'Why I'm Sold On Using A Light Meter'

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by RT_Panther, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Denver, Colorado, USA
    Real Name:
    Good read, thanks. Typical awful Nikon quality control. :p
  2. addieleman

    addieleman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 5, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Real Name:
    If I take the story literally I'd say the guy is using a lightmeter to detect problems in his camera or lenses, which is a bit unconventional :smile:. I guess he's found other reasons to use it as well.

    In the beginning of my film days, around 1980, I started using a lightmeter because my Minolta XD7 was fooling me all the time. The XD7's lightmeter is overly red-sensitive which added greatly to the problem of getting an exposure right. I bought a lightmeter suitable for incident-light metering and presto, exposures were spot-on. The XD7 went to manual mode permanently, and then to think I agonized endlessly over shutter-speed over aperture priority automation to end up with an XD7 that offered both and of which I used neither. The Sekonic lightmeter got inaccurate, the repair shop that I was referred to did a lousy job of recalibrating it and I ditched it for a Minolta Autometer IV F which I used with the Nikon F3's as well later on, until I went digital in 2006.

    The Nikon D200 and D300s and the Panny G1 and GH2 generally do a great job at in-camera metering, up to a point that I hardly ever use a separate lightmeter. At one point in time I noticed that the G1 would underexpose with indoor shots with the Panny 20/1.7 so I used the Minolta meter again but it often agreed with the G1! So since then I just take test shots and overexpose as required. I have bought a Sekonic L-358 because it offered 1/3-stop increments like the G1 and GH2 do, but honestly I don't really like using it and I often go back to the Minolta when I want to use a meter.

    I have zero experience in jpeg shooting, but I imagine that a lightmeter could be worthwhile in that case. Maybe it's like shooting slides, there's only one right exposure. I shoot raw and I determine later how I want the picture to look like; exposure now has to be such that the highlights aren't blown and noise in the shadows is minimized, in other words capture as much information as possible. That said I'm not fooling around all the time to optimize this, mostly the camera gets it right and if not, the highlights blink or the picture is dark when reviewing. I think this is the reason why an incident lightmeter isn't of much use to me in this digital era.

    These days I use a separate lightmeter only in the studio for measuring flash lighting. Especially output balancing of the flash units is greatly aided by a separate incident lightmeter. Other than that, my Panny cameras do a great job of exposure metering now that I have enough experience to know when to correct them. In the olden days the pros used to shoot polaroids to check on lighting and exposure; how much easier is our digital life today!
  3. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I just finished reading the blog... and so much of it doesn't make any sense. Oh well.

    But yeh.... I still use a ambient light meter. Very useful when in high contrast situations and I want to figure things out ahead of time. When I don't, I'm just being lazy usually taking initial readings off my hand or ground and adjust accordingly. Flash meter, (at least for me ) is a must with strobes. Although with digital, trial and error method works fairly quickly as well.

    One things to note, the ISO of film was pretty standardized with very small variance between the brands and model of film. For digital, ISO is only an approximation and can vary quite a bit more. So an accurate reading at a particular ISO as reported by your handheld meter might end up either under/over exposure from one camera body to the next. Its usually close enough for me (and my cameras) but for those photographers that are a bit more demanding for accuracy should figure the "error" out in controlled experiments.
  4. Bill

    Bill Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2009
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Bill (really)
    A benefit of micro 4/3 is the EVF. (I always have the immediate review set. With the G3, when I've had a peek, I give the shutter release a litte push and I'm back to live view.)

    If the exposure is way off, I'll see it. In an optical finder, you might not notice until it's too late.

    BTW, I'm a Sekonic guy too (the cheaper L-308S) -- belt and suspenders.

  5. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I really appreciate being able to see the effect of exposure compensation in the viewfinder but I have to say that I do find myself at times wondering about a light meter and using incident light metering. I wonder whether in tricky, high contrast situations, I might do better if I could measure incident light rather than trying to juggle with exposure compensation and wondering where the balance between highlights and shadows falls.

    I find myself thinking that an incident light meter with the same exposure range as the camera I was using might be a really nice way to go with landscapes and some other sorts of photography but not for street or wildlife or action photography.
  6. jmw

    jmw Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2012
    San Francisco, CA
    Hmm, wouldn't he have found the problem without the light meter?
  7. CUB

    CUB Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 19, 2012
    I have found a hand held light meter indispensable over almost all of the last 35 years. Even when I was using a Nikon F4 and F100, which supposedly had excellent metering systems, I found I was missing too many shots because the matrix metering system could not be trusted in certain difficult situations especially, but not limited to, strong backlighting.

    My first DSLR was an Olympus E-10, followed by two E-1 bodies, then a Pentax *ist D, then two Canon EOS 5D bodies, then a Nikon D700, D3, D7000 and D800. All of these supposedly had very sophisticated metering systems, but I still needed a hand held meter for difficult lighting. Then there was the Leica M9, whose metering is frankly quite crude. Crude but effective, yes, but it does not cope well with challenging backlighting. So once again, the hand held meter was essential.

    Then, after a brief (and not very satisfying) interlude with a GF-1 a couple of years ago, I bought a Panasonic G3. I bought it specifically to replace a Canon PowerShot G9 but also to build a small, lightweight outfit for personal use.

    The G3's metering is simply outstanding. Nikon has had since the early to mid 1980s to perfect its matrix metering but Panasonic appears to have done it in far less time. I only rarely need to make exposure adjustments and these are normally of only 1/3 or 2/3 stop. I no longer need to carry a hand held light meter, which is a good thing because both of mine are heavier and bulkier than either of my prime lenses.

    Kudos to Panasonic.
  8. jambaj0e

    jambaj0e Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 31, 2010
    I love ,my lightmetering. I use both the Sekonic L358 AND the Paul Buff Cyber Sync whenever I use the Einsteins studio strobes. I use the latter because while it's not as accurate as the Sekonic, it controls the Einsteins. I usually meter with both.

    Joe G | fotosiamo.com