which meter to purchase

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I'm new to LF and am slowly building an outfit as funding becomes available. (I have yet to expose a single sheet.) I'm at the point now where I'd like to consider purchasing a meter. I've been looking at the Pentax Digital Spot and the new Sekonic L-508. Any recommendations? I think I'd appreciate the "do everything" features of the Sekonic. Has anyone used the Sekonic yet? I will be shooting landscapes mostly, along with some architecture. I'd also like the meter for LF and 35mm studio work. Any insights and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And thanks for a great web site.

-- Dan Blair (daniel.blair@mail.house.gov), February 10, 1998


I purchased a Pentax Spotmeter V after playing with a Sekonic L-508 in the store. The L-508 has many good features, but after a 10-minute demo I could see myself reading the user guide in the field while my light faded. I picked up the Pentax and figured out how to use it in about five seconds. Keep in mind I was looking for a spot meter for landscape work. Neither the Pentax Spotmeter V nor the Digital Spot will work as a studio meter, so the Sekonic L-508 might be a better choice for you. The L-508 functions as a flash meter, in addition to its spot metering versatility.

-- Darron Spohn (dspohn@clicknet.com), February 10, 1998.

I looked at the new sekonic. The main problem I saw was that the spot readings are not in the viewfinder (which has no display at all) which, I would find very inconvenient. Also, with its multiple modes and switches, I was afraid of getting confused in the field. So far I use my built in spot meter in my nikon, and I have a separate flash/incident meter (luna star) that i seldom use. There are a few high-end meters which would do flash and spot and provide a viewfinder display, but they are more complicated, bigger, and more expensive. If you need only a spot meter, the pentax is a good, no non-sense unit which is used by many landscape photographers. I think that a pair pentax spot (for outdoors) and luna star (for studio) would be good. If I gave up my 35mm (which is not going to happen soon!), I'd probably carry the pentax spot instead.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), February 10, 1998.

I love my Pentax Digital Spotmeter. It is very simple to use, even in poor lighting; you'll never need to refer to the manual. The readout is in the viewfinder, handy for scanning the subject for maximum and minimum values. The mechanical exposure calculator lets you see every possible exposure combination simultaneously. It is also very rugged.

-- Sean Donnelly (donnelly@c-com.net), February 10, 1998.

I would consider a Zone VI modified spot meter available from Calumet. I have been using a Soligor meter that was modified by Zone VI for several years. These meters are by far the most accurate available.

-- Dave Sherman (DSherman@riconnect.com), February 11, 1998.

I use the Zone VI modified Pentax digital spot and it rocks! (That's a Dolotmite joke...). Does it work better than the unmodified one? Don't know, but Fred says it does. The Zone sticker is great.

-- Joe Alsko (joseph.alsko@aviano.af.mil), March 15, 1998.

I bought a Sekonic L-508 about a year ago. It has a lot of functionality built in and, like some of the responders to this thread have pointed out, that means the meter can be more complex to use. I was concerned about this, but after working with the meter indoors and out for a short time I got used to its workings. Using it has become second nature. I find it an excellent meter.

-- Tony Doucet (tdoucet@hydro.mb.ca), March 16, 1998.

I've used the Pentax V/ Zone VI spotmeter for nearly ten years. Extremely simple to use, very consistent, and quite rugged. For LF B&W zone system use in the field for landscape/architectural photography, a simple, accurate spotmeter like the Pentax V is essential. It's also really good for exposing color transparency film.

I also have a Minolta IV flash/incident and an old Gossen Luna Pro. Both are excellent meters for their intended purposes. If you intend to buy only one meter, and also use your meter for studio work, with flash, I think you'll be better off with the Sekonic. And if you're interested in learning LF B&W zone system exposure and development techniques, a good spotmeter is essential. I have not used the "do everything" Sekonic, but it sounds like it might be your best choice if you intend to own just one meter for all these applications.

As with any spotmeter, you will have to determine your correct personal EI (exposure index) for your specific meter/camera or lens/B&W film/developer combination for best results. Fred Picker's book (check with Calumet) explains this testing procedure very clearly. Simmons' view camera book also gives an excellent, though a bit more detailed, description of this testing procedure, and zone system.

One brief (humorous?) anecdote: Be careful how you carry the Penta V. I use the Zone VI leather meter holster; I wear it on my hip, sometimes under my jacket. One day in Spain, I was surrounded by several armed policemen, automatic weapons pointing at me. Apparently someone had reported seeing a "terrorist with a gun". They disarmed me, inspected my "weapon", and questioned me extensively. They finally let me, and my Pentax V magnum, go. Good thing I speak Spanish!

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), March 30, 1998.

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