Should i use a spot meter?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by mingaun, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Hello to all members,

    I am a total newbie to film and this is only my second posting. I just bought a leica M3 and i have been using a canon S90 P&S for all my exposure reading. I found the exposures after only shooting one roll of fuji superia 400 very accurate. My next film will be Adox CMS 20 and i will be trying to develop it myself for the first time.

    It is then that i stumbled upon this Zone System for the first time and have been reading it a lot. It seems that i need a spot meter for this. But my question is why cant i just use my pocket S90 and adjust exposure according to what i see on the LCD. This is much more visual and should it not be more accurate as well? I know i am wrong but i really do not know where i am wrong. Can someone enlighten me on whether it is wise to continue using the S90 as a meter reading or use something else?

    Thanks
    Mark Lim
     
  2. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG Mark!

    The downside with using digital cameras as lightmeters, especially if you want to go down the delightfully fussy zone system path, is that the exposure characteristics of film are quite different - and the info you get is harder to match than the raw "how much light in this bit?" data from a good light meter...

    It will certainly give you a good idea, but not a complete idea.

    Marc!
     
  3. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Hi Marc,

    So you are saying that exposure characteristics for film and digital are different. Would that also imply that exposure of film is the more accurate one resembling the raw light data from a good light meter?

    Coming from a pure digital background and only using matrix metering all my life i am trying to convince myself that something is not right about me using a point and shoot as a meter reading. I dont mind buying a good light meter but i need more help to explain the shortcomings of my P&S meter. Can someone show me some practical situation where a light meter will be better?

    Or should i just keep doing what i am doing now until i find by experience that a light meter is better?

    Mark
     
  4. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    The Zone System makes sense if you develop your B&W negatives one by one, separately, and you print yourself. When using roll film in general, and a colour film in particular, you adopt the same development for all exposures of the roll.

    Digital clips the highlights abruptly. Slide film burn highlights much more gradually. Negative colour film is even more forgiving. B&W negative is extremely forgiving. A spot meter is especially useful to avoid burning highlights, while retaining details in the shadows, when using slides. Otherwise it is not indispensable.

    With colour negatives your S90 can serve you as a decent reflected light lightmeter. A spot exposure meter or an incident light exposure meter are useful additions to your gear set in any case.

    I shot a couple of rolls of colour negatives recently (outdoors, sunny) metering "by sight" with no problems.

    Fabrizio
     
  5. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Since i plan to only shoot black and white and knowing that it has a more forgiving exposure lattitude, all i need to do is use the S90 carefully exposing for the shadow areas and i should be good to go. Seems like i probably dont need at the moment to buy a light meter. Am i correct?

    thanks
    Mark
     
  6. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    As this will be only your second roll of film ever and your first roll of B&W (and also your first go at developing), I think that your current system is fine for now. As you get more experienced you may decide that you need a different metering system but it depends upon your results and how you feel about them. For now, just see how it goes.
     
  7. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Your little digisnapper will work fine for most situations.

    Yes, negative film is more forgiving, just remember that most of that forgiveness is for extra exposure, not for a lack of exposure.

    The real advantage of dedicated light meters and exposing using zone system principles is that, once you understand what they are telling you and have a bit of experience with them, it becomes very tough to fool YOU.

    The digisnapper's meter will make certain "decisions" for you. It has been programmed by committee to give most people exposures they like.

    There will come a time when you want something different than the norm. :wink:
     
  8. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Yes! :smile:
     
  9. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I go with the vein here. Yes, what you have is fine for now. The Zone System is intended for use with B&W sheet film for complete control. It can and has been adapted for roll film use. For years I had no spot meter. Only recently picked one up. And I got a steal at $130. For many years all I had was a Weston Master IV handheld meter and that was more than enough. You just need to learn to use it. But until you see the need for one in your resulting work I would not concern yourself with getting any meter at this time.
     
  10. moki

    moki Member

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    It will do... if it can find the right exposure for a CCD-Sensor with it's very small tolerances, it will do allright with any negative film, probably slide film too. Of course, a sensor reacts a lot different to light than film, that's why it's not optimal.
    When you find, that analog is the way to go for you (very probable with a M3 :wink: ), you'll get a light meter, more cameras and lenses sooner or later, but until then you're fine with what you've got.

    Using the zone system with 35mm film isn't that easy anyway and it makes your whole photography a lot slower.... that's not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll lose the main advantage of that lovely rangefinder: speed of use.
    With time, you can learn to simply guess the exposure and snap away happily in most situations. I needed a few weeks to learn that, but now I don't need a light meter in most daylight situations, because my eyes and brain can do just as well or even better. I just started to take a guess before looking at the light meter... at first I was off by 2-3 steps quite often, but with time my guess was spot on every time. It doesn't substitute a light meter completely and in all situations, but it makes things a lot easier.
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Depends how much of the system you use.

    I'll meter a zone (camera meter just the shadows or just the face or ...) to be able to place that zone properly on the curve.

    Not trying to use the system to adjust the film curve here, just to eliminate the metering problems white sandy beaches and snow and dark suits provide.
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Agreed! :smile:

    For average shooting under average conditions, the system you are using will work. Use it now while you are getting your feet wet. You'll do all right.

    However, as you learn more, you will likely start to shoot more and more "non-average" shots under "non-average" conditions. Your in-camera meter will become less useful to you.

    You will eventually want to get a regular exposure meter and learn how to use it.

    Keep doing as you have been but start hunting around on eBay and in the classified forums. When you've found the thing you want and have saved up enough to afford it, buy.

    Even if you don't use it right away, you'll have it when you need it and you can take your time studying and experimenting until you get the hang of using it.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I wouldn't recommend a spot meter as a first hand-held meter. I would recommend something that offers the option of using either reflected or incident light metering. You should be able to find something used that is both reasonable in cost and no larger than your digital point and shoot. If you are going to buy new, something like a Gossen Digiflash or Sekonic 308 would work well.
     
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  15. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    I bought second-hand a Gossen Multisix (hand-held reflected light and incident light exposure meter) and a Minolta Spotmeter F (hand-held spot reflected light e.m.). They are OK but, frankly, an integrated solution like the Sekonic L-758 would be much more practical.

    So if money is no object and if one wants to buy new, and has slides in his photographic habits, I would go for a "do-it-all" so that the expense is made only once, it takes less space in the bag etc.

    Overall I think that a spot lightmeter is useful only when using slides, or when using the zone system. So for most photographers it is not necessary until the day when they regret not to have bought an integrated one :wink:

    Fabrizio
     
  16. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    The 'full Zone System' is for B&W shooting and film development and printing. You do NOT have to utilize the 'full Zone System', you can use a very useful PART OF IT with even color transparency and color neg! Many photographers do precisely that, including me.

    One fundamental and universally applicable part of the Zone System is to understand the zones of reflecitivity (brightness), and how they effect any reflected light meter, and what the meter is trying to do
    • how a reading of a Zone VII item differs from a reading of the Zone III item, and how both differ from reading a Zone V item
    • 'make whatever it sees appear as 18% tonality'

    Another fundamental and universally applicable part of the Zone System is to understand that often the range of brightness in a full scene simply cannot be fit into the film (or digital) range, so you have to decide...
    • what portion of that brightness range can be eliminated in the shot
    • what zone to 'place' in the center of the range which does fit in to the film/digital

    Chapter 3 and the first half of Chapter 4 of Ansel Adams' The Negative are very useful reads for anyone, not just B&W photographers!

    You do not have to have a one degree spotmeter to be a practitioner of what I wrote above, but they can be very useful in making it easier to be more precise in putting that theory into practice. One degree meters simply allow smaller areas to be read than the broader so-called 'spot' meters built into many cameras.
     
  17. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Matrix metering was made for film. Slide film specifically. There was no room for fudging exposure problems with slide film because the original is the finished product. B&W negative film is more forgiving, though it's still helpful to be accurate and most importantly consistent in how things are exposed.

    The exposure characteristics are different for film and digital, and between films. If you meter for a normal 18% gray, it will be the same thing on digital or on different films. If you have a 2% gray in the same image, it might be gray on film and blown out on digital, or right on digital and too dark on film. The how the ends of the ranges of light and dark are captured differs between films, digital, and even film/developer combinations. I use different developers to get this they way I want on film. Other people use the zone system.

    A spot meter is an interesting and sometimes useful item, but I don't think it's a necessity to carry with a small 35mm camera. A small incident meter is the typical instrument that would be used with a traditional non-metered 35mm camera. I use a sekonic L208. It is as small as the old meters, but a lot lighter. I keep it in my pocket or in my camera case. I can also wear it around my neck if I want to appear to be someone special. It can go on the camera too, but the shoe mount didn't fit my cameras that tightly. There are many choices for incident meters and checking the search here will elaborate. Incident meters don't remove the problem presented in the prior paragraph. They do work differently than in-camera reflective meters though, in that things like backlighting don't even have to be calculated; just turn the meter the other way for that situation. It's also easy to adjust settings like film speed, aperture, and see how it affect shutter speed. Easy compared to a digital camera that wasn't meant to be used manually or at lower isos.
     
  18. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    A spot meter isn't necessary but carrying another camera around, merely to measure exposures, is a bit of a pain. You could get hold of a second hand Leica MC meter at very reasonable price - not the best meter ever but equivalent in ability to an old Weston meter. It fits tidily on top of your M3 and ties in with the shutter wheel.
    I used one on my old M2 for many years, shooting b&w.
    Alternatively, if you've got a bit more spare money, look for a more accurate, battery powered, MR meter.

    Regards
    Jerry
     
  19. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  20. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thank you all for your generous information and help. A lot of food for thought. But first of all i am impress with the amount of reply and help i am getting which makes me feel more comfortable coming to film. I am also happy that the majority of you did not just blast me for using a digital point and shoot camera as a light meter and in fact a lot of you actually ask me to stick with what i have. You lot are a very practical bunch of people.

    At this moment i will stick with what i have first and see how things goes. So far my only problem with the S90 is that the aperture value goes down to only f2 and the iso goes to about 100. This becomes a problem when i will be shooting at iso 20 or using a f1.4 aperture. I need to do a lot of mental calculations and i am pretty slow, yikes!

    In fact i have one very important question to ask but was afraid to. The new film i am getting is rated at iso 20, how do i expose it at iso 20?? If i calculate from my point and shoot at 100 and half its value twice, it equates to 25. So how do i actually compensate to iso 20 from 25?? Am i missing something here?

    Mark
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    From ISO 25 to ISO 20 is 1/3 of a stop. From ISO 100 to ISO 20 is 2 stops more - 2+1/3 of a stop. I'd suggest that you meter at an ISO of 100, and add 2 1/3 of a stop. If you were to add 2 1/2 stops instead, it would probably work equally well.
     
  22. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thanks Matt for the quick response. So lets say i meter for ISO 100 and i am using a iso 20 film i need to open up 2 1/3 stop of light. Lets say i have metered it at a shutter speed of 1/500 and on my leica M3 there is only a click between 1/125 and 1/60. So practically speaking i can only open up 2 1/2 stop which would be fine and that would be between 1/125 and 1/60. Is that right?

    Mark
     
  23. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    If the instruction booklet of your camera does not tell you explicitly that shutter times are "continuously" variable, then I would use only the canonic speed values. If your shutter know does not have any click between values, it is a sign that shutter speed can be freely chosen. This does not happen to be your case.

    Normally people have "clicking" shutter speeds and do all the 1/2, 1/3 EV adjustment with the diaphragm, not with the shutter.

    So in your case if your S90 tells you 1/500 @ f/5.6 for ISO 100, you would set your camera with an ISO 20 film at 1/125 and will open your diaphragm just a little more than 5.6.

    Again, this would be the same exposure as your S90 suggests. With B&W, in general, exposure is a bit of a relative thing, with many films you will find that you will have a printable negative also with an overexposure of 2EV or more and, in general, negative film are more forgiving of overexposure than of underexposure. So you can also just use a diaphragm half-way between f/5.6 and f/4 if you don't want to fiddle with 1/3 EV, just remember to "err" on the side of overexposure.

    Fabrizio
     
  24. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    How are you judging the general quality of the exposures? Minilab prints?

    Spot meters will serve you well for making precise tonal manipulations and/or for measuring the precise differences in brightness between subjects. However, for a general purpose light meter, I'd suggest an incident meter. Not only will it give you exposures that are closer to ideal, but it will also be much less of a P.I.T.A. to use than a second camera will be.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2011
  25. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    I just check my M3 and realise that there is no click between the shutter speed values. Aaargh.

    Fabrizio, does that mean if i sort of turn the shutter speed dial between 125 and 60 that is equivalent to 1/2 stop even though there is no click. And if thats the case if i turn it one third towards 60 that is also equivalent to 1/3 stop even if there is no click. Am i correct?

    Rob, so far i have only develop one roll of Fuji Superia 400 from a lab and exposures are spot on using the S90. I have looked at some of the meter today online and i am shocked that those with a spot meter are huge. I want to go light which is why i took up film in the first place. i dont know of a spot meter that is small and can fit into a pocket.

    Mark
     
  26. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Fabrizio, my 50mm lens has got clicks for half stops but not 1/3 stop. WHen you say to open up a little from 5.6, you meant turn it a little just before it reaches the half click and that is roughly about 1/3 stop. Is that correct? Sorry this is a bit new to me.

    Mark