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Thread: Hand held light meter

  1. #1

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    Hand held light meter

    Being of the old school I learnt photography before most cameras were equiped with a built in light meter and so hand held light meters were common. I have a dearly beloved Weston Master IV which I bought second hand in the 70s and used it alot. Now, of course, it has long since passed its calibration by and I wouldn't rely on it now so I am looking to find a digital replacement. I have my eye on a Polaris digital 6710 as this seems reasonably priced but having a good specification. Has anyone any comment on this meter or handhelds more generally?. I know I could use that in the camera, and I certainly do, but out of nostalgia, familiarity and habit I would still like to take handheld readings cos part of the fun to me is deciding what to meter and what exposures I compute in my head from those readings. On a similar theme -do digital photogrpahers use grey cards these days also or is that old hat?

  2. #2

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    I used to use a hand held meter but found it useful only on portraits, that I don't do, and in tripod mounted scenic-I rarely do these cause if I am anywhere with scenic views, I have family along who don't tolerate the wait to set up and shoot.

    The meters in cameras today are pretty good, especially compared to the match-needle K1000 I started with 30 years ago.

    Glenn

  3. #3

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Hi Malcolm,

    Sorry - this post "slipped under the radar" for a couple of days

    Personally, I use a Sekonic 758DR, but it's pretty expensive and most couldn't justify it. They do have cheaper models, but still not exactly "budget" priced. Others might like to chip in some suggestions.

    With regards to in-camera metering - yes - the meters are very accurate - but - they assume that the scene before them is 18% gray, and expose as such. Use in-camera metering to take a picture of a black cat on a black rug and you'll get a grey cat on a grey rug; shoot a white polarbear in a snowstorm and you'll get a gray polar bear etc. So in-camera (reflected light) metering has to have a correction applied depending on how far the reflectivity differes from an 18% scene.

    Hand held light meters can measure incident light though - and in most cases will result in a better exposure.

    With regards to grey cards - yes - we do still use them, but more for a spectrally neutral reference for white balancing. In terms of exposure - yes - still useful, but there are many ways to skin a cat, and calculating exposure this way probably isn't quite the most efficient way to go about it - nothing wrong with doing it that way though if you wish.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 17th June 2011 at 04:54 AM.

  4. #4
    rob marshall

    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Personally, I use a Sekonic 758DR, but it's pretty expensive and most couldn't justify it. They do have cheaper models, but still not exactly "budget" priced. Others might like to chip in some suggestions.
    I use a Sekonic - this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sekonic-Flas...8286664&sr=1-1 It's not too badly priced at about 150. And it looks similar to the Polaris mentioned above. I got mine used for 60. Might be worth trying camera outlets that deal in used gear. I only find mine useful for indoor still-life photography with the studio flash lights, where it is both accurate and reliable. Saves a lot of time in such situations. Never used it for anything else though. The light meters in modern digital SLRs seem pretty good.

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by gsrunyan View Post
    I used to use a hand held meter but found it useful only on portraits, that I don't do, and in tripod mounted scenic-I rarely do these cause if I am anywhere with scenic views, I have family along who don't tolerate the wait to set up and shoot.

    The meters in cameras today are pretty good, especially compared to the match-needle K1000 I started with 30 years ago.

    Glenn
    The match needle on a K1000 in good working order was one of the best meters ever made. It is what really made the K1000 a great camera as the degree of incidence is the same as in their Spotmeters which still sell for hundreds of dollars (if you can find one). I have both and can hardly tell the difference in comparative readings. The advantage to the spotmeter is the semi-telephoto effect for reading at relative distances. You find a good one on KEH or B&H and you can use that in place of a hand held.

  6. #6

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Glen, Chris, Rob, Colin, - thanks for your thoughts and the counsel of your experience. I have a flash meter (Shepherd FM900) and the Sekonic is not outrageous in price, although any hand held is probably excessive if you only have a tight budget. Perhaps an important point made is focusing on how to use the meter in whatever camera you have to good advantage; e.g. sticking on a telephoto to achieve a spotmeter effect. However, I need to be reminded of what is a K1000; its familiar, but that is all. Perhaps the important point is that one should not let the intelligence of the camera substitute for your own intelligence, knowledge and experience when it comes to getting correct exposures. I will dwell a while and explore my camera metering more and then decide, although I would always use a hand meter in a studio situation and for pics like portaits or people shots more generally.

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Hi Malcolm,

    At the end of the day - if you're shooting RAW - and the scenes don't have a particularly high dynamic range, it really doesn't make a lot of difference if you're a stop under or over - and that's a pretty hard target to miss, even with in-camera metering.

  8. #8

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Malcolm,

    At the end of the day - if you're shooting RAW - and the scenes don't have a particularly high dynamic range, it really doesn't make a lot of difference if you're a stop under or over - and that's a pretty hard target to miss, even with in-camera metering.
    There you go...and to Malcom, a K1000 is the Pentax 35mm camera which replaced the venerable Spotmatic. Both were great cameras - heavy little buggers because there was no PLASTIC involved in the construction. I have come to abhor plastic in camera gear...though, I do love the light weight. I want someone (other than the writes on Star Trek) to invent transparent aluminum...now there's a great idea. One of you engineer types out there get right on that!

  9. #9

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Chris, I love those 'heavy little buggers' - I have a EOS 3 which with its motor drive attachment and batteries weighs in at nearly 2 Kg! But then you should try the other thing I shoot with and you would find 2 kg is no weight at all. Incidentally I once owned an OM-2 briefly. Lovely camera. Now my brother-in-law has offloaded his Spotmatic to me as he has bought himself a Lumix G3, which also looks like a nice camera. But as for the hand helds I have picked a Sangamo Weston Universal for 5 on ebay - it is now useless as a light meter, but with the design and red and black of its face it is a real style icon. So I bought it as a photographic prop! Something to put in photos for people to say ' What digital is that - I haven't seen that before'. I will do a pic of it when it arrives and post it.

  10. #10
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    I would agree with Colin in that the Sekonic 758 is the bees knees for professional use.

    Interestingly it was pointed out to me the other day that iPhones have a free light meter app, which whilst not perfect, can assist in difficult situations and as it is free, it is an emergency backup if all else goes wrong. Surprisingly it is called 'light meter'!

  11. #11
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    I will start off by saying that I am an old manual, medium and large format guy who has trouble loosing old habits. I had the best of the Minolta meters in the old days and now have a Sekonic L-358 which I really like for some of the new features. Because of my background I still use it frequently and not only for studio lighting situations. Having a reliable incident light reading (whether ambient, flash or both) is helpful to me and improves my exposures. I know I should use bracketing more but again I am an old guy.

    I guess the point of this rambling is that if you are used to using a hand-held meter then don't feel funny about using one now. I still carry one in my bag all the time but what do I know.

    John

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotomanJohn View Post
    I know I should use bracketing more but again I am an old guy.
    Hi John,

    One could offer the thought that if one has a good meter (as you do) then there's really no need for bracketing (especially if shooting RAW)?

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    The Weston Universal has arrived and contrary to my previous thoughts it works!. May not be accurate spot on, but as far as I can see it is not too far off the mark such that it would be about right, although perhaps not absolutely right. But heck, what do you expect from something that dates back to the 1930s. Will modern digitals work at all in 80 years time! Does look good though.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    New Member DonKofAK's Avatar
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    I recall reading a book by Scott Kelby (I think) and he advocated using handheld light meters in studios and elsewhere because they provide information not available in your camera. My father used them long ago and I don't know why I shouldn't. In this discussion, there was reference to a digitial Sekonic meter that Amazon US sells for about $210. I saw they also sell an analog Sekonic L-208 TwinMate for half that price. Since I'm on limited budget as a retired fellow, it seems the analog unit could serve me well because I want supplemental information and I know there's nothing wrong with analog. The digital gadgets seem more precise, but they can also err -- precisely. I was a surveyor and a good analog tool in the hands of a careful user can be right on more often than not. Any comments, fellows?

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    New Member DonKofAK's Avatar
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Here's the link to a video tutorial from the folks at Sekonic, "Measuring and Evaluating Light in Landscape Photography. Since I live in Alaska and we have lots of terrain features between sea level and 20,320' msl with a lot of dark surface estate and even more mountains and glaciers, getting the right camera setting can be a challenge.

    See: http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/web...otography.aspx
    Last edited by DonKofAK; 2nd February 2015 at 07:39 AM. Reason: Replaced text with supplemental material

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by DonKofAK View Post
    The digital gadgets seem more precise, but they can also err -- precisely.
    They suggest to be more precise.

    George

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    If a meter is off globally, such as under one stop throughout the range, it is no problem to work with it. The problem arises when the meter is off different amounts throughout its range.

    The hand held meter that I use is an old Sekonic 718. I purchased it at less than one hundred U.S. Dollars many years ago. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of modern meters but, it still measures light efficiently which I all I ask of any meter.

    I use this meter most often for studio flash photography but it would be equally as good for controlled continuous lighting photography.

    I don't usually use a hand held meter for outdoor photography except when I am using flash fill in a manual mode...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 7th February 2015 at 02:56 PM.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Don - first of all this is a fairly ancient thread. Before you revived it, the last update was in 2011.

    When it comes to light meters, there are only two basic types; incident and reflective. The incident light meter measures light falling on a subject and a reflective meter, which measures the light being reflected off your subject. A reflective light meter is what is built into your camera.

    The reason that Kelby mentions a (reflective) light meter for studio use is that studios generally use studio flash, and a specific type of incident meter known as a flash meter is used to measure lights from a studio strobe. In studio work, especially when using multiple light sources, the best and easiest way to set up your lights is by using a flash meter. This enables the photographer to tune the amount of light each individual light throws on the subject. Incident light meters can be used outdoors, but in general they tend to be used for portraiture or product photography, as the meter reading needs to be taken of the light falling on the subject. I use a Sekonic L-358 for my studio work and in portraiture. I have a 1 degree spot meter attachment that I will use to analyze specific lighting issues.

    For landscape work, your in-camera light meter is going to be all you need. It is a reflective light meter, and does well for an "average" scene. Try shooting a snow scape or white sandy beach or a night shot, these scenes will fool your light meter and it will try to expose them to an "average"; usually between 12% - 18% gray. Manual intervention (exposure compensation) will be required for this type of shooting.

    A stand alone light meter is unlikely going to be a solution to your issues with your scenes with dark shadows and bright highlights; this is referred to as a high dynamic range scene. A modern camera can record some 12 to 14 eV of dynamic range, but your computer screen (perhaps 6 - 7 eV dynamic range) or paper print (4 eV dynamic range) cannot reproduce what your camera has captured. You will either have to shoot the scene when the light is more diffuse ("golden hour" just after sunrise or just before sunset); which is what most landscape photographers tend to do. There are some more advanced post-processing methods (High Dynamic Range Image (HDRI)), where multiple exposures to cover of the entire scene are compressed by software so that a more pleasing image can be viewed or printed.

    A different light meter isn't going to do anything for you.

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    Re: Hand held light meter

    I use my Gossen Digisix light meter (made in Germany) for landscape photography.

    I find it useful to see all effective f-stop / exposure combinations visible at a glance on the selector ring.

    Also, it's very small 3.0" x 2.0" x 0.9" and light-weight 1.4 oz. Great for getting low-light readings, but no back lighting so bring a flashlight! Great for manual-mode and exposure bracketing.

  20. #20
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Hand held light meter

    Quote Originally Posted by GeoBonsai View Post
    I use my Gossen Digisix light meter (made in Germany) for landscape photography.

    I find it useful to see all effective f-stop / exposure combinations visible at a glance on the selector ring.

    Also, it's very small 3.0" x 2.0" x 0.9" and light-weight 1.4 oz. Great for getting low-light readings, but no back lighting so bring a flashlight! Great for manual-mode and exposure bracketing.
    Geri - To each his or her own, but I am trying to figure out why you would use an external lightmeter like the Digisix for landscape work, especially when the one built into your camera is available and has a significant advantage over the handheld one. If you are taking reflective light readings with a small handheld unit, you are measuring the light that is falling on the metering cell, not on the image that you have framed in your viewfinder. Depending on your composition, this could certainly give you an incorrect reading.

    The unit has an incident reading capability, but that tends to be good for portraiture or images of objects, including in outdoor settings.

    I do use a handheld meter too, but mine is mostly used for in-studio shots for setting up studio lighting. I do have a 1 degree reflective spot attachment that I use when I want to understand the lighting on "tricky" subjects.
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 3rd February 2015 at 04:24 PM.

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