Hand held light meters

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Mike Kohary, Jun 17, 2004.

  1. Mike Kohary

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I think I'd like to try working with a hand-helf light meter, in order to
    experiment with manual settings on my DSLR and still obtain reasonably
    exposed pictures. :) Fact is, though, I'm a newbie at hand-held metering.
    What types of meters are there, and what kinds are good for what purposes?
    Any recommended brands, or all they pretty much the same? About how much do
    they cost? And once I get one, how do I use the darned thing? Will it have
    sufficient instructions in the box, or is it a complicated subject that's
    going to require study out of a book?

    Thanks for any comments and answers.

    Mike Kohary, Jun 17, 2004
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  2. Mike Kohary

    starglow Guest

    How much are you willing to spend? I have a Sekonic L-358 Flash Master and
    it does the job, it was about $300 i think? there's ones more expensive and
    ones less expensive, it all depends on how much you want to spend. they all
    pretty much do the same thing, read incident light though some come with a
    reflective light/spot meter attachment. I think some read flash and ambient,
    some only do one or the other. depending on what you get, it might not be
    difficult to figure out, mine is fairly straight forward but I know a lot of
    my teachers have high end ones with all kinds of knobs and buttons I
    wouldn't know what to do with.

    have you had a look around B&H at some?
    starglow, Jun 17, 2004
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  3. Mike Kohary

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I have looked around, and I'm overwhelmed, hence the questions. :) $300
    sounds like a lot, but I'm not into buying cheap just to be cheap, either.
    I don't need it to read flash; I almost never use flash. I want it mostly
    for portrait and modeling shoots, indoors and out. What's the difference
    between incident light and reflective light, and how is each used?

    I think what I'm really looking for is a way to spot meter, since my 300D
    doesn't have that capability. I don't need a lot of fancy features and
    knobs and buttons - I just want an effective meter that will tell me what
    exposure I need to take in a given situation.

    What does the readout tell you, anyway? If I switch my camera to manual, I
    can adjust the aperture and shutter speed, which I know work in combination
    to give a particular exposure. I also understand that at any given exposure
    level, adjusting one will correspondingly adjust the other in order to
    maintain that exposure. Is the overall exposure a number also? What
    information does the meter give you, and how does that translate to the
    possibilities for aperture and shutter speed?


    Mike Kohary, Jun 17, 2004
  4. Mike Kohary

    starglow Guest

    Incident light is the light falling on the subject, reflective light is
    light bouncing off the subject. your camera reads reflective light only
    which can sometimes fool the light meter because it reads only middle/18%
    grey (if you dont know about middle grey I'll explain more, just say so)
    which is why incident light meters are usually prefered, especially when
    doing portraits to get skin tones correct. I rarely use the reflective light
    meter attachment for my sekonic.
    well the Sekonic I have doesn't have loads of fancy stuff but it does do
    flash and ambient and since you say you don't really use flash, you might
    want something even less advanced but I'm not extremely familiar with loads
    of light meters so I can't suggest specific ones, perhaps someone else can.
    gauging by price can help sometimes, look for ones under $300 and for
    ambient light only? that way you know they'll probably be less advanced then
    the Sekonic I've been talking about.
    You can set it to either have a fixed shutter speed or aperture of your
    choice and then when you take a meter reading it tells you what the opposite
    should be. for example, I usually have mine set to aperture and then it
    gives me what the shutter speed should be... then I can roll the knob to
    give me equalivent exposures so if it tells me the shutter speed is 1/60
    when I'm at 5.6 but I want my shutter speed faster, I can roll the knob to a
    higher shutter speed and it will change for me the aperture for me without
    having to take another meter reading... i guess just in case I dont feel
    like doing it in my head lol.
    with mine, there's also flash settings but i wont go into that since you say
    you're not interested.
    but its really easy to use and very straight forward. I'd highly recommend
    it for anyone willing to spend the money for it.
    starglow, Jun 17, 2004
  5. Mike Kohary

    Mike Kohary Guest

    Yes, it sounds like I definitely want an incident light meter. I've heard
    of the 18% gray thing, but don't really understand what it is - please do
    Sounds perfect, and easy to use too. :) So, if this was an incidental
    light meter, would I hold it near my subject where the light that I want to
    meter is falling? Let's say I have a subject in dappled shade - can I
    average readings from a spot lit by sun and a spot under shade? I know I'll
    simply have to experiment once I get one, but I'd like to temper my
    expectations beforehand. In my mind, I'm thinking I'd like to be able to
    take a reading in a particular spot, set my exposure, and then simply leave
    it at that exposure until I move to a new spot. Is a light meter
    appropriate for that purpose? My goal is to have a consistent exposure over
    a series of pictures, instead of having the camera meter for me and possibly
    selecting different exposures each time.

    Thanks for all the info - you've been most helpful!

    Mike Kohary, Jun 17, 2004
  6. Mike Kohary

    starglow Guest

    the meter in your camera (and i think all reflective/spot light meters)
    reads everything as 18% grey...so unless youre pointing at something that
    truly is 18% grey, your exposure is probably going to be off. if you're not
    careful, you can take a picture of something white and have it turn out
    grey. its because the light meter thinks the world is middle grey and wants
    to expose every shot for it. to get around it, some people carry grey cards
    and hold it up to the camera to get a light meter reading from the card...
    that way they know the camera IS actually reading 18% grey.
    well i was taught in my portrait lighting classes not to use dappled light
    lol so I dont really know.
    but to take a light meter reading you usually hold the light meter in front
    of the subjects nose or under their chin. I was told under their chin is
    best with my light meter because it has a dome for the sensor which is
    supposed to mimick the contours of the face so if you're placing it in front
    of their face, you're getting a light meter reading which is farther forward
    then the subjects face really is or something... but personally i dont think
    it really matters.
    an incident light meter is best in my opinion but as I mentioned above, some
    people would rather just buy a $5 18% grey card. though I've just remembered
    I've only ever worked with grey cards when using black and white... i'm not
    sure what you'd use with color, if anything different at all. never thought
    about it since i have my light meter. sorry i've been talking about all
    black/white/grey but I do mostly black and white.
    no problem, wish I could point you towards a specific light meter though.
    starglow, Jun 17, 2004
  7. Mike Kohary

    dadiOH Guest

    As do incident meters. Meters don't exactly _read_ as grey though, they
    take the total of light be it from light areas, dark areas and/or all others
    and _average_ that light so that it is the same as if the light had been
    read from an 18% grey card.
    Holding the meter as you said gets you an average reading of highlight and
    shadow sides. Nothing wrong with that but you aren't getting maximum value
    from your meter.

    An incident meter - domed or flat - is used to measure the light falling on
    an object; consequently, one holds it so that it is pointing toward the
    light source. Measuring again but pointing it toward the light incident on
    the shadow side of a face gives you two readings from which you can
    determine the highlight:shadow ratio...something of major interest to
    portrait photographers.


    dadiOH's dandies v3.0...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
    dadiOH, Jun 17, 2004
  8. Mike Kohary

    dadiOH Guest

    So, if this was an
    Exactly right
    Absolutely. Especially an incident meter
    Yes, it is nice to control things instead of letting a mindless robot do it.


    dadiOH's dandies v3.0...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
    dadiOH, Jun 17, 2004
  9. Mike Kohary

    dadiOH Guest

    See my posts elsewhere in this thread too.

    There are two types of meters...reflected and incident. "Incident" is trhe
    light falling on a subject, "reflected" is obvious. Meters are generally
    primarily either incident _OR_ reflected but most have a way of also
    measuring the other type.

    There are many brands. Some good ones...Gossen (Luna Pro), Sekonic,
    Minolta. Some good old ones...Weston, GE (General Electric) PR-1, Norwood

    Prices range from under $100 to over $1,000...and more. They are not hard
    to use, all come with instructions.

    Somewhere you mentioned spot meters. I wouldn't suggest one for you. They
    are excellent for devotees of the zone system, a poor choice for other

    I also would not suggest one with a built in flash meter. No sense spending
    $$ for a feature you are not likely to use.

    What I would suggest is something as simple and bullet proof as possible.
    That means no digital. It means analog with a selenium light cell. Two
    meters I always liked a lot were the Gossen Luna Pro and the GE PR-1. Both
    were primarily reflective meters but both also did incident and did it very
    well. Neither are still made (Luna Pro is but has been fancied up) but both
    would be available used and would be inexpensive. I still have a Luna Pro,
    wish I still had the PR-1 too...it was a sweet little meter.


    dadiOH's dandies v3.0...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
    dadiOH, Jun 18, 2004
  10. Mike Kohary

    Ray Paseur Guest

    I use the Sekonic L358. It has a radio controller that lets me trigger
    flash without sync cables (pocketwizard is the brand name, I think). I have
    found it to be very good for film. In the studio I use NPH 400 exclusively.
    I have not tested its tolerance with my new D70, and I expect that digital
    imaging is going to be less forgiving of exposure latitude than film
    imaging, but I like the meter and can recommend it. The manual is
    comprehensive and helpful. If you're completely new to this stuff get a
    basic book, maybe Ansel Adams, and consider taking a class on the basics of
    light and photography. Automatic cameras will do a lot of work for you.
    If you choose the creative approach that requires manual control of shutter,
    aperture and light, you'll be glad to have a mentor.

    Ray Paseur, Jun 18, 2004
  11. Mike Kohary

    Ray Paseur Guest

    I ALWAYS shoot one shot at an 18% grey card to verify my exposure settings.
    Then I can tell my printer to get the exposure right for the first frame,
    and print the rest of the shots to those settings. And when I can't, two
    reasonable substitutes for an 18% grey card are the palm of my hand and
    turfgrass. At least that works within the film world!

    Ray Paseur, Jun 18, 2004
  12. Mike Kohary

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I've been doing some more reading on this topic, and I think I understand
    now. Knowing how this works explains so much about my camera's automatic
    exposures. ;) This page really hit me:


    Thanks again for all the advice - an incident light meter is exactly what
    I'm looking for. I'll try to have fun shopping. :)

    Mike Kohary, Jun 18, 2004
  13. Mike Kohary

    Mike Kohary Guest

    Much appreciated - good info.
    I've now done quite a bit of reading on this subject, and have had much of
    it de-mystified for me. Incident readings definitely seem the way to go.
    Thanks, this is of course one of my biggest questions. I will look into
    these brands; I like some of the Gossen and Sekonic meters I've read about.
    Agreed, it doesn't seem that I need a spot meter at all. I'm looking for
    incident readings - that makes sense given the kind of work I plan to use
    this with (mostly portrait and modeling).
    Thanks for all the advice - you and the other responders have been most

    Mike Kohary, Jun 18, 2004
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