I will be switching to MF soon and enjoy landscape photography. I wanted to ask for some advice on selecting a light meter with a spot meter as I assume I will need this for proper metering at a distance.
Can those of you who have been through this provide guidance on the best approach here? Is my assumption correct about spot metering? Advice on a good brand buying used?
I use a spot meter for LF and an incident meter for MF and most everything else. I enjoy using a spot meter, but I guess my boring point is that a far more useful thing is familiarity with your own processes. I tend to use the same films/filters/meter combinations over and over and over and by now get quite consistent results. For landscapes, I reckon you have the time to contemplate the good info that a spot meter gives you - 'why not' get one and see if it works for you? You can always sell it here if not :-) I've used a Minolta F (nice and simple), and now a Sekonic 758DR (it can do incident readings & trigger my pocket wizards for studio stuff), and they are both great, accurate meters.
I use a Minolta Flash Meter VI. What I like is that it has both a one-degree spotmeter and an incident light meter all built into one unit. Sekonic has made several spot/incident combo meters too and they are, like my Minolta, very good. I think spotmeters are best for shooting negative films, color or black and white, and incident is best for shooting slide film and for digital cameras if you ever use one. The all in one meters cover both bases.
I´m on a shoestring budget and have opted for a free iphone app. Works great for me altough rainy weather will be a problem since the iphone isnt very happy about wet weather. Its probably not as accurate as a dedicated meter but you quickly learn how to get around its shortcomings. That said, i will get a dedicated meter down the road but right now i prefer to spend the money on film and chemistry in order to get my work done. I have also found that the "sunny 16" rule is surprisingly accurate once you get your eyes tuned to compensate for various lighting conditions.
Like Munz, I use a spot meter for LF, and use it to determine the proper exposure based on the shadows. - This for B&W. When shooting MF, I am more often shooting colour film, and then my whole procedure is different (and because I am new to Colour, evolving). For colour, I am shooting transparancy film, which has a smaller range than I have with B&W. If the scene has a lot of contrast, then I use the spot meter to meter for highlights and accept that I will lose detail in the shadows. If the scene doesn't have too much contrast, I generally just do an incident light measurement and get exposure that way.
I use a Pentax Digital Spotmeter. It's accurate, relatively small, very easy to use and very dependable. If the digital version is too pricey for you there is the older, larger analog Pentax Spotmeter V. Batteries are easy to find for either version. Just stay away from the older versions than the Spotmeter V because batteries can be hard or impossible to find.
Minolta and Soligor spotmeters are also said to be fine meters but I have no personal experience with them.
I have and use a Soligor analog spotmeter, I'm happy with it; If I remember well I paid little over $100 few years back.
I like the Pentax Digital Spot meter, and it's my usual meter for landscape work. You can get by with a light meter app on your phone, which I frequently use with my Hasselblad if I want to travel light. Even a basic incident meter can be made to work well, if you know how to use it.
The most important thing is just to get familiar with your chosen meter, to the point of using it intuitively. But for sheer accuracy and
convenience, I use Pentax digital spotmeters for everything - color and b&w, 35mm all the way to 8x10.
From what I have seen, heard and researched I have come to this understanding. Listed from most favorable option to least.
Pentax Digital Spot meter. One trick pony but super accurate, dead simple and very sturdy.
Sekonic spot/incident. Slightly more expensive, but a very large list of applications and functions.
At the moment I'm using only a Sekonic 308s (incident only) I will take a reading of the light falling on my foreground knowing the meter will be giving me exposure settings for middle grey (Zone 5) I will then view the scene, decide what zone my foreground should be and adjust + or - x amount of stops accordingly. In high contrast scenes I will use my iPhone app to measure the highlights to see if I'm still within the acceptable range of the film im using. It's not super accurate, but its better than nothing.
All that to say, a spot meter is defiantly on my list.
You can also rent a Sekonic to try it out from a rental house near by or borrowlenses.com if your in a more remote local.