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  1. #1
    Senior Member danic's Avatar
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    Light meters - need advice

    Hi all,

    I've been thinking about my next camera lens purchase and to me, it seems they are now "wants" instead of "needs", so I thought "What can I get that will improve my photography?" and the answer (I think) is a light meter.

    Currently my A1 uses center weighted average metering. I mostly shoot B&W through it, so I find it can be hard on occasions to meter accurately.

    Does anyone use a spot meter and can recommend one that isn't too expensive? Say $200 or less?

    Cheers
    danic



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  2. #2
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    You might find a used Sekonic L358 with the spot metering attachment for about that price. I have one and it is a little clumsy to use - it's an incident/flash meter, and you add the spot to it. Works well, and very handy since it does all of these other functions.

    Pentax made the one that's basically the standard (just called the "digital spotmeter"). I have used one and it was really easy to use; much moreso than the L358 + attachment. Not sure where they're at pricewise these days, but they used to be expensive.

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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    I'm so glad this thread been brough up and I would love to get my hand on one of those attachment too. I do not mean to high jack this thread but I check out the B&H they have a 1 degree, 5, and a 10 degree what do you have and suggestion ( the View)

  4. #4
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    IMO, 5 deg is so-so and 10 deg ain't a spot meter anymore... One degree is really the one I'd get. I'm not sure how much experience you guys have with spot meters but they're really for checking just one small "spot" of your shot. What I would do would be to set up the camera with the composition I want and then use several readings from the spot meter to determine what my exposure would be.

    For example, take this shot. I didn't use a spot meter on it (but this shot is handy and has a lot of contrast) but here's how I would have done it if I did. I'd think about how I want the shot to look first - what's most important? I'd meter the dock and want that to be around +1 (meaning that whatever the meter read, I'd shoot one slower). I'd want as little of the sky blown out as possible so the blue areas just above the horizon would be hopefully not much more than +2. I probably wouldn't be able to keep all areas of the clouds from blowing out, but I'd see where I was - if too much was blown out I might lower exposure a little (which of course would affect the dock) but this would be a good reason to bracket. I probably wouldn't worry about the water in this case; I'd just let it fall where it would because it really isn't that important.

    Now the shot I'm showing you might not be exactly +1 on the dock, etc because it was a point and shoot digital in matrix mode with a fisheye lens. I took a couple shots and looked at the histogram (which we don't have with film of course...). With that 5 or 10 degree meter, you'd have a hard time picking out the area just above the horizon. Your reading would include that, as well as some clouds and water which we really didn't want. That's why the 1 degree is the one to use.

    I think people have a tendency to sometimes be less careful determining exposure with digital cameras because of the histogram. It's a great tool, but I really think understanding how a spot meter can help exposure really helped me. I still use the spot meter with digital sometimes, too.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Light meters - need advice-sandisland.jpg  

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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    This is a great example and yes I alway use my spot meter to determine the exposer and like your suggestion spot meter in defference spot. I'm going to get the 1 degree for the wedding groups shots would yall thinks this is a wise things to do or just believing in your on board camera?

    Thanks

  6. #6
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    I got my L358 used with the spotmeter attachment for a deal that was too good to pass up. I had a MF system for awhile and usually used these together, but occasionally will use it with the DSLR. Most of the time I use the spot meter in the camera, even though it's not quite 1%. Make sure to take plenty of time to practice with it so you know about how big the area is that you're measuring with your meter. Some times it'll make a pretty fair difference in the reading - the shot I posted with the sky near the horizon being a good example of this.

    But for weddings? I'm not sure about that - IME stuff happens too quickly for me to have used a spot meter (speaking past tense, I did a few but it's not for me... ). One pitfall that's really easy to do is to put the camera in spot metering mode and forget to put it back into Matrix or whatever you usually use. I could especially see myself doing this with all the distractions at a wedding. The results of this type of accident could be really bad. You could wind up with the spot meter measuring only a part of someone's black tux or the bride's dress and not know it. Obviously, this could mean you're 2-3 stops over or underexposed. Sounds risky to me... If you're going to use a spot meter I guess I'd recommend a separate hand-held meter.

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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Yes indeed those are very good advise thank you The View.

  8. #8
    Senior Member danic's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Thanks for the replies.

    I have another problem though. I've decided on a Pentax Spotmeter V, which seems basic enough, BUT, after looking at the manual for it online, it talks about the reflectivity of light. It states

    "...if exposure is set strictly on the basis of a light level reading taken from a colour area, there is a good possibility that the exposure will be incorrect. This is because reflectivity is different for different colours.The reflectivity of yellow is lower than that of white, but yellow has the highest reflectivity of all colours, Indigo and Purple have the lowest. Consequently, if a light level value taken from the reading of a yellow area is set to the EV index, the resulting photograph will be under exposed."

    Can someone explain this to me in plain and simple language? My understanding is that no matter what your reading is taken from, it will be properly exposed as each light will reflect a different amount of light and if you follow the spotmeter's reading, you will end up with that area being exposed correctly.


    Does this make sense? Can someone help me out? Please?
    danic



    George Zimbel: Digital diahhrea is a disease for which there is a simple cure. Take one frame of a scene. It is exquisite training for your eye and your brain. Try it for a month. Then try it for another month…then try it for another month…..


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  9. #9
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by danic
    Does this make sense? Can someone help me out?
    Yes. Hopefully - I'll try anyway.

    What they're saying is basically what I said. The "quantity" of light (which is what we're measuring to determine exposure) can be measured different ways. A spot meter, like any other type of meter built into your camera, measures reflected light. When light strikes a pure white object, most of it (probably 80-90%) is reflected off of it which, again, is what you are measuring with your spot meter. If you measured a black object, the meter would read a lower EV because it reflects less light - maybe more like a few percent up to 10%, depending on how black it is.

    Here's an experiment - take a piece of white paper and black paper outside and put them both in the shade (so you're not measuring any glare, just to be sure). They're both in the same light and lit by the same amount of light, right? See what the meter says.

    Keep this in mind: A spot meter only tells you what exposure it would take to turn whatever you're measuring into neutral gray. If you want the white to be white, you'll have to add exposure (overexpose). If you want the black to be black, you'll have to subtract exposure (underexpose). If this last paragraph doesn't make 100% sense, go back and read it again...

    Now apply this to photography. Try a landscape shot because nothing is moving. Put the camera on the tripod, compose and focus. Now figure out what's important in the shot - maybe the sky and a tree - and what's not important like maybe the foreground or a row of trees off to the side. By important, we're only talking about exposure - not quality of light which is something entirely different, depth of field or composition.

    Now, measure those important spots, write them down and compare them. For the sky to be a nice blue, maybe you need to add 1-1/3 or 1-2/3 stops to the meter reading. This is what I'm calling +1-1/3 or +1-2/3 above. The tree in front of you has nice green leaves which are close in tonality to 18% gray, so that would be the same as what the meter tells you.

    Here's where it all comes together - did your measurement of the sky + 1-1/3 (or +1-2/3) equal the reading you took for the tree? If yes, then that's your exposure. If no, then you have a choice to make - what's more important, the sky or the tree? Maybe you split the difference, maybe you choose one or the other. But since you took the time, you know that the one shot you take is 100% the result you want (once you're proficient with this). Bracketing and the histogram are not necessary to make sure you nailed it.

    Now in reality, use the tools you have. Look at the histogram to make sure it looks like you think it should (read Sebastian's excellent article in How-To if you're not sure what I mean by this). If you're shooting film, go ahead and bracket - you're there and spent a lot of time because the light's really great at this moment, so just in case...

  10. #10
    Senior Member danic's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Thanks another view. It does make sense, but I will have to sit on it for a day or two to make sure it sinks in. Then I'll have to try it out for myself and see how I go.

    I should probably post my results up here....
    danic



    George Zimbel: Digital diahhrea is a disease for which there is a simple cure. Take one frame of a scene. It is exquisite training for your eye and your brain. Try it for a month. Then try it for another month…then try it for another month…..


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  11. #11
    Nature/Wildlife Forum Co-Moderator Loupey's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Why a spot meter? I've always felt an incident light meter is "better" for many purposes (outdoor, landscapes, b&w) as it is easy to operate and doesn't care what color or reflectivity the subject is.

    I see that Sekonic still sells their L-398 meter (mine is at least 20 years old). It is analog, requires no batteries, and simple as heck to use.


    With a spot meter, you have to know exactly where you're pointing it and what the meter reading "means" - i.e. you've got to compensate that reading mentally depending on what the subject is reflecting.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member AgingEyes's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by danic

    Currently my A1 uses center weighted average metering. I mostly shoot B&W through it, so I find it can be hard on occasions to meter accurately.
    Honestly, you should then learn how to use the camera meter properly. For those who started photography long ago, when digital camera didn't exist, when films still ruled the days, when manual focusing was something everybody did, people used in-camera center weighted average metering all the time and got good results. Yes, back then B&W was the norm, too.

    As for exposure meter, I have two. Both can measure flash, too. One is a 1 degree genuine spot meter and the other one can be used as a 5 degree spot meter, a 45 degree reflective light meter and an incident light meter.

    See? I have two hand-held exposure meters comparing to yours none. Do you really think my pics are better than yours ??

    I agree with Loupey that if you choose to get a spot meter, you'd better know what you are doing. I also agree with Loupey that incident light metering is the best. I use this way of metering the most when I use my light meter.

    But lately, I simply rely on the histogram on my digital DSLR. That's one good thing about digital photography

  13. #13
    Senior Member danic's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by AgingEyes
    Honestly, you should then learn how to use the camera meter properly. For those who started photography long ago, when digital camera didn't exist, when films still ruled the days, when manual focusing was something everybody did, people used in-camera center weighted average metering all the time and got good results. Yes, back then B&W was the norm, too.

    As for exposure meter, I have two. Both can measure flash, too. One is a 1 degree genuine spot meter and the other one can be used as a 5 degree spot meter, a 45 degree reflective light meter and an incident light meter.

    See? I have two hand-held exposure meters comparing to yours none. Do you really think my pics are better than yours ??

    I agree with Loupey that if you choose to get a spot meter, you'd better know what you are doing. I also agree with Loupey that incident light metering is the best. I use this way of metering the most when I use my light meter.

    But lately, I simply rely on the histogram on my digital DSLR. That's one good thing about digital photography

    I'm not saying I don't get good results. I think I get great results for some of my photo's, a few are okay and some are really poor. This is where I'd like a spot meter to help with my exposure. I've attached some photo's to show I can get some good results (imo anyway )





    I would like a spot meter as I don't always get the chance to shoot in ideal lighting conditions. I have a young family which takes up a lot of my time, so I think a spot meter will help in not so ideal lighting conditions.

    When I shoot C41 film, I get great results. But that is partly because C41 has a lot of latitude (IMO).

    I'm also trying to learn a simplified version of the zone system. Hopefully by using the spot meter, this will help determine which area's of the scene can be placed in the correct zones.

    If you think incident meters are better, then please tell me, I'm all eyes and ears

    And yes AE, I do think your photo's are better than mine I think there are A LOT of photographers on here that are better than me. That's why I hang out here, to learn from all of you
    danic



    George Zimbel: Digital diahhrea is a disease for which there is a simple cure. Take one frame of a scene. It is exquisite training for your eye and your brain. Try it for a month. Then try it for another month…then try it for another month…..


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  14. #14
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by danic
    Then I'll have to try it out for myself and see how I go.
    Yes - you'll only really learn it when you go out and do it. And do post some of your trials and tribulations, results, and how you got there.

    An incident meter measures light that falls onto an object, not the light that is reflected back so there is no compensation of + 1-2/3, etc. The amount of light falling onto something doesn't change it's intensity until after it is reflected by that surface, and that's where it changes due to tonality (white reflects more than black). An incident meter reading is the one you shoot whether you're measuring something coral pink or burgandy red.

    The thing about an incident meter is that a lot of times you can't go to the object you want to measure. A lot of times one of my readings will be the sky - that one's out. A distant mountain (who am I kidding, i live in Illinois) or some distant object may be too far away to measure this way - practically, at least. I'm just more in the habit of using an in-camera meter most of the time, whether it's spot or matrix. Some situations are wierd (but can give you great images due to unusual lighting) so the spot meter and manual exposure are the way to nail it - with practice...

    But an incident is a good meter to have as well. The spot (as well as center weighted and matrix/evaluative) is a reflected light meter - but that Sekonic L358 with the spot attachment does both. Plus flash.

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    Senior Member AgingEyes's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by danic

    I'm also trying to learn a simplified version of the zone system. Hopefully by using the spot meter, this will help determine which area's of the scene can be placed in the correct zones.
    Which area of the scene to put in what zone is all up to you, based on what you want the final photograph to look like. You can choose to put the sky in Zone V if that's what you want your sky looks like in your final photo.

    If you think incident meters are better, then please tell me, I'm all eyes and ears
    Another view already answered that. But I'd add though that even if the subject you want to photograph is far away from you and you can't go near to take a reading with your incident light meter, you can simply take a reading from something nearby but has the same kind of light falling on it. They have the same kind of light falling on it and so the exposure reading you'll get on both of them will be the same regardless of how far they are from you. That's how I use the incident light meter when photographing birds.

    What? You really think the birds will let me stick a meter in their face to get a reading??

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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by AgingEyes
    Which area of the scene to put in what zone is all up to you, based on what you want the final photograph to look like. You can choose to put the sky in Zone V if that's what you want your sky looks like in your final photo.
    Exactly. See, the zone system is a little different with digital than with b&w negative film that your develop yourself and print yourself after lots of work getting your technique down. First of all, it's a lot easier and immediate. Second, we don't have ten stops of latitude with digital. From what I've seen, most people teaching the Zone System for digital (and slides) call Zone V, "zero". With slides we didn't have much outside of +2 and -2 but we might have just a little tiny (1/3 stop) more with digital. Experiment and see...

    We look at 1/3 stop with digital, but within a smaller range (-2 to +2 or so). Ansel looked at full stops in a broader range (Zone V = 0 = middle grey, Zone 6 = +1, etc).

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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Simplest thing to do is to buy a Kodak 18% reflectance gray card. Stand this in front of the subject and meter off that. If it's landscape and you can't place the card at the site - use a surrogate position. The light has traveled 93 million miles to get to you, so if it's got to go another mile or two - ie to the subject, the illumination will be the same. Place the card in front of you and stand about 10 feet from it, then meter off the card. The illumination on the distant scene will be identical. Of course, you don't need a spotmeter for this but using one won't disadvantage you. You'll find the 18% reflectance card and a reasonably accurate meter (it doesn't need to be spot on) will transform your photographs from so-so to quantum leaps better. The cards are cheap as chips.... Do bear in mind, the cards to have a bit of a sheen, so make sure you're metering the transmitted light from the card NOT the reflection. That's easily achieved by standing the card nearly vertical and metering at an angle from it.

    Quote Originally Posted by danic View Post
    Thanks for the replies.

    I have another problem though. I've decided on a Pentax Spotmeter V, which seems basic enough, BUT, after looking at the manual for it online, it talks about the reflectivity of light. It states

    "...if exposure is set strictly on the basis of a light level reading taken from a colour area, there is a good possibility that the exposure will be incorrect. This is because reflectivity is different for different colours.The reflectivity of yellow is lower than that of white, but yellow has the highest reflectivity of all colours, Indigo and Purple have the lowest. Consequently, if a light level value taken from the reading of a yellow area is set to the EV index, the resulting photograph will be under exposed."

    Can someone explain this to me in plain and simple language? My understanding is that no matter what your reading is taken from, it will be properly exposed as each light will reflect a different amount of light and if you follow the spotmeter's reading, you will end up with that area being exposed correctly.

    motion.kodak.com/motion/Education/Publications/Shooting/grayCard(2).htm]Kodak: The Gray Card - Exposed

    motion.kodak.com/motion/Products/Lab_And_Post_Production/Gray_Card/index.htm]KODAK: Gray Cards



    Does this make sense? Can someone help me out? Please?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    lol I was gonna say the same thing, grey card for sure. Don't spend $200, spend $5. The only real practical purpose the light meter has is within a studio. Although, thats just me, I prefer to spend a few more seconds in effort to save $195.

    Irivlin, that was a very solid first post. Welcome to the forums! What made you pick this old thread?
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    Re: Light meters - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Anbesol View Post
    lol I was gonna say the same thing, grey card for sure. Don't spend $200, spend $5. The only real practical purpose the light meter has is within a studio. Although, thats just me, I prefer to spend a few more seconds in effort to save $195.

    Irivlin, that was a very solid first post. Welcome to the forums! What made you pick this old thread?
    I was taking some pictures of my dog in challenging light, so I pulled out the Spot meter. Thinking about how ell the pictures turned out, I did a Google search about the Spotmeter V and saw the post that someone made in 2008. Even though their problem was almost certainly all sorted out, I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents' worth, just in case someone else asked a similar question.

    I've been taking pictures for a long time and newbies can still benefit from traditional techniques, even in "the digital age".
    I still develop and print, silver imaging, so please feel free to pass my name on to anyone having problems in this area.
    Regards,
    Ian

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    a bit late but happy newyear

    hi to all at forums.photographyreview.com i thought i had sent this newyears eve but it didnt send so i have sent it again all the best for new year to all of you
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