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Author Topic: Which light meter would best suit landscapes?  (Read 10652 times)
b.e.wilson
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« on: October 03, 2003, 08:18:13 AM »
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I use a Sekonic 508.

Lack of sensitivity: At first I thought its lack of sensitivity (not getting a reading when the light is really low) was a drawback, until I found by experience that metering when it's that dark is pointless as the film recipricosity corrections get huge and the light changes a couple stops during those long twighlight exposures. Turns out low-light photography is more art than science. Use the existing-light exposure charts.

Existing light metering: Very nice when I can't find some spot to meter. Typically I can find some zone 5 rock or clump of grass, or some bright zone 6 foliage to meter (I shoot transparencies, by the way, not B&W). But if I can't find something in the scene with a brightness level I trust, I extend the dome and get the incident light reading. It's usually a good exposure, but I often feel a lack of certainty in how the bright objects will appear. However, a spot meter can do exactly the same thing if you have a gray card or a 'calibrated' object you can meter instead (the palm or the back of your hand, for example).

Flash metering: A very nice feature when I do portraits (rarely). It will combine multiple flashes (from different lamps) for an overall exposure. It also indicates relative exposure from each flash.

Reading in viewfinder: This is the one thing I really miss. I'd like to see the EV reading inside the viewfinder of the spotmeter as I move from object to object. This would make it much easier to assess a scene for latitude (the brightness difference between the brightest and the darkest visible objects). For now I can point, click the meter trigger, look at the EV number, and repeat until I have the range. Some use of my own memory required.

There is, however, a memory button you can press to 'save' three readings and have them displayed on the analog exposure scale. I can then turn the wheel on the side (to select the shutter speed or aperture) to see where the three memorized exposures end up. This was a handy feature while I was learning exposure, but I don't need it much anymore.

Incident v. spot: I find in general that the spot meter is far more useful a tool than the incident meter. The sort of decisions I make in the field: how bright do I want that rock to look? or what features in the scene am I willing to let drop into the shadows? are best answered with individual exposure readings. An indicent-light meter would get the overall scene exposed at the zone 5 level, but that leaves the exposure of the interesting things in the shot a little more to chance than I like.

Analog v. digital: I could use an analog meter just as easily as my digital meter. My digital meter automatically lights up when it gets dark, but it's not that big a deal: I go to the charts when it's too dark to read the display unlit.

Lenscaps and watertightness: Very important! My Sekonic meter is beat up bad, all scratched, permanently dusty on the outside, but becaus eit has a good lenscap with a lanyard, the front lens if still pristine, so I don't worry about lens flare or side-lit dust increasing my exposure reading. I shoot int he desert mostly, so I haven't needed a watertight meter, but the water seals also keep dust out of the meter, including the battery compartment. Not that a dust-free battery is important, but I know that when the battery gets dusty, it's time to worry about dust on the sensor.
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jimskayak
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2003, 01:05:15 AM »
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I also have a Sekonic 508. however using Fuji Provia 100, I think I have received bad information by the dealer I bought the film from. I was told to spot for the highlights on slide film as it has a latitude of 3.5 stops. Just got though reading about exposure and gray cards and it seems I should spot for mid range (gray tone). Its frustrating to listen to people who are supoosed to be experts.  Smiley
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2003, 09:31:29 AM »
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Quote
I also have a Sekonic 508. however using Fuji Provia 100, I think I have received bad information by the dealer I bought the film from. I was told to spot for the highlights on slide film as it has a latitude of 3.5 stops. Just got though reading about exposure and gray cards and it seems I should spot for mid range (gray tone).
The only bad info here in my book is "latitude of 3.5 stops". Are you sure he didn't say 2.5 stops?

Provia has a total dynamic range of 5 stops. Half that DR is for brightnesses above the mid point and half below. As soon as you exceed Provia's highlight ceiling of 2.5 stops above the mid point, you've over-exposed the film, lose all density, and get Pure White Light. (Great for your spiritual growth, not so great for impressing your peers.)

If the dynamic range of the scene is less than or equal to the DR of the film you are using, you can meter off the mid tones and no problem. As soon as the DR or the scene exceeds the film's, then you either have to control the highlights or accept the burn outs.
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sergio
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2003, 06:26:36 PM »
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If you plan to buy the Sekonic 508, just be minded that though it is sold as a weather proof instrument, all the lettering comes off in the first sweaty or humid sessions. They DO NOT acknowledge this and they think we photographers clean our gear with industrial thinner.Its not a joke, its what I was told by them when I phoned in and they DID NOT replace nor fix my 2 month old meter.
I had Pentax spotmeters in the past and they are magnificent and very reliable meters. Not as fancy but really heavy duty instruments.
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sjstremb
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2003, 06:01:39 PM »
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I have owned a load of meters over the years, from Luna Pro's (sensitive to being dropped) to Minolta flashmeter IV's, and Sekonic 508. I now use a Sekonic 608 and just got a 558 as a backup meter. I think the 558 is terrific and can highly recommend it, even over the 608. I really worked my 508 and 608, dropped the 608 more times than I care to admitt, and never had a single problem. The 508 made 8 trips to Mardi Gras, working the crazy street scene and has its share of beer and hurricanes splashed on them. The only complaint,  I don't like the Sekonic cases, I ended up getting a Lightware case for use on my belt.

We require our students to buy 358's with the spot attachment, but its a poor solution and we're switching next year to  the 558.
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Jerry Williams
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2003, 10:48:39 PM »
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Hello again,
Besides the light meter in my camera I would like a recommendation on a quality light meter for use in the field. I usually use a ND grad in my scenes and would like a seperate unit to find quick and accurate foreground, background, and average readings and whatever. I like to buy excellent quality as I prefer to pay once and use something of this nature ad infinitum.

Also note I do take occasional family portraits as I'm sure we all do and would like the meter to be efficient in this case as well.

Your comments I'm sure will give me a good choice. Thanks,
Jerry
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Jerry Williams
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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2003, 02:52:50 PM »
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Thanks for your indepth reply Bruce.


 My first needs are to have spot reading of rocks foreground as you put it and find the greatest dynamic range within the rest of my composition (skies in particular) in ev if I could. e.g. I point the meter at the ground and read what I believe to be a proper exposure. I then point to the clouds or range of the skies.
 
Then I would read foreground probably averaged if the meter can do this (and it can as you have explained using incidental reading) but what about multiple spot readings and then choosing an computated average by the meter itself?.

 With that set on the camera I should be well within the balance I need.
What I get with my 1Ds on spot metering using the FEL button (with its I believe 6 lock positions) isn't bad but the constant movement of the camera, and its timed feature seems it would be easier to buy a meter and enjoy setting up my composition rather than getting the correct light reading with the camera.

Will it tell me that the skies are +4 greater than my foreground without calculating?
This would help clearly define the number of stops of grad I would use quickly.

Does it change either speed or  aperture preferances by rolling or moving a button . I don't what's out there but I'm sure that if you have had your meter for long which it sounds like you have they must have adressed all the thing you would want today. The sekonic you describe the latest one I should consider? Does the Minolta have better features?

Last question if you had to get a gift of a light meter would this be your prefered choice?

Sorry for being all over the place as my office traffic has me moving in and out.

Thanks again for the info, anyone else with comments please,
Jerry
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2003, 01:43:12 AM »
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A spot meter used properly is the best tool for the landscape photographer while incident meters can be useful for certain situations where you are closer to your subject.  I just picked up a Sekonic 558 and find this dual-mode meter to be the best of both worlds as well as very versitile and accurate.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2003, 04:58:52 PM »
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For landscape photography, a spot meter wins hands-down in my book. You can evaluate scene contrast, something an incident meter will not do. As for low light use, mine will read reliably down to EV 1.

An incident meter can be useful when you are actively lighting a scene - setting light levels yourself. An incident meter can be quicker to use, too, if all you have time for is one quick reading.

I once dropped my ten-year-companion Pentax Digital Spotmeter twenty feet onto concrete. It didn't even mark the case.

I never leave home without it, even when I'm shooting digital.

Peter
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Terry Gatenby
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« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2003, 12:16:59 PM »
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I too have a Sekonic 508. I`ve used it for about 3 years now, (shooting with Provia 100F almost exclusively) and have been delighted with it so far - though I suspect it tends very slightly towards underexposure.  My own technique is very simple (I`m not a professional by the way!!) - I use it in spot mode most of the time and usually meter for the highlights (you`ve GOT to check difference between highlights and shadows anyway, to be safe) with for the most part great results in my landscapes and even the odd macro, regards Terry G
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Spot
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2003, 01:53:55 PM »
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One old Pentax or Minolta spot meter is all you will ever need. That and some grey matter.

Everything else is BS.

Good luck,
Mark
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