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Old March 29th, 2011, 11:07 PM   #1
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Light Meter Suggestions

OK, I'm finally ready to invest in a light meter. I've been doing some research but would like to get some suggestions and some user input on the various models. The ones I've looked into so far are the Sekonic , Gossen Satrlite 2, and the Spectra Cine. I'm mostly looking for something to help me setup lighting and as well as exposure setting.

Thanks,
Garrett
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Old March 30th, 2011, 01:45 AM   #2
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re: Light Meter Suggestions

You could also check Kenko, they now make the Minolta light meters, which are popular.

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Old March 30th, 2011, 04:08 AM   #3
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re: Light Meter Suggestions

I have lots of old light meters in my collection but the current one that I use is the Sekonic 308 as it covers everything and is very simple to use, they also do a cinema/video version:
Sekonic L-308DC DigiCineMate 401-310 B&H Photo Video

For video/film lighting I mainly use mine (the basic 308) in EV mode so I can just get a quick reading of how each light source compares, I never use it for exposure as the camera has a far more accurate way of doing that.
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Old March 30th, 2011, 10:11 AM   #4
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re: Light Meter Suggestions

Light meters are really only useful these days for pre-lighting a set to a given level or matching purposes (if you need to recreate a specific setup). As Gary notes, the cameras will give you more information on exposure, and a properly calibrated monitor or scopes will be ultimately more effective.

Setting lights to given ratios is a more mechanical way to light. Different faces and skin tones will be more or less reactive, so lighting to strict 2:1 or 3:1 ratio as measured by a meter is less effective than setting your key and filling to eye/monitor.

In the film days, they were a requisite. However, with digital cameras, the sensitivity curve is different enough that meters don't read accurately for exposure, especially in low light.

In all honesty, a good percentage of people using light meters for shooting digitally are doing so as an affectation (in the same way that people like to use matte boxes because it makes their camera more impressive looking, even though they don't own filters). Suffice to say that you will rarely see them on legitimate sets any more. I use mine once every few months for the reasons listed above. Yesterday we were pre-lighting a set and I brought us to an approximate level; today when we bring in the cameras, I will be adjusting the lighting based on the monitors.
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Old March 30th, 2011, 10:53 AM   #5
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Re: Light Meter Suggestions

I rarely use my light meter for video shooting but it is useful to test lights and see the levels of different bubbles. I recently changed some of my redheads to 250w bubbles and it was useful to get a quick off camera measure of how less they were performing to the 800w ones.

I agree with Charles that they have limited use for everyday lighting but I also find them useful for training people to get used to the effects of filters and different types of light sources.

I mostly use my 308 for stills flash photography where manual setting of the camera is more prevalent.
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Old March 30th, 2011, 11:09 AM   #6
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Re: Light Meterr Suggestions

Thanks Brian, Gary, and Charles,

The issue I'm having is that I'm being asked more and more to shoot with DLSR's and they just don't have the tools necessary for me to set my exposure easily. I generally use my zebras and histogram when using my EX3 and have gotten great results but unfortunately the DSLR's don't have those. Sounds like a quality monitor might be the way to go. This last weekend I shot a scene where we had a proper Panasonic monitor on set and it was really helpful. Unfortunately for a lot of the low budget shoots I do that is somewhat of a luxury.

Thanks again for the info,
Garrett
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Old March 30th, 2011, 12:08 PM   #7
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Re: Light Meter Suggestions

Don't know which DSLR's you are using; on some of the Canons (maybe all, I don't use all of them) you can take a test still and bring up a histogram. Generally I've learned how to interpret the camera's meter (info button and half-depress the shutter) well enough to get proper exposure.
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Old March 30th, 2011, 05:38 PM   #8
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Re: Light Meter Suggestions

If you're just looking to measure reflected light and have an iPhone why don't you try this?

Pocket Light Meter on the iTunes App Store

I have it on my iPhone, and it works rather well although I only really use it for fun. Don't know if it helps at all but I thought I'd throw it out there.
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Old April 3rd, 2011, 01:15 PM   #9
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Re: Light Meter Suggestions

For getting exposure in the ballpark, I use a Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe II meter, a truly old-school device that uses a photovoltaic cell and NO batteries. Obviously, this is only useful where you have a relatively great deal of light, i.e. either outdoors or in a studio or well-lit location.

For low-light work, I use the meter in the 5DMk2 to determine exposure, setting the metering mode for the application (averaging or spot). I know I really should spring for a better incident light meter for indoor work, but having come from a film SLR background, I have no issues visualizing how a scene will look using the thru-lens metering system.

For extremely critical work, where I need to adjust lighting levels to fine tolerances, I use my Pentax Spotmeter V -- another hold-over from my film days. It's strictly a reflective meter, and you have to know how to interpret the results when you meter various locations in a scene, and THEN bend them to fit a digital image, but it is VERY precise. With it, you can adjust lighting and exposure so you can still get details in the shadows without blowing away the highlights. It helps if you know the Zone System for photography.

The Spotmeter V also comes in handy for checking the even-ness of illumination for chromakey backgrounds.

And, as has been pointed out before, you can always shoot a still on the DSLR and pretty much know exactly how it will work out.

Martin
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