View Full Version : WW2 era photography and light meters?

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10-03-2013, 01:48 AM
For a project I'm piecing together I'm looking for info on light meters that would have been used during war time, or in the 1940s. Especially ones that might still work ;) Other than random google searches is there a good source of wartime photography anyone can recommend?

I'm covered on historical cameras from hobby to combat photo models and have a fair handle on the darkroom setups and chemistry already.


Bill Burk
10-03-2013, 02:09 AM
The Weston Master model 715 would have been available at the time, and many of them are still working and accurate today.

I have one which reads within an f/stop of my other meters, and the point could be debated which meter is actually correct.

10-03-2013, 02:56 AM
Official exposure meter of US Forces in WWII:

-) Weston Photronic
-) Weston 819
-) Weston 650
-) Weston 715
-) General Electric DV48
-) DeJur Critic

Mustafa Umut Sarac
10-03-2013, 03:22 PM
What about German exposure meters ?

10-03-2013, 06:05 PM
I don't know of any documents/reports on the material used by german forces.
US Army officially used german cameras (Leica/Rolleiflex) too. But their photographers may have added german exposure meters to their kits by their own. Though the latter is not very probably as US-meters were calibrated in Weston system, german meters in the Scheiner system (though of course there were conversion tables).

10-04-2013, 01:02 AM
I wasn't expecting such a fast reply, thanks very much!

I'll pick one of these you've listed (I must admit to being partial to the older Deco bakelite ones) to go with a Graflex Combat 45 I've got here, those were only seen in the Pacific Theater and so German items would be a bit out of place.

10-04-2013, 05:46 AM
A official kit of a 4x5 Speed Graflex with coupled rangefinder contained the Weston type 715 meter.
So you should definetely be right with that model.

What kind of project are you preparing?

10-04-2013, 07:52 PM
I am piecing together a full, WW2 era set of gear from camera to darkroom for my birthday. I like a creative challenge, and I like the craft and history in general.

With as few concessions as possible I want to take pictures of areas and things from the 1940s with appropriate gear and then develop them using yet more period gear and techniques. Locations will be easy on the west coast here, with auto and plane museums, the SS Lane Victory is here in San Pedro, even a tank museum out in the desert, historical markers and so on. Plus the air show if it comes around.

Fortunately for me, chemistry and technique haven't changed much so all I have to worry about is finding the right pieces and reconditioning what I can. This all started with a Combat Graphic and now I've got enameled trays, timer, chemistry sources, even a vintage Kodak printing frame for the enlarger.

Now my only sticking point is finding an enlarger that wasn't scrapped long ago. Saw a Federal 450 recently but the price was too high for a hobby budget and it needed repairs. Worse comes to worse I will make 4x5 contact prints, I've done that before and with the right subject the presentation can work very well I think.

Then later I'll do something similar with my grandfather's Leica M3 and late 50's and 60's era locations and subjects (but not so purist on the gear, just the subject matter). This all should give me a year's worth of fun from a simple birthday present.

Now I'm off to try and find someone who can recondition shutters in a combat speed graphic that looks like it was swallowed whole by a turtle :) The one shop I knew of in Culver City isn't taking any new large format cameras and is backlogged for several months.

10-04-2013, 08:44 PM
-) DeJur Critic

Good luck with the project, sounds like fun. I thought the above was amusing, what a name! Hold the meter up to the scene and it says "poor composition! Trite, conceptually weak, but if you must f11 @ 1/25."

Bill Burk
10-04-2013, 10:22 PM
Good luck with the project, sounds like fun. I thought the above was amusing, what a name! Hold the meter up to the scene and it says "poor composition! Trite, conceptually weak, but if you must f11 @ 1/25."

Took me ten minutes to get that.

Randy Moe
10-04-2013, 10:48 PM
Have got a copy of "Graphic Graflex Photography, The master book for the Larger Camera", by Morgan and Lester? Great resource for you and me. Mine is 1944 7th edition. It covers everything and has many wartime ads, images and methods. Buy one from Abe's.

Bill Burk
10-04-2013, 10:57 PM
Kawaiithulhu there are two on eBay right now and they are both affordable. The one with Buy It Now is going to get you a birthday present to yourself for less than 20 dollars. The other has case and accessories and paperwork. Get them both, how can you go wrong?

10-05-2013, 06:27 AM
Some German pre-war made exposure meters to consider (I've found these on the excellent homepage by James Ollinger):

Electro Bewi Super (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/bertram_electro_super.html)
Balda Expophot (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/balda_expophot.html)
Kiesewetter Mini Photoscop (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/kiesewetter_mini_photoscop.html)
Metrawatt Harvex (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/metrawatt_horvex.html)
Metrawatt Temphophot T-4 (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/metrawatt_tempophot_t4.html)

or meters like

Super Bewi Precision (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/bertram_super_bewi_precision.html)
Drem Instoscope (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/drem_instoscope.html)
Zeiss Diaphot (http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/zeiss_diaphot.html)

I pressume the "Sunny Sixteen Rule" was quite a, or even the most, common way to get good exposures by that time.

Mick Fagan
10-05-2013, 09:44 AM
My father in-law was a photographer on the Russian front, he never used a light meter. I found this out after he visited us in Australia in the late eighties. He was shooting slide film on an ancient Agfa camera from the sixties, he wasn't using a light meter. Once or twice he asked me what I was shooting (the same film) at. Turned out he was invariably using the same shutter/aperture combination.

I developed his films after our Australian holiday and before he returned back home to Germany, very good to brilliant exposures, all without a light meter.

Cameras were sent up in unmanned Zeppelin ships to about 150-200 metres in height on a cable, fired off with cable, air or some other method, I'm not too sure really, then quickly pulled back down before they were shot down, this was on the Russian front. Another method of taking pictures was in trenches using a TLR upside down on a stick and a cable release. Composition was obtained by looking on the inverted ground glass.

Essentially if you shoot enough film for long enough and often enough and develop and print it yourself, you end up knowing what settings are required. I would guess that many war photographers may have started with a light meter, but probably didn't wear them out once they had their eye in.

Some press photographers I know never used a light meter and even when automatic cameras came along, still didn't use the inbuilt meter.

I can pretty much guess the correct (for me) shutter/aperture combination before I take a reading, invariably I'm within a bulls roar of agreeing with my light meter.

Sunny sixteen was what we used when I first started in photography, still works today.


10-05-2013, 03:33 PM
I should have aimed at the 50-60's years, given the scarcity of working war era gear :D But with these suggestions and stories it's become a journey, as cliche as that may sound. I predict that even starting early like I am I won't be done until long after my birthday :confused: but I'm OK with that.

Thanks everyone.

10-11-2013, 05:58 PM
A final note to finish off this thread:

I got hold of a black bakelite Weston 715 in really good shape + leather case. Thanks for the recommendations and historical references, everyone. The 715 weighs a ton and measures a broad range within 1/2 fstop of my luna pro, I couldn't be happier with this piece of my puzzle.

Doc W
10-11-2013, 06:10 PM
This sounds like a fun and rewarding project. Please let us know of your progress. You might find this website interesting:


E. von Hoegh
10-12-2013, 12:00 PM
The Weston Master model 715 would have been available at the time, and many of them are still working and accurate today.

I have one which reads within an f/stop of my other meters, and the point could be debated which meter is actually correct.

I have one of these, http://www.westonmeter.org.uk/650.htm which was given to me about 1974-5. It still works!

Bill Burk
10-14-2013, 11:01 PM

I have both a Weston Master model 715 and Master II, and the emulsion speed dial works the same on my two meters. However you have to be sharp-eyed because some samples (UK?) are one mark different than mine.

In this thread, we explored the difference.


The bottom line for me, I set my Weston's at 160 to equate to EI 250 which is the speed I prefer to shoot ISO 400 films.

A bit convoluted, but you can see that you probably should not set the meter at 400

Jack Vol
12-25-2013, 07:24 PM
I have an antique APEC photo enlarger that I believe is from WW2. I picked it up at a flea market a few years back and just finished cleaning and polishing and rewiring it. Other than the cords, I believe it is all original and the bulbs still work. It is a floor standing model.

The name plate lists it as a model EKS ser# 3309. It is painted OD green and has included a short cord adapter for European plugs that is original.

i do not know for sure the year of it but am interested in selling it and would entertain offers.