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Hand held Light Meters

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by BBW, Jan 15, 2010.

  1. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    I have an old Gossen Luna Pro light meter from the mid 1970s and am remembering how much I loved it and relied on it back then. I'm thinking it might turn out to be quite handy using older lenses on these newer cameras - when one is in a more static mode of shooting for architecture or portraits, etc.

    In searching quickly via the Internet, I see that I'll need to get a adapter kit for the batteries...but it appears that B & H sells them and they work well: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/89868-REG/Gossen_GO_4145_Adapter_Kit_Battery_Holder_for.html

    Do any of you use hand held light meters and if so which kind? I suppose, I'm a throwback to the earlier days, but I get the sense I'm not the only one on the site. Any thoughts or reactions welcomed.
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Interesting, what would the advantage be, over using your camera's inbuilt light meter?


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  3. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Well, I'm just thinking about the older non AF lenses from my OM-1 and the fact that I found, in the past, that the results I got with my Luna Pro from the reflected light readings were far superior to my OM-1's metering...and since in those days I developed and printed my own color film and prints...I tended to use my camera more like a view camera, taking my time to really set up and tried to make every picture count. I was into color strictly and found this method really superior.

    Granted times have changed as Streetshooter pointed out to me:wink:in our personal philosophy of photo thread but I still think there could be value in this method IF one is shooting certain types of scenes and with these older lenses on adapters. Naturally, I have no idea if I'm right since we're all digital now, but I thought it could be worth exploring.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Certainly worth exploring - I am genuinely curious, and it would be interesting to read a comparison if you do go down this route, between an external light meter and the camera.


    • Like Like x 1
  5. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks Brian, I'll report back if and when. Once I'm sure about the battery situation and talk to a few old camera pals, I probably will order the needed part and batteries from B & H, and hope Amin can add them in as an affiliate... Let's see 4% of $37.00 is...:tongue:
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  6. antonisphoto

    antonisphoto New to Mu-43

    Dec 29, 2009
    Here is the dilemma: what takes longer - using a separate meter or taking several shots and checking playback, histos etc to lock the best exposure manually?

    Some situations to think about:

    - Low contrast, full scale subjects are handled easily by the camera.
    - High contrast subjects with small areas of brightness can also be handled with the spot reading on a camera like the GF1, though a separate spot meter could be more reliable (but bulky to carry).
    - Subjects that fall on only part of the gray scale (say a gray cat on cement or white dog in the snow etc) could be compensated for using the camera meter, but would be faster and more consistent with incident readings (meters with white dome).
    - Constant ambient light (say a cloudy day or evenly lit interior like a supermarket) is also best handled by incident readings, though the camera can do the job too albeit slower. It's faster to take one manual incident reading and set the camera than have to "acquire" exposure each time and possibly make compensation decisions across a series of shots.

    Gossen makes excellent digital meters, some with spot attachments that can do both incident and precise reflected light readings. Minolta used to be the gold standard in spot readings but that's quiet a commitment to carry around.

    In general, I believe that carrying a meter makes more sense in situations where it would either speed things up or make exposures more consistent in a series of pictures.
    It's too bad that the GF1 doesn't have manual dials for f/stop and speed. The little thumb wheel that can be pushed and turned often gets pushed before it gets turned. There are benefits to setting exposure manually and then a meter starts to make sense!

    • Like Like x 2
  7. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed post Antonis. In reading your well organized post, I realize should have used the term incident light meter reading in my previous posts, just for the record. It also does have a spot meter attachment.

    Since I was particularly interested in this idea of using the Luna Pro for my old lenses which would require several steps of focusing and metering, I was getting quite hung up on the whole idea. In addition, I was also using these old lenses as a deciding factor in regard to which E-P to buy. Convincing myself that I would of course have/want to use them and thus that the Luna Pro could come in handy for these particular manual focus lenses, with their accompanying requirements for metering might just be the ticket. I'm sure this is going on ad nauseum.:frown:

    After conferring with a friend and using some of his old non AF lenses on his spiffy Nikon digital SLR, and seeing how difficult it was for me to actually focus the darn things (granted it is a much, much heavier camera and lens set up)... I'm going to head out tomorrow to a camera store in Stamford, CT to see these two cameras in real life and maybe even get them to let me mount my 24mm on to see what it's like.

    Either way, I do very much appreciate your reply and may just end up trying the Luna Pro down the line for some of the reasons you've suggested even - if I don't end up using my old OM-1 lenses. That said, I've always been a "less is more" sort and may end up carefully returning the old light meter to its current resting place where it may rest in perpetuity.:wink:
    • Like Like x 1
  8. PeterB666

    PeterB666 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 14, 2010
    Tura Beach, Australia
    I have a Weston Master III which I have had since Nikon F camera days. I originally had the Nikon without a meter and later got a clip on coupled meter for that camera.

    I also have a Robot Star IIa which doesn't have a meter but haven't used that camera for more than 10 years.

    I don't really use the Weston Master III but keep if because it is a great looking little tool and isn't worth selling.
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  9. antonisphoto

    antonisphoto New to Mu-43

    Dec 29, 2009
    you may find that focusing old lenses through the EVF is a breeze. Depending on your vision, you may find that the screen on the back is not always the easiest focusing "aid". I don't know how Olympus does it but on the GF1 one click magnifies enough to focus precisely, a second magnifies even more and is useful for wider lenses. If anything, the EP2 has a better EVF than the GF1.

    The EVF on these cameras is also a much better way to focus than looking through a DSLR viewfinder which offers no help with magnification. In that respect, your experience with the Nikon does not apply to m4/3. I wish all the makers of mirror-box cameras would learn a few tricks from micro 4/3, even if they didn't adopt the mount. And I don't mean Live View, I mean getting rid of mirrors and offering bodies with EVF like the GH1.

    On the subject of metering for old lenses: My comments earlier apply to any lens manual or not. When you mount an old lens you have a choice of all-manual or aperture priority. In the latter case the camera decides for you regardless of lens used. You control ISO and compensation - and in that sense exposure "decisions" are identical for any lens. If you feel the need to go manual, that's when a meter comes in handy -- or not! :smile:

    • Like Like x 1
  10. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    This is an interesting article about why one might want to use a hand-held light meter in a digital age. I think Antonis covered what the article said (and more), but the article has some nice examples.

    BB, I added the B&H affiliate link. Thanks again for asking!
    • Like Like x 1
  11. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Thank you, Amin and I'll be checking that article out later on. Perhaps it will add fuel to my E-P 1 or 2 fire.:alcoholic:
    • Like Like x 1
  12. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    First of all, Antonis I completely missed your extremely helpful 2nd response and am very glad to have read it tonight. Now I'm back to thinking the E-P2 will be the best one for me. I do wear progressive lenses and this was one of my concerns...and now that you've pointed out that I was truly comparing such disparate cameras and view finders, etc., it makes even more sense to me. Many thanks because your comments have helped me clarify the whole thing in my mind and now when I see these cameras tomorrow morning I will have a much better understanding. Also thanks for explaining the use of the manual lenses with regard to the option for aperture priority, etc., including the last bit about the hand held light meter.:biggrin:

    Amin, I just read that article and appreciate your posting the link. I feel like someone who has been asleep for years, photographically, and need all the reminders and help I can get to make the great leap forward.:wink: The article reminded me why I first started using the incident light meter method...it was to avoid The Zone System in my b & w 35mm class where we had to mix our own chemicals and attempt the Ansel Adams method.:dash2:

    Thank you both so much for these "life ring" posts - this is yet another example of how a helpful online community should work.:2thumbs:
    • Like Like x 1
  13. henryp

    henryp Sponsor

    Jan 18, 2010
    New York, NY
    Henry Posner
    Thank you.
  14. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Thank you for letting us be a B&H affiliate!
  15. Alan Wolf

    Alan Wolf Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 20, 2010
    Berkeley, CA
    Light Meters

    I have a small drawer full. The two that still get used (unless I'm just being sentimental) are a Gossen Luna Lux and a Minolta Flash Meter IV (which is much more than a flash meter). I'm just in the process of teaching my 16 year old son how to shoot film, and he's stuck with an M3 so nothing is automatic, and boy, did walking around with a light meter make it all click. (But I diverge, and also, no pun intended.)

    Interesting point about just braketing a bunch of shots and picking the best one, and yes, it might not take any longer. I actually did use the Gossen during the first few outings with my GF1. I do this with new (to me) cameras to get a sense of how their meters work. Meters like the Gossen and Minolta are great because they can take incident as well as reflected readings, and basically, an incident reading tells you how much light is on a given scene, rather than how much light is reflecting off of it. This is important, because the two have less in common than is immediately apparent—it's the old black horse white horse question. A reflected light meter (like the one in any camera) just doesn't know how light or dark (the "zone") what you're metering is—and just assumes that it is a medium value.

    So by paying attention to the light and dark areas, I can get a better sense of how a given sensor responds. Histograms should do this, but so far, I don't find I trust the one on my GF1.

    I think another related question is what metering mode people have settled on. Once I felt like a had a grasp of the camera, I was using spot and the exp. hold button, but lately I've been using the center weighted more.
  16. hohoho

    hohoho Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 24, 2010
    Sekonic meters

    Prices of incident light meters seem to vary a lot depending on where you are. In my part of the world, examples of slightly older versions of the Sekonic "Studio" meter -- the design whose top half can be twisted 180 degrees relative to its bottom half; no battery -- are very cheap. They're good meters but I find them fiddly to use in a hurry. Actually they're so cheap that I have at least two of them. The little Sekonic L208 "Twinmate" is much faster to operate but pretty useless in low light. Used examples of the simpler among meters with LCD readout (e.g. L308) can be very good and they tend to be very cheap if you find them, perhaps because they neither are the latest and greatest nor have "retro" appeal.
  17. sebastel

    sebastel Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 18, 2010
    not your business
    gossen sixtomat digital
    incident light and object light
    straightforward and easy to use.
  18. maxphoto

    maxphoto Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 10, 2011
    New York
    I have a Minolta Flash Meter IV for use with my studio lights. Works great as a light meter too.
  19. vintageslrs

    vintageslrs Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 13, 2010
    The use of a hand held light meter (depending on the subject) can be beneficial.
    It forces you to slow down the process a little, take a little time, perhaps put a little thought into the process and perhaps see things from different angles and allow you more time to compose.
    To me, it can make the adventure a little more enjoyable....
  20. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran

    I have and use a Sekonic L-358. What can I say, it's one of my tools.
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