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  1. #1

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    Using non-spot meters

    I'm wondering about reflective metering using NON-SPOT meters.

    I've read many threads on this topic but it still doesn't make sense to me, especially for my particular application. I'd like to know more. Please - I know this is a controversial topic to some. Please simply state how you do it and why, not argue or disagree with others. I (we) already know people don't agree.

    Here is my question/concern:

    I have a Sekonic light meter 758DR which I mostly use incident and occasionally spot. This meter can do incident and 1 degree SPOT. When I'm feeling lazy, I just pick what I want it to be zone V and meter THAT using spot. Most times, I use it incident if I can get to the subject.

    Now, I want a smaller meter, so I'm looking at Sekonic 308 which features incident and NON SPOT reflective.

    When metering NON-SPOT reflective, I am aware the meter has certain degree of "field of view" and meters that area. If it has an unusually bright spot or dark spot, it'll all be averaged. Also, the field of view of the meter does not usually match that of the lens, meaning two are looking at different area. Now, how is this accurate?? (or is it not supposed to be precise?) It is a particular concern to me at this point because I am going to get a panoramic cameras and I know they will be looking at vastly different area than the meter.

    I am also aware, the meter reading it just a suggestion - we, the photographers, are supposed to interpret it and set the lens appropriately.

    What I am looking for is, how is this PRACTICALLY done.

    I am fairly aware of the technicalities of each metering method, so please assume that when replying.

    Thank you very mucho.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  2. #2

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    For much of photographic history the use of reflective non-spot (known as "general coverage") meters has been relatively successful. I still use an old Weston, and oan old Luna Pro and have wild success. It is accurate because it averages. Simple, eh? But one does need to be sure they are aware of what is being averaged. If too much sky is in the scene - meaning the meter is pointed too far up -- then the average reading will be too high. Too much shadow and the average will be too low. And, of course, the recommended exposure settings will not be optimal. In cases like that one points the meter up. down, sideways to get the best apporoximation of 'average", or takes the exposure reading and adjusts. Too much sky... stop down one stop more htan recommended by the meter, etc. There are hundreds of books and manuals that describe the useof general coverage meters... but that is the basics as I have used them.

  3. #3

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    p.s. in a panoram there may be additional complications of extreme lighting differences. One does the same as one would do with spot - average the average of several readings to determine the overall average... and accept some chance of losing both the extreme highs and lows... or use the average at the brighter part of hte scene and risk losing just the lows... or use the average at the darker part of the scene and risk losing the highs.

  4. #4

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    Thank you, Brian.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  5. #5
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Hold the reflective meter close enough to something that it's overall tone fills meter view. Like the palm of your hand. Place that reading as appropriate. Like Zone VI. You can meter other objects, like a white sheet of paper, a black notebook, something in shade. Then you can see what Zone they fall on. As you explore, you shift the dial until everything falls where you want it. If you reach that point then you have a Normal shot. If the scene doesn't fit the Zones you can decide different development.

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    For over 30 years I have used a averaging "view meter." I could go into a lengthy discussion of why it works better for me. The principle is that it is easer (for me) to verify that the view through the meter's finder is not burdened by excessive areas of white or black than it is to spot a shadow detail and guess if it should be I, II or III, etc. In general, for the stuff I shoot, the lowest area with which I want detail is nearly always is 4 stops below the average value obtained by the view meter.

    For example if I take a picture of a rock, tree or structure, I intend it to look as such, and the science of tone reproduction for pictorial representation is tried-and-true and there must be a thousand successful paths to correct exposure. However, if one wants to take a photograph of, for example, an ice flow and transform that into an abstract vision of the creation of the universe, then something like the Zone System might be better.

  7. #7
    David Allen's Avatar
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    With an averaging non spot meter (such as a Weston for example) you simply need to put the meter close to the area you want to meter. By this I mean not the whole scene but an area that you want to be rendered in a particular way.

    For example, in every scene that I photograph I identify the darkest shadow area where I want to retain detail. I then move close to this area and take a meter reading and then close down two stops more than the meter indicates (i.e the averaging meter thinks it is seeing an average scene - or Zone V in Zone System parlance - but I know that it is actually seeing a dark shadow that I want to render dark but with detail - Zone III in Zone System parlance).

    This works consistently for every frame I expose but I have previously done practical tests to identify my personal EI and development time. I have never had a poorly exposed negative using this method but . . . poorly seen images . . . well that another story!

    If you look at my images on my website, you will see that my photography concentrates on the urban vernacular and buildings don't move so, apparently, I have all the time in the world to meter my shadows. As such you may question if my suggestions are relevant to the type of photography that you like to do. What I would like to point out is that many of the images were made on days with fleeting sun. What I do is meter the shadows as I walk just in case I see something that I need to shoot quickly. Working this way means I am always prepared and is what I used to do when I worked commercially and also did a lot of street photography.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de

  8. #8

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    Thank you very much, everybody. The concept makes much better sense now.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  9. #9
    Paul Glover's Avatar
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    For slower, tripod-mounted shooting I commonly use my Luna Pro F with the 7.5 degree setting on a vari-angle attachment. It's not quite a spot (more like partial metering) but can get a decent enough read on smallish areas of a scene.

    For "quick" handheld work I'll sometimes use it incident and sometimes as a straight reflective meter being careful to make sure there are no large extremes of tone where I'm pointing it. For all intents and purposes this is the same as how I use my Canon F-1's center weighted TTL metering only without having a direct view of where I'm pointing the meter.

    The only time my meter has let me down badly is when I miss something stupid; forgetting to set the filter factor or compensate for the vari angle setting; installing a green 52mm filter on my TLR having forgotten to first remove the series V red that I had been using for the prior shot (I can use series V and 52mm filters with the setup I have for my Yashica A, both at the same time if I'm careless). That sort of thing. I let my camera gear down way more often than it lets me down.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tkamiya View Post
    Thank you very much, everybody. The concept makes much better sense now.
    If you want to do some addditional reading on this topic, get a copy of Roger Hicks' Perfect Exposure. I bought a copy for $1 + $3.99 shipping on Alibris.com a while ago. Quite an inexpensive price for so much interesting information on metering.

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