I'm not sure how I could sync the phone to the flashes. Right now all I have is a bunch of Vivitar 283's, I have made some brackets that will mount them together with daylight regular light bulbs as sort of modeling lights, but I wonder how accurate a rendition those would give. As for metering, I am not sure if my flash meter does reflected light readings in flash mode or just incident light readings; the former would be very useful for estimating light coverages as you have suggested. A book I am using for reference suggests adjusting the light intensities based on reflected readings but I have never used my meter as a flash meter this way, and the user's guide has long disappeared. I liked the idea of a Polaroid or d**tal camera with the same manual controls as my "real" cameras to get a more precise indication of how the final shots would look - but you are probably right, atleast I think you suggest implicitly, that with experience perhaps the need to do this goes away.
I recently did a studio portrait job both digitally and with film. the digital looked terrible and film looked perfect. Just saying...
For me an indispensable tool is a mirror.
Digital cameras are photographic tools that are ideally suited for certain tasks. To not use them out of some purist sensibility makes little sense to me. The money spent to obtain a suitable polaroid camera and film supplies could be better spent on the film that is actually going to be used to make the final photographs. I would (and have) used digital cameras for this sort of purpose without one iota of guilt or shame.
Dan, StevR: I do of course agree with you. In fact, upon perusing this thread and thinking about it more, I have gone ahead and arranged to acquire a Nikon D100 back. It is supposed to arrive Monday. I can use it fully manually with my existing lenses and external metering, and it will be a good tool to use for projects like this, or indeed any project where previewing the lighting before using up precious film is important.
I didn't really want to burn anyone at the stake, especially as I would now have to include myself. The final pics I will shoot on Portra 160 or 400, depending on how the lighting works out.
Using digital tools is not cause to be burnt at the stake.
Using APUG to discuss using digital tools is cause to be (at least figuratively) burnt at the stake.
The difference is subtle, but important.
I've used Hasselblad and Mamiya medium format cameras with FP-3000B just to learn about how things used to be done.
The main problems with this are that if you use something like Illford PAN-F Plus ISO 50 like I was, you have to do some stuff like take photos of a gray patch chart to see how much EV compensation (in addition to the compensation for the difference between ISO 3000 and 50) is needed for a correct exposure. For example, after the ISO conversion I found that I needed something like +0.5EV for the instant film and +1 or +1.5EV on my negative film (reading from from EV compensation set to 0 on my light meter.) This is because the real ISO of film is never exactly the even number it's supposed to be.
Also, instant film seems to have a rather curvy high-contrast tone response curve. Newer films will be more linear in their tone response. Therefore even if you figure out the exposure adjustments needed to get both films to expose the same for middle gray, the instant film will probably have poorer dynamic range and higher contrast compared to normally developed negative film, even if both are relatively modern. So shadows that look plugged and highlights that look totally blown on instant film may be perfectly acceptable on your "real" negative film.
In short, I doubt that instant film is ever going to show you exactly what you want and you'll have to spend some time figuring out what sorts of things that look bad on instant are actually OK on negative film.
Using digital for "proofs" is probably your best bet, but digital sensors tend to not have as good dynamic range as negative film that's exposed exactly +/-0 stops from perfect. So even then you probably won't get something exact, but it'll probably be much better than instant. Anyway, digital sensors tend to be very linear. Depending on how the RAW from the sensor is processed, you might be shown the "wrong" tone curve on a digital camera. I think most digital cameras tend to use a film-like gamma curve though so I'm guessing that will be close enough for most purposes. To do any better you'd have to match the film's tone curve in something like Adobe Camera Raw, and furthermore come up with some sort of single-shot "high dynamic range" tweaking to make the dynamic range look closer to film.
At least that's what I think the deal is based on my studies....
Just for a little perspective, there is a fellow forum member and large format hiking buddy (who shall remain nameless) who purchased a new digital light meter before a previous hike... Pity it was trapped inside a canon 7d, but still, it metered well, and also replaced his Linhof viewer at the same time... Quite a useful accessory really... And you can't tell me his chromes looked any worse for not using a composition card and a sundial...