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What use is a light meter?

Printed From: Dyxum.com
Category: Equipment forums
Forum Name: Lighting
Forum Description: For discussion of flashes, strobes and continuous lights
URL: https://www.dyxum.com/dforum/forum_posts.asp?TID=133977
Printed Date: 06 December 2019 at 15:35


Topic: What use is a light meter?
Posted By: Phil Wood
Subject: What use is a light meter?
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 12:13
I see Minolta Autoflash light meters coming up for sale and selling for non-trivial amounts, there is evidently still a market for such devices. Buy why? How would such a meter help my photography?

Modern cameras have a host of accurate metering modes, with an EVF I can see the exposure before I take the shot, I can review exposure on screen immediately after shooting, I can bracket at the touch of a button, I can adjust exposure in post processing - what am I missing by not owning a meter?



Replies:
Posted By: Roger Rex
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 12:34
A guess - there are still many folks that enjoy using film in bodies that either do not include a meter or of the very early, quite limited, through-the-lens metering systems. I still have my 1960's Gossen Luna Pro light meter but it is clearly less efficient and less precise than virtually any contemporary camera metering system.

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Hatred corrodes the container it is carried in. http://rogerrex.zenfolio.com/


Posted By: greek_alpha
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 12:37
A light meter can be very useful when using studio lights. You can adjust each light independently. I guess it could be useful for video and other types of photography reducing the time spent on post processing and maximising the available dynamic range.

I have a flash meter that I only used with the studio lights and with some very old film cameras.

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α7ii

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eb164 - flickr


Posted By: stiuskr
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 16:59
Yeah, takes all of the guesswork out when using multiple flashes/strobes in studio between subject and background and balancing flash to ambient when used indoors or out. Also if it has a memory feature it's good for manual shooting HDR's where you meter on the sky and then the shadows and go from there or set it to average to maximize dynamic range for a single shot.

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Rob Suits Jr.
a99M2 a99 a77 a700 KM7D|Min24/2.8 Min35/2 So50/1.4 So50/2.8 Min85/1.4G Tam90/2.8 Tam180/3.5|Tam17-50 CZ24-70G2 KM28-75D So70-200G1 So70-300G So70-400G1| SonyF60 AD200R2


Posted By: sybersitizen
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 17:34
As others say, it's perhaps mostly useful for flash ... or maybe as an incident light meter, which serves a different purpose from the in-camera meter.

It's also fun to just play around with, which is at least one criterion on which I base gear purchases.

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http://thesybersite.com -


Posted By: vitor
Date Posted: 16 February 2019 at 22:47
While not mandatory, when using flash (or more than one light source) you should meter using a dedicated incident light meter. That way you can control the light ratio with precision before taking the shot.

Incident light meter is not affected by your subject characteristics. It only cares about the light source. This gives better results on complex scenarios.

Thetering is another thing you should do in these cases. It's easier to evaluate the subtle changes you introduce when adjusting light ratios or moving the lights to control where the light falls.

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http://www.vitorfonseca.com/ - vitorfonseca.com


Posted By: Phil Wood
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 00:25
Originally posted by sybersitizen sybersitizen wrote:


It's also fun to just play around with, which is at least one criterion on which I base gear purchases.


No there is a good point!

I don't do any studio work or use multiple flashes - and, to be honest, wouldn't know how to use a meter in such a set up - perhaps I should get one and learn something new!


Posted By: stiuskr
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 02:43
For the prices I see on eBay for them you should, I see many Minolta Auto Meter IV F going for under a hundred bucks.

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Rob Suits Jr.
a99M2 a99 a77 a700 KM7D|Min24/2.8 Min35/2 So50/1.4 So50/2.8 Min85/1.4G Tam90/2.8 Tam180/3.5|Tam17-50 CZ24-70G2 KM28-75D So70-200G1 So70-300G So70-400G1| SonyF60 AD200R2


Posted By: addy landzaat
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 09:37
I have a Sekonic L308s intended to be used with my Zenza Bronica SQ system. Indeed, for film. With digital it is less of an issue, but it still can speed up things I imagine with multiple light sources.

The Sekonic L308b is 59 GBP at ffordes while they want 75 GBP for a Minolta Flashmeter III.

Re. The Gossen Luna Pro, well, it is really old.

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Why not follow me on Instagram? @Addy_101


Posted By: Miranda F
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 18:46
You really need a light meter for film colour transparencies as (a) the latitude of the film is only around half a stop either way, and (b) it is almost essential in daylight to take a reading which excludes the sky. If you trust the camera meter enough you can point the camera down and use AEL, of course, but I haven't found one yet which doesn't get upset by bright skies and push the foreground darker than it should be.

For me, as someone who used light meters for decades (originally Weston master II, II, and V) and loads of others too, they were extremely useful tools to force you to separate the tasks of (i) assessing the image you wanted and (ii) checking the camera settings.

Today, digital cameras mean we can shoot a hundred shots with little thought where with film we would have taken just one, or maybe two, after ten minutes of carefully walking around. And we get instant review with zebras and whatever to tell us how the exposure looks, so there's really no point any more. IT's a different hobby now ...

But I do notice an increasing number of people using film - young women, particularly - usually old fully manual cameras, and unless they're using b/w film or colour print a light meter would be useful. Last week in Madeira a German tourist was using a 1950's Voigtlander, which was nice to see.


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Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, Nex-6, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .


Posted By: addy landzaat
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 20:25
I expect the multi segment metering of a late film Era camera like the Minolta Dynax 7 (aka Maxxum 7/ Alpha 7) to be more reliable then those Weston Masters.

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Why not follow me on Instagram? @Addy_101


Posted By: sybersitizen
Date Posted: 17 February 2019 at 23:58
Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:

I expect the multi segment metering of a late film Era camera like the Minolta Dynax 7 (aka Maxxum 7/ Alpha 7) to be more reliable then those Weston Masters.

Let's add that translating what an external meter tells you - even if it can be fully trusted as accurate, which isn't always true - into settings on a film camera involves compromises of its own. What if your camera's shutter speeds aren't correctly calibrated? What if f/2.8 with some of your lenses is not the same as f/2.8 with others? To get something approaching 'perfect' exposures it's necessary to become very familiar with your gear. You could just as easily spend that time and effort becoming very familiar with the internal metering system of your camera without the help of an external meter. Anyway, that's the way I chose to approach slide shooting with my X-series cameras and lenses (back when dinosaurs walked the earth).

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http://thesybersite.com -


Posted By: Miranda F
Date Posted: 18 February 2019 at 16:29
All good points, Syber. Mutli-segment metering can be fine if you use AEL - I just don't trust it enough on the scene as taken.

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Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, Nex-6, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .


Posted By: Phil Wood
Date Posted: 18 February 2019 at 21:11
Thanks for all the input. I have loaded a film recently - for the 2019 challenge. But it did go into an AF body (Dynax 60), chosen because it is the nearest I have to a digital body! If I see an Autoflash at a stupid price I might bid - but I shan't worry if I'm outbid.



Posted By: Dena
Date Posted: 28 February 2019 at 20:12
Probably flash, but I use a gray card for that.


Posted By: skm.sa100
Date Posted: 12 March 2019 at 14:26
An interesting discussion. I looked around to see if I could get a light meter. I am looking to setup a home studio and was wondering if a meter could be useful.
They are expensive! I don't need anything fancy and am usually a value-for-money guy.
Any recommendations for me?

Thanks
Sashi

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More Dyxumer, less photographer.


Posted By: Photosopher
Date Posted: 12 March 2019 at 14:45
I use my light meter like a witch doctor uses a rattle. Around my neck, it acts as a badge of professional expertise. Between shots, I'll often go into the waiting room and wave it madly over the faces of my upcoming clients. In a large circular motion, I'll zero it in to the center of their face and inhale a gasp of delight, taking the opportunity to compliment my subject on their extremely high level of skin reflectivity. I'll say "Look! You're a 1.8, that's a great score. We're going to have a marvelous shoot."...

And we do.


Posted By: sybersitizen
Date Posted: 12 March 2019 at 15:09
Originally posted by skm.sa100 skm.sa100 wrote:

I don't need anything fancy and am usually a value-for-money guy.
Any recommendations for me?

The Minolta Auto Meter IV F is a good choice that can handle pretty much anything. If you really get into it you can look for accessories, too: telescopic attachments for spot readings, specialized diffusers, a mini-receptor for macro work ...

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http://thesybersite.com -


Posted By: AutumnRose
Date Posted: 13 March 2019 at 04:03
Holy cow, that was hilarious, Clyde! I pictured you doing this, but in my vision you were wearing a safari helmet and jacket. Thanks for the laughs.

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Kathi
A900, A77, A37, A700, A580, A300, NEX6, 800si, Maxxum 5 and a few lenses


Posted By: trainerKEN
Date Posted: 24 March 2019 at 20:53
I have a light meter, when I'm shooting with a single light, I don't use it... BUT when I start doing multiple light setups and I want to factor in ratios, that's when a meter is handy. I've watched several video workshops by one of my favorite portraiture photographers, https://www.chrisknightphoto.com/index - Chris Knight and he highly recommends and after applying what he preaches, I became even more appreciative of the device

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https://www.instagram.com/kenchengphotography/ - Portrait Instagram * https://www.instagram.com/trainerken/ - Street/City/Landscape/Personal Instagram


Posted By: Miranda F
Date Posted: 25 March 2019 at 09:38
Haven't used one for years, and I have several. All my current cameras have an AEL button which does the trick for me
I'll use the light meter if I take slides with the Miranda F, though, assuming I can find a lens in my collection which doesn't have the iris stuck.

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Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, Nex-6, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .


Posted By: owenn01
Date Posted: 25 March 2019 at 09:47
Hi Everyone,

I've been looking wt this thread from time to time before commenting but, following a talk at our Camera Club on Friday night by https://www.tonyworobiec.com/ - Tony Worobiec FRPS I'm a little more prepared to go on the side of the use of a light meter. He gave a talk on 'Low Light Photography' and it was fascinating - all the images taken were taken during the period post-sunset and pre-dawn and he shared some very useful 'tips' on how to maximize the results from this type of work - especially with the use of a light meter. He explained the use of the light meter for 'cross-over' exposure where one has a very bright part of an image (say, brightly lit buildings) and a darkening/lightning sky; he balances the exposure such that once bother areas have the same relative value that's the point to take the image (tripod mounted of course). He's an extensive publisher so he 'knows his stuff' - he showed more of his https://www.tonyworobiec.com/american-icons - American Icons series than the website shows but you get the general idea from this.

So - my feeling is that for certain situations, a light meter might actually be a good idea rather than trusting solely to one's camera to make the 'right' choice.

Best regards, Neil.

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My Mantra: "Comment on other's work as you would wish to have yours commented upon". Go on - it's fun!


Posted By: Phil Wood
Date Posted: 25 March 2019 at 18:25
Originally posted by owenn01 owenn01 wrote:


So - my feeling is that for certain situations, a light meter might actually be a good idea rather than trusting solely to one's camera to make the 'right' choice.


I am prepared to accept that a light meter may have its uses, but do not accept that the only alternative is to trust my camera to make the right choice. I often adjust my camera to over or under expose (based on the camera's reading) or to bracket. And, from time to time, I use spot metering in the camera to assess light levels in different parts of the proposed frame so I can pretend I know what I'm doing when I dial in manual settings. In effect I use the camera as a light meter.

I guess my original question should really have been: what does a light meter do for me that the built in light meter in my cameras cannot do?


Posted By: pegelli
Date Posted: 25 March 2019 at 18:59
Originally posted by Phil Wood Phil Wood wrote:

Originally posted by owenn01 owenn01 wrote:


So - my feeling is that for certain situations, a light meter might actually be a good idea rather than trusting solely to one's camera to make the 'right' choice.


I am prepared to accept that a light meter may have its uses, but do not accept that the only alternative is to trust my camera to make the right choice. I often adjust my camera to over or under expose (based on the camera's reading) or to bracket. And, from time to time, I use spot metering in the camera to assess light levels in different parts of the proposed frame so I can pretend I know what I'm doing when I dial in manual settings. In effect I use the camera as a light meter.

I guess my original question should really have been: what does a light meter do for me that the built in light meter in my cameras cannot do?
I agree with you Phil, in most cases the camera meter is all you need, but (depending on the model lightmeter you have) the spot metering beam can be smaller and more accurate than the spot meter in your camera and the other thing it can do (again depending on which meter you have) is measuring the flash strength from one or more strobes.

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Posted By: Miranda F
Date Posted: 26 March 2019 at 10:25
Re the 'crossover' technique, on film cameras with a built-in lightmeter that doesn't work in low light, when taking time exposures at night I usually took a reading on a bright wall and then allow 3-5 stops depending on where I wanted the tone curve to be.

And before the era of matrix metering, I also habitually took a meter/camera reading on either grass or my hand (allowing 1-2 stops for that with fair skin). Match-needle metering was my favourite in-camera metering because it made the process so easy without needing an AEL button.

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Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, Nex-6, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .



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