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12-13-2011, 11:12 AM   #1
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Exposure Metering on Old Pentax Bodies

I have not acquired any of the Spotmatic and older bodies - but I was wondering on the models without metering does everyone just use a light meter or there are some rule of thumb exposure settings you like to use.?

12-13-2011, 11:28 AM   #2
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Google "sunny 16 rule"
12-13-2011, 12:05 PM   #3
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I do more indoor, available light than outdoor work, so "Sunny Sixteen" has limits..
However, if you work without a meter enough you do develop an eye to judge lighting and can get very good results without a meter.
But learning can burn through a lot of film. A handheld meter is very useful, and can train your eye if you don't over-use it. Indoors, check readings a few times to see the range, then put the meter away and just use what it has shown you.
If insecure with this, get a Voigtlander VC meter II. It's a tiny clip-on made for classic non-metered cameras like the Leica screwmounts. The only problem is it costs as much as 2 or 3 Spotmatics.
12-13-2011, 02:46 PM   #4
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I bought a Luna-pro in 1969. It still ties every bundle.

12-13-2011, 03:12 PM   #5
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+1 to what Tom says.

In real life, I've found 'sunny 11' is more like it in my neighborhood. From sunny to shade I've taught myself to add 2 stops. And 2 more to go into more shade. G'on, film can take it

After a while you get used to it, and exposures work out OK. Using a hand meter to get the 'lay of the land' is a good thing too - often I use this as a starting point, e.g. take a reading from the brightest environment and then the shadiest, and try to remember the two.

It can be a PITA when there's a lot of raggedy cloud cover, or when there's a lot of switching between shade and sun. But 2 stops will do ya.

(look through a filter sometime to see what 1 stop looks like. Not much!)
12-13-2011, 10:16 PM   #6
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My first Spotmatic had a broken light meter so I had to learn "sunny 16", after a while I got good at it. For anything serious I use an early 1950's GE Selenium meter for outdoor work on a non-metered camera. It consistently underexposes by exactly 1/2 stop when compared to several of my film and digital bodies. consistency like that can easily be compensated for. I've done enough indoor work with and without a flash that I don't really need a meter. I guess in all things, experience is a great teacher.
12-13-2011, 10:46 PM   #7
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Sunny 16 works pretty well, unless you live in a part of the world where the sun is seldom that bright! Here on the N.W. coast of N. America, it is more like Sunny 11, even on the brightest of days. Much depends on sun angle and atmospheric haze.

That being said, I sometimes estimate exposure, but usually carry a light meter. I have a Gossen Luna Lux (big brick) that I use for critical work with the view camera and a Sekonic L-208 Twin-Mate that I use for most of my 35mm work. The Sekonic is a nice little meter (supports both incident and reflected measurements), but is sort of cheaply made and really not worth the $125 USD that they go for new. Unfortunately, options for compact, pocket-able meters that take modern batteries are fairly limited. An older meter + battery adapter can end up costing $60+. Next up the price scale for new product is the Gossen DigiSix. It is also cheaply made, but uses solid state electronics. The nicest compact meter I am aware of is the Voigtlander VC Speed Meter II (drooling as I type). It is well-made and compact and solid state and costs 2x what the L-208 goes for.


(wishing that the tiny Vivitar model 24 had not quit working...)
12-14-2011, 05:00 AM   #8
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And, in meters, I'm with average-guy and Steve -a luna lux that takes a 9v battery, a gossen pilot (cute little thing in its clam shell) and a 50s GE. (You know that you can adjust the 1/2 stop out of the GE?)

12-14-2011, 06:25 AM   #9

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When I use my non-metered AP, I keep one of my other Pentax bodies with the M42 to K Mount adapter handy. It's easy enough when I'm outdoors as I meter shadows and highlights and then rely on C41's huge latitude. But when shooting technical closeups and such, more accurate TTL metering is required and that's when the metered bodies really come in handy. Controlled flash photography is metered by a Sekonic.
12-14-2011, 08:28 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
a gossen pilot (cute little thing in its clam shell)
Did you get your Pilot converted to use non-mercury batteries or do you use an adapter or is it a selenium model?


(Should have probably have gotten a used Pilot rather than the L-208)

EDIT: Just remembered that both of the Pilot models were selenium and that the Super Pilot was CdS and took batteries.

Last edited by stevebrot; 12-14-2011 at 08:37 AM.
12-14-2011, 08:41 AM   #11
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Aside from grabbing a light meter as suggested (and the right one is very useful with your digital cam too) . Fred parker has an Ultimate exposure index that will give you a good feel for most situations

There is also a really good exposure app for the iphone that offers more suggestions than the standard Sunny 16 chart *which right now up here is Sunny 11 or even sunny 8 )

Experience will make a big difference in your ability to judge light so try figuring out the rule using digital where it doesn't cost money to do so ( I definitely wasted a lot of frames back in the early 70's learning sunny 16)

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12-14-2011, 08:45 AM   #12

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I agree with taking some time to practice non-metered photography through methods such as 'sunny 16' or 11 as the case may be. you really can develop a good eye for light and it will train you to better handle situations without thought instead of relying on the camera to do the work for you. hit up youtube to watch film footage of the late garry winogrand out doing what he did best. he was like a human light meter, adjusting on the fly seemingly without thought or pause.

most of us though that use non-metered cameras do also carry a hand held light meter. I use a Sekonic L-398M for use with both my SV and my 6x7 and love it to bits. but you could also if you are willing to spend the little extra money, get something like the sekonic 'twin mate' that can be mounted on a cold or hot shoe and work similar to a built in meter. or you could get one of the early pentax shoe mounted meters, have it calibrated to make sure its metering accurate and use that. I have one for my SV and do occasionally use it.

how useful a hand held light meter will be to you, will I think greatly depend on the type of photography you practice. I myself for personal photography do mostly documentary/journalist style portraits. nothing in a studio, work with available light in natural settings, etc. and while I occasionally have to capture quick moments, I find that a majority of my work is rather slow and not really deliberate, in sense that something is staged, but more like, timed to capture in a slow, normal life pace. for this, a hand held meter is more than adequate.

what I find in use of a hand held meter though, and I think it has been the most rewarding for my personal photography is that it will teach you to think ahead in terms of exposure, instead of relying on the camera to do it at the moment of capture, you will start to see composition and exposure together before pressing the shutter, not at the same time. this gives you a lot of control over your photographs because you can do a lot of things before hand just by being more aware of your 'photographic surroundings' I guess you could say, and thinking ahead is always easier than relying on technology to attempt to do the thinking at the final moment. we have circumvented that to some degree with digital, but you can't replace ease of use with actual real world, learned technique. I have given a number of cameras as gifts over the years, to friends interested in photography and in each case I gave them a non-metred camera, with basic instructions on exposure, a few rolls of film and said have at it. I don't recall anyone who has come back to me and said they didn't love using it or didn't learn anything that has helped them in bettering their photography.

im a firm believer in the idea of limiting yourself opens up personal creativity. using a completely manual, non-metered camera is probably the best way to do that in terms of photography.

Last edited by séamuis; 12-14-2011 at 08:55 AM.
12-14-2011, 06:57 PM   #13
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Nesster- My GE meter suffered a fall (prior to my acquiring it) and the little arm assembly that the adjusting screw turns was broken. I had to take it apart and gently nudge the adjusting arm, re-assemble, and test. When I got it to within 1/2 a stop I was happy. I only went through the trouble for two reasons. 1- it was free, and 2- it was given to me by an elderly friend (it belonged to her late husband) and it had been stored in the original leather case in a nice dark box for almost 50 years, so the selenium cell still has tons of life left in it. I appreciate you offering the tip anyway.
12-25-2011, 09:42 PM   #14
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Sunny 16 for me. I used to carry a meter but using it interrupted the flow a little too much, so instead I taped a sunny 16 card to the back of my camera. Gives great results in the daytime!

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