Light Meter Recomendations

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Carl
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#1
Recently I have been thinking that I could do with a decent light meter. It would mainly be for my LF work to ensure the exposure is spot on, but I'd also use it as a general light meter when I'm walking around with my MF or 35mm cameras

Ideally I'm after a spot meter that has an incident mode as well, so I have the option of using both. I have spent some time researching, but there are a heck of a lot of options, each of which comes with various bells and whistles which I'm not sure I need (or could afford!). I'd like to get one before Scotland, so I'm hoping the F&C crowd might have some useful advice so I can get ordering over the weekend. Budget wise I'm thinking sub £150 if I can, but obviously the less the better! L-508's seem to go for slightly more than that, but tbh I'm not sure if they offer too many features that I don't need.

Cheers then! :)
 

Woodsy

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#2
Personally, I have a L-758D(somethingorother) I bought it some 5-6 years ago, and paid perhaps around £300-350 for it new from Park Cameras. I have to say, the idiot using it is by no means proficient with all the features, but the parts of it that I do use are excellent.

As for your budget, I'd certainly have no issue recommending Sekonic if you can find the features you need in your price range.
 

StephenM

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#3
I've got the same meter as Jonathan (or a similar older model - I can't remember the designation). I also have about half a dozen Lunasix meters and to be honest prefer the simplicity - but then I'd had some 40 years practice with that type of meter before getting a spot.
 

Asha

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#4
I know that a number of LF shooters rely on a spot meter and I like, woodsy had the L758D butt personally i found it overkill and rather large and cumbersome.

Now I use nothing more than the sekonic L308S which is dead light and offers both reflective and incident readings.
There's no spot but imo it is not a necessary feature, not even for LF

More often than not I can judge exposure without a need for any metering, certainly in average daylight situations but I guess that just comes with experience.
It is a double edged sword though as if I use a camera with built in meter or indeed a handheld meter, we tend not to agree on what settings to use for the shot…..Usually I follow my own instinct as more often than not the meters have let me down as they cannot assess the light situation in a human fashion.;)
 
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#6
I use the L-208s for my Mamiya C330S Pro. Works great for me. Really small and light.
I've used one of these as well, and it's excellent. Very easy to use and I've had no problems with accuracy. Not a spot meter at all, so difficult if you're really into the zone system. The two problems I found with it are that it only goes down to LV 4 (IIRC) which is not low enough for night work. Also it's difficult to see the reading in darker settings!

I've sold it and replaced it with a L-308, and TBH I'm not sure I should have done; I find the new one quite confusing.

I also went mad and bought a Minolta Spotmeter F a couple of years ago, but it's even more confusing and has basically sat in a drawer. Now's the time to get it out, I guess. No incident reading AFAIK.
 
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#7
Budget wise I'm thinking sub £150 if I can, but obviously the less the better! L-508's seem to go for slightly more than that, but tbh I'm not sure if they offer too many features that I don't need.
Carl, I have an L308 and an L508. I bought my L508 a few years ago from a dude off Gumtree for £110 or £120, so there are some deals on these if you look around.

I prefer to use the L508 as you can retract the bulb, spot meter, connect a flash to it, use it to calculate exposure ranges, etc., but the size means that the L308 continues to see significant use, especially on holidays. If you're going to shoot a lot of film, especially large format, you'll make back the extra money spent on a better light meter, as you will not waste as much film on bad exposures, right?
 
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#8
The Sekonic L 328 is getting on a bit, but has replaceable discs for incident and reflected readings. It also can be fitted with an accessory 5 degree spot viewfinder. I'll bring mine as well as my spotmeter and you can have a play with them.
 
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#9
I use a Gossen Lunasix F. It's the only meter I have used, but I like it!!

It's a null meter so easy to use the zone system, does incident or reflective and also has a 7.5' and 15' (from memory) spot attachment. It will also meter flash as well.

It's a bit chunky, but not enough to bother me - still pocketable anyway.
 
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#10
Depending on what smartphone you have perhaps have a look at the Lightmeter app by David Quiles (if you've not done so already). Before this suggestion gets rained on and shouted down by owners of dedicated light meters, I have three Gossen Lunasix 3 meters myself - none of which agree with each other when the light strays much outside the 'Sunny 16' range, regardless of which batteries and/or adaptors I try them with! So which one of the three is correct? Well, it depends how you want the image to be recorded - light, medium or dark. Plus it depends where you point the thing for an average reading, and aiming something you can't accurately 'sight' in order to spot meter on an object is probably less accurate than we might actually like to believe (the app features a view through the phone's camera lens as a centrepiece, so you can see exactly what you are pointing it at!).

Since downloading and using this app a couple of years ago, I've found that it generally agrees with the multi-matrix meters on my best and latest 35mm SLRs in usual daylight conditions, plus it has a 'zoom in' spot metering feature.

Whilst the accuracy of the app will probably depend on how well it suits your smartphone (how good your smartphone camera is, etc.) the app also has a +/- exposure compensation facility, so if it's a bit out (which on my phone it doesn't appear to be) it can be 'calibrated' to match the results of a dedicate light meter (and/or your personal taste).

Best of all, the price; for the 'advert free' version (which also remembers the last used ISO and EV compensation settings), it's less than £2 to buy for an Android smartphone! So perhaps gamble the £1.70 or whatever it costs and try this app before you fork out £150+ on a used light meter (which may or may not still be in calibration and continue working long enough to merit its purchase). Plus, with the phone app, it's always with me and isn't a separate object I've got to find space for and carry around. That's why the Lunasix stays at home these days.

The Scotland trip might be a good opportunity to try, compare (and calibrate) this < £2 app, particularly if someone takes a digital camera along and the comparison results between different dedicated light meters and the app can be seen immediately. Hope this is useful.
 
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StephenM

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#11
Interesting. Your experience with Gossen meters differs from mine.

On spot metering - my own tests indicate that flare in the optics can give a vast difference between readings made on the same point depending on the background. I experimented using a black seed tray against a white window frame (and the scene beyond). Figures on request.

I also found very early on that pointing a reflected light meter at a scene gave different results depending on how much I tilted it towards the ground. The solution to my problem came from a suggestion by Victor Blackman in his AP column in the 1960s - take a reading from the palm of your hand and add a stop. I know now that this is basically using an incident method.

Ansel Adams when using a wide area reflective meter recommended taking a reading from close to the subject if a "spot" reading was required.

A lot will also depend on how you are printing. Without going into details, it's simpler on exposure with black and white negative film if printing digitally. I've never run into problems with too bright highlights or too dark shadows on the same negative, which means that in practice I don't spot meter. The knowledge gained which I referred to in the second paragraph also makes me wary.
 
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excalibur2

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#12
h'mm if I was into LF I'd definitely take a 35mm backup camera, anyway I usually carry two 35mm cameras or a 35mm camera with a RB67 etc. I found all more modern film cameras meters are quite accurate (tested with a grey card), so if I wanted spot metering I'd take my Canon T90 which is a lot cheaper than say a Minolta spotmeter for £150...and it can't take pictures ;)
 
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#13
I think I paid ~£50 this year for my Lunasix F, so you don't have to spend a fortune.

The spot meter attachment has an optical sight, which is handy.

I tried the Lightmeter app before I had this, but I found the results varied enough that I didn't use it - but it probably differs from phone (camera) to phone.

I have found for negative film I can trust the meter on my Yashica 124G, metering in shadows or 45 degree to ground. I only really use my Lunasix for slide film when I want to know the difference between highs & lows, or with my meterless cameras.

The other good thing about some of the Gossen meters is that they can meter very low light. The Lunasix F goes down to -1 EV and the Profisix -5 EV. I believe low light is a bit of a limitation, depending on phone model, of the lightmeter app.
 

excalibur2

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#14
I have found for negative film I can trust the meter on my Yashica 124G, metering in shadows or 45 degree to ground. I only really use my Lunasix for slide film when I want to know the difference between highs & lows, or with my meterless cameras.
Well I've always mentioned about these super duper light meters in that they are probably better than the camera it is used for esp an old film camera inc manufacturing tolerances and e.g. is the shutter speed accurate and so on. IMHO the more accurate cameras for shutter speeds are the electronic controlled ones (and to the amusement of many, tests on the the Canon T70 were very accurate except the top speed was 1/900 instead on 1/1000).
So what can you do for accurate light measurement with the camera you are using? Well know your camera and if using a super duper light meter then what ever shutter speed and lens used, do a few tests and adjust the cameras (or film's) ASA accordingly.
 
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#15
Sekonic L308s here no spot meter but does work with flash , small lightweight works for me :cool:
 
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Carl Hall
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#16
Thanks for the advice everyone, I'm leaning towards the L-508 at the moment, but they seem quite hard to find so I don't think I'll have one by the Highlands meet. I did see the Pentax spot meters, which seemed really simple in that they give you an EV value, which you then place on the correct zone to find your exposure, but they are equally hard to find!

I reckon instead of getting one meter to do everything, I might be better off getting a spot meter for LF work, and then a smaller meter for walkabouts, as I don't think I'm going to want to carry a big Sekonic meter around with me when I'm walking around with the Hasselblad etc. Or maybe I'll just ditch the idea of a spot meter altogether and get the L-308

I prefer to use the L508 as you can retract the bulb, spot meter, connect a flash to it, use it to calculate exposure ranges, etc., but the size means that the L308 continues to see significant use, especially on holidays. If you're going to shoot a lot of film, especially large format, you'll make back the extra money spent on a better light meter, as you will not waste as much film on bad exposures, right?
That's exactly my thinking, I don't want to screw up the exposure when it's costing me the fat end of a tenner per photo!

The Sekonic L 328 is getting on a bit, but has replaceable discs for incident and reflected readings. It also can be fitted with an accessory 5 degree spot viewfinder. I'll bring mine as well as my spotmeter and you can have a play with them.
That would be awesome, I'd love to have a go with them. Thanks Peter :)

Depending on what smartphone you have perhaps have a look at the Lightmeter app by David Quiles
I've used the app a lot, which is why I don't currently own a dedicated light meter. I recently stopped using a smart phone, and now just have a phone which makes calls and sends texts, so it's not an option now though. I never had an issue with the app though, and always found the readings to be pretty good! I even managed to perfectly expose a 4x5 slide that was pointing directly at a sunset using the app alone.
 
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#17
Another Sekonic L758D user here. Just sell one of your excess cameras to buy one and you never need to worry about light meters again.

The only down side I find is that mine goes through batteries very quickly and I take the battery out when not in use - not a problem since it only takes a second.
 
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#18
Thanks for the advice everyone, I'm leaning towards the L-508 at the moment, but they seem quite hard to find so I don't think I'll have one by the Highlands meet. I did see the Pentax spot meters, which seemed really simple in that they give you an EV value, which you then place on the correct zone to find your exposure, but they are equally hard to find!

I reckon instead of getting one meter to do everything, I might be better off getting a spot meter for LF work, and then a smaller meter for walkabouts, as I don't think I'm going to want to carry a big Sekonic meter around with me when I'm walking around with the Hasselblad etc. Or maybe I'll just ditch the idea of a spot meter altogether and get the L-308



That's exactly my thinking, I don't want to screw up the exposure when it's costing me the fat end of a tenner per photo!



That would be awesome, I'd love to have a go with them. Thanks Peter :)



I've used the app a lot, which is why I don't currently own a dedicated light meter. I recently stopped using a smart phone, and now just have a phone which makes calls and sends texts, so it's not an option now though. I never had an issue with the app though, and always found the readings to be pretty good! I even managed to perfectly expose a 4x5 slide that was pointing directly at a sunset using the app alone.
Carl, I have a little L-208 TwinMate here that's tiny and surprisingly good. Would you like to borrow it for a while, it will give you an idea if none spot metre would work for you. drop me a pm if its any help to you.
 
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Carl Hall
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#19
sell one of your excess cameras
Sell... cameras? I know what those words mean individually, but I don't understand them in that order? :D I'll probably go for something like the 758 or the 508 etc, but it might be a while before one comes up at a fair price. Still thinking I might get a smaller meter for walk abouts as well

Carl, I have a little L-208 TwinMate here that's tiny and surprisingly good. Would you like to borrow it for a while, it will give you an idea if none spot metre would work for you. drop me a pm if its any help to you.
That's a very kind offer, thank you Niko! :) I'll PM you now.
 
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StephenM

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#20
And while we're in Scotland sheltering indoors against thewind and rain (or even outside) you can borrow my spotmeter and a Lunasix.
 
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#23
Still thinking I might get a smaller meter for walk abouts as well
I used to have a Sekonic L-208 Twinmate for that purpose, and very good it was. However I dropped it down a railway enbankment. Since then I have used the L758 even when just carrying one 35mm camera. It's not at all heavy. The key issue is whether you carry your camera gear in a bag. If you do, the weight and bulk of the spotmeter are not really a problem. However if you like to carry your camera round your neck and have only tiny pockets in your ultra-slim jeans then the spotmeter might be a problem for you.
 

Asha

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#25
while we're in Scotland sheltering indoors against thewind and rain
and snow and hail!!!!!:eek:

Nowt like been optimistic ( or even realistic!) Stephen:p

Be sure to take :jaffa::jaffa::jaffa: to nibble whilst waiting for the never ending drizzle to stop:D

To be fair, I truly hope the weather stays dry for you all;)
 

StephenM

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#26
The forecast, as Sue last reported it to me, isn't encouraging - except insofar as I wanted a photograph taken in wet conditions to illustrate an article - and the photograph from a couple of years back, taken from inside our carvan, showing ducks swimming on the camp site pitches wasn't quite what I had in mind.

I prefer to think of myself as a realist.
 
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#27
I also went mad and bought a Minolta Spotmeter F a couple of years ago, but it's even more confusing and has basically sat in a drawer. Now's the time to get it out, I guess. No incident reading AFAIK.
No incident reading, but I think the manual makes it seem more confusing than it really is. Just using it to take single readings is fine - point, click, read. It's when you try to use the calculated reading functions that it gets less clear. There are three modes, two of which (highlight and shadow) try to play at the zone system but don't succeed, and one that gives you an average of two readings.

The problem with the highlight and shadow readings is that it places them 2.3 stops away from zone V, which is an arbitrary shift and may not be what the photographer wants. The average function is much more useful: take a reading and store it, take another reading and store it, then hit A and it tells you the mid-point between the two stored readings. If your two readings were of the brightest and darkest parts of the subject, then you can quickly see how many stops the film has to handle. If the brightness range is within the film's capability, then you can just use the calculated average reading. If the range is more than the film can handle, it's relatively straightforward to decide which way, and by how much, to change the calculated exposure to preserve highlight or shadow detail.

You can also take (non-stored) brightness difference readings after getting a calculated reading (it tells you the difference from the calculated reading), but they seem to be a bit nerdy and of limited use. I can see how they can be used to evaluate the scene in more detail, but I'm inclined to take a few non-stored readings first, decide what's important to me in the scene and then take the proper reading.

I sometimes take a single reading of a tone of interest, which the meter places on zone V, and I then place it on a different zone and adjust exposure accordingly. Most of the time, though, I just do the 'selective average' reading of lightest and darkest parts of the scene and use the calculated mid-point. I've not encountered a situation where I thought the film wouldn't cope with the subject brightness range (I only shoot B&W on LF).

Little known Minolta Spotmeter fact: The objective lens can take a filter with a 35.5mm thread. An ND filter or two can be used to extend the ASA setting downwards from its minimum of 12asa. Handy for when you're using bits of printing paper instead of film (and probably other things).
 
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#28
That's brilliant NZ, thanks. Now, how on earth do I remember where this is to reference later?
 
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#31
That's brilliant NZ, thanks. Now, how on earth do I remember where this is to reference later?
For averages, do: M-M-A

In other words, read bright, press M, read dark, press M, then press A.

Avoid S and H, and avoid extra readings once you have a calculated average. If in doubt, clear memory and start again.
 
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#33
@niko 's light meter arrived today and it's really tidy! Really small and lightweight, so I can see why they're popular. Looking forward to using it in Scotland (if it stops raining and I get a chance to go outside!)

Cheers Niko
no probs, yep its a bung in a pocket size without a doubt. hope it helps with your decision. then again in the tradition of this section-just buy both types:p
 

StephenM

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#34
Surely you need a Lunasix because it can read in light others can't manage, a selenium cell meter so you can't run out of power with a flat battery, a spot meter and a small light one. They are supposed to be light meters after all.
 
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Carl Hall
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#35
I managed to use quite a variety of light meters in Scotland, thanks to all the kind folk in F&C :) I got on really well with the Sekonic L-208 as it was so simple to take a quick incident reading when using a smaller camera for walkabout shots, but I also really liked the more advanced features of some of the spot meters i was able to try out when shooting large format. I think I'm going to try and get a couple of different meters for different situations, more than likely an L-208 and one of the various spot meters that are around.

Thanks everyone :)
 
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Carl Hall
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#37
Hey @Carl Hall did you ever pick up a spot meter in the end? Something I’m currently looking into.
So sorry I didn't reply to this Craig, Feb was a mental month!

I didn't get a meter in the end, no. It's still on the list of things to sort out, it's just not at the top of said list lol. I'm probably going to get one of the little Sekonic L-208's for my MF work for now and invest in a spot meter for LF work later in the year when I've got more time to use my LF gear.

Did you buy a meter in the end?
 
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#38
No I didn't either, I was still musing getting an MF camera but have put that off and sticking with 35mm for the time being. I'm sure I'll get one at some point for some landscape work at which point I'd like to get a spot meter, but like you it isn't at the top of my list at the moment.
 
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