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without a built in light meter
Old 08-23-2019   #1
kshapero
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without a built in light meter

Would you, do you, have you used the likes of a Leica M3 or a Nikon F without a light meter? Could you, have you, would you ever get past even using an external light meter? Or even use some kind of smartphone app for metering? In other words, using only sunny 16 or just your own accumulated experience. Have you, do you, would you?

There is something about using no meter, that is so risky and yet almost mystical in real practice.
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Old 08-23-2019   #2
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One gets an eye for the light, but it can get deceptive real easy. With cameras that don't feature a built-in meter, I have typically had an incident meter with me that I check from time to time... shadows, bright sunlight, mixed... I can keep these in mind as I move around and shoot without constant reference to the meter. But I like to have that meter available to avoid wasting my efforts and film on exposure errors!
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Old 08-23-2019   #3
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The cameras I most use currently are an M3 and a Lubitel, though I've also recently started putting into use a Pentacon Six, none of which have meters. I find I always take a meter with me but generally just use it as a guide and certainly don't use it rigorously or as regularly as I should. There are times when I envy those using metered cameras but by and large I get along fine. Some of my images come out poorly exposed - for some reason, I've been under-exposing a bit recently - but the negatives are normally still usable. I've used relatively trickier films - slide films and slow b/w neg films such as Rollei RPX 25 - without major incident or problem. I'm not great at judging the light by any stretch of the imagination but I'm happy enough muddling along in this way.
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Old 08-23-2019   #4
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Use a sekonic 208 an awful lot with my cameras and sometime just sunny 16
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Old 08-23-2019   #5
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None of my film cameras have a meter, and I don't carry one either. You eventually gain enough experience to be as accurate, if not more so, than a meter is, in your judgement of light.


Untitled by Berang Berang, on Flickr


Untitled by Berang Berang, on Flickr
Greenhouse by Berang Berang, on Flickr



When I do have an issue with exposure, it's usually because I've hit the very limit of my equipment (and film choice... I rarely shoot anything faster than 100ASA).


Untitled by Berang Berang, on Flickr


For three years I shot nothing but Agfa Precisa in my 35mm cameras. Even slide film is nothing once you've learned to see what you're working with.


wall by Berang Berang, on Flickr


scooter by Berang Berang, on Flickr


I think with enough experience, and a good sense of what one wants, anybody can do this. In retrospect, I think slide film may be the best for learning because you get to see most directly cause and effect between your exposure choices and your results (whereas with negatives you can make up, to some extent, for errors when printing or scanning).
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Old 08-23-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug View Post
... I check from time to time... shadows, bright sunlight, mixed... I can keep these in mind as I move around and shoot without constant reference to the meter...
So I do.

The more I shoot the better it works. Also with cameras with built-in meters. But just the light meter app on my old
IPhone does the job very good.

Usually there is an amount of light in every situation you can work with. Expose a bit more or less as you mean the result should be.
Works with all sorts of film and digital. Once in flow that is a wonderful way of photographing.
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Old 08-23-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
Would you, do you, have you used the likes of a Leica M3 or a Nikon F without a light meter? Could you, have you, would you ever get past even using an external light meter? Or even use some kind of smartphone app for metering? In other words, using only sunny 16 or just your own accumulated experience. Have you, do you, would you?

There is something about using no meter, that is so risky and yet almost mystical in real practice.
I use a few meterless bodies (Leica M2, Pentax SV, Nikon F with a dead Photomic and a Olympus 35RD also with a dead meter).

Usually I use a Sekonic external meter and occasionally an app. If the lighting is something predictable that I'm familiar with (direct sunlight, open shadow) I often don't bother to meter and just guesstimate.
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Old 08-23-2019   #8
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The OP writes like Dr. Seuss! Yes I would, could and have used meterless cameras. My first serious camera was an Nikon F. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time and bought a spotmeter. I used my hand in place of a grey card and when it became inconvenient I started guessing exposures based on sunny 16. I was mostly shooting TMX and after a while was able to correctly guess within half a stop. When I bought an N60 AF body I completely relied on the matrix metering. I have gone back to meterless cameras but rely on a Sekonic incident meter. In a pinch I can still give a good guess. Once on a shoot the batteries in my Pentax Spotmeter died and my trusty back up the 308 also had dead batteries. I checked them the night before. I left my iPhone in the hotel so had to wing it. All the shots came out fine. It’s a good skill to have. I was shooting a supposedly haunted hotel believe it or not!
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Old 08-23-2019   #9
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Most of my M4-2 pictures are meterless for sometime now. In out doors, day night. With M3 DS ELC it was the same.
Difficult to call it risky and mystical for me after I took 100K digital exposures with knowing what I 'm doing and after I took thousands of exposures on film with reading of handheld meter....
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Old 08-23-2019   #10
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Quote:
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The OP writes like Dr. Seuss!
LOL! Man, you're killing me with that comment. Thanks for the laugh, I needed it.

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South Florida in Day Light should be easy peasy
Old 08-23-2019   #11
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South Florida in Day Light should be easy peasy

I've been guestimating exposure for many years.



It's when I'm indoors - or - outside in mid-winter on a dark grey, cloudy day that I want my crutch, I mean light meter.

If you carry a cell phone, there's an app for that.
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Old 08-23-2019   #12
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Just use an external meter and get over it. No need to philosophise too much.
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Old 08-23-2019   #13
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This is a good read on working without a meter-


http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm
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Old 08-23-2019   #14
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One thing that helps, if you're using a handheld meter: Try to predict what it might be before you take the reading. Is it full sun? One or two stops less than full sun? Three or four? With experience, you can come pretty close and that's a good skill to have for the day you forget to bring the meter.
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Old 08-23-2019   #15
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Film is too pricey these days for me to guess.

Yes, no doubt one can skip a meter and get good results over time, but I’d rather not spend lots of money experimenting, or worse, grossly miss exposure on a keeper shot.

I use a hand held incident meter and check it when the light changes noticeably. Negative film latitude covers the rest.
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Old 08-23-2019   #16
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I use a modified sunny 16 setting all the time with my digital M262. In sunshine it’s ISO 200 and an exposure of 1/250 sec at f11 or an equivalent, depending on the depth of field I’m trying to achieve.

If there’s an abundance of shadows I know I can allow 1.5 to 2 extra stops of light, still retain the highlights and get the raw file sorted fine in Adobe Camera raw.

Using my M4 or M6 it’s even easier if I’m shooting b&w or color negative film with the tons of leeway those films give. If in doubt just give it another stop (or even two) of exposure.

You’ve really got to be super sloppy to mess it up with ISO 160 to 400 negative films.
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Old 08-23-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug View Post
One gets an eye for the light, but it can get deceptive real easy. With cameras that don't feature a built-in meter, I have typically had an incident meter with me that I check from time to time... shadows, bright sunlight, mixed... I can keep these in mind as I move around and shoot without constant reference to the meter. But I like to have that meter available to avoid wasting my efforts and film on exposure errors!
I am the same. On a typical day I am pretty good accounting for shade/shadows but get less accurate as the sun is setting and will occasionally watch the meter to see how the baseline is changing. On gray/cloudy days I like having the meter to give me the baseline to work from.

I also think shooting meterless is a great way to learn how/when the simpler meters in many cameras will get the exposure wrong.

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Old 08-23-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by css9450 View Post
One thing that helps, if you're using a handheld meter: Try to predict what it might be before you take the reading. Is it full sun? One or two stops less than full sun? Three or four? With experience, you can come pretty close and that's a good skill to have for the day you forget to bring the meter.
Yes, this is a great way to get more comfortable shooting meterless. Figure out the exposure in your head and then check your work with the meter, not the film. That will give you immediate feedback on your estimate (film will take time to see your results) and help fine tune your thinking.

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Old 08-23-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn View Post
Yes, this is a great way to get more comfortable shooting meterless. Figure out the exposure in your head and then check your work with the meter, not the film. That will give you immediate feedback on your estimate (film will take time to see your results) and help fine tune your thinking.

Shawn

The problem with that is, you will only find out what your meter readings mean in relation to what your images look like - by using film and seeing the results. There's no getting around that, and it still means practicing.
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Old 08-23-2019   #20
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Most of the cameras I use are without a meter. Unless I forget it I'll always take and external meter along. Annoyingly I bought two new pairs of varifocals that the salesman persuaded me should have a premium coating. The result is that I find a change in light levels to be totally imperceptible, and relying upon my estimates would be hopeless. So I don't.
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Old 08-23-2019   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn View Post

I also think shooting meterless is a great way to learn how/when the simpler meters in many cameras will get the exposure wrong.

Shawn
This is very true on my older cameras, with center averaging meters. There's no AI module to tell the camera when the subject is back-lit or the background is a field of white.
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Old 08-23-2019   #22
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Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
The problem with that is, you will only find out what your meter readings mean in relation to what your images look like - by using film and seeing the results. There's no getting around that, and it still means practicing.
Yes, I meant checking your initial estimation against the meter is a good way to check the accuracy of your estimation. How that relates to the image itself you need practice to develop visualization.

If you don't know how accurate your estimations were (at least at first) you don't know if your resulting image is due to a bad estimation or a bad interpretation of how the scene will be recorded based on that estimation.

Shooting digital meterless (and checking against a meter) and chimping is helpful to practice this too due to the immediate feedback. But digital you will want to err. on the side of underexposure and film is the opposite.

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Old 08-23-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayt View Post
The OP writes like Dr. Seuss! Yes I would, could and have used meterless cameras. My first serious camera was an Nikon F. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time and bought a spotmeter. I used my hand in place of a grey card and when it became inconvenient I started guessing exposures based on sunny 16. I was mostly shooting TMX and after a while was able to correctly guess within half a stop. When I bought an N60 AF body I completely relied on the matrix metering. I have gone back to meterless cameras but rely on a Sekonic incident meter. In a pinch I can still give a good guess. Once on a shoot the batteries in my Pentax Spotmeter died and my trusty back up the 308 also had dead batteries. I checked them the night before. I left my iPhone in the hotel so had to wing it. All the shots came out fine. It’s a good skill to have. I was shooting a supposedly haunted hotel believe it or not!
Personally shooting "naked" is a great learning experience. Once taught Photography 101 at a community college. Each student was given a Pentax K1000 to use. First thing I had them do was to take the batteries out, so they could really think shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Course evidentially evolved to DSLR's but the beginning part really taught them the basics.
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Old 08-23-2019   #24
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Quote:
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One thing that helps, if you're using a handheld meter: Try to predict what it might be before you take the reading. Is it full sun? One or two stops less than full sun? Three or four? With experience, you can come pretty close and that's a good skill to have for the day you forget to bring the meter.

Yep! Another thing to do is to have a notebook and write down the exposure you use for every frame. Then when you develop the film, go through the negatives and the notes to see what actually happened. If you do this for 2-4 rolls, you'll be set for life.


And I do believe that physically writing on paper is much better for this type of learning than punching things into a smartphone.
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Old 08-23-2019   #25
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Even when I have a meter in the camera, I tend to set exposure first then look at what the meter sees and judge/adjust the settings to suit. Keeps me in practice.

With a meterless camera, daylight settings (open ground, shady ground, etc) are all easy. Harder situations (available light in low light, dusk, night scenes), buy and have a Kodak Pocket Photo Guide handy. Read it, use it, work with its exposure calculators. After a while it won't come out of your bag very often. Easily available from Ebay.

All the evaluative auto-metering stuff in cameras is a great convenience, but by and large exposure settings are easy in most situations. When the situation is not easy, use a meter to read the light levels and then use your judgement to evaluate the correct exposure.

I prefer to tell my camera what to do rather than have it tell me what its going to do...

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Old 08-23-2019   #26
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I am currently carrying in my camera bag an M3 and a Standard Leica. While I carry in a side pocket a light meter , I do not use it. Sunny 16 works very well with print film. It is more fun not to use a light meter.
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Old 08-23-2019   #27
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In the late 1970s, while working for a daily newspaper, I had no cameras with working light meters and I got to be pretty good at guessing exposures. But we used only Tri-X at the time and the latitude was enough to carry me through when the exposures were off. And many of the places I had assignments were familiar since we were there over and over again--city hall, athletic stadiums, jails, hospitals, etc. On my own time, I used the various Kodachrome films but I used a handheld meter. No room for guessing with Kodachrome. I was pretty good at guessing but I wanted to be sure when I used Kodachrome.
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Old 08-23-2019   #28
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With Fujichrome 50 or Velvia 50 I used to use a digital spot meter at all times. Transparency film is very sensitive to the exposure used. Negative film is more forgiving.
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Old 08-23-2019   #29
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Since I do most of my photos on b/w and C41, All my Leica LTM photos are done without a light meter, using sunny 16. I agree with OP, is kinda mystical and refreshing

On medium format, somehow I always end using an external meter, probably out of habit (since I already carrying a big camera, a light meter barely add any bulk/weight to the kit).

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Old 08-23-2019   #30
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The meterless-metering system I've developed for negative film is:

Sunny 11
Hazy 8
Partly Cloudy 5.6
Mostly Cloudy 4
Cloudy 2.8
and finally for those really dreary days
Cloudy as .... 2

with adjustments for highlights, shadows, back light, etc. Works pretty well as long as I remember to change exposure settings!
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Old 08-23-2019   #31
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Most of the cameras I use don't have internal meters. I carry a hand-held meter and use it when I have time or feel the need to check my settings. Experience is the best teacher, and especially if you tend to use one film stock or E.I. most of the time it becomes very easy to judge correct exposure. At this point my meter is used as much to confirm my gut as it is to check actual light values. I think lots of us still work this way.
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Old 08-23-2019   #32
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I've been going meterless for quite some time now. I've learned that the two most important factors are properly reading the light, and having a camera with an accurate shutter.

I mostly don't have problems when using a Leica or Nikon, but my FSU gear gives me fits sometimes. Also, I need to remember to either take my glasses off, or look over the top of them as they are auto tinted, and that can throw you off more than a stop when reading a scene. Plus, you only need to read the field-of-view of the lens you are using, not what you see when your eye is away from the viewfinder.

Indoors though, I still don't have enough practice to be confident.

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Old 08-23-2019   #33
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Quote:
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In the late 1970s, while working for a daily newspaper, I had no cameras with working light meters and I got to be pretty good at guessing exposures. But we used only Tri-X at the time and the latitude was enough to carry me through when the exposures were off. And many of the places I had assignments were familiar since we were there over and over again--city hall, athletic stadiums, jails, hospitals, etc. On my own time, I used the various Kodachrome films but I used a handheld meter. No room for guessing with Kodachrome. I was pretty good at guessing but I wanted to be sure when I used Kodachrome.
I'm quite a bit younger than you, but my cohort in journalism school was one of the last to still be taught on film. I had a very old-school professor that insisted we shoot nothing but HP5/TX, learn exposure with a gray card, and later guess exposure the rest of the time. I got to be...okay with it. I also made it hard on myself shooting my final project on medium format and Neopan...

It was a big shock going from that run-and-gun style, to learning LF and zone system in grad school. Nowadays it's a little of both--finessing sunny 16 on small format ( I never trust 'A' mode on my M262), but since I shoot a lot of transparencies on larger formats, a meter is necessary, and not at all slowing me down considering I photograph architecture mostly.

The Bronica kit I inherited came with a metered CW/spot prism, but it was out of commission for a long time. I ended up getting a Sekonic Multimaster with incident and 5º spot mode—not quite as precise as a traditional 1º but hugely more versatile; the iOS metering apps just weren't working accurately for me, but that's likely because I have a very old, and very slow, phone.
Judicious use of epoxy got the metered prism back in service, but I honestly prefer a WLF and external metering most of the time.

To the OP: The Gossen DigiSix and Sekonic TwinMate are both fairly popular clip-on meters, depending if you want digital or needle display, but both require using a calculator dial. I don't know if they still make it, but the Voigtlander meters were great, with a pretty intuitive ISO/shutter/aperture dial system.
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Old 08-23-2019   #34
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If I'm shooting B&W, I'll go meterless. If I'm shooting chromes, I use a hand held meter. I've always found B&W film to be pretty forgiving.

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Old 08-23-2019   #35
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When shooting BW negatives, I mostly rely on Sunny16. If I am really unsure, like in "how deep is the shadow under those trees really?", I might use my phone as an incident meter.

Then again, for years I would meter certain situations trying to memorize them, even if I wasn't actually shooting. (My memory has more holes than Swiss Cheese though)
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Old 08-23-2019   #36
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If I'm shooting B&W, I'll go meterless. If I'm shooting chromes, I use a hand held meter. I've always found B&W film to be pretty forgiving.

Best,
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Which phone app light meter do you recommend?
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Old 08-23-2019   #37
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I shoot slides and it just never occurred to me not to use a meter.

For 135, I use old manual-focus SLRs with center-weighted average metering. I scan the scene to see the range of light values and I decide from those readings how to set the exposure. This has worked very well for me. It is very rare for me to just point the camera at the subject and center the needle.

For medium format, I shoot a TLR on a tripod in a slow, deliberate manner and I use handheld meters (a Minolta spotmeter and two Minolta incident light meters). I mostly use the spotmeter for landscapes, scanning the scene similarly to my method above or taking a highlight reading and hitting the highlight button on the meter, then deciding how to apply these values. Using a meter seems natural to this approach to medium format, so I have no interest in going meterless here.

My Minolta Autocord CdS-III has an outstanding built-in CdS semi-spot/zone meter (not TTL). I have gotten such good results with this onboard meter that I have never used separate meters with this camera.

There is something attractive about shooting a meterless 135-format camera without an auxiliary meter, but I never had such a camera until recently. I now have a Pentax H1a with no meter, to go with two Spotmatics (a II and an F), so I might put some effort into learning to use this camera with eyeballed exposures.

- Murray
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Still shooting film: Medium Format with assorted TLRs; 35mm with manual-focus Minolta SLRs and a Canonet.
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Old 08-25-2019   #38
shawn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
Which phone app light meter do you recommend?
I have two I use.

Pocket Light Meter is good. Set ISO and adjust either shutter or aperture and it will tell you the other setting along with EV at your ISO as well as referenced to ISO100. Will also do WB and you can take a picture with it logging exposure info and notes for later matchup to your film image. It can also be used with a Luxi for all for incidence readings.

The other I use is myLight Meter Pro. This one has two different screens available. One like an older 'calculator' light meter and one with a more modern take. The app lets you set lens presents. The presets will limit the max aperture the meter will open to (based on the lenses max) and it also will show you hyperfocal distance for that lens at the given aperture. This also has a reflected and incidence light metering mode. You need a white diffusion cup for the front facing camera if using the incidence mode. This one will also allow you to take a shot with exposure info on it for later matchup.

Either works well. The first is more of a spot meter, the second defaults to more of a matrix meter but can also be switched to spot metering.

Shawn
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Old 08-25-2019   #39
Pfreddee
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I've used Sunny 16 and her siblings to get some shots, just to keep my hand in, but I reach for my light meter when I am indoors in some kinds of warm light (read incandescent) just to make sure. I've done enough film B/W photos to be pretty good at it, but not cocky.:roll eyes:

With best regards.

Pfreddee(Stephen)
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Old 08-25-2019   #40
webOSUser
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Unless it is bright sun, I use a meter most of the time.



Steve W
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