What are the better light meters for very low level light?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by jp80874, Jun 22, 2006.

  1. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    I have been exploring low light, long exposures in a rocks and roots thread http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=28835 and discovered that either I’m not using my light meter correctly (expose for the shadow detail you want) or I should have another meter for l-o-n-g exposures. I use a Sekonic 508 Zone Master, set for reflected light, aso 64 or ½ of FP4 plus. The longest exposure it will show at f45.9 is 8 minutes. In darker scenes it says “E.u” which the manual says means "E.u" “(Exposure under) appears when the combination of shutter speed and aperture is not possible for the measured light level.” With reciprocity on FP4 plus this is probably 24-30 minutes.

    Is this the best I can hope for in a light meter or are there designs that work better than this in low light? My guess is that I am probably into trial and error exposures, but I thought I would ask if there is a better way?

    Thanks,

    John Powers
     
  2. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    In a low light situation I usually take a reading that I can get, and just do the math from there.
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Luna Pro's are the best for low light in my experience. They are also pretty cheap.
     
  4. Donsta

    Donsta Member

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    I had a Minolta which was much better than anything else I have since encountered for low light. Worst - Pentax with Zone VI mod....
     
  5. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thanks Jon.
    I see they give exposures up to 8 hours. That is a bit better than my 8 minutes.
    I had a Lunasix in college 1959-64. Pretty good stuff.

    John Powers
     
  6. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    As mrcallow indicates the Gossen Luna Pros are thought to be good for long exposure. I no longer have mine. However, for very long exposures, you may start to get into reciprocity failure problems which are more evident and more problem in color, particularly transparencies.

    For really long exposures you may also wish to consider a guide like the Black Cat.

    Rich
     
  7. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    Although it's long discontinued, Quantum Calculite XP is the most sensitive light meter I've used, seen, heard, or read. I have one, which is a simple incident/reflective meter. The lowest is -7EV at ASA100 in incident meter mode.

    I do nightscape photography, and with long exposure time, bracketing is impractical, so my suggestion is to make best metering and make sure exposure isn't too far before thinking about bracketing. (which is a good thing if time permits, just in case film gets scratched, etc.)
     
  8. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    John,

    The instructions for my Luna Pro F specifiy EV -8 to EV 24, but no ISO parameters mentioned. Perhaps we can get together and try it out under practical circumstances. I PM'ed you earlier today about your pre-exposure question and meeting up.

    Lee
     
  9. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    AFAIK - the Lunasix3 is supposed to be much better than the 'pro. And pretty much the most sensitive in the gossen line owing to the fact that it uses a selenium cell and not a SBC (silicon)... but that's assuming I don't have the cell types backwards in memory. I'm pretty sure of that though.
     
  10. timothyhyde

    timothyhyde Member

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    When the sun goes down, the only meter that works for me is my D2x. I don't know about Canon or the others, but Nikon SLRs (F5, F6, or Dxx) have great meters and serve the purpose fairly well. With the digitals, you can also do test shots, which has saved me from wasting lot of 11-bucks-a-sheet 8x10 Velvia.
     
  11. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Rather than use the spotmeter and read the darkest detail, you could use the incident part of the meter. That is sensitive to EV -2 @ ISO 100 whereas the spotmeter is sensitive to EV +2 @ ISO 100. So that gets you about six stops more effective sensitivity (four for the meter sensitivity, two and a bit because you are 'reading' a brighter value. As long as you use incident metering in the same illumination as the shadows you can be fairly sure that there will be nothing much darker than two and a half stops below the incident reading.

    As you have the 508 you can add a Minolta Booster II. The booster is a basic reflective meter which is about eight stops more sensitive than the 508 itself, so it works down to about -10 EV @ ISO 100 as I recall. I was going to check that, and just discovered that my booster is not where I thought it was.

    Best,
    Helen

    PS Silicon photo diodes (eg Gossen SBC) are a lot more sensitive than selenium cells. I've always thought that the Gossen SBC meters were preferable to the CdS ones. I love my Profisix, whatever it is called in the USA.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2006
  12. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Sparky, the Blue Silicon sensor (SBC)is more sensitive than the selenium cell and has better light response characteristics than the Cadmium Sulfide Cell found in some of the older model Luna Pros. I've been using an SBC Luna Pro as a backup meter (but now it needs to go in for recalibration). My current primary light meter is an Analog Pentax Spotmeter (SBC sensor).
     
  13. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Sorry Helen, I didn't read your post before posting mine.
     
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  15. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I do have an analog Spectra meter called a Candela that is designed to read extremely low light levels (how low I would have to check), but it is long out of production. As it is a cine meter, it might be pretty hard to find second hand.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2006
  16. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    My Pentax analog spotmeter was modified by Norris to provide real time light level information (via an electrical cable)to the shutter speed contol electonics in my Norris animation motor for my Bolex Rex 16. I've used this rig to do time lapse wide angle astrophotography - thus metering very low light levels.

    I don't know how low "very low" is.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    luna pro sbc is amazing at low light. there are all sorts of attachments too, and best of all, the battery is a 9volt :smile:
     
  18. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I checked. The Candela is still in production, but has evolved into the
    Candela II. Reads down to .1 fc. Thats dimmer than me :D
     
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Reading the meter

    I have a Gossen Profisix (Lunapro) that will give exposures up to eight hours, the problem I had with this to take readings for night and low light photography is that you were unable to see the needle to set the dial, and to use a torch would effect the reading if you see what I mean. I eventually bought a Gossen Lunalite, that will also read down to eight hours but has three red L.E.Ds on it, the readings are taken by turning the dial until just the central L.E.D. is lit,this reading can be stored by the meter and recalled in a light it can be seen in.
    The Gossen Lunalite is no longer made, but there are plenty of them about second hand and fairly cheap.
     
  20. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    "...you were unable to see the needle to set the dial, and to use a torch would effect the reading..."

    Bentley,

    You don't have to see the needle on a Profisix when you are taking the reading, only when you are turning the dial after you have taken the reading.

    (The Profisix reads to EV -4 @ ISO 100, which corresponds to about 0.016 fc incident.) - incorrect limit

    Later correction: The Profisix reads to EV -8 @ ISO 100, which corresponds to about 0.001 fc incident.

    EV -1 @ ISO 100 is about 0.13 fc, for comparison with the Spectra Candela II - actually not very dim.

    Best,
    Helen
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2006
  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Thanks Helen I know you can use the little store button to remember the reading, I just found the Lunalite more convenient at the time because I could turn the dial in the dark, I haven't done any night photography for years and keep it as a backup to the Profisix whose analogue reading, with a needle I prefer.
    Best Wishes.
     
  22. Michael Mutmansky

    Michael Mutmansky Member

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    John,

    The Lunipro is the meter that I have mostly switched to for this very reason. It reads to EV -4 which is substantially lower than the rest of the 'regular' photo meters out there, and fairly commonly found on the used market as well.

    I've switched to that meter for most of my shooting now. It does take a good understanding of exposure and the ZS or other approaches to get good consistant exposures out of it in a manner consistant with a spot meter approach, but in some ways I find the approach somewhat less fraught with metering peril when metering less than ideal conditions.

    Or, you could use it for basic Zone V readings, and be pretty close as well.

    I recommend reading the BTZS book carefully (the part about ambient meter use) to fully understand the implications of using an ambient meter for ZS/BTZS metering.


    ---Michael
     
  23. Michael Mutmansky

    Michael Mutmansky Member

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    Quick note, if looking for a used LuniPro meter in the US, I recommend avoiding the older meters that use the 1.35V batteries as they are not available in the US anymore. Those meters tend to go fairly inexpensively for that reason. They can be converted, but that seems to be asking for more trouble than it's worth.

    The 1.5V version is not as common, and tends to sell for a bit more, but they batteries are available and you are getting a newer meter as well. I think I paid about $100 for mine at auction.


    ---Michael
     
  24. PhotoPete

    PhotoPete Member

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    I paid <$150 for my Luna Pro SBC, which reads down to EV-6 IIRC. I love it. I have done a ton of color slide work at night with it, and have found it to be spot-on. I actually stopped bracketing because I realized I was just wasting film.
     
  25. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Lunapro = LunaSix 3. And it doesn't have a selenium cell, it has a CdS cell.

    There's also a LunaPro SBC, as mentioned by Helen and others, that is not a LunaSix 3. Gossen's names can confuse.
     
  26. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Keep saying this, Michael... I need another and I'd like to get it CHEAP!