Good lightmeter for LF.

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ChrisC

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I think the time has come (unfortunatley too soon for my wallet's sake!) for me to get a quality light meter.

I was out yesterday taking some photos in the bush with my 4x5, and after developing the negatives tonight, my readings were either horribly too low overall, or just too low on the important items in the picture (isn't that always the case?!). It looks like my old handed-down Sekonic Auto-Lumi model 86 is nowhere near up to the task.

I've been thinking about upgrading in several months time, but now I think the sooner I do it, the better. I don't know a huge amount about meters, and the best ones to relate to LF, but I've got myself down to two options (I think).

  • Sekonic L-558R DualMaster
  • Pentax Digital Spotmeter

From what I've read, and experienced first hand, a spot meter is the way to go. Between these two, is there really much difference in performance in the spot metering mode? The Pentax seems to be the "LF photographers choice" when it comes to meters, but the Sekonic has a few more bells and whistles, that could be quite useful to other aspects of my photography down the road. What would you guys suggest to someone who's just getting serious with his photography, and who's new to LF?

Sorry for the long post, but there's alot to take in with it comes to meters, and it'll be a big investment for me, so I want to do it right.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts and suggestions,
Chris.
 

Soeren

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Il'l be following this thread closely.
I have come to the same conclussion you have. I have been using a Sekonic 308 meter for flash- and incident lightmetering but I really miss a spotmeter.
Another thing, what is the lowest lightlevels (LV) those handheld spotmeters can handle ?
Regards Søren
 

Mongo

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I'm not going to make your life any easier...I have a third suggestion. If you can find an old Zone VI-modified Soligar spotmeter, you'd do well with it. (Rumor has it that the current Adorama analog spotmeter is the same as the old Soligar spotmeter, although it won't have had the Zone VI modifications done to it. I can't confirm or deny this, never having seen the Adorama meter in person.)

I picked up a Zone VI Soligar for around $130, and it matched a recently-adjusted Pentax spotmeter to within 1/12th of a stop (approximately, as the Soligar shows 1/6th stop increments only, and the error was less than half of one mark). I've been using it for a while now, and have been very happy with my results. The meter's not handly to me at the moment, but I believe it'll start to register below 1EV.

One note about the analog spot meters in general: Pull the trigger firmly and give them an instant to settle in. On my Soligar the reading sometimes fluctuates up to 1/2 stop for an instant (well under a second) before settling in to the actual reading. I've heard similar stories about the Pentax analog meters.

Good luck with your decision.
 

claytume

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Chris

there are various schools of thought for metering, you can get as complex as you like or keep it simple. I favour the simple route.

I have a spot meter attachment for my Gossen meter but never use it. I find for the type of photography I do an accurate incident meter is just fine. I meter the most important shadow I want detail then give the neg appropriate development for the lighting conditions and film type I'm using.

The negs are always easy to print and it's only the odd time I make a dumb mistake that I have to do some rescue work in the darkroom.

Clayton
 

Graeme Hird

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I won't confuse the issue any further, but if you decide you need more than only a spot meter, PM me about the Gossen Starlight. It does it all - and very well.

Cheers,
 
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Chris
You have the main two players and also the new Minolta is worth a look. I have two friends who have just bought this and seem very happy. The ergonomics of the Minolta in spot mode don't suit me as well as my Sekonic 508 where reading and memory buttons are well placed under index finger and thumb. This has been a good meter (replacement after my two year old son played conkers with my gossen...) and have seldom used the incident feature. Drawback is that it doesn't read in such low light as the Pentax which I think I would replace it with. I do like the LCD panel readout to show range of readings which is very helpful for deciding ND grad selection. I also like fact that the 508 uses an AA battery rather than expensive lithium.
They are expensive and so would recommend that you try to handle, as you would with a camera, to see which suits you best.
 

Monophoto

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I purchased the Adorama meter last summer and I've been very pleased with it. The sales dude at Adorama confirmed that it is the same as the Soligor.

If you choose to purchase a used meter, be sure to get one that does not require a mercury battery. A lot of the older meters, including the early-generation Soligors, used the PX625 battery that is no longer available.
 

Mongo

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A very good point about the Soligars...I'd forgotten that the early versions used a mercury battery. The later Soligars use a standard 9V battery; I don't know what the current Adorama meters use.
 

Nick Zentena

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The Sekonic 558 seems the best do it all swiss knife of a meter. When I run out of other things that need buying I'll likely upgrade my 358 to a 558.

Isn't Pentax out of the meter business?

The 558 is so new I bet you won't find many used.

Do you need one meter to do it all? Flash,incident,spot plus the wireless function? If so the 558 is it. If you don't and only are looking at the spot functions a used Pentax is going to be cheaper.

If you're just looking for a cheap spot meter consider getting a cheap old 35mm with a longish lens on it. Not the best thing but can be pretty cheap. You may already have the 35mm camera and lens.
 

removed account4

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hi chris -

are you able to calibrate your meter? if you can figure out how much "off" your readings were, you can usually change where the meter "zero's out" and it might save you some $$$. :smile:

that said ...

i have a few lightmeters that i use pretty often.
one is a luna pro sbc. it is a great meter. it works well
in low light ( can give readings up to hours long ) as well as
regular light, and while i don't do zone system "stuff" it is easilly usable for
that as well ( does EV +/- ). it takes a regular 9volt battery and there are a handful of accessories that can be bought for it, like a probe, spot attachement, enlargement attachment &C. when it first arrived in my "kit" i used it non-stop for a long time and then it needed to be worked on by bogen (?). when it was in the shop, i ended up getting a sekonic studio deluxe L-398 ( this was in 1988 - so it isn't the latest and greatest ) and i have been using IT now for 15+ years, and it has never failed me, or NEEDED BATTERIES! when i started using strobes i bought a second hand minolta III, and i have used that for about 10 years too. it is pretty easy to use, and it does mean (ave) metering, as well as regular olde light and strobe metering. all the meters i have can be calibrated to fine-tune readings ...

good luck!

-john
 

jbj

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I would also recommend adorama's spot meter, I have the digital version. I find it robust and simple and it uses 9v batteries that are inexpensive. To me the decision came down to Pentax digital vs. Adorama digital and for the price you can't go wrong. The difference in price between these models will allow the purchase of lots of film, chemicals, paper, etc. The pentax, I believe uses a more expensive battery. Oh, and yes Adorama should be the same as Soligar.
 
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jp80874

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In electronics you can usually get the previous top of the line model at a sizable discount. It is still pretty close to the best available, but at a more reasonable price. If it is a left over, it is new, unused and warranted.

I like the Sekonic 508 with incident and spot metering. When I bought mine on eBay I noticed that there were a couple factory refurbished ones being sold by Sekonic. They were only there for and hour or two before someone used the Buy It Now feature. I had thought I could get it cheaper, but was wrong. Sometimes they will let a dealer run it through his business, but it is factory refurbished and warranted.

I have also seen many of the manufacturers in our field offer demo gear with new warranties on their web site. Sinar does this all the time or does promos by email.
I don’t see anything at Sekonic.com today, but could be tomorrow.

Good luck,

John Powers
 

rbarker

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I've been using the older Sekonic L-508 for several years, and love it. The L-558 adds a few additional bells and whistles, but is essentially the same. It's very convenient to have all of the functions in a single meter. So, if you can find the older 508 used, but in good condidition, go for it.

For a spot-only meter, I much prefer the (unfortunately now discontinued) Sekonic L-778 over the Pentax, the latter of which I had some years ago. The L-778 has a digital readout similar to the 508/558s, but has 3 additional little triangles that can be set in the display, along with the ability to move them around as a group. By setting the triangles in relation to the key Zones, it makes "placing" exposures very convenient.
 

dancqu

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Monophoto said:
If you choose to purchase a used meter, be sure to get one
that does not require a mercury battery.

Not fair! I thought it common knowledge that the zinc air,
Wien Cell, has replaced the button mercury 1.35 volt.

Some good deals on older gear now powered by Wein.
My Sekonic L-228 is one example. Dan
 

jovo

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I've had the Adorama/Soligor digital spot meter now for 7 or 8 years. Recently, I dropped it on a concrete floor and the display became garbled. I had no idea at the time how serious the problem might be so, I quickly bought an older version of the same thing on ebay for far less than the price of a new one after finding that a shop to repair it was rather difficult to find. When it arrived, I noticed that the dropped meter was reading nearly the exact same light levels as the 'new' older one which led me to conclude that it probably needs only a relatively simple realignment and is not really functionally broken at all. Which leads me to observe that: the Adorama meter is pretty rugged; the newest version is set up very similarly to the Pentax. (The older version has a rotary dial on the side, the newer version has it's readings on the barrel of its' lens...like the Pentax). Bruce (Camclicker) has recommended a shop where I may be able to get the sick one repaired. Then, if all goes well, I'll have two iterations of what I think is a really fine little machine. Highly recommended!
 

L Gebhardt

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I have the digital Pentax and wouldn't trade it in for a meter with more features. It is simple to use and the dial on the front makes it almost fool proof for both negative and positive films. I would like to have a separate flash meter, but I think a mechanical calculator is a requirment. I also have a small digisix that I use as a backup and an incident meter. I have never used the new Sekonics but just looking at them I think they would be too much of a pain as a spot meter because you can't see the readings in the viewfinder.
 

photomc

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L Gebhardt said:
. I have never used the new Sekonics but just looking at them I think they would be too much of a pain as a spot meter because you can't see the readings in the viewfinder.


Agree with you, but THAT is the difference between the L508 and the L608..they got smart and put the reading in the vf..no one has mentioned it, but the old Pentax V spot meter is still a solid meter and can be had for less than a Pentax digital...that said, have always wanted a digital, just because of the size alone...
 

rbarker

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L Gebhardt said:
. . . I have never used the new Sekonics but just looking at them I think they would be too much of a pain as a spot meter because you can't see the readings in the viewfinder.

Actually, I prefer the larger view of the display - particularly when comparing readings saved to the meter's memory.
 

kswatapug

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I'll bump Ralph's review of the L-778, which as he mentioned, has the three triangles that are moveable, independently and as a group. Makes it easy to visually set a film's range from highlight to shadow and the work to stay within those limits. I "sat" on my first one (slipped on some wet rock and the meter broke my fall) :-< and when I went to buy a replacement, I looked long and hard at the 508, but, unfortunately, it didn't have the triangles. Otherwise it would have been a slam dunk, given that meter's incident abilities.
 

Paddy

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I've had a Sekonic L-508 for a few years now, and recently added a Pentax Digital (Zone VI modified) to the family. they're both superb meters. The Sekonic is now used for any strobe/studio work, with the Pentax being used for more and more of my main work.

Curiously, I found that the Sekonic consistently reads between 2/3 to 1 stop off of the Pentax, so it was a simple matter to dial in the difference on the Sekonic (hold down the two ISO buttons, then dial in the compensation)
 

wildbill

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What about the Minolta F spot meter? It's the only meter i use for still photography and it's got the readout visible inside the viewfinder. The aren't that expensive used. Thousands of cinematographers can't be wrong.
 

raucousimages

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For LF B&W work forget the bells and whistles and go KISS simple.
Go for the Zone VI pentax digital. It works. Period. End of story.
 
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Another one. The Minolta meters are good and not easily fooled when taking a reading. One small thing though, I've found if I remove the battery after use - not between shots (dur!) but between 'sessions', I can make a battery last years. I also use it at least 2 days a week. These meters - and there might be others, store the last readings along with a few other details, and I've found it drains the juice. Hope some one finds this useful.
 

arigram

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What about Sekonic 608 vs Gossen Starlite?

The Gossen seems more accurate, much simpler to use, has a zone system function and can read in low lights. The Sekonic does not have the zone system, can radio trigger pocketwizards, can display the function on the viewfinder and looks more sturdy that the Gossen (I hate the rubber buttons of the Gossen meters even though I have a Sixtomat Digital).
 
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