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What use is a light meter?

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Phil Wood View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Phil Wood Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: What use is a light meter?
    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?
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Roger Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote greek_alpha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote stiuskr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote sybersitizen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote vitor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Phil Wood View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Phil Wood Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote stiuskr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote Miranda F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote sybersitizen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote Miranda F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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Post Options Post Options   Quote Phil Wood Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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.

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