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View Poll Results: Light meter - to use or not to use?
Always use light meter 283 32.09%
Never use light meter 43 4.88%
Generally don't bother 118 13.38%
Generally use one if I can 438 49.66%
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Light meter - yes or no?
Old 01-24-2009   #1
SimonK
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Light meter - yes or no?

I came to FSU cameras after 30 years of Japanese SLR use - all, of course, with built in very accurate light meter. So naturally I mess about with my Leningrad 4 for 2 or 3 minutes before every shot.

But, my dad used a Kodak Box Brownie with a choice of sunny, partially cloudy or cloudy and all our holiday snaps (early sixties) are perfectly exposed.

So, I was wondering, what do you all do - use a light meter or guess it using experience/judgement?
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Old 01-24-2009   #2
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With print film, there is so much latitude, that any one can get a decent picture without a meter by using Sunny 16. I generally use the camera's meter since most of my cameras have one, but if I am using a camera that doesn't, I don't usually carry a meter.
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Old 01-24-2009   #3
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I took a lot of photos as a young kid with Brownies. I am sure film latitude save most of those photos that came out. Later I took many photos with the information in the film box. They usually came out as well. But I prefer a light meter.
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Old 01-24-2009   #4
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I use a meter to get the best exposure I can get, especially with slides. One of my "problems" is that one of the first books I ever read on photog was Ansel Adam's, The Negative, where he is adamant about getting exposure accurate as possible.

Often, I'll set the settings and only afterward check the meter to see how close I am. Kind of a learning device.

I have a Nikon F6 as well, and it has incredible metering capability. No sunny nothing needed here. I call it my lazy camera.
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Old 01-24-2009   #5
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simon, most of the time i use one to confirm my guess, correct my settings if necessary, and then adjust as needed +/- a stop or two as light changes. indoors i take a few more readings to get an idea of the range of light in the various spaces, then make running adjustments.
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Old 01-24-2009   #6
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Except for chromes, I use sunny 16. For slides I use a small Sekonic and add a 1/2 stop.

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Old 01-24-2009   #7
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I dont use a light meter because they are inaccurate or don´t work with my cameras. Nearly all results have been fine (with contax IIIa, Kiev 4 and Fed 3) but I need a little more time to work out the settings based on sunny 16. But in the long run it will help my photography (I am a beginner)
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Old 01-24-2009   #8
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I try to use one when I can
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Old 01-24-2009   #9
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Not using a light meter is macho, but it's rather like playing football without a jock strap. I think I consistently get better exposures with intelligent use of my Sekonic meter than by the Sunny 16 method, but I may be wrong.

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Old 01-24-2009   #10
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I always use a light meter (usually in incident mode). I've tried guesstimating based on sunny 16 but I've never been satisfied with the results.
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Old 01-24-2009   #11
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Having used an SLR for years, I got used to the built-in light meter. Now I sue the Ms more and do B+W, so I am trying to learn to estimate the exposure.
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Old 01-24-2009   #12
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I meant "use", of course. I don't "sue" anyone
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Old 01-24-2009   #13
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I learned with out a meter many years ago. Now I generally prefer to use one. For my FSU cameras, I have a Sverdlovsk 4 that works well. I don't necessarily meter every frame, though.
Sunny 16 worked very well for me until I got my current eye glasses--my eye doctor suggested Transitions lenses rather than separate sunglasses. I'm still occasionally fooled by how things look through the darkened lenses of my glasses.
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Old 01-24-2009   #14
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I have more trouble with focus issues because of my glasses (eyes) than exposure....do they have focus meters? Ah the joys of maturity.

Ray

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbiemer View Post
I learned with out a meter many years ago. Now I generally prefer to use one. For my FSU cameras, I have a Sverdlovsk 4 that works well. I don't necessarily meter every frame, though.
Sunny 16 worked very well for me until I got my current eye glasses--my eye doctor suggested Transitions lenses rather than separate sunglasses. I'm still occasionally fooled by how things look through the darkened lenses of my glasses.
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Old 01-24-2009   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray*j*gun View Post
I have more trouble with focus issues because of my glasses (eyes) than exposure....do they have focus meters? Ah the joys of maturity.
Ray
Mine are also progressive bifocal lenses, trying to look through the VF using the part of the lens that is neither the distance nor the reading part of the lens was a definite learning curve!
Rob
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Old 01-24-2009   #16
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I usually carry a Weston meter, but before I use it I always estimate the exposure and compare my estimate with the meter reading. Now, if I don't have a meter I can make a reliable estimate in a wide range of conditions.
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Old 01-24-2009   #17
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I tend to shoot in lighting that is too dim for most meters. So I often don't use a meter. I figure exposure by experience and common sense. So when shooting during the day, sunny 16 seems liberating.

I have cameras with built-in meters, and I use the meter more often then not when carrying those bodies. But I always find that while the camera-metered scenes are all "perfectly exposed," they are all the same exposure. There is no variation in exposure to highlight the subject or change the mood. When I let the meter set the exposure, I am giving up control over that aspect of the shot.

If I want more control over my shots, I forgo the meter. I'm not perfect, so I occasionally blow the shot with poor exposure. Big deal. No different than taking a perfectly exposed shot that is boring or blurred or whatever.
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Old 01-24-2009   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 40oz View Post
I tend to shoot in lighting that is too dim for most meters. So I often don't use a meter. I figure exposure by experience and common sense. So when shooting during the day, sunny 16 seems liberating.

I have cameras with built-in meters, and I use the meter more often then not when carrying those bodies. But I always find that while the camera-metered scenes are all "perfectly exposed," they are all the same exposure. There is no variation in exposure to highlight the subject or change the mood. When I let the meter set the exposure, I am giving up control over that aspect of the shot.

If I want more control over my shots, I forgo the meter. I'm not perfect, so I occasionally blow the shot with poor exposure. Big deal. No different than taking a perfectly exposed shot that is boring or blurred or whatever.
You have some good points here, and it should be kept in mind that there is no such thing as the perfect exposure for a given subject, it all depends on the effect you want,- so many variables!. Personally I have never paid much heed to 'sunny sixteen', I think it tends to indicate ( to beginners? ) that f16 is an aperture to be used a lot - when it is not!. For the best results, use f16 or smaller only when absolutely neccessary!, as by this setting the performance
of most lenses for 35mm is way off the peak!.
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Old 01-24-2009   #19
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I can pretty much wing it in well lit situations, especially with B&W film's wide latitudes. But in extremely low light, I sometimes use a Gossen Luna Pro S, which IMHO, is the greatest light meter in low light situations.
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Old 01-24-2009   #20
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Old 01-24-2009   #21
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What would Lenin and Marx do?
Write a song and tell an off color joke?
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Old 01-24-2009   #22
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I carry a hand held meter just in case but most times use sunny 16
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Old 01-25-2009   #23
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i got an old Leningrad-4 meter to match my FSU cameras, and I've had good luck using it. But with my smaller rangefinders (my Kiev 4 AM and my Fed 2) one of the things I love about them is I can snap a quick photo, which works best without having to check with a meter. Using sunny-16 and making common-sense adustments I can get some photos that if I had taken time to use a meter I would have lost.

Being able to guess can pay off. I was in San Diego one time with my Fed-2 and didn't realize I was going to get to go down into a Soviet submarine. Kodak Gold 100 was hardly a good film to have loaded in this situation but I was able to get some OK photos, and it felt good using an FSU camera on an FSU sub!
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Old 01-25-2009   #24
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I often try and guess at exposure before taking a meter reading. That always reinforces the knowledge that I'm hopeless at guessing it! I could probably make a near-enough guess to get something on film but I tend to think I may as well get the best I can rather than what I can make do with. Why lose the highlights I wanted, or the shadows etc? If I think I'll want to "snap" quickly, I'll probably take a reading, set accordingly and focus to hyperfocal distance in advance...
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Old 01-25-2009   #25
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I have a old Weston V and a Minolta Auto IV incident meter. I use the meter for a couple of rangefinders that have broken meters. My problem has been the reflective meter and the incident meter are about a stop different when aimed in the directions of trees or bushes or grass in open sunshine. Is this normal?

Thanks
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Old 01-25-2009   #26
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If I´d like to use meters, I´d probably like auto systems, and I´d probably like digital slrs...

For me full manual is half the fsu joy
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Old 01-25-2009   #27
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When I have one, I use one. When I choose a caamera, often look if there is a lightmeter, so in my mind it makes shooting easier.
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Old 01-25-2009   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock View Post
Do you bother to focus, set aperture, set shutter speed? If so, why? You're using a system of measurement. A meter is just that.

That kind of reasoning is just nonsensical.
Never pretended to be sensical
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Old 01-25-2009   #29
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It's been my experience that, if you use an incident light meter, after several hundred rolls of film, you can build a good body of knowledge to know how light behaves in most given situaitons without metering. I carry a meter sometimes, and use it to confirm especially difficult or unusual situations.

There's a big difference between estimating and guessing.

My point is that we often get "close" with focusing -- how often have you set a lens on hyperfocal settings and eyeballed the distance, guessing it to be about 2 meters or 6.5 feet based on your long experience? I do that all the time, especially with a 28mm lens ... it has very wide focus latitude, so I just have to get roughly in the range. It's not all that different in estimating exposure with fast color negative film.

Another example: We shoot rangefinder cameras. We have made the conscious decision, for many various reasons, not to use "through the lens" viewing. However, most of us are in the position of estimating depth of field, which is one of the critical aspects of photography. The whole rangefinder experience is really about estimating focus based on visual triangulation. Many of us like to use fast lenses, which in turn have limited depth of field. As we compose our photographs, I suppose many of us are just hoping for the best when if comes to "bokeh" and out-of-focus effects in our images. But I'm not alone in seeking to previsualize the final image. I'm mentally balancing light and dark, various colors, and which elements are in and out of focus and by how much. I have a good sense of how the different lenses and focal lengths handle their out-of-focus characteristics. So when I'm focusing on someone's eyes, I'm also estimating, based on my aperture setting, how the background and foreground will turn out. I'm estimating depth of field based on experience, just as I'm estimating exposure. Yes, there are depth of field markings on the lenses. Many of these markings, on my lenses, date to the 1950s, when film very simply had less resolution than today. The markings also don't give you any hint of how the out-of-focus areas will appear on the negative ... that's where your judgment comes into play. Rangefinder cameras taught me to previsualize an "arc of sharpness" for a given f-stop ... with a width of less than 1/2 an inch for a long, fast lens. Yes, a good SLR has a "depth of field preview" button or lever. But after long experience, you get to where you know what it will show even on an RF camera.

It's similar with setting shutter speeds. When we learned photography, we learned some rules of thumb about setting the shutter speed to approximately the lens focal length. But as skills and experience add up, we get more comfortable with the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and depth of focus and exposure. Without the need for scientific instruments, you get a good idea of how much action the different shutter speeds will freeze. 1/1000 not quite the fastest sports plays, whereas 1/125 will halt most people walking in mid-stride.

Accurately estimating exposure is just another part of mastering the craft. Sure, these days nobody needs to really. But I still find myself cursing automatic cameras and quickly throwing them into manual override because their sophisticated electronics are unable to compensate for commonsense exposures like skating rinks and bands of sunlight through a slated shade.
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Old 01-25-2009   #30
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It's good to know some things are reliable in these changeable times.

I keep taking photographs without an exposure meter, and bmattock keeps insisting that it's just horribly wrong.
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Old 01-25-2009   #31
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Meterless shooting is fun. That's why I do it. Seldom an exposure issue.

I went through a "bracketing" phase (using a meter) for a while, and couldn't really see a difference in the photos, frame-by-frame. Complete waste of film.

Beside the moral issue of not metering, most outdoor shots fall into a few exposure categories anyway. Sunny, in the shade, overcast.
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Old 01-25-2009   #32
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Quote:
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I just have to ask about this. My Sekonic meter (I had to dig out the manual) and the other modern meters I could find on the web just looking around quickly, seem to have a low-end range of -2, -1, or 1 EV. That's pretty dark, darker even than the light of the full moon. So what are you shooting, the mating rituals of lycanthropes?

EV -2 on ISO 100 film would be something like a 30 second exposure at f/1.4, which I certainly wouldn't be doing hand-held, and would be quickly getting into the reciprocity breakdown area of most film anyway.

So what is it you shoot that can't be metered?

My Sekonic has a backlight too, you know. No idea why I'd be using it most of the time, but it's there. So I can even meter when it is too dark for ME to see anything without help.
Bars and clubs when out with friends or when a friend's band is playing. Your meter might be fine in that light, but mine aren't.

I can't tell you definitively what the light level is, but one place I frequent turns out best at around 1/60 at f/1.5 pushing Tri-X to 6400. It's dark. Most other places aren't so dark unless there is a band on stage, but the situation comes up enough that I don't really find a meter all that useful. I simply look at the negatives and adjust exposure next time. And I need to buy some faster film
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Old 01-25-2009   #33
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I think most amateurs are too shy to take out their meter on the street and take a reading. I say that because I was like at as well.
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Old 01-25-2009   #34
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I was out shooting my Retina IIa and using my Sekonic Twinmate II meter today... and ended up trying to resolve the differences between incident and reflective readings... and ended up just throwing my hands in the air and muttering, "screw it! Sunny-16!"



From experience I know they will come out... too much latitude in BW400CN to screw up too badly.

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The Minolta Auto IV is like my Sekonic L-358 - capable of both reflected and incident light readings, depending on the attachment you have on it. Do you have the white dome on it? That's the incident reading bit. You don't point that at subjects, you stand where the subjects are and point it at your light source.

On the other hand, if you're using it as a reflected light meter with the proper attachment on it, then by rights, both should meter the same.

However, my own experience tells me that differences are common. One reason may be the incidence angle - how broad an area they are measuring, and another might be any internal averaging being done (more likely by the Minolta).

I tend to use the 1 degree spot attachment for my L-358 when I want to be precise. Otherwise, it can be hard to know for sure what the proper exposure is.
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Old 01-26-2009   #35
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So what is so hard? Incident reading... put the meter in the light of the subject facing the camera, or in light the same as the subject and read the meter. Sounds pretty easy to me.
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Old 01-26-2009   #36
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Yeah, mine is fine with that.





Exposure: 0.022 sec (1/45)
Aperture: f/1.7
ISO Speed: 3200

I will say that if you do 'most of your photography' in those bars and clubs, and you know what the lighting situation is, I'm sure you can get away without a meter once you've determined what the correct exposure is. I played around with my meter, set manual, and then just left it.



Yeah, that's dark. I've got a set I shot at that light level, bluegrass show at 1/15 and 1/30 @ f/1.4 pushing Tri-X to 3200, but that was all in for my film. The meter was fine, though. Seriously, it was accurate out past where I could actually take a photo anymore.



Seems to me a good quality meter with a backlight would save you having to waste a roll of film to get the exposure right, but whatever works for you.

I just had a little trouble with the assertion that "most meters won't work in the darkness I live in." Yeah, most will. Modern ones, anyway. If your light is consistant and you go to the same club night after night, then yeah, you don't need a meter anymore.

Weird, living in the dark like that, but hey, whatever floats yer boat!
This time of year, the sun doesn't rise until I get to work, and it's down before I get home. I either live in the dark or I don't live at all

FWIW, I don't understand what is so hard about figuring exposure without a meter. It's not that big a deal. Expecially not when you process your own films and can see your errors.
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Old 01-26-2009   #37
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Old 01-26-2009   #38
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Well thing is for every pasta al dente you (figurative) have dozens or hundreds of steak, fries or omelette. You also sure would be able to contrive something less sophisticated or at least edible for a meal if you caught in a household without a timepiece.

I'm not sure folks here advocated that meter should never be used at all. Just that it in many cases it can be substituted by experience.
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Old 01-26-2009   #39
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I use a meter sometimes, but then i measure the temperature of the chemicals by dipping my fingers in them to make up for it.
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Old 01-26-2009   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Jenkinson View Post
I thought you were supposed to use your elbow?

Do'no I'll start a poll, I did dip the kids in id11 to aid their development
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Regards Stewart

Stewart McBride

RIP 2015



You’re only young once, but one can always be immature.

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