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01-04-2010, 07:02 PM   #1
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Gossen Luna-Lux SBC: Initial Impressions

I have needed/wanted a hand-held meter for some time, but never had the inclination to take the plunge. After all, there is a perfectly good meter in the camera, eh? Recent acquisition of a couple of truly vintage cameras with broken meters along with this last summer's encounter with the "Sightseeing Screwmount" (traveling Pentax SV) along with a $25 eBay Christmas gift card swung the balance enough to trigger a purchase.

A couple of days of research and I snagged this like-new Gossen with an eBay offer of $60.



What we have here is a Gossen Luna-Lux SBC meter. It is essentially similar to the more common Gossen Luna-Pro SBC except that it uses over/under/correct LEDs rather than a needle.

Features:
  • Silicon Blue Photocell
  • Sensitivity: 0.5 - 35K footcandle
  • Battery: Standard 9v Alkaline (MN 1604)
  • Readout: over/under/correct LEDs
  • Incident metering: Yes
  • Reflected metering: Yes
  • Angle of Coverage (reflected): 30 degrees
  • Accepts Gossen accessories: Yes
  • Shutter speeds: 8hr - 1/4000s
  • Apertures: f/0.7 - f/128
  • ISO: 0.8 - 100,000
  • Cine: 4.5 - 144 fps
  • Scales: EV compensation, Factored compensation, and Zone System
  • Last reading memory: Yes
  • Modes: instantaneous (with memory) or continuous
Mine came with a very sturdy suede-lined leather case and a nylon lanyard. In case you did not notice in the photo, this is an imposing piece of hardware. While it is not particularly heavy (7.7 oz including battery), it is really big. The photo includes a non-compact film SLR and film canister for size comparison. I have huge hands and it fills my palm very nicely.


The size in the photo is not exaggerated! Clearly, this is not your compact little selenium doo-dad.
(Note to self..."We're going to need a bigger bag...")

In use:
Mine came without any documentation. Fortunately, Mike Butkus has the manual available online for a small donation at orphancameras.com (Link to Gossen Luna-Lux Manual.) A few minutes with the manual and I was out taking measurements. While the slide-rule-like circular scale looks complicated, it is actually easy to use in practice. Set the ISO, press the red button to take a reading, adjust the scale to light the center LED, and read off the correct exposure settings. Switching from incident to reflected readings is done by sliding the diffusion dome to rest over the meter face.

A little more about the manual...Gossen has done a very good job of documenting this product. The manual is comprehensive and very useful, both from the perspective of using the Luna-Lux and from light metering in general. It includes sections on calculating exposure compensation for bellows as well as using the built-in filter factor compensation dials. It also describes available accessories and their use. Clearly this is not something to throw away or lose.

Summary:

Price paid: $60 USD, Ex+ condition

Pros
  • Huge sensitivity range
  • Single button operation
  • Commonly available battery
  • Easy to use
  • Well made
  • Comprehensive functionality
  • Large dial scales easy to read
  • Last reading memory
Cons
  • Physical size (bigger than my Olympus XA)
  • Spot metering with attachment only
  • No direct read-out of exposure
  • Old-school design
  • No flash metering
I think that I will probably get my money's worth out of the Luna-Lux in the long run. It is a very nice tool. Unfortunately, I also think that I may need to get a second, smaller meter for field use.

Steve


Last edited by stevebrot; 01-04-2010 at 10:23 PM.
01-04-2010, 09:07 PM   #2
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Good summary.
I would recommend you try the Minolta Autometer or Flashmeters because they are extremely accurate, robust and easy to use.
01-04-2010, 10:22 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by creampuff Quote
Good summary.
I would recommend you try the Minolta Autometer or Flashmeters because they are extremely accurate, robust and easy to use.
Thanks for the suggestion. I looked at Minoltas and liked what I saw. Unfortunately, I did not see any Minolta in the same price range as the Gossen in any kind of condition. I also liked some of the Sekonics, but again $200+ is not appropriate for my needs.

The Gossen line is sort of a classic solution and outside of the physical size, seems like a good unit. I posted the review in the hopes that it might be helpful to other people considering a purchase as well as to spur additional reviews for other brands and models.

Are you interested in adding a review for the Minolta models you have experience with?

Edit: I have since found several Minolta meters in the same price range as a good Luna-Lux. They too are pretty large, but feature direct read-out and LCD screens.

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-05-2010 at 10:04 AM.
01-06-2010, 12:41 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote

The Gossen line is sort of a classic solution and outside of the physical size, seems like a good unit. I posted the review in the hopes that it might be helpful to other people considering a purchase as well as to spur additional reviews for other brands and models.
Steve
Well, I've got a Minolta Flashmeter IV, I could probably put up some impressions. (Pretty high-tech in a late Eighties sort of way: I honestly haven't used the fancy features much at all, though.) I guess those impressions don't go terribly deep, in actual fact. I suppose I do like that the fancy functions make sense in that they're contemporary to when I felt up-to-speed.

01-06-2010, 06:17 PM   #5
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I remember when the Gossen Luna Pro was "the" system meter for advanced amateur photographers.

My old Gossen Super Pilot CdS meter was nearly as big and heavy as some of my pocket 35mm cameras!
Sekonic meters are generally smaller and much lighter. I like the tiny Vivitar shoe-mount model I now own.

You are fortunate (?) that model uses a common 9V alkaline battery.
Most classic Gossen meters use now-unavailable mercury cells.

Chris
01-07-2010, 07:22 AM   #6
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Glad to see the review - I have one also as you know. I've found it very reliable and accurate, and the size doesn't stop me from taking it along when I need its performance. (Otherwise, I have a tiny selenium Gossen Pilot, and a vintage GE)... for flash, though I don't actually use it that often, I found a cheap & cheerful Spiratone, accurate to the nearest stop

My Gossen was part of what is perhaps my best luck deal ever: for $25, it and a Bessa 66 with Skopar... which remains my favorite camera.

--
About the huge range: I've found I can use the meter for pinhole photography as it reads to within 1 stop of the pinhole aperture
01-07-2010, 11:58 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote

You are fortunate (?) that model uses a common 9V alkaline battery.
Most classic Gossen meters use now-unavailable mercury cells.
I should have made a stronger point about that feature. The inexpensive 9V battery is one of the reasons why the SBC models command a higher price (the other reason is the instantaneous response of the SPD detector). It is also one of the reasons why I made an offer on this particular unit. I was pleased as punch to get it is almost new condition at the $60 price point.

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-08-2010 at 12:05 AM.
01-08-2010, 12:01 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
I like the tiny Vivitar shoe-mount model I now own...
I want one of those...Either that or bite the bullet for the fancy new Voigtlaender units...


Steve

01-08-2010, 05:07 PM   #9
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Shoe mount meters are handy for meterless cameras, but not especially fast to work with;
you must take your eye from the viewfinder and look down at the top of the camera to read the dials.
I'm surprised no maker has ever offered one with dials and display at the rear.



The Vivitar 24 CdS shoe mount meter is available from time to time on eBay.
It is a tiny thing; only about two inches along its longest dimension.
It uses a PX675 battery, but I had mine adjusted for 44/76/357 cell use.

Hidden from view is the plastic foot at the bottom, which fits any hot or cold shoe.
The knob at the edge of the dial is a convenient on-off switch.
The leather case is for use as a handheld meter.

Chris

Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 01-08-2010 at 06:23 PM.
01-08-2010, 06:17 PM   #10
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Everyone's habits and needs are different - for me a shoe mount meter doesn't make sense, unless maybe if it were coupled to the camera settings, maybe.

If one's built into the camera, great! and if it reads through the lens, great! But if not, I rather hold one in my hand and point it at exactly what I want to meter, or point it at the highest light area / north sky as a starting point for dead-reckoning exposure adjustment.

But then, that's also how I feel about auto exposure - if it is there, I use it and love it. If not, I point the camera at what I want to meter, etc etc.

All that doesn't mean the wee meters aren't awesome and cute and handy.
10-07-2010, 10:38 PM   #11
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Are All Gossen Lunas the Same Size?

steve, Thanks for the well organized and comprehensive review.

Does anybody know if all Gossen Lunas are about the same size as this Luna Lux sbc?
10-08-2010, 07:20 AM   #12
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The Luna Pro F I have is roughly that size. The main negative to me is the sensor is on top so it's a bit harder to measure the light on a model's face than w/ the light meters like the Sekonic/Minolta that have the sensor on the face of the meter...
The needles work fine...old school and they measure +- 3 stops which is all you want when doing studio work most of the time. Set it to f/11 ISO100, zero the key by getting the needle to zero, then set the fill, rim, etc.
10-17-2018, 12:12 PM - 1 Like   #13
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Gossen Lunalite instruction manual PDF

I know this is an old post, but I've just dug out my old Gossen lightmeter. Haven't used it for 30 years. It's in mint condition, so went out and bought a battery, plugged it in, switched it on, and it works perfectly! Couldn't find the manual, but found one here today. Just download the PDF:
http://www.cameramanuals.org/flashes_meters/gossen_lunalite.pdf
10-20-2018, 08:15 PM   #14
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I've got three light meters. All Sekonic. One is a 1960's L-86 selenium, then the '80's L 248 battery powered, than my 2016 L398 Studio Deluxe, a copy of the old Norwood Director I'm told.

They all work except the L 248 isn't accurate as the battery type it used became obsolete. Every so often I put my K1, K5 on manual, take meter readings from the L398 and fix the settings it recommends. I also carry a little gray card...pocket size.

I also use it with my old film cameras, some of which don't have an internal light meter. A pleasure to use and it takes me back to my photographic beginnings...1968 and my first 'good' camera , a Pentax S1a...which was meterless. As a result I bought the L-86 meter and it and the S1a served me well..in a long ago career where part of my living depended on taking pictures..
10-21-2018, 06:06 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by lesmore49 Quote
They all work except the L 248 isn't accurate as the battery type it used became obsolete.

I have been testing some cheap 675 hearing aid batteries, the common zinc-air type, in an old Konica C35 camera.
The original cell is still working, giving me the same exposure reading from a fixed light source, for over five months.

So dire warnings about short lifespan disproved I'm ready to give these things a go in some of my older cameras and meters.
I have purchased a number of passive adapters that will adapt 675 (or 44/76/457) size to fit MR-9/PX625.

Chris
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