I too use the Nikon center-weighted meter; it's my favorite.
For me personally, the Zone System is no fun, and should be referenced only when you've got a few rolls under your belt. It is a great tool, but one that I myself only use in an extremely simplified manner.
Basically, I take the grey card approach: I eyeball the scene and try to find something "grey" (not the color grey, but something that feels like it's reflecting a medium value), and base my exposure on that. The light meter tries to make everything grey. If somebody had just told me that in as many words several years ago, I'd have understood right away. If you point your Nikon at the snow, it'll try to make the snow grey. If you're floating in space and you point your Nikon at a black hole, it'll try to make the black hole grey.
One time I spent a whole day photographing with my dad's Mamiya MSX 1000, only to discover that the battery was dead the whole time (when the battery on that camera is dead, you can still adjust the shutter speeds, and the match needle moves around). Almost all of the exposures were fine!
Last edited by LJSLATER; 01-12-2013 at 08:22 PM. Click to view previous post history.