First meters: Old faithful or hi-tech whizz?

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After a couple of goofs while metering for E6, I've finally decided to buy a decent meter and attempt to be a bit more methodical about determining exposure. So, I went shopping, initially for a spot meter, but... As a techie the Sekonic L-508 seemed to have everything I'll ever need, including a manual to explain how it all works. In contrast the Pentax Spotmeter V taught me how to use it by itself in a few seconds; just so simple and intuitive. One of the reasons I got a 4x5 was to move slghtly away from the computers and flashing lights, and the Pentax was like picking up an scientific instrument rather than a PDA - I liked that. So, now I'm in a quandary. Do I buy the Sekonic knowing that it'll probably do everything I ever ask of it, but also knowing that to get the most out of it will require hours of reading the manual, or do I buy the Pentax knowing that all I then need to learn is how to apply the meter readings to my photography? Anyone been through this dilemma?

-- Gavin Walker (gavin.walker@japan.bnpparibas.com), October 12, 2001

Answers

I prefer the dinosaur approach. Well, maybe not that far back, but I prefer dedicated spotmeters and dedicated incident-light meters to the all-in-one approach. FWIW that's my opinion although let me admit that I've never tried (other than playing with them in a store) the all-in-one meters.

The only tidbit I know is that one friend, who's a meticulous technician, tried out one of those all-in-one meters that had a zoom spotmeter and found that it was (to him) unacceptably flarey. I suspect this was because it was a zoom (more elements) plus the front element of the lens was right at the front of the barrel with no provision for a shade.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), October 12, 2001.


by now i'm using a Minolta autometer IV, i found impossible to use a "dinosaur" any more, minolta is a entire mesure system, you can attach different accessories to it, it's very precise, and good for lowlight as well, the only danger is to loose little accessories while in the field ! This piece of equipment is cheaper in us and japan than in europe.

-- dg (sacripant@online.fr), October 12, 2001.

Gavin, All a meter does is measure light! But go with the ultra modern!! I use the L508, it is superb. But I only use a few of its functions, however the rest are always there should the need to use them arise! LF is all about control, meters are no different, YOU control them. Ultra modern marvels are simply more reliable/waterproofed/accurate than the earlier models. The manual that accompanies the L508 covers all eventualities, most of which you may never need. The meter is very simple to use and very accurate (also good for zonies). Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 12, 2001.

Iíve owned an L-408, and found it accurate and simple to use. Many of the modes are related to strobe lighting and multiple measurements, so I just read the parts of the manual applicable to incident and spot metering and was away to the races in 10 minutes.

-- Michael Mahoney (mmahoney@nfld.com), October 12, 2001.

Gavin,

I use a saunders flash/light meter, model excapes me, weoks well with 4x5, and 8x10 that i 'm doing more on.

-- Bill Jefferson (jefferw@together.net), October 12, 2001.



I've got a Pentax Digital spotmeter & like it. But after I bought the Pentax, I bought a Sekonic Selenium Cell incident meter (L398, I think). It doesn't use batteries so it's my fail-safe backup, but I use it regularly, too, for uncomplicated work.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), October 12, 2001.

Hard to beat a Pentax Digital Spot. So simple. Ansel Adams used one (f'crissake).... jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), October 12, 2001.

You probably already know that you're going to go with whichever one you're in love with :)

I personally would go with the L-508. More features are useful when it comes to light metering, in my opinion, since as you grow as a photographer, there are more and more situations that you never really thought you'd be in, and then, one day, you find yourself in them (flash exposure being one of them). Restricting yourself because of a simple UI will probably manifest itself as a problem. Using sekonic meters isn't really that hard.

Also, the L-508 is pretty much waterproof, which is a plus, since the last thing you want going down in the field is your meter!

I use a 4x5 because it's fun and challenging, simplicity is only a side effect.

In another note, my friend likes her camera equipment 'simple', but she still prefers to use a manual Nikon body with a digital meter. She says the waggling needle is really annoying ;)

well, just my two cents.

-- edward kang (ekang@cse.nd.edu), October 12, 2001.


I bought a used Pentax Digital Spotmeter and it's wonderfully simple and efficient for Zone System work. I also bought a used Sekonic 308BII and that, too, is wonderful for candids and when I'm playing with lights. However, I sometimes leave one or the other at home just when I need it so now I'm looking for a combination meter to replace my incident meter. I'll keep the Pentax, thank you :)

-- Bong Munoz (bong@techie.com), October 12, 2001.

I have both the analogue and digital Pentax spotmeters. I like the digital because it is appreciably lighter and smaller than the analogue. The only problem is that in very bright light (sunlight on glaciers, for example), it can be extremely hard to read the led's. It's also sometimes easier to grasp the range of light with the analogue meter, simply because of the needle moving on the scale, and hence to make your exposure choice. For LF work, I think either meter is a good choice, and I have found them very reliable with E6.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), October 12, 2001.


For LF work, I think either meter is a good choice, and I have found them very reliable with E6.

What's your technique for metering E6 with a spotmeter?

-- Jerry Gardner (w6uv@hotmail.com), October 12, 2001.


Gavin,

For determination of the subject brightness range and placement of tones on varying zones you can't beat the graphic interface and elegant simplicity of the analogue scale on the Pentax spotmeters. I use a Zone VI modified digital for all my constant light source work in colour (commercially) and black & white (self-indulgently).

Placing values with the aid of the zone scale and reading off the suggested exposure setting is problem-free, direct and logical.

For the odd occassions when I use flash I have a Minolta Spotmeter F which works fine ... but all those buttons and procedures for clearing memory, setting new readings into memory and configuring the LCD display detract from the fluidity I derive working with the Pentax. The Sekonic (I have looked at it at times) is adorned with bells and whistles that I find obstructive and surplus to requirements. Work simply and hone your technique.

As for someone's query about colour and the spotmeter: I only shoot reversal and am never far of the mark working within the four stop range of Zone III to Zone VII.

That's my sales pitch over with ... WG

-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), October 13, 2001.


Gavin, I've used the Pentax Spotmeter V successfully with E6 for about 5 years. It's so quick & easy to use and while large and a little heavy, is very rugged for outdoor work. The only decision it leaves me to make is how to "place" the exposure. As Walter suggested, for E6 placing it between zone III and VII works well. I have drooled over the Sekonic catalogs, but can't really justify the cost until the day I need a flash meter. If there's a large price difference, the Pentax may be better value. Bear in mind however, you'd quickly get used to using the functions on the Sekonic, although I find the Pentax very 'visual' to use. Good luck whichever you choose.

-- Brad Cheers (bradcheers@hotmail.com), October 13, 2001.

As a fellow techie I can state emphatically that I love my seconic 508. It really is not too complicated, and the features are endless. I've found the cordless flash metering to be extremely handy, along with being able to enter a number of readings and calculate and average.(the zone system) It also meters incident and spot equally well. I am not familiar with the pentax spot so I cannot compare the two, but my sekonic is my most essential peice of equipment less the camera and film. Basically my votes for the sekonic, b/c if your gonna throw down the $ you might as well get something that will do everything you need now, and dozens of things you don't even know you need.

-- Thomas Douglass (rtdtomas@swbell.net), October 13, 2001.

Jerry ; my approach is simple - try to keep everything within a 4 or 5 stop range, with highlights a maximum of 2 stops above the chosen exposure, and preferably 1 - 1.5 stops above. I occasionally use a ND grad 1 stop filter to manage the range of light. I've tried a number of E6 films, and still consider Astia to be the best around, with Velvia a close second. I really do not like the new Provia RDPIII, nor the Kodak offerings.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), October 13, 2001.


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