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12-10-2013, 04:33 PM   #1
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Handheld Meter Purchase?

After shooting for 5 years without a light meter, I'm starting to think I really need one to nail my exposures. Especially for slide when I'm shooting slides. I'm looking for a meter that will be reliable, relatively small, and easy to use in the field. Oh, and economical Recommendations from those of you who use handheld meters all the time?

I'm going on a trip soon where I'll be using a Rolleiflex or Pentax 6x7 alongside - and often instead of - the digital K5 II. I don't want to rely on sunny f16 rule though it mostly worked for the last trip when I brought only the Rolleiflex (some samples Rolleiflex - a set on Flickr) . And I'm not sure I can rely on just taking a reading from K5II's built in meter (or any camera's built in meter) and dialing it into the Rolleiflex or P67.

Are there any advantages to getting a brand new meter vs slightly older selenium ones? Maybe easy LCD readout? Do any new meters have the ability to transfer the reading directly to the K5ii? I know some of the Canikon equipment works this way (at least for flash?) ...

12-10-2013, 05:06 PM   #2
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You don't want a selenium meter, the selenium sensors will degrade over time if not stored properly. You can identify them easily by the lack of batteries.

I have an old (1960s) Gossen Luna Pro which has the CdS sensor instead of the more modern silicon, it can be slower to react when switching from dark to bright, but it is accurate. One thing to look out for is the batteries older meters take, my Gossen originally took mercury cells which were 1.3V instead of 1.5V and would be inaccurate if I put in the commonly available SR44 cells. I added a schottky diode to bring the voltage down and it works well with SR44s. Newer Gossen meters, like the Luna Pro F and the SBC take common 9V batteries. If you go this route, the SBC or F model would be the best ones to have, the common batteries and silicon sensors make them worth the extra money.

The digital readouts of the newer meters can be nice, especially since they can just give you an aperture and shutter speed directly instead of an EV, but the old needle works just as well.

A less economical option would be a 1 degree spot meter, these are very nice to have. I have a Pentax Digital Spotmeter and it is wonderful to use and actually a great learning tool that I even use with digital. There are cheaper analog display ones as well, which work the same and really the digital display of mine isn't that special because it just gives me an EV anyway.

If you want to do flash as well, Minolta made some really good meters. Something like the Minolta Flash Meter IV with a 5 degree spot attachment would cover pretty much everything in one meter.
12-10-2013, 05:28 PM   #3
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I would highly recommend a hand held unit like the Gossen Lunastar F/F2 unit (mine came with a 3 degree spot attachment also). It can be used as an incident or reflective meter. It has a digital display and reads in 1/10th stop increments so you can be dead nuts accurate. The display is large and easy to read in daylight or at night (backlight can be activated easily for using in very dark environments like concert halls). I found mine used for under $100.00. It also doubles as a flash meter and it makes determining ratios very simple. Mine doesn't have the ability to transfer the data to the camera (very expensive Sekonic meters have this feature). Prior to owning this unit I had an older Sekonic L-398 analog unit that was incident only. It was very accurate and I never had an issue with it. Sekonic still sells this unit new and it is very popular with filmmakers.

lunastarf | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Last edited by sawtooth235; 12-10-2013 at 06:13 PM.
12-10-2013, 05:45 PM   #4
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Don't dismiss this out of hand, but I have had great luck with several of the light meters for iPhones.... there is even one that finds the brightest and darkest spots on the screen and displays the values and the number of stop spread. Any of them are less than $5.

The iphone nearly always agrees with the meter in my K01 and my LX....

The fact that you are taking the K5 with you means you will have an incredible light meter with you everywhere you go, btw.


12-10-2013, 05:59 PM   #5
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Don't do a selenium meter. They're just not accurate these days, since the selenium cells are known to degrade over time.

I use this meter: Polaris SPD100 Digital Exposure Meter: Camera & Photo

I love it. It's great for flash. Seems to be dead-on accurate for flash and with negative film. I don't shoot slides.

If you're looking for a spot meter, there are still some new ones made but the Pentax Digital Spotmeter is still the gold standard. Sekonic makes a good spot meter that is also an averaging meter with flash.
12-10-2013, 06:50 PM   #6
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You might want to browse the selection at and also the used gear at Adorama and B&H. If you see something in your price range, look up the manual on the Butkus site so as to get a feel for the specifications, battery, and how it is used.

Electronic flash, 35mm camera flash, 35mm light meter instruction manual, user manual, free PFD camera manuals

I have two hand-held meters, a Gossen Luna Lux SBC and a Sekonic L-208.

12-10-2013, 07:32 PM   #7

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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
I'm looking for a meter that will be reliable, relatively small, and easy to use in the field. Oh, and economical

I'm going on a trip soon where I'll be using a Rolleiflex or Pentax 6x7 alongside - and often instead of - the digital K5 II. I don't want to rely on sunny f16 rule though it mostly worked for the last trip when I brought only the Rolleiflex (some samples Rolleiflex - a set on Flickr) ..
I keep a Gossen Digisix in my vest pocket, bought used at KEH. Set on ISO 100, all I want is the EV. I use Sunny 16 as an anchor and mentally calculate from EV15. If I still had my Pentax 645 or 67, I'd use the histogram from the K-5/K5 IIs as a Polaroid and shoot from that. Haven't shot anything but manual in 5 years and have no idea if my camera meters work.
12-10-2013, 08:33 PM   #8
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If you are shooting slide under conditions where you don't need a spot meter--then I suggest a selenium cell Sekonic L398 studio light meter. Incident reading (with this meter) is the most positive/quick way for unambiguous reading for slides.

Selenium because you don't need batteries and I have not had any problem in about 50 years using them. My first one (L28C) was stolen and about 25 years on each--indeed I have never heard of problems with the L398 or the previous L28C.

You can still get it new AFAIK but instead of likely $200. a used one will be about $50. They are all the same from mid 1950's till now. Actually the design dates from post war occupied Japan in the late 1940's.

12-10-2013, 10:01 PM   #9
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I have a Gossen Luna Pro SBC. It is super easy to use (I never used one before) It does incident and reflective, just slide the little cap over (or not) press the button and turn the dial until the needle is centered. Read the aperture/shutter off the dial. It will give you all of the combinations right there, which I really like. The needle makes it super easy to calculate under/over exposure, just turn the dial. Takes 9v batteries. When I got it (part of a project with a Spotmatic with a broken meter, just to see if I can do this) I spent a good two weeks learning how to use it with my DSLR's. Seems to meter better than the cameras. Almost always spot on. (When it wasn't it was because I screwed up) Works with portraits, closeups, landscapes, building scenes, indoors. If I was in the market for a new meter I would look at the Gossen Digisix or Digiflash.
12-10-2013, 10:31 PM   #10
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If using transparency film and wanting to get the exposure just right for e.g. printing, a hand-held meter, be it spot/incident or a combination of that, and a fair amount of skill in analysing and reading the scene is essential. It would be a tall order to expect perfect results first off, so I would recommend loading a couple of rolls of film and practicing reading and exposing in a variety of lighting conditions (including with and without filters e.g. polarisers, which require typically +1.5 to +2.5), but not such conditions that are extreme to the point where even a spot meter will effectively salvage an exposure at the margin. The advantage of a spot meter is you can explicitly meter all principal luminances across the scene rather than have the meter assume (e.g. in incident or reflected mode) that the scene is average even though it has shadow and bright areas.
12-10-2013, 10:56 PM   #11
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I would say for shooting slide film, spot meter has it advantage. You would have to learn zone metering and then all your exposures would be dead on. Well, at least that's the case for me. I tried incident with slide film and it works, until the light gets difficult. Since I got a spot meter and learned how to use it, my exposures are dead on. But it does take a lot longer to get the reading.
12-11-2013, 12:22 AM   #12
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I think the comments about using spot meter for slide film while theoretically sound, are for outdoors (landscapes, etc.) actually very difficult to put into practice, and are time consuming. Actually for the rather common situations the incident meter is fast and accurate, the estimation of exposure using rough adjustment to the sunny f/16 rule are also pretty precise after some practice, while the reflectance meter is actually hard to use as it requires you can pick out a middle gray--or it requires you meter the highlights and dark areas and choose a middle value--which actually may be not right for slides.

Unlike B&W for slides and projection viewing the middle gray should be accurately pegged (and this is what the incident meter does)--or they will not look right. For B&W where the purpose is solely printing--the situation is different. Similarly in digital it is the printing that counts/or one can pp the image. Also for slide material the f/stop range is limited (about 6 stops) and one must usually decide to ignore the darkest and lightest areas--or at least do so if the slide is to look pleasing/similar to the scene.

Of course w/ practice any method will work well--but for most situations the incident method is remarkably consistent/stable while using a reflectance meter the readings can be all over the map. After using a standard (reflected light) meter switching to incident meter is an amazing process--for 90% of the photos it is so fast and accurate--and for the other 10% you can tell looking at the scene that it needs to be adjusted and you do it [or you take the incident reading at an alternate position (e.g. in the shade in the scene) and average the two readings, etc.].

BTW if you want to see how tough using the ordinary light meter can be--go out on at noon on a sunny day and try to get an accurate meter reading--and pretend you don't know the sunny f/16 rule. It actually will not be very easy.
12-11-2013, 04:45 AM   #13
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dms, I will disagree, I had lots of blown highlights and underexposed black areas on frames of slide film. It just didn't look right. Also since I like E100VS and E100G and have small supply left I wanted to nail exposure on every frame. I only get 12 shots on 120 film.

For example, the following photo, I only took 2 measurements. The dark trees on the left and clouds.

Same with the following one (the slides have more detail in the clouds and my scanner can't handle it):

My lightmeter does a quick calculation from 2 values with a press of a button.
12-11-2013, 06:41 AM   #14
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The iZoner app does that same thing. Here is one where I pointed it out the window and it gives me the high and low EV plus the spread and appropriate camera settings.

You can drag the slider to make the 'spots' smaller or larger. Here they are as small as they get.

Again it's no pentax spotmeter but not bad for 2-3$ or whatever it cost me.

Generally it lines up well with the exposure recommendations from my k-01 or LX.
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12-11-2013, 12:50 PM   #15
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Another vote for the Gossen Luna Pro SBC. I use it with my P6x7 & P67. (E6 and b&w)


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