to fit my film choice. I've since stayed with my reflective and incident Minolta IVF meter, and have been able to do quite well, but taking independent contrast readings is out with a reflective meter and hard unless your in the same light as your scene with an incident reading and even then it can be misleading. So for now my LF and MF shooting meter is my N80 with a 50mm lens which has spot, center-weighted and evaluative metering with manual readouts in the viewfinder. In manual I can spot a reading, drop it or raise it on the visual graph to the zone where I want it and then meter everything else and see it on the graph. The camera weighs next to nothing and the lens is hardly more, plus I get to carry another film on top of it. I can strap it around my shoulder and sitting on my back or in a pouch. For the weight of the camera, it just gives me too many options that a handheld can't compete with and all my readings are in the viewfinder and are easily changeable. Most light weight cameras like this, such as the N80 and the Rebel are cheaper used with a lens then a new multiple reading meter. They may not be as small as say a Gossen Digisix, but are definetly more versatile.
     
  13. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I use one, too. It's a good basic light meter. It's big enough not to slip out of my hand.

    But for casual snap shots, I use a Gossen Bix (?)3, which is a small Selen light meter, battery-free.
     
  14. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    I have been in the same condition when I bought a Leica IIIf with no in-camera meter.

    I have then bought the Sekonic 308 which has everything I need. I often use for incident reading and it's proved to be failrly accurate for my BW needs. Sometimes I also use it with my F100 too.

    http://www.sekonic.com/products/products.asp?ID=3
     
  15. battra92

    battra92 Member

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    I found an old Vivitar 45. Doing some tests with slide film shows mine is pretty darn accurate! It uses a button cell battery you can still pick up most anywhere. It's a great value at around $10 on the bay of E. :wink:
     
  16. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    Incident and spot meters are very different. Incident meters such as the Minolta IV-F, which a few of us are using, will measure light falling onto the subject.

    This is a very accurate way of taking a light reading and cannot be "fooled" as in-camera reflective meters often are by subjects which are very dark or very bright in tone. Make sure the white dome is covering the light sensor and point it towards your camera. It will give you the shutter/ f-stop reading - very simple to use.

    Reflective meters measure light which is reflected from the subject and think every subject is a mid grey (18% grey) tone. So when you try to photograph a black cat in a coal shed it will come out a mucky grey colour.

    Spot meters are also very accurate but are "reflective" and of course only take a reading for a 1-5% area of the scene. When taking a spot reading you would usually point the meter at a mid-tone in the scene.

    Spot meters are really for more experienced users who have a good understanding of exposure.

    To answer your question, no-one can really answer that. Are you in shade? Are the buildings in shade? How luch light is falling onto the scene and where? Take a light reading for your subject is a good rule.

    If you're interested in city scenes, look up the work of Andreas Feininger.

    I would recommend that you purchase sterioma's suggestion of a Sekonic 308/ 309 or a second hand Minolta IV-F.
     
  17. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    The important thing here is whether you shoot negative or transparency.

    With a negative the exposure is 'keyed to' (determined by) the shadow reading. It is hard to over-expose the lighter areas so you don't normally worry about them (you can reduce development time if you are a perfectionist). Spot readings of the shadows are the ONLY way to guarantee adequate but not excessive exposures (too much exposure = reduced sharpness and, with conventional mono neg films, increased grain). But you need to know how to use a spot meter.

    Trannies are 'keyed' to the highlights. Obviously, over-exposure results in ugly 'blown' highlights -- so you let the shadows go hang. An incident light meter is ideal for highlight readings: indeed, the old name is the 'artificial highlight' method.

    Grey card readings are substantially worthless for most applications because no film speed criterion is based on a mid-tone (meter calibrations are another, and disputable, matter).

    A lot depends on the subject brightness range, too, which is covered in much more detail in a free module in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com. There's also a free module you might find useful about grey cards.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  18. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    I would suggest a meter with a digital readout. Older meters that require you to match a needle reading and then get the aperture - speed combination from a dial are too slow and clumsy.
     
  19. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Roger,

    Though many do and can use use incident meters for transparencies, you will certainly find many of us shooting transparencies preferring the use of a spot meter. We use the spot meter to determine the dynamic range of the scene and to measure the highlights which we then correct the exposure to hold detail.

    Rich
     
  20. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Rich,

    Wouldn't argue for a moment, except to say that (a) incident light metering is usually (not always) easier than spot and (b) the dynamic range is normally irrelevant unless you can control the lighting (or use Tiffen's Acadamy-award-winning Ultra Contrast filters) because you have to key the exposure to the highlight and let the shadows go hang. Onl;y with a brightness range below 5 stops have you any real choice.

    Of course if you can't take an incident light reading at the subject or under equivalent lighting, you are absolutely right that a spot highlight reading is best. I'd stick by my assertion that incident is usually easier, though.

    The first commercially successful spot meter (SEI Photometer) didn't even bother with a mid-tone/18% index, just shadow (for negs) and highlight (for trannies and film). The only thing that stopped me including all this was that the original post was already pretty long...

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  21. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Roger,

    Don't forget for dynamic range, many of us in particular that shoot transparencies, and to a lesser extent negatives, will use Graduated ND or colored filters which will allow us to stay within the acceptance range of the film.

    Rich