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10-01-2019, 11:58 AM   #1
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Light meter apps for your phone

So there was a thread just recently talking about the high cost of dedicated light meters, which got me thinking.

There are plenty of phone apps that purport to serve this function for free, and you mostly have the phone with you.

For discussion purposes then, does anyone use phone based light meter apps?

Are they actually any good or reliable?

Are they lacking necessary functions?

I ask from a position of ignorance as a non user so to speak, but I would use one if I could be convinced of their merits.

10-01-2019, 12:38 PM - 1 Like   #2
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The one time I tried one, it seemed to be pretty inaccurate (note: this was just checking against 16 rule and roughly against camera metering, as I don't currently have a light meter) but I don't know for sure.
Also maybe some apps are better than others and maybe some can be calibrated?
10-01-2019, 01:33 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevin B123 Quote
For discussion purposes then, does anyone use phone based light meter apps?
I have one on my phone right now but rarely use it. I think they all work by simply reading the camera phones exposure settings. So whatever fancy interface they have they are not doing anything special. The one I have is very accurate at what it does.

Dedicated light meters are incident meters that measure the light source. Phone cameras use reflective meters, the same as we have in our cameras. What photography are you doing that is making you think of using one ?
10-01-2019, 02:40 PM - 1 Like   #4
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For digital cameras I think it is a waste of time to use a mobile phone as a lightmeter because your histogram in the DSLR will do a better job for your camera/lens combination.
The light meter in my P30 is actually quite usable, depending on the position of the lightsource (such as strong backlight) you have to adjust accordingly, but that is no big deal either.

It may makes sense to use a light meter app for SLR's in combination with night photography if you don't have much experince with the occuring light sources.

10-01-2019, 03:30 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I have one called Pocket Light Meter for my iPhone which works pretty well. I calibrated it against the K-5 for use with my film-era AP and Spotmatic SL, but havenít used it in a while.
10-02-2019, 07:26 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
What photography are you doing that is making you think of using one ?
I was thinking in general for landscape where there is a high dynamic range, but then realized that actually no-one would use one, just bracket or HDR the scene.

othar & microlight bring up a good point on the film-era applications.

I recently underexposed some shots by using the in-camera spot meter (I should have realized). I had the K-1ii with me so I could and should have gone manual with the K-1ii exposure settings if I had thought about it.
I suppose I just take matrix metering for granted, forgetting on film.
10-02-2019, 07:33 AM   #7
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There is also a small iphone add-on lightmeter called Lumu.
10-02-2019, 08:34 AM   #8
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Last time I used a dedicated light meter was when I used to shoot medium format B&W film a lot. I still have an old Soligor spot meter which was modified by Zone VI Studios and has zone scales on the turret. Works very well to this day.

I used to own at one point a Sekonic digital meter which was primarily used for studio work or color reversal and sometimes slide film.

10-02-2019, 08:36 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevin B123 Quote
I was thinking in general for landscape where there is a high dynamic range, but then realized that actually no-one would use one, just bracket or HDR the scene.

othar & microlight bring up a good point on the film-era applications.

I recently underexposed some shots by using the in-camera spot meter (I should have realized). I had the K-1ii with me so I could and should have gone manual with the K-1ii exposure settings if I had thought about it.
I suppose I just take matrix metering for granted, forgetting on film.
Your iphone light meter will read the same as your cameras light meter so it will achieve nothing. If you do want to have a go at using an incident light meter (which you point away from your subject towards the light source) then Sekonic do one for about £100 which is also a flash meter so very handy. I mainly use mine for flash work, but useful with an old film camera too.

Your DSLR has a histogram display. Use this when reviewing your landscape shots. That will be far better in my opinion, and yes bracket your exposures and do a merge.
10-02-2019, 09:06 AM - 1 Like   #10
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The reason for the Spotmatic's success was it eliminated carrying and using separate light meter. Unless you're shooting with a camera that has no internal light meter, I wouldn't see the point. I needed mine for view camera when shooting in a studio and for my old SV, which had no built in meter. I haven't used it since.

I did run a roll through my 645 film camera a while ago, but used my K-5 as a light meter, with acceptable results.
10-02-2019, 11:07 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
used my K-5 as a light meter, with acceptable results
Matrix metering on the DSLR would have saved some SLR shots recently, had I thought to use it. I forget SL's are spot metering.
10-02-2019, 11:39 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevin B123 Quote
Matrix metering on the DSLR would have saved some SLR shots recently, had I thought to use it. I forget SL's are spot metering.
Manufacturers have put a lot of effort into their matrix metering systems over the years. They are better for evaluating most scenes than the centre weighted system that preceded it. Unless you are using spot metering for a very specific reason you should be using matrix metering.

Like any reflective metering system they work best for average or grey scenes. Any predominantly light or dark scene will confuse the meter and this is where a hand held incident meter has an advantage. The Incident meter does not know what your subject is , it simply reads the light falling upon it. Black cats against black fence etc !.

You do not need an incident meter however to get correct exposure in difficult conditions. Use EC and check the histogram.
10-02-2019, 11:51 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Unless you are using spot metering for a very specific reason you should be using matrix metering.
In the case I'm thinking of, I was using an Super A that only has spot metering
10-02-2019, 01:35 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevin B123 Quote
In the case I'm thinking of, I was using an Super A that only has spot metering
The Super A has centre weighted metering only. No spot metering.

Last edited by pschlute; 10-02-2019 at 02:50 PM.
10-03-2019, 10:10 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Manufacturers have put a lot of effort into their matrix metering systems over the years. They are better for evaluating most scenes than the centre weighted system that preceded it. Unless you are using spot metering for a very specific reason you should be using matrix metering.
I find center weighted is almost identical to matrix in most situations from what I can tell. I had my KP in center weight while I was testing the accuracy of my Spotmatic and had forgot to change it back for months without realizing.
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