hand held lightmeter vs gray card

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by lft, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. lft

    lft Member

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    shooting black and white film, and being a student, I often find myself trying to save money while being as efficient as possible. As I continue to improve and become more dedicated, I find myself wondering if I need a gray card or handheld meter. I am using an om-4 with a pretty trusty light meter, so would it be fine to get a regular old delta 4x5 gray card, or is that not reliable enough?
     
  2. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Subscriber

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    If I'm not taking the time to set up a tri-pod and spot meter the scene, I end up just using the world as my grey card. Sidewalk is zone V, palm of my hand is Zone VI, Snowbanks are zone VII. Been working well so far, though I do tend to have loose tolerances for exposure.
     
  3. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Having a grey card is a good idea, esp in situations where you can not be shure of the reading of your OM meter: photograping a dark colored person, photo's at the beach. If you compare the both readings it can be a good learning moment, so next time you will know how to interpretet your OM meter.

    A lightmeter is handy (and sometimes a must) when you have a camera without a lightmeter.

    I have been using my lightmeters, a ProfiSix and a Minolta Flashmeter IV for many, many, years.

    Peter
     
  4. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    If you need an incident reading then the gray card and the OM-4 in spot mode is not great but fine. For reflected reading then the OM-4 has quite a good meter.
     
  5. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    I use a Pentax spot meter, but I never go anywhere without my gray card either----it's just a permanent component with my other gear.
     
  6. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    A great replacement for a gray card in the camera bag is an ExpoDisc or ExpoCap, invented by George Wallace. I got mine when they were $25 for a 55mm a couple of decades ago, but they're a bit pricier now. However, they are built to a tight standard, work as a lens cap, and give you a very even exposure (for Zone testing and a color balance reference frame) without worries about fading, orientation of a somewhat reflective card, and the other common problems with a gray card. They basically turn your TTL metering camera into an incident meter with a gray card target on the lens. I use it with SLR's, rangefinders, and view cameras. You can also just hold a larger version against the front of a smaller lens.

    Current ad copy sells this as a digital white balance tool, and it works great for that (according to the reviews I've read), but the design and concept preceded digital.

    Lee
     
  7. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Take a reading off the palm of your hand and give one more stop exposure.
     
  8. Stephen Benskin

    Stephen Benskin Member

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    Why not use all the tools and techniques available?
     
  9. Terrence Brennan

    Terrence Brennan Member

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    Gray card substitute

    Ah, yes, the palm of your hand, the old standard.

    I was given a valuable tip, some 31 years ago, by an older gentleman who had many years experience as a photographer and in industrial photographic sales. The tip was that I could substitute the classified section of the daily paper, and that would give about the same reading as a gray card. Back off with my meter, I was told, and read as much of the sheet as possible.

    This assumes, of course, that you are NOT reading your daily paper on line!!
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    That's what I do. In fact, my Weston meter has an indicator mark for it.


    Steve.
     
  11. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I don't have to give one more stop of exposure with my palm. My palm is calibrated and has a density of 0.75. I checked it with the densitometer daily.
     
  12. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Sounds like you need to send it in for repigmentation to the Zone VI standard palm. How's the color balance? :smile:

    Lee
     
  13. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Oh well the color isn't balance as it's not gray. The RGB readings are not equal but the VIS density is around 0.75.
    PS: If I found the reading is off I ask the guy to have his densitometer recalibrated.
     
  14. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Forget the gray card and just use your OM's meter (which is really good). The only thing you have to watch out for would be very contrasty scenes, which will normally have underexposed shadows if you just use the meter reading (the gray card method is worse in this case).

    For contrasty scenes, open up a stop from the meter reading (or two if the scene is really contrasty). I know this is counter intuitive, but with roll film that is developed one way only, it is the best way to hold shadow detail. Yes, the high values will be "overexposed," but B+W film has sufficient latitude for overexposure that you should be able to deal with the high values with paper grade changes.

    Just so you know, I shoot LF for 99% of my work and use a hand-held spot meter all the time plus the Zone System. However, the advantage of 35mm cameras is their speed and flexibility. Taking time to read the gray card, etc., etc. effectively negates this advantage. Since the object is to get a printable negative, fast, and you have good metering technology built into your camera that is fast and reliable, why bother with slower metering methods (unless, of course, for educational or testing purposes)?

    The disadvantage of roll films is that you cannot develop each shot individually; a "standard" developing time for the entire roll must be used. Therefore, using your in-camera meter, simply find an E.I. for your film that gives you adequate shadow detail for "average" (i.e., not too contrasty) scenes, determine the development time that allows easy printing from these negs, and go shoot. Less contrasty scenes will need a higher paper grade. Higher contrast scenes should be overexposed (as mentioned above) to make sure shadow detail is registered on the negative (because you meter reading will underexpose them in this situation), The resulting contrastier negative will need a lower paper grade to print well, but you will have adequate detail in the shadows. Practically speaking, this is as good as it gets with roll film. When in doubt, bracket. Small film is cheap and bracketing is fast and easy with your rig.

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus Scudder
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The primary magic of the gray card for me is that it provides a reference point that allows me to understand what is happening. Not just at exposure either, all the way through to the print.

    The secondary magic of a reference card happens when I send something off to a lab and I tell them what I want. That card gives us a common definable point to start from.
     
  16. Shaggysk8

    Shaggysk8 Member

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    I am not sure if this is right but surly if you use the zone system any Reading will be zone v and then you stop it up or down depening on how much texture you require in highlights or shadows?

    there for a grey card really is not needed.