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03-01-2016, 01:25 PM   #1
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Light Meters and Shooting Film

I am looking to buy a light meter for my 35mm and medium format film cameras. I am looking closely at a Sekonic L-3085, which is affordable and seems to do all the things I'd like it to do. But the marketing copy on it suggests it is perfect for digital photography, while of course not mentioning a word about film. (Really, who cares?)

My question is: Is measuring light for digital cameras different than for film? My initial thought is that light is light. But, hey, this is photography! Every question seems to have an answer with a half dozen caveats.

Your thoughts? Also, if you have a good feeling about a particular light meter that's under $150-175, I'd be interested in your opinion. TIA....

Bob

03-01-2016, 01:31 PM   #2
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Moved to the proper forum.
03-01-2016, 01:50 PM   #3
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I use the Sekonic L-308S with film and digital, and it works exactly the same way with both. It does everything I need for both incident and reflective metering in a conveniently pocketable unit. Highly recommended.
03-01-2016, 02:07 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Flylooper Quote
I am looking closely at a Sekonic L-3085, which is affordable and seems to do all the things I'd like it to do. But the marketing copy on it suggests it is perfect for digital photography, while of course not mentioning a word about film.
My question is: Is measuring light for digital cameras different than for film?
Your thoughts? Also, if you have a good feeling about a particular light meter that's under $150-175
Bob,

In your price range a new Sekonic L-308S is the ideal choice considering the reputation, features (including flash metering), etc.

The marketing is to send a message to digital shooters that a light meter isn't just for film cameras, but no, there is no difference other than most film cameras didn't use 1/3 EV readings. But with this light meter you also have the option of whole EVs or 1/2 EVs.

The only thing that I have always been annoyed with is the aperture being broken down to 1/10 of the aperture indicated. So if you have it set to whole EVs, instead of f/6.7, it will read f/5.65. Or if you have it set to 1/2 EVs, and the reading is 9/10ths hotter than f/6.7, it will read f/6.79 although it is really just 1/10 away from f/8. You get used to it after awhile, but I've made a few minor aperture setting mistakes because of it.

Oh, and then there are smart phone lightmeter and flashmeter apps. Here's an article about someone that tested their viability: http://www.ryanewalters.com/Blog/blog.php?id=1222011888909495377


Last edited by Alex645; 03-01-2016 at 02:19 PM.
03-01-2016, 02:14 PM   #5
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I've used a couple of Sekonic L-188 CdS meters with a succession of busted-TTL film SLRs over a ~40-year span. They're cheap, surprisingly rugged, extremely lightweight, and you can still get batteries for them. Every few years it helps to open it up and suck the dust and grit out. Main disadvantage of this model is that it is not a great low-light performer, which is ok by me, since all my work is handheld anyway.
03-01-2016, 03:39 PM   #6
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I would expect that it will work as well as it will work.

I know, that is a cop out, but truth be told, digital sensor response varies by sensor and film response by film and processing. Your meter is calibrated against the ISO standard for film and for most films, the general rule is that you can expect consistent exposure, linear response, and reasonable dynamic range metered to zone V (middle/18% gray) using rated ISO and manufacturer's recommended processing. Your meter has decent low light sensitivity (0 EV100) and should be usable in most conditions.

Translation? Go out and have fun. It is going to work just fine.


Steve

(...would sort of like to have a L-308S...bought the L-208 instead...much smaller...analog dial...low light sensitivity sucks...)

Last edited by stevebrot; 03-01-2016 at 03:49 PM.
03-01-2016, 04:01 PM   #7
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You can also try iZoner for iPhone if you are going to use the zone method.

For negative film, set iZoner to be +2 compensation and then meter the darkest place you want details to show.

For slide film, set iZoner to -2 and meter the highest place you care about with the spot.

Taken from this article: How to Meter Using the Zone System ? Alan Brock Images

03-01-2016, 04:16 PM   #8
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At any rate, good external light meters are a very good investment if lighting over the subject changes at a rate that permits you to reset the camera controls.
03-01-2016, 07:05 PM   #9
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You likely first should decide if you want primarily to base the first estimate on incident reading or reflected reading, and then adjust the reading by knowledge or more measurements. A more methodical (slower) approach that always works is likely spot metering, the quickest mostly works is a single incident reading. The toughest to use is the single reflected reading approach, which is what cameras use and try to correct with multiple areas (matrix metering) and some kind of "fuzzy logic." Any method works (even estimating w/.o meter outdoors is extremely accurate), if you understand exposure and recognize midtone [i.e., 18% (really more like 12%)--e.g., blue sky], and lightest and darkest areas, and what you want to say. After all there is a range of interpretations as regards the light--and thus no single perfect exposure--if you are considering art as opposed to straight documentation.

It only depends on digital vs film in the way each has a different DR (and differently how it varies w/ iso), and way noise appears in color (in the dark areas) in digital vs film, and the way blown highlight appear.

Last edited by dms; 03-01-2016 at 08:40 PM.
03-01-2016, 08:33 PM   #10
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Evaluating exposure's a learned skill and has little to do with the report of light values reported by a light meter. If you believe in the infallibility of auto-exposure and auto focus you'll be pleased with a light meter reading's standardized solutions. Practice and critique are essential components. A light meter reading's simply a standardized point of departure for a complex decision.

As a long ago mentor once told me "Evaluating exposure's kind'a like makin' a martini or sex -- ya gotta get some experience to know whether you're doin' it 'right' or just havin' fun. Someone else will ultimately be the final judge in either case".
03-01-2016, 09:32 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pacerr Quote
As a long ago mentor once told me "Evaluating exposure's kind'a like makin' a martini or sex -- ya gotta get some experience to know whether you're doin' it 'right' or just havin' fun. Someone else will ultimately be the final judge in either case".
Dang, this is good...


Steve
03-01-2016, 11:29 PM   #12
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The 308 is a decent little meter, but It might be worth while to look around for a used 358. You might get lucky enough to find one with the budget you described. If you do any flash photography, the 358 has a great feature which is absent from the 308. It can tell you the percentage of flash contribution to the overall exposure. This really helps if you are trying to achieve a consistent look to your photos.

I bought the 758-DR for it's spot meter because several of my cameras, including my 4x5, do not have built in meters. That's something to consider if you shoot very old cameras, though I know it's more than you are looking to spend. You can purchase a spot meter attachment separately for some hand held meters, but often the combo costs nearly as much as a dedicated spot meter.
03-02-2016, 02:09 AM   #13
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I don't use a light meter but it's something I've thought about getting for some time as it would be very useful for me, but the money has a tendency to get spent on cameras and lenses instead. I don't see the point in using it for digital when you can just chimp. The only difference I can think of between digital and film in this respect is that some digital cameras, especially mirrorless ones, do not accurately report the ISO. For example, the camera manufacturer may state ISOs 200-6400 when really it's 100-3200. I believe this is because many people these days would think twice about buying a digital camera that "only" went to ISO 3200.
03-09-2016, 04:47 PM   #14
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Thanks for the input, guys. I'm glad it's been confirmed the 3085 is a good meter to use with film. I haven't completely shot my first roll with the 945N I picked up a couple of months ago, but when the exposures come back, I'll have a good idea of the camera's meter "truthfulness." I'm pretty sure I' going to spring for a meter because I'm really interested in doing portraits in both types of lighting and I can't imagine not having one with me.

The 35mm Spotmatic I resurrected (thanks to the help of Eric) is "spot" on, metering-wise. Dang things are tremendous cameras.
03-09-2016, 04:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Flylooper Quote
I haven't completely shot my first roll with the 945N I picked up a couple of months ago, but when the exposures come back, I'll have a good idea of the camera's meter "truthfulness." I'm pretty sure I' going to spring for a meter because I'm really interested in doing portraits in both types of lighting and I can't imagine not having one with me.
Bob, I'm not sure how much Pentax improved the metering from my 645 to your 645N, but I can tell you that my 645 has always been fooled to a fault with highlights, mostly in backlit or landscapes situations, and if I don't compensate or correct for it, my exposures are often anywhere from -1 to -3EV underexposed. As a precaution, for negs, I either bracket or shoot +1EV or set the ISO half the number. With slide film, I prefer some underexposure, so if I don't bracket, I'll just shoot it at the recommended ISO at normal exposure.

The best would be using an incident light meter as you've chosen unless you can go with the Sunny 16 rule or are using strobes as your main source.
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