Depends how much of the system you use.
Originally Posted by moki
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.
Originally Posted by markbarendt
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.
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.
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 ;)
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.
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.
Originally Posted by mingaun
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.
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.
I would buy an inexpensive hand held meter or if you have an Iphone, there's a FREE exposure meter app. Not knowing how to read a spot reading can cause confusion. Here's the link to the exposure meter app. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocke...381698089?mt=8
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?
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.