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Thread: Do I need a light meter for my digital SLR?

  1. #1

    Do I need a light meter for my digital SLR?

    One question I have is....would I benefit greatly with having a hand held light meter...or can I capture the correct exposures with TTL metering and AV compensation ?

    Being new to photography (2 years) I still have a lot to learn........but am happy with a lot of images I've captured with my new Canon 5D !

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    California, USA
    Real Name
    I do not think you will require a hand-held light meter unless photographing in extremely dark conditions (which are probably not ideal to be photographing in to begin with). Some situations with a full moon landscape could benefit from one, but I personally have never required it.

    The great thing about digital is that you can get the exposure spot-on at ISO 3200 and f/2.8 with a really quick exposure, then infer from this what the exposure time settings would be at a more technically appropriate combination of aperture and iso. Just multiply the exposure 2X for each increase of 1 f-stop in aperture or halving of ISO. It is my opinion that the added expense of a good light meter (which can be quite expensive) might be better spent, at least at first, on other quality lenses (unless you already have all you need).

  3. #3
    New Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Baltimore, Maryland USA

    Re: Do I need a light meter for my digital SLR?

    While there are exceptions to every rule, generally speaking you do not need a hand-held light meter with your digital SLR. As per the below, two basic steps will get you to the right exposure.

    First, you need to learn your camera's meter modes. Read your manual or go elsewhere online to learn the options. With Canon, for instance, you'll generally see the following modes: matrix, center-weighted, partial, and spot. Each is different, and knowing these will help you choose the right exposure. For example, if I'm shooting a singer on stage, I'll meter at "partial" and aim at his or her face. The partial meter mode covers about 9% of my lens, directly in the center. So with this, I know the face, which for me is usually the most important part of the image, will be perfectly exposed. On the other hand, if it's a completely gray day, where the light isn't challenging, I may use the Matrix mode, where the computer inside the camera makes the choice.

    Second, you need to learn how to read the histogram in your camera. While it will not be 100% accurate, it will generally get the job done. I'm not going to get into how to read one here -- you need to learn that on your own -- but once you learn, you'll instantly see if your image is exposed to your liking. And if it's not to your liking, you'll know how to instantly correct the exposure with a second shot. So if your histogram tells you the image is too dark, for example, all you need do is open up your aperture, shoot again, and check the histogram again.

    As for what McQ posted, while many paths can lead to the same destination, that one in particular appears unworkable to me.
    Last edited by sanjja; 27th May 2008 at 09:51 PM.

  4. #4

    Re: Do I need a light meter for my digital SLR?

    Light meters have their uses in studio work or on location when setting up relative tonality. For example, when balancing flash and ambient for a location portrait, or for when you want a certain depth of shadow on a face etc. This is difficult to guage from a picture on the back of the camera. Wouldn't it be great if you could zoom in on a point and be able to read the tonal values!


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