Light meters - How important is incident ability ?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by digiconvert, Feb 21, 2006.

  1. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Hi I currently use a Weston III with my MF cameras, I prefer to hand meter because I enjoy that method of capture, and my images are usually pretty well exposed (OK the occasional duffer but that's to be expected). However I am wondering if I need to get a meter which will allow me to take incident readings, I am told that if I want to get 'serious' (ITS A HOBBY !) then I need to take this step- but I thought I got along fine :confused:

    For most shots that look tricky I walk over to the subject if possible and take readings on dark and bright areas and make a 'guestimate' for mid tone or else meter for what I am most interested in, usually the shadows. If I could take incident readings would I be able to get better readings ? The issue is becoming more important since I started using studio lights (Tungsten) for a few shots. I bracket anyway but wondered if an icident meter would be better.

    I am considering a Weston V/invercone or a Gossen Sixtar (or Norwood Director if I can find one) anyone any views on these meters ?

    Sorry for the length of the post- help is very much appreciated.
     
  2. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I think that if it is working for you, then you don't need an incident meter. I find that function to be very valuable, but I mostly use it in a studio setting or with a flash meter when I am using strobes.

    I think that it is important to learn to filter the advice of certain people who might say that a certain piece of equipment is necessary in order to be a serious photographer. I would want that person to tell me why and then to find that their argument is persuasive. This, "you can't be serious unless you use XXX" line of reasoning is pure BS.
     
  3. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    As for the rest of your question. I have a Gossen Luna Pro (Lunasix in other parts of the world, I believe) and it is fantastic. It uses batteries that are no longer available, but there are reasonably good alternatives available. You might want to verify the battery situation with any of the meters you are considering.
     
  4. eumenius

    eumenius Member

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    I use incident metering with my Minolta Flash Meter IV about all the time - with great results. The only exception is a high-contrast lighting, and macro, where I measure reflected light (highlights/shadows, and gray card). In my studio work I measure the contrast ratio of different lights in incident mode with flat diffuser. It is also a foolproof solution when shooting slides, on my opinion. To be frank, I can't imagine living without incident metering ability :smile: You won't need an incident meter to get more serious, it's just a way to refine and improve your exposure metering skills. When choosing a meter, take the one with bigger lumisphere size (smaller error), and with interchangeable diffusers (reflected "hole", flat diffuser, maybe spot add-ons) - powered with battery, with CdS or silicone measuring cell. But the diffusers are optional - a single lumisphere will do in most of the cases. The older selenium models are mostly dead today, with some exceptions. Gossen meters are very good, as well as Sekonics and Minoltas - I used them all, and they always worked fine.

    Cheers from Russia, Zhenya
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I really depend on my meter's ability to measure in incident mode.

    Whenever I am dealing with a complex subject, with a variety of hard to read or differentiate tones or reflectances, the incident reading keeps me "grounded" - it gives me the starting point for my exposure decisions, and a check if my other calculations seem to indicate something very strange.

    In addition, if you work with a subject where the light levels are constant, but it is difficult to get close enough to take a reading off the subject itself, an incident reading taken at a different location, exposed to the same light, can be invaluable.

    One thing I'd be concerned about though, you seem to be considering using separate meters for incident and reflected readings. Unless you have a true spot meter, I would suggest that it is a good idea to standardize on a single meter that offers both functions, and to learn how the results compare.

    Matt
     
  6. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Sorry if I gave that impression. I would use the same meter in whichever mode seemed appropriate, a landscape might need reflected but a still life in the studio might need incident- is that about it ?

    Cheers CJB
     
  7. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    IIRC, the Master III takes the same Invercone as the IV and V. If your III's in good order, there's no reason to buy a V. Invercones are sometimes offered on eBay.co.uk

    Landscape benefits from incident metering too.
     
  8. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    Digi,
    I find incident readings come into their own when shooting fast moving or unpredictable subjects like kids or animals with the MF camera. I take a reading and then modify it as necessary depending on how my subject(s) are moving. I'm not sure how it would work with landscape though. I find there are few situations with the kind of work I do, that an incident reading cannot be employed.
     
  9. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I never use the reflected light disc on my Sekonics. Its nothing but incident. The spot meter in my camera takes care of most of my reflected needs.
     
  10. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    i agree completely with Paul Sorensen. If you want to experiment with incident meters, the Invercone for the Master II and later Westons is an inexpensive way to try it. I also ocasionally use Norwoods, which offer both incident and reflected options. If you shop for a Norwood, make sure it has the slides and the incident and reflected discs needed for the particular model. An incident meter is convenient for setting up studio lights. The GE DW48, DW58, and DW68 measure incident light at typical studio intensities.
     
  11. UKJohn

    UKJohn Subscriber

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    Hi Digi...

    I use both reflective and incident.

    I generally use reflective readings when doing B&W landscapes or similar work and always when metering using the Zone System. For this I use a Pentax V with a 1 degree spot, metering for the shadows and closing down two stops I never have a problem (well only very occassionally).

    With portraiture, studio and still life (studio again) I would use incident light and for this I have a Sekonic L508, again I dont experience any problems with exposure.

    Both meters read in Exposure Values (EV's) which are so easy to determine contrast ranges in a scene.

    With colour landscapes I use both but the important thing about using an incident meter you have to be in the same light as the object you are metering, so again spot metering is ideal for this. If I use spot for colour trannies I tend to bracket as well because I'm hopeless at determining a middle grey in a colour landscape scene, this does generally work, but also get a good few failures.

    I hope this helps.

    Cheers

    John
     
  12. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I mostly use incident metering in and out of a studio. You'll never see a movie lighting crew caught without one. For me it's the surest way to determine lighting ratio's and real exposure differences without hunting for a medium subject tone. Overall it's really just a fancy gray card.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    This is interesting because I like to think of a grey card and reflected light meter toghether as just a fancy incident meter. :D
     
  14. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    I think reflective meters, especially spot meters, are best used with the Zone system, or at least a half-hearted attemp at it. Otherwise, your reading off one place in the scene is insufficient to get a good overall exposure without taking into account the placement of that value and your anticipated development. Wayne is so right in saying an incident is a fancy gray card. And you could take a gray card with you into the field and meter off of it to get a fairly accurate general exposure. Pointing a wide field reflective meter at a scene gets you close, but if you point a little too much toward the sky or the ground, it gets dicey. If I had to choose one and only one, it would be incident.
     
  15. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Does anyone use the flat incident collectors that some meters come with?
    Instead of reading and combining the light and shadow that is hitting a dome which is most convenient in most situations, it is more akin to reading off a flat grey card. Great for reading lighting ratios and copy work.