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Author Topic: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?  (Read 5104 times)

cayenne

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Hello all,

I was watching some great classes last week on Creative Live...special series on lighting.

I saw some great speakers using light meters, and I think I'd like to get one. They all seemed to be using various models of Sekonic, so I started looking at them.

I can't seem to figure out what makes one model more desirable than another and what is setting the price point on each...

I'm guessing they all meter light similarly...you put in a couple of variables, ISO, shutter speed maybe, and wham, you get your settings.

But what else are they doing?

Also, I'm seeing what I'm guessing are older models that are all manual dials...newer ones seem to have touch screens.  At first I like the touch screen, however, I was thinking that actually might be MORE difficult to operate with one hand (camera or flash in other, etc)...I'm constantly fumble fingering my iphone for instance, and that might be a PITA on a meter I'd think. 

Thoughts on this?

I have a canon 5D3, and am starting with a collection of two 600EX-RTs....what would be the best meter for the money? 

I don't mind spending some cash, if I have to wait and save for the best one I need that's cool, I prefer to save and buy the best I can get right off to bat, rather than a cheaper one, then find I want something else..etc.

Are there other comparable brands?

So, if ya'll could help on what matters and what to look for feature-wise in a light meter..I'd certainly appreciate it!!

Also, I'm guessing these would be helpful for video with my 5D3...or is that something special to look for in a meter?

TIA,

cayenne

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Halfrack

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 07:03:16 PM »
Lots of options, but I'd say unless there's something special in one of the other models, the L-358 is the money spot.  Other models can control your lights from the meter (pocketwizards), but really, the L-358 is all 99% of us need.  I'm curious to see what other folks say, as I haven't played with other brands.
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Click

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 07:13:13 PM »
Lots of options, but I'd say unless there's something special in one of the other models, the L-358 is the money spot.  Other models can control your lights from the meter (pocketwizards), but really, the L-358 is all 99% of us need.  I'm curious to see what other folks say, as I haven't played with other brands.

True, but I use the L-478 DR, I love the touchscreen.

docholliday

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 08:04:27 PM »
I use a L-758 as I use the spot on it often when out photographing. In studio, the 3D and flat domes are used for lighting ratio and light level determinations. The 358 is a good meter, but without the spot. Since I also shoot large and medium format film (still!), it's obvious why I use the spot.

The newest generation of the Minolta meters (Auto Meter V) and the Gossen Starlite is also a great meter - used them for quite a while too. Since I have tons of pocketwizards around here, it's the reason I use the Sekonic now. I can test fire in studio without sync cables and outdoors with a bunch of TT5s.

For a basic, beginner level meter, the Sekonic L-328F is great. You can get them used for under $100 - check out KEH. I still have my 328 with spot, flat and dome diffusers. Since I've taken it all over the world, it's my "reference" meter and I check all of my other meters with it.

Cine meters are much more expensive, but the current "standard" meters can also do some of the cine (time) modes. Unless you are doing actual motion picture work (ARRI or Red), you probably don't need a cine meter.

HOWEVER...since you don't mention owning any studio lighting and only have two 600rt's, you probably don't need a meter - just dial the ratios into your flashes and let them do the work. Using and understanding how to read a meter correctly is a lot of work. Properly used, you can do a lot of good, but improperly used, it'll drive you nuts and screw with your technique a lot.

Lots of options, but I'd say unless there's something special in one of the other models, the L-358 is the money spot.  Other models can control your lights from the meter (pocketwizards), but really, the L-358 is all 99% of us need.  I'm curious to see what other folks say, as I haven't played with other brands.

You can add the radio module to the L-358 and get the PW triggering on it...

cayenne

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2013, 10:46:03 AM »
I'm starting to think about the 478D.

I don't have pocket wizards, I've started down the path with the canon radio speedlites.

I am at some point, thinking of getting an alien bee or two to play with too...but will cross that bridge when I get to it.

I'm guessing there's no way to integrate any of the current light meters with the current radio Canon is putting out (wondering why no one has integrated with that yet....)

But I saw on the CL workshops, guys using the light meters and hitting the shots 1st time most of the time with proper exposure, rather than chimping around (as they termed it) with shoot, look at back of camera, shoot, look at back...repeat 2-4 more times.

I was thinking a good light meter would help me get things right more the first time or two I shot the image, which would be a good thing, no?

I saw that the Sekonic 478 also has cine, but also settings/readings for working with HDSLR video footage, which I do shoot a lot....so, I"m starting  to narrow down to the 478D.....

Sure wish there was some way to get it to work natively with Canon's radio. The 478DR can be upgraded via flash updates it appears, I wonder if Sekonic would ever get around to having the radio work with other gear besides just PW?

C

Drizzt321

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2013, 12:42:54 PM »
I'm with docholliday, whatever you get it's really nice to have the ability to spot meter. I picked up an old Gossen Luna Pro with the 16 & 7.5 degree spot, and it's pretty great.

The other alternative, is set your camera to spot meter and use the center circle as the meter and use the AE-Lock to lock the exposure to what you want. If you're in a studio or have strobes setup around, the incident light meter (the white dome) is generally nicer and better than trying to nail it in camera without some trial an error.
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cayenne

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2013, 02:21:16 PM »
I'm with docholliday, whatever you get it's really nice to have the ability to spot meter. I picked up an old Gossen Luna Pro with the 16 & 7.5 degree spot, and it's pretty great.

The other alternative, is set your camera to spot meter and use the center circle as the meter and use the AE-Lock to lock the exposure to what you want. If you're in a studio or have strobes setup around, the incident light meter (the white dome) is generally nicer and better than trying to nail it in camera without some trial an error.

Pardon the noob questions...

First, I'm on manual pretty much 99.999% of the time...trying to learn to use my camera that way. So, with that...there is no AE locking necessary, right?


Secondly, ok, I know how to set spot metering on my camera, but that is for metering reflected light, right?

On a light meter, it is 'incidental' light that it reads....right?  So, you spot meter for incidental light too?

 I'm confused, I thought the point of getting a handheld light meter, was to get a more true metering of the light than you can get off your camera, due to the reflective vs incidental readings...

Or is there more to 'spot metering' than I know about? 

Again, sorry for what is likely a HUGE noob question, but I figure if I don't ask, I don't learn.

Thanx,

C

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2013, 02:21:16 PM »

jonathan7007

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2013, 02:27:11 PM »
Bought a L558 for about $200 on eBay from a photographer who had had to buy it for a photo class and did not want to keep it. This unit has the PW radio module but I wish I could purchase an Odin sender. I bid on several until one auction ended at a reasonable price, and IIRC that took a couple of months.

I had always used the Pentax 1-degree spot for film out on location and the Minolta III for flash measurement on location and in-studio. The L558 combines and expands these capabilities, allowing reflected flash readings even in spot mode. This unit WAY more rugged than the Pentax.

BTW, that Minolta (one of the few items I still had from my earlier stint as an independent commercial photographer) still works and agrees pretty closely with the Sekonic. If the Minolta IV or beyond are as well made that would certainly be an alternate.

Drizzt321

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2013, 02:46:36 PM »
I'm with docholliday, whatever you get it's really nice to have the ability to spot meter. I picked up an old Gossen Luna Pro with the 16 & 7.5 degree spot, and it's pretty great.

The other alternative, is set your camera to spot meter and use the center circle as the meter and use the AE-Lock to lock the exposure to what you want. If you're in a studio or have strobes setup around, the incident light meter (the white dome) is generally nicer and better than trying to nail it in camera without some trial an error.

Pardon the noob questions...

First, I'm on manual pretty much 99.999% of the time...trying to learn to use my camera that way. So, with that...there is no AE locking necessary, right?


Secondly, ok, I know how to set spot metering on my camera, but that is for metering reflected light, right?

On a light meter, it is 'incidental' light that it reads....right?  So, you spot meter for incidental light too?

 I'm confused, I thought the point of getting a handheld light meter, was to get a more true metering of the light than you can get off your camera, due to the reflective vs incidental readings...

Or is there more to 'spot metering' than I know about? 

Again, sorry for what is likely a HUGE noob question, but I figure if I don't ask, I don't learn.

Thanx,

C

Yes, that is correct, your camera reads reflected light. If you are shooting full manual (including manual ISO), then the AE-lock doesn't have any real affect, however you can still see if the camera thinks the spot is over/under exposed.

Lightmeters are often used these days as incident light meters (the white dome, light that is incoming onto the subject), however depending on model they can also be used to read reflected light. This is where the spot comes in. Generally reflectance light meters read about a 30-degree angle, however spot meters read smaller angles to get finer control over which part of the subject you are getting a reflectance reading off of. This can be very helpful for landscape photography where you can't get a good incident light reading off of your subject (or multiple readings), but you want to take multiple readings off of different portions of the subject. For example take a reading of the sky, then the side of a cliff, then further down where the trees start, then down in the valley, then the river down at the bottom of the valley. Each one will have a different reading, and so once you get all of them you can get a good idea of what your overall exposure needs to be. Or you can choose which parts to under/over expose because a certain area is most important to you that you need to get exactly right.
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jonathan7007

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2013, 08:03:03 PM »
Cayenne,
My Sekonic L558 has both incident and reflected capabilities. You choose at the time you take a reading, then take the reading by pushing a button. Within the incident capabilities are a dome (the meter is aware of a half-sphere) or that same dome retracted into its round mount creating a wall (like a snoot - therefore only aware of the light from a particular direction.) This direction specific reading style helps you set ratios when woking with strobe or seeing the ratio already there with ambient light. You are standing where the light is combining but you point the incident receptor (retracted) toward first one light source, read it, then another, read it, and so on. You see the relative contribution of each light source to the "mix" as seen from camera position. In my L558 there is a memory function to help with this but I feel the visual of seeing and remembering each reading is enough to know how I will approach the exposure I set on the camera.

A separate meter really helps if you are going to have the camera on a tripod and want to leave it there while you check the light. This is common. So having a camera-based spot meter is not useful in this situation.

The only downside to my L558 is making sure I have a back-up battery on a shoot, and it's a harder-to-get size, especially where I live.

Sekonic: Make an Odin insert! ...or Odin, you make it! Yes I know I can walk around with the Odin controller/transmitter off the top of the camera and attached to the L558 for that time I do readings but.... once shooting starts I don't want to drag the controller off the body. Too much to go wrong.

cayenne

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2013, 09:10:30 AM »


Yes, that is correct, your camera reads reflected light. If you are shooting full manual (including manual ISO), then the AE-lock doesn't have any real affect, however you can still see if the camera thinks the spot is over/under exposed.

Lightmeters are often used these days as incident light meters (the white dome, light that is incoming onto the subject), however depending on model they can also be used to read reflected light. This is where the spot comes in. Generally reflectance light meters read about a 30-degree angle, however spot meters read smaller angles to get finer control over which part of the subject you are getting a reflectance reading off of. This can be very helpful for landscape photography where you can't get a good incident light reading off of your subject (or multiple readings), but you want to take multiple readings off of different portions of the subject. For example take a reading of the sky, then the side of a cliff, then further down where the trees start, then down in the valley, then the river down at the bottom of the valley. Each one will have a different reading, and so once you get all of them you can get a good idea of what your overall exposure needs to be. Or you can choose which parts to under/over expose because a certain area is most important to you that you need to get exactly right.
[/quote]

Thank you for the info!!

Ok, new term for me...reading the light at an 'angle'.  I'm gonna have to do some research on that.

Well, this gives me a lot of info to consider and more to learn.

Thank you everyone for all the great answers and input!!

Cayenne

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2013, 12:41:57 PM »


Yes, that is correct, your camera reads reflected light. If you are shooting full manual (including manual ISO), then the AE-lock doesn't have any real affect, however you can still see if the camera thinks the spot is over/under exposed.

Lightmeters are often used these days as incident light meters (the white dome, light that is incoming onto the subject), however depending on model they can also be used to read reflected light. This is where the spot comes in. Generally reflectance light meters read about a 30-degree angle, however spot meters read smaller angles to get finer control over which part of the subject you are getting a reflectance reading off of. This can be very helpful for landscape photography where you can't get a good incident light reading off of your subject (or multiple readings), but you want to take multiple readings off of different portions of the subject. For example take a reading of the sky, then the side of a cliff, then further down where the trees start, then down in the valley, then the river down at the bottom of the valley. Each one will have a different reading, and so once you get all of them you can get a good idea of what your overall exposure needs to be. Or you can choose which parts to under/over expose because a certain area is most important to you that you need to get exactly right.

Thank you for the info!!

Ok, new term for me...reading the light at an 'angle'.  I'm gonna have to do some research on that.

Well, this gives me a lot of info to consider and more to learn.

Thank you everyone for all the great answers and input!!

Cayenne
[/quote]

Well, it's just like your camera with a specific lens. It only sees light at X degrees field of view. It's just that instead of a CMOS imaging sensor, a lightmeter has a different kind of sensor (selenium, CdS, silicon photodetector are the the usual ones). In the case of a reflectance meter, it reads the average amount of light across it's entire field of view. A spot-meter is simply one with a smaller field of view, which can be as small as 1-degree. So just like your camera when you have a longer focal length, a spot-meter has a smaller field of view in which to average the amount of light.
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docholliday

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2013, 12:51:12 PM »
The thing about owning a meter is...learning to see light.

The thing about owning a spot meter is...learning to see light precisely.

Most meters (incident) measure an average of light - the amount falling on the subject. If you were shooting a mountain scene and the light falling on you is the same as on the mountain, incident would work fine. If the light wasn't the same, you would have to compensate (if you knew how many stops difference between "your" light and "it's" light.

Spot meters read reflected light - so if the light on the mountain isn't the same, you could still get an accurate reading. The difference is that the spot meter is designed to give you a reading ONLY where you pointed it at. Your camera is reading reflected, but usually has some form of tweaking internally which doesn't always give you a dead on measurement.

HOWEVER - all light meters (including a "neutral" in-camera meter) are programmed to read medium grey (13 or 18%, depending on what camp you come from). If you pointed a reflected (spot) meter at something black, it'll give you the readings to make it medium grey. If you pointed it at a white cloud, it'll give you the readings to make it...medium grey. You eventually learn that pointing it at grass (though it's green), is about dead on medium grey.

The other thing you learn is that certain things are "x" stops off med grey - so, pointing it at dirt will give you a reading. You learn that it's about a stop lighter (or darker) and so you alter your spot meter reading. It sounds hard, but in the end, you begin to "see" light. Hell, I can dial in exposure on my Hasselblad most times using my eyes and I'm pretty damn close. There's a chart in the Hasselblad Manual that shows the equivalent colors to medium gray and how many stops others are off!

The nicest thing about a hand meter is that it allows you to "read the scene" by taking different readings of highlights/shadows/major details and allowing you to determine which way to bias the exposure. A in-camera meter will give you an average. So will an incident (domed), assuming it's the same light falling on the scene as on the meter. That average isn't always best, so you can bias it.

In studio, it allows you to get the lighting +/- .1 stops if you wish. It also allows you to get ratios by pointing the dome at each light.

Instead of spraying-and-praying with the camera to dial in the settings (and even then, it's probably +/- 1 stop), you can use the meter to get your lighting dead accurate for the 1-shot, dead-nuts-on exposure. It's one less thing to worry about.

The 478 is a cool meter, but if you REALLY want to learn lighting (especially if you ever want to learn to do B&W correctly - Zone System), you HAVE to learn to use a spot meter correctly. The touch screen is nice, but a bit gimicky. I like my 758 with spot - I have an additional display inside the spot so I don't have to even take my eye off the scene. I can hold down the button, and sweep my scene, watching how many stops (of dynamic range) is in the scene. That helps pick ND gradients for landscapes. It also helps me dial down/up lighting for studio work.

I also own a Minolta Color Meter - so I can get the color temperature correct up front. If I have some lights that are ~500K off, I can use a gel and get all the lights to match. My CM will tell me what correction I need (not that I haven't already memorized those corrections!).

Finally, I'll shoot a MacBeth in the shot. Then, in LR, I can correct for the color temp using the colorchecker. I can already be sure that all my lighting is even (or not, if I wanted certain lights "x%" off). I can also be sure that my whole scene is within the range of capture (or if blowing out something purposefully, be sure that it's the only thing blow out - or blocked up, if that's what I intend).

With all that said, I don't get why a lot of people "only use the camera in manual  mode". It sometimes makes for extra work that isn't needed. A good hand meter can also teach you the quirks of your in camera meter. And, you should learn to trust/use the in-camera and how it reacts to different environments.

I use my 1Ds3 in Av almost all times (unless I'm in studio w/ strobe lighting, obviously). You eventually learn how the cameras meter reacts, when to dial + or - compensation, when to use averaging/matrix/weighted/spot, and when (really, where) the meter stop being accurate (low light, high light, edge light, etc). If the lighting gets rough, I pull out my hand meter and go to work analyzing the scene. I may end up leaving the cam in Av, but using spot/weighted mode and aiming it at a specific location (determined by the hand spot meter). Or, I may go completely manual then and determine an exposure based on what I spot read from the hand meter.

Spend the extra money on a 558, 608 or 758 - it'll be better than the 458 if you REALLY want to learn light and get dead accurate exposures. I used to strive to shoot *1* polaroid on my Hasselblad/large format to confirm my exposures. I still try to only shoot one "test" frame on my 1's to be sure of the exposure before a "final" - keeps that shutter life down (not that it's really an accurate number anyways!)

I shoot about every subject in the photographic realm. Some days, I shoot portraits. Another may be an architectural day for a client. Right afterwards, I've been known to go shoot myself some neat landscapes. I also do commercial/product shoots. I hate weddings, but have shot too many - so I'll shoot 1-2 per year just to stress myself a bit (not really, they're fairly easy once you get used to it). My hand meter always accompanies me - and has been all around the world on vacation in my back pocket (more so back in the days of vacationing with a Hasselblad). I prefer not to "shoot pictures" - I'd rather "create" them.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2013, 01:02:02 PM by docholliday »

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2013, 12:51:12 PM »

Drizzt321

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2013, 01:17:37 PM »
Thanks docholliday, maybe I'll pick one of those 758's up when I get truly serious about my film photography and can tell myself I don't need any more lenses  ::)
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jonathan7007

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2013, 08:49:43 PM »
The Doc's comments are spot-on (couldn't resist, sorry) and well-described. Especially that last part about getting to know your sensor and its relationship with the in-camera meter. My 1DsMk3 sensor really likes 2/3 stop "overexposure" according to all meters. The 5DMk3 not so much. (Yes, I practice some ETTR, too.)

One last vote for the L558. Keep an eye on eBay and pick a number never bidding above that "just to get this one..." This worked for me. I picked $180-200 and missed - I think - three. They keep on coming!

The L558 has the display inside the viewfinder for use while spot metering. It lacks the USB connection. The 558 does have some cine settings or maybe more exactly: readouts to appeal to cine-people. Really, the 558 will do ya and maybe leave a lens in there somewhere. The Doc's right about the seeing part: tonal relationships.

Good luck and have fun. Your meter will solve some wonderment and always be sellable if it ends up staying in your bag every time you shoot.

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Re: Sekonic Light Meters: Which one to get? Features? Or another brand?
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2013, 08:49:43 PM »