How necessary is a 1 degree spot meter for 35mm & MF shooting?
Some newbie questions:
I shoot BW with my 35 mm Canon EOS-Elan II and my Rolleicord Va. Never done anything bigger than 6x6 negs. My Canon, obviously has a TTL meter. I recently purchased a good all-around reflective/incident light meter for the Rolleicord -- a used Luna Pro F. It measures light a 30 degrees, I think.
How crucial is it that I have a 1 degree spot meter for my 35mm and MF work?
The reason I ask is that I am going through Les McLean's "Creative Black and White Photography." In the first chapters, he mentions the importance of film testing which is aided by a 1 degree spot meter. I haven't finished the book, but I assume a 1 degree spot meter is essential for shooting all the time. But, I have heard that it isn't that useful for 35mm and MF photography (esp. if you do not have an interchangeable back on the camera). Is this true?
If a 1 degree spot meter is an essential tool in making "fine BW prints," what would be a good beginner model. (Hopefully less than 100 bucks on eBay)?
Also, I do not have the spot attachment for the Luna Pro F, but it would give me the options of measuring 7.5 to 15 degrees. This doesn't seem to really be a true "spot meter" that would give me a 1 degree reading. This 7.5 degree attachment could not substitute for a 1 degree spot meter, or could it?
Thanks again in advance for the replies!
Depending on your subject, the 1 degree spot is handy, but the spot attachment for the Gossen works really well for most things for medium format. I use the spot attachment for medium format work, and yes, it isn't a 1 degree angle but for most things, it works out really well. I can meter what is important (to me) without guessing at where the meter is actually pointing at . Cheers!
Huram, I don't think that you will need more "precise" meter that 9 degrees partial metering circle of Elan... But, If you constantly work with dificult scenes in which you have lots of vrey contrasted parts, or work with zone system, that 1 degree spot meter will be needed. For 99,99 percent of "normal" lightning conditions, Elan's partial meter circle will be enough...
A one degree spot meter is not essential. However, it is very useful for understanding scenes in detail. It is most useful for slow photography: landscapes, still lifes, macro photography, and portraits. It is not useful at all for street scenes, sports, etc. Things move too fast in those worlds.
Originally Posted by Huram
The reason it isn't as useful for 35mm or MF photography (without interchangeable backs) is that folks who carefully analyze their images are likely to want to adjust the contrast of the negative in the darkroom by altering development times. You can't alter development on individual images of a roll, obviously, so with roll film you have to designate development times on a roll-by-roll basis. Thus, having interchangeable backs is really useful.
You can achieve most of what you need to do by general scene metering and bracketing. Meter the scene in camera, then take shots one stop over and one stop under exposed (or two stops, or whatever - film is pretty cheap). Then choose the best negative of the set. Take lots of notes and develop an intuition about scene contrast through your experiences.
But in the end, if you really want to understand your images, I think you'd appreciate a spot meter. It can be a very useful, but not critical, tool.
It doesn't matter what format you shoot in. When you measure light I think you want to be as accurate as you can be. To me that means a 1 degree spot meter is better than a 30 degree. Other photographers feel better suited in using an ambient meter, I disagree.
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While it may be great for film testing as well as metering for some people... It really comes down to what tools and working method YOU find comfortable in the field and in the studio.
Do what works for you.
I agree with haris, that the incident meter will take care of most of your work. but my spot meter has gotten me out of some binds in BW and color photography. I carry both all of the time.
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IMHO the 7.5 degree spot meter with it's viewfinder should handle the majority of your spot metering needs (measuring brightness ranges etc.). The 1 degree might be convenient or even neccessary in certain circumstances but at the cost of a lot of extra bulk and expense.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
I feel that spot metering can increase oneís accuracy and aid in exposure and developing films but one should be aware of its limitations and how spot meters may be misleading.
1) I have yet to find a truly accurate small area spot meter in that the ones I have tested have all been affected by the lighter areas around the small area metered (1 degree or whatever degree). This includes the Zone V modified meter which is the one I generally use. The way I test is to put a black card on a white background. Make a reading where the black card completely fills the picture space and then make another reading where the black card only occupies the sport meterís metering area and the entire rest of the image area is the white background (could be any degree at this point). I have yet to find a meter that will read the same. I do the same test with an 18% gray card and the meters still donít measure the same both ways.
2) I find a most accurate way to measure a small area (using your feet, long lenses, spot meters, and/or a combination of these) is to fill the picture space with the image area one wants to meter. Not very practical for a lot of long landscape scenes, but yet workable in a lot of situations too.
Last edited by ceratto; 04-04-2005 at 03:51 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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In my experience, not at all.
Originally Posted by Huram
A 1 degree spotmeter is a useful tool for the Zone System, but even that can be done without.
A narrow reflected meter is useful too, but there is no way a 15 degree meter can replace a 1 degree meter - when "spot" is what you need.
A simple incident reading gives you good exposure in more than 99% of all situations. Good exposure, not "perfect"; since no two photographers agree on what that is or indeed whether it exists at all.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist