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  1. #1

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    Use cases for a spotmeter

    Hi everyone,

    I shoot 6x7 medium format (using Pentax 67ii) and I'm thinking about getting a dedicated spotmeter, preferably a Pentax Digital. It costs however anywhere between 4 to 7 hundred. So I'm thinking, are there use cases that would render such a spotmeter absolutely indispensable? Or perhaps not necessarily indispensable but very convenient and therefore worth shelling out that amount of cash?

    One case that I have encountered so far is this: for composing and critical focusing a non-metering 100% view waist level chimney view finder is much more convenient, ergonomical and gives much better idea of what the final photograph will look like, as opposed to the TTL metering 90% view eye level viewfinder. For non critical focusing (large F number) shots just looking at (shaded somehow) focusing screen with both eyes is the best way to compose - the Pentax becomes a view camera! Now, in order to meter the exposure I have to use the metering finder, which necessitates an inconvenient change of viewfinders.

    Also in the above case as well as in general, using the Zone System would be much easier with the spotmeter. Of course I would still use metering finder for all the handheld, "action" shots when there's simply no time to use anything else but the integrated meter. I'm talking strictly about the "take all the time you need", tripod based work.

    Any other cases justifying the spotmeter?

    Some people claim that more advanced digital point & shoot cameras are better spotmeters (or just exposure meters in general), do you find it true?

    Jerry.

  2. #2
    Laurent's Avatar
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    I own a spotmeter that I use for LF shooting, and an EOS3 that I use exclusively in spot metering... At least for B&W, nothing beats spot metering (although I usually travel lighter with my Rolleiflex and use a Sekonic 208 in incident "mode), at least for me !

    I tried the matrix measuring of the EOS3, but I was not convinced (may be because I like to know what happens and why I'm using F/8 at 125)
    Laurent

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  3. #3
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    One use case for pros...

    Use spotmeter to read both lowest shadow area and highest highlight area which both need to retain detail for a shot intended for offset print usage. Set lighting ratio so that both fall within the dynamic range of the printed page.
    Last edited by wiltw; 05-14-2010 at 07:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4
    Ken N's Avatar
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    Sekonic has a nice series of handheld flash/ambient meters that include both the incident dome and a built in spotmeter. Otherwise, another wonderful option is to have an Olympus OM-4(T/Ti). It's considered one of the very finest spotmeters for the zone system which is also capable of taking pictures too. What some of us do/have done is to use the same film in the OM-4 as in the larger camera. Take a picture when metering the scene at the same setting (or equivalent setting) as the larger camera. Process the OM film first and then based on the results adjust development for the big stuff.
    http://www.zone-10.com

    When you turn your camera on, does it return the favor?

  5. #5

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    You don't need to spend that much, buy used & it's going to be less than $400 for a Pentax digital. Less for all of the meters that use analog indicator.
    Beyond the zone system guy(Picker?) recommended an incident meter for zone work.
    I use incident & apply Kentucky windage if additional interpretation is desired.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  6. #6
    Mark Fisher's Avatar
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    A spot meter completely changed the quality of my negatives in BW. I no longer have empty shadows. I can meter the highlights to know what development I should use. Basically, I find it indispensable. I suspect I could learn to use an incident meter to do the same thing now, but the spot taught me about scene contrast and how to meter. I think you could get a Pentax digital for $300 or so (at least in the US).

  7. #7
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    Spot meters are useful. I would not have one as my only meter, however. I always like to have a quick "baseline" exposure for a mid tone in the particular lighting situation whenever possible, so I use an incident meter as my "GOD" meter. Now, I use a spot meter more to see how far away from my incident meter (middle grey) certain parts of a composition will fall. In short, to measure the luminance range of the composition to tell me how I might-should alter my exposure and development from the incident reading.

    The idea of this is that I almost always want to expose for the midtones, as I think they are the most important part of most prints. I generally want to control them and to be able to predict them more precisely than I want to control and predict the low or high tones. I almost always expose for the mid tones, and will then tweak exposure and development in order to change how the low and high tones end up on the neg. I don't often want to place a low tone, and have everything else in the shot be based on what I did with that one low tone. I view it as a see saw versus a kite. I prefer the see saw, as it provides me with finer control of and a more consistent "look" in the mids, and does it all very quickly and easily.

    I got my Pentax Digital brand new at Calumet, the only place I could find around here that actually had them, or could even special order them, for $500, in stock. $700 is very high. It seems that you can get them used for $250 - $350 in nice shape. I would suggest KEH.com if you are in the U.S.A. Their EX or better-rated equipment is very nice, and their customer service is good. The return policy is the kicker. If you have the light meter checked out and it has problems, or even if you just do not like using it, you can send it back (within 30 days, I believe).

    I can see "proper" use of a spot meter (meaning tonal placement as opposed to direct reading) really helping someone a great deal if they are used to using in-camera reflected meters or hand-held reflected meters, and/or if the person does not have much of a developed eye for luminance range in a composition. These meters give a less-than-ideal exposure more often than not when they are used to read the entire composition, and then exposure is set directly from them, so anything giving the user even a little more control and decision-making responsibility is a big help. However, IMO/IME, someone who uses an incident meter and has a good eye for luminance range will generally not benefit all that much from using a spot meter instead of their incident meter. I believe that it can always help to use both, and this is the best way I have come across so far. I do it whenever I have the time (basically, whenever I am on a tripod).
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 05-15-2010 at 02:21 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

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  8. #8

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    The prices for Pentax Digital that you guys quote must be rather old. The only source of these meters I've found is eBay. For two hundred something dollars one may buy the old analog Pentax. The cheapest digital one I found was $275 - a badly beaten one and hold together with duct tape. Pentax Digital in around Ex condition is in ~$400-$450 range.

    I always like to have a quick "baseline" exposure for a mid tone in the particular lighting situation whenever possible, so I use an incident meter as my "GOD" meter.
    That's not universally applicable, I suppose. How relevant is incident reading for a landscape shot through a long focal tele? For that baseline reading there's always a spot in your scene which represent a real or intentional mid-level, right? Although I do realize that it may be tricky when shooting non-b&w films (Velvia and everything else in color).

    Occasionally I shoot 35mm Tmax and Velvia with my Nikon F5 almost always in matrix metering mode. Well, to refer to 2F/2F's quote, now that's one and only true God. I have yet to find a lighting condition when it gives a bad advice. Unfortunately F5 is to big and heavy to be a reference whole-scene kind of meter :-)

    J.

  9. #9

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    You could get a Soligor Spot meter for under $100.00 that will render the same accurate readings as a Pentax Digital spot for up to $600.00 less. I'm a little nervous about black spot-meters because they look so much like handguns- holster and all. Depending on where you're shooting, you might get people calling 911 with "man with a gun" reports etc. I use my Soligor Spot meter in the country and then with caution...
    "A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray

  10. #10
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    What I mean is that incident metering is the equivalent of placing a mid tone as a mid tone. You don't meter for any tone. You meter the intensity of light that exists, and use that to place a mid tone as a mid tone, high tones as high tones, and low tones as low tones. Shooting this way, you go into it knowing how certain luminance ranges are rendered with your particular film at certain exposures and developments, and can thus use these exposure and development alterations to change contrast.

    I can recall no more than a handful of landscape pix I have ever shot in which the light that is illuminating that which is within the composition cannot be measured with an incident meter, or barring being able to put the meter into the same light that is illuminating the subject, an educated guess. For instance, say you are in average shade, the subject is in the sun, and you can't find a sunbeam to measure. (As I said, a very rare occasion IME.) Take the shade reading and stop down four stops. If you are in dark shade, five or six. Light shade, two or three.

    Since I switched to incident metering as my primary method, I also cannot recall many landscape situations in which the use of a spot meter was anything but a helpful addition to my incident reading, letting me know exactly how much to alter exposure and development as opposed to me just making an educated guess as to how much to alter them. In other words, no spot readings I have taken have ever drastically changed the exposure I would have used anyhow if I had just used my incident meter and an eye for luminance range.

    If you really love your F5's meter that much, it is worth it to bring it with you. (Then you have a 35mm as well, which is very handy in almost every situation in my book.) However, I can guarantee you that an incident meter or a spot meter (assuming they are used correctly) will both give consistently "more ideal" exposures than any directly-read in-camera reflected meter, and this will always be the case. A meter that reads the composition and tells you how to expose to average all tones to a half stop below middle gray (which is what all in-camera reflected meters do) will always be a compromise. That this is the case is pretty much the entire reason for using hand held meters even with today's supposedly "intelligent" in-camera meters.

    Where I find spot meters are extremely useful is in pictures in which I want the tones in the print to be vastly different than they are in reality, or when there is an extremely high contrast composition.

    There is no reason not to use a spot meter alone, if that gets you exactly what you want all the time. I am just trying to downplay the idea that they are the be all and end all of [landscape] light meters. They are not magic, and IME will not change your results for the better all that much in most situations. They are just tools, and are only as good as the person behind them.

    I got mine over the counter brand new at Calumet a few years back, after finally giving up on the battery issue with my 1/21 that I had had for some time. It was not listed on the Website. KEH has them at times. They show up here on A.P.U.G. as well, usually for under $300.

    I know that locating them is very hard. However, the last time I said this here, several people said, "No it isn't", and named some places that carry them. Were Badger Graphics or the View Camera Store perhaps mentioned? I don't remember.

    The only place I have ever seen them priced over $500 brand new was direct from Pentax.

    There is also absolutely nothing wrong with the older model Spotmeter Vs either. The ones you probably want to avoid are the 1/21 models, as they take two batteries, one of which is no longer made.

    IMHO, if you are set that you are going to spend so much on a used one, I'd just spend a bit more and get a brand new multi-whiz-bang meter that does flash, incident ambient, wide-field reflected, and spot. They are around $500 to $600, and until you break it, you'll never need another light meter.
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 05-17-2010 at 05:59 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

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