In principle correct if you read off a gray card with the spot meter, but spotmeters and incident meters are quite different and both very useful for their intended purposes.
I ditched my spot meter when it got to be too confusing trying to figure out multiple readings visually and mentally when trying and get a contrast range between multiple objects to fit my film choice. I've since stayed with my reflective and incident Minolta IVF meter, and have been able to do quite well, but taking independent contrast readings is out with a reflective meter and hard unless your in the same light as your scene with an incident reading and even then it can be misleading. So for now my LF and MF shooting meter is my N80 with a 50mm lens which has spot, center-weighted and evaluative metering with manual readouts in the viewfinder. In manual I can spot a reading, drop it or raise it on the visual graph to the zone where I want it and then meter everything else and see it on the graph. The camera weighs next to nothing and the lens is hardly more, plus I get to carry another film on top of it. I can strap it around my shoulder and sitting on my back or in a pouch. For the weight of the camera, it just gives me too many options that a handheld can't compete with and all my readings are in the viewfinder and are easily changeable. Most light weight cameras like this, such as the N80 and the Rebel are cheaper used with a lens then a new multiple reading meter. They may not be as small as say a Gossen Digisix, but are definetly more versatile.
I use one, too. It's a good basic light meter. It's big enough not to slip out of my hand.
Originally Posted by waynecrider
But for casual snap shots, I use a Gossen Bix (?)3, which is a small Selen light meter, battery-free.
I have been in the same condition when I bought a Leica IIIf with no in-camera meter.
I have then bought the Sekonic 308 which has everything I need. I often use for incident reading and it's proved to be failrly accurate for my BW needs. Sometimes I also use it with my F100 too.
I found an old Vivitar 45. Doing some tests with slide film shows mine is pretty darn accurate! It uses a button cell battery you can still pick up most anywhere. It's a great value at around $10 on the bay of E.
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Incident and spot meters are very different. Incident meters such as the Minolta IV-F, which a few of us are using, will measure light falling onto the subject.
Originally Posted by snegron
This is a very accurate way of taking a light reading and cannot be "fooled" as in-camera reflective meters often are by subjects which are very dark or very bright in tone. Make sure the white dome is covering the light sensor and point it towards your camera. It will give you the shutter/ f-stop reading - very simple to use.
Reflective meters measure light which is reflected from the subject and think every subject is a mid grey (18% grey) tone. So when you try to photograph a black cat in a coal shed it will come out a mucky grey colour.
Spot meters are also very accurate but are "reflective" and of course only take a reading for a 1-5% area of the scene. When taking a spot reading you would usually point the meter at a mid-tone in the scene.
Spot meters are really for more experienced users who have a good understanding of exposure.
To answer your question, no-one can really answer that. Are you in shade? Are the buildings in shade? How luch light is falling onto the scene and where? Take a light reading for your subject is a good rule.
If you're interested in city scenes, look up the work of Andreas Feininger.
I would recommend that you purchase sterioma's suggestion of a Sekonic 308/ 309 or a second hand Minolta IV-F.
The important thing here is whether you shoot negative or transparency.
With a negative the exposure is 'keyed to' (determined by) the shadow reading. It is hard to over-expose the lighter areas so you don't normally worry about them (you can reduce development time if you are a perfectionist). Spot readings of the shadows are the ONLY way to guarantee adequate but not excessive exposures (too much exposure = reduced sharpness and, with conventional mono neg films, increased grain). But you need to know how to use a spot meter.
Trannies are 'keyed' to the highlights. Obviously, over-exposure results in ugly 'blown' highlights -- so you let the shadows go hang. An incident light meter is ideal for highlight readings: indeed, the old name is the 'artificial highlight' method.
Grey card readings are substantially worthless for most applications because no film speed criterion is based on a mid-tone (meter calibrations are another, and disputable, matter).
A lot depends on the subject brightness range, too, which is covered in much more detail in a free module in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com. There's also a free module you might find useful about grey cards.
I would suggest a meter with a digital readout. Older meters that require you to match a needle reading and then get the aperture - speed combination from a dial are too slow and clumsy.
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
Though many do and can use use incident meters for transparencies, you will certainly find many of us shooting transparencies preferring the use of a spot meter. We use the spot meter to determine the dynamic range of the scene and to measure the highlights which we then correct the exposure to hold detail.
Originally Posted by naturephoto1
Wouldn't argue for a moment, except to say that (a) incident light metering is usually (not always) easier than spot and (b) the dynamic range is normally irrelevant unless you can control the lighting (or use Tiffen's Acadamy-award-winning Ultra Contrast filters) because you have to key the exposure to the highlight and let the shadows go hang. Onl;y with a brightness range below 5 stops have you any real choice.
Of course if you can't take an incident light reading at the subject or under equivalent lighting, you are absolutely right that a spot highlight reading is best. I'd stick by my assertion that incident is usually easier, though.
The first commercially successful spot meter (SEI Photometer) didn't even bother with a mid-tone/18% index, just shadow (for negs) and highlight (for trannies and film). The only thing that stopped me including all this was that the original post was already pretty long...