Recommend me an affordable light meter.

Started Jun 26, 2013 | Discussions
photogizmo
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Recommend me an affordable light meter.
Jun 26, 2013

I am not familiar with the quality of light meters so I was wondering whether anyone can advise on affordable accurate light meters.

Sekonic is a little pricey for their 308s so are there other alternatives of similar quality??

What are the pros and cons between a digital and analogue light meter?

Also does a person really need a light meter these days now that we have Digital technology?

Are there other methods that can replace what a light meter does in outdoor, indoor and flash photography situations.

Thanks

GHwell
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Re: sekonic newest one is $233
In reply to photogizmo, Jun 26, 2013

I got a cheaper one and It was a waste of money.  For another $40 I would have had a better one.  Cheaper is a total waste of money in light meters.

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hirejn
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jun 26, 2013

I am not familiar with the quality of light meters so I was wondering whether anyone can advise on affordable accurate light meters.

Sekonic is a little pricey for their 308s so are there other alternatives of similar quality??

What are the pros and cons between a digital and analogue light meter?

Also does a person really need a light meter these days now that we have Digital technology?

Are there other methods that can replace what a light meter does in outdoor, indoor and flash photography situations.

Thanks

For pros there is essentially no other choice but Sekonic. It's the one we rely on. Shop used if you're concerned that the investment will hurt you.

There is no need for an analog meter. It's nice for novelty value but digital is the one pros use.

The need for a light meter is somewhat subjective. Some pros use them religiously, while others never use them. However, when you want to be exact, there is no better tool than a hand-held light meter. Understand the difference between your camera's meter (reflective) and the hand-held (incident).

No tool does what an incident meter does so you can't technically replace what it does with something that doesn't do the same thing. But there are other methods to metering and photography. If you master exposure and understand flash, you can even use manual flash without one. It may take you a few tries to get the exact exposure, but you can start with educated guesses. Again, this doesn't replace a light meter since it's not doing the same thing. It's just a way to work without one.

A light meter can do more than measure light. It can calculate stop differences, calibrate your camera, control power on flashes, compensate for filters, and enable you to quickly scroll through different exposure options for the same result. There's probably even more the Sekonics can do but I use only the basic functions.

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bills_pix
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jun 26, 2013

The standard at the local college is the Sekonic L-358.  If you qualify, Sekonic offers education pricing of $240 just google    MAC on Campus

This time of year a lot of students are selling meters they "had" to buy for school but never used.  I posted I was looking for an excellent condition L-358 for $150.  2 students contacted me and I bought one in like new condition.

To answer your other question, a lot of models tell me no-one uses a light meter but if you want to do ratios it can't be beat.  Looks a bit more professional than shooting and checking the LCD 10 times for trial and error.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jun 26, 2013

photogizmo wrote:

I am not familiar with the quality of light meters so I was wondering whether anyone can advise on affordable accurate light meters.

Sekonic is a little pricey for their 308s so are there other alternatives of similar quality??

In my opinion the L-308 lacks some of the capabilities I want in a meter.

Different cameras have different real world sensitivities and different lenses can change the sensitivity too. My recommendation is that you get one that can be recalibrated so that you make the meter reading match the actual sensitivity of your camera and lens combinations.

These meters can be used in either shutter priority, generally for flash, or aperture priority, for available light. These meters can also readout the % of flash vs ambient light which is great for using off-camera fill flash outdoors.

The bottom of the line meters I recommend are the Gossen DigiPro F and the Sekonic L-358. The new L-478 is a bit more expensive but it does have some additional capabilities, especially if you use some of the Pocket Wizard RF triggers.

Unless you are invested in Pocket Wizard RF triggers you can save money by getting the L-358 without the PW RF trigger module.  Used flash meters are a good deal but you should get one that can be recalibrated because they can drift slightly over the years.

What are the pros and cons between a digital and analogue light meter?

Digital is hands down is easier to read - an absolute 0.1 stop readout vs a guessed 0.2 stops.

For flash a 0.1 stop readout will let you adjust the power of your hot-shoe flash or studio strobe to the exact power needed to give you the perfect exposure for the aperture chosen.

With ambient light you have two choices. You can mentally convert the display from something like 5.6 8 to approximately 5.6+2/3 stop or f/7.1. You can also change the meter so that it reads out to the nearest 1/3 stop to match the aperture and shutter speed values of your camera.

Also does a person really need a light meter these days now that we have Digital technology?

Sekonic - Why You Need a Light Meter for Photography - YouTube

Are there other methods that can replace what a light meter does in outdoor, indoor and flash photography situations.

Yes. You can use things like white cards for the Expose To The Right technique and lots of test shots. Here is how to make ETTR easier by using the camera's Highlight Alert.

Sailorblue - Digital Photography Review - HA-ETTR: An Easier Way To Expose To The Right Using The Camera's Highlight Alert

The white card described in the notes is what I call the poor man's incident meter and it can be used outdoors or with flash to get the right exposure. The trade off is $3 for a white card and lots of wasted time finding the right exposure vs the money for a good flash meter and getting the exposure the first shot.  When I have a model in front of my camera I don't want to waste my time or theirs so I use my L-358.

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historianx
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to Sailor Blue, Jun 26, 2013

What ^ said.  Sekonic L-358 is my go-to meter.

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henryp
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 1, 2013

Sekonic makes a wide range of excellent meters and the advice others have posted here is very good. That said, the KenkoKFM-1100 Auto Digi Meter is a clone of Minolta's meter. When Minolta was in the camera business their meters were almost ubiquitous. They left the industry but this meter is still excellent. Shepherd/Polaris makes a couple of very good meters. The Gossen DigiPro F2 - Flash and Ambient Light Meter is also very good.

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Barrie Davis
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Accuracy of settings
In reply to Sailor Blue, Jul 2, 2013

Sailor Blue wrote:

photogizmo wrote:

I am not familiar with the quality of light meters so I was wondering whether anyone can advise on affordable accurate light meters.

Sekonic is a little pricey for their 308s so are there other alternatives of similar quality??

In my opinion the L-308 lacks some of the capabilities I want in a meter.

Different cameras have different real world sensitivities and different lenses can change the sensitivity too. My recommendation is that you get one that can be recalibrated so that you make the meter reading match the actual sensitivity of your camera and lens combinations.

These meters can be used in either shutter priority, generally for flash, or aperture priority, for available light. These meters can also readout the % of flash vs ambient light which is great for using off-camera fill flash outdoors.

The bottom of the line meters I recommend are the Gossen DigiPro F and the Sekonic L-358. The new L-478 is a bit more expensive but it does have some additional capabilities, especially if you use some of the Pocket Wizard RF triggers.

Unless you are invested in Pocket Wizard RF triggers you can save money by getting the L-358 without the PW RF trigger module.  Used flash meters are a good deal but you should get one that can be recalibrated because they can drift slightly over the years.

What are the pros and cons between a digital and analogue light meter?

Digital is hands down is easier to read - an absolute 0.1 stop readout vs a guessed 0.2 stops.

Unfortunately, this "accuracy" cannot be transferred to the camera. When in manual mode, which must be used with the meter, the maximum degree of discrimination between aperture settings is 1/3 stop (0.33).

Moreover......

Speedlights I have encountered cannot be set any finer than 1/3 stop either, except by moving the light nearer/further by very small degrees, which is an irksome procedure and appears extremely amateurish while being carried out in front of clients.

While we are at it.....

In Manual mode the shutter speed setting of the camera is also restricted to 1/3 stop increments. Auto settings, on the other hand, have continuously variable shutter speeds (A mode)and are therefore potentially capable of more accurately set exposure than is Manual mode.

This is one of the reasons, among others, that I rarely use Manual mode exposure setting on my camera, except when using studio type flash.

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A.J. Grossman III
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to henryp, Jul 2, 2013

Many pros used and likely still use the Minolta Flash Meter IV.  It still gives me everything that I need.  You can probably get one for $100 or less.  Depending on your budget, that may or may not be "affordable."

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henryp
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 2, 2013

Bringing the conversation back to the OP:

Sekonic is a little pricey for their 308s so are there other alternatives of similar quality??

There are. My earlier post mentions several.

What are the pros and cons between a digital and analogue light meter?

Ease of use. Like roll-down vs power windows. IMO digital readouts are easier to read. Most digital meters can be set to show 1/3 or 1/10th f-stops

Also does a person really need a light meter these days now that we have Digital technology?

IMO, Yes. You can use the camera's histogram to read exposure, if you know how, but I think learning to use a meter is easier than learning to use histograms to correct exposure. A meter will let you balance areas receiving different amounts of light. If you use flash indoors a good flash meter makes studio setup much simpler.You can also use your meter to set main vs fill ratios for portraiture

If you use flash and available light a good meter lets you set ratios so one doe snot overwhelm the other.

There is no such thing as an accurate meter BTW. What you want is a reliable meter. A meter should give the same reading in the same setting over and over and if the light falls by half a good meter should show a change of one f/stop. Placing three meters side-by-side will not necessarily show the exact same reading but each meter should be able to show the same results time after time.

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Graham Snook
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to henryp, Jul 2, 2013

What price do you put on a correct exposure?

Seconic 358 is my choice after going through a couple of 308s over the years
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Sailor Blue
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Re: Accuracy of settings
In reply to Barrie Davis, Jul 3, 2013

Barrie Davis wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

Digital is hands down is easier to read - an absolute 0.1 stop readout vs a guessed 0.2 stops.

Unfortunately, this "accuracy" cannot be transferred to the camera. When in manual mode, which must be used with the meter, the maximum degree of discrimination between aperture settings is 1/3 stop (0.33).

It is true that cameras can only be set to 1/3 stop exposure increments. When shooting ambient I usually set my L-358 to read out in 1/3 stop increments for this very reason. If I forget I don't worry since after 50 years as an amateur photographer and a professional chemist I'm pretty fast at interpolating a meter reading of 5.6 8 as being closer to f/7.1 than f/6.3 or f/8.

Moreover......

Speedlights I have encountered cannot be set any finer than 1/3 stop either, except by moving the light nearer/further by very small degrees, which is an irksome procedure and appears extremely amateurish while being carried out in front of clients.

With studio strobes I use the meter in 1/10 stop mode and adjust the studio strobe power to 1/10th stop.

My Nissin Di855 has three clicks of power adjustment between each 1/3 stop. In effect it adjusts in 1/9th stop. I believe Canon flashes are the same but I have no idea about Nikon or other brands.

While we are at it.....

In Manual mode the shutter speed setting of the camera is also restricted to 1/3 stop increments. Auto settings, on the other hand, have continuously variable shutter speeds (A mode)and are therefore potentially capable of more accurately set exposure than is Manual mode.

This is interesting. My understanding was that aperture, shutter speed and ISO were adjusted in 1/3 stops when in Auto mode, just like in Manual mode. Can you please provide some reference to the shutter speed being adjusted in finer increments when in auto mode.

The shutter releases are electrically activated so other than mechanical limits I don't see any reason why the shutter shouldn't be able to adjusted to finer increments than 1/3 stop. The aperture is adjusted by a motor so there is no physical reason why it shouldn't be adjustable in 1/10th stops either.  Of course higher quality mechanical and sensor elements might be needed than are currently in either the camera bodies or lenses so there might be an increased cost.

For most images an accuracy of ±0.15 stop is much more accurate than the built-in metering or chimping, which is what most photographers use.  For most photographers 1/3 stop increments is fine so there just isn't enough reason for the manufactures to give us those capabilities but I for one would welcome 1/10th stop exposure adjustments as an option.

This is one of the reasons, among others, that I rarely use Manual mode exposure setting on my camera, except when using studio type flash.

I'm an old hand so I prefer using both the camera and flash in Manual mode but in the right circumstances I have been known to use aperture priority, E-TTL, and on a very few rare occasions even the P mode of my 7D.

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Suntan
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 8, 2013

Does a person need one? No. No you don't. In fact, if you are usually shooting in conditions that are similar (a home made studio or some such) you can be just as fast without one.

They can help speed up the pace if you are making significant changes every couple of shots though.

Have a look on Ebay for some of the notable models. Light meters are always being sold on Ebay... ...because people eventually learn that they are not that important anymore. I got a Minolta IV-F from Ebay for right around $100 a while ago. It gets used every once in a great while.

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Accuracy of settings
In reply to Sailor Blue, Jul 9, 2013

Sailor Blue wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

Digital is hands down is easier to read - an absolute 0.1 stop readout vs a guessed 0.2 stops.

Unfortunately, this "accuracy" cannot be transferred to the camera. When in manual mode, which must be used with the meter, the maximum degree of discrimination between aperture settings is 1/3 stop (0.33).

It is true that cameras can only be set to 1/3 stop exposure increments. When shooting ambient I usually set my L-358 to read out in 1/3 stop increments for this very reason. If I forget I don't worry since after 50 years as an amateur photographer and a professional chemist I'm pretty fast at interpolating a meter reading of 5.6 8 as being closer to f/7.1 than f/6.3 or f/8.

Moreover......

Speedlights I have encountered cannot be set any finer than 1/3 stop either, except by moving the light nearer/further by very small degrees, which is an irksome procedure and appears extremely amateurish while being carried out in front of clients.

With studio strobes I use the meter in 1/10 stop mode and adjust the studio strobe power to 1/10th stop.

My Nissin Di855 has three clicks of power adjustment between each 1/3 stop. In effect it adjusts in 1/9th stop. I believe Canon flashes are the same but I have no idea about Nikon or other brands.

While we are at it.....

In Manual mode the shutter speed setting of the camera is also restricted to 1/3 stop increments. Auto settings, on the other hand, have continuously variable shutter speeds (A mode)and are therefore potentially capable of more accurately set exposure than is Manual mode.

This is interesting. My understanding was that aperture, shutter speed and ISO were adjusted in 1/3 stops when in Auto mode, just like in Manual mode. Can you please provide some reference to the shutter speed being adjusted in finer increments when in auto mode.

If you take a look at the EXIF when shooting in "A" mode it often says something like 728/1000, which presumably means 728 milliseconds... which is to say, not quite 750 milliseconds [not quite 3/4 sec].

Timing is, after all, done by a chip. This is not to say the shutter actually manages to deliver the nominal accuracy, but presumably it does its mechanical best.

Or are you saying you have not yet seen that kind of fine descrimination of shutter speed?

Perhaps it depends on the actual software extracting EXIF?

(Sorry, my Matelot Matey, for the long delay in response. This one slipped past me with muffled oars.)

The shutter releases are electrically activated so other than mechanical limits I don't see any reason why the shutter shouldn't be able to adjusted to finer increments than 1/3 stop. The aperture is adjusted by a motor so there is no physical reason why it shouldn't be adjustable in 1/10th stops either.  Of course higher quality mechanical and sensor elements might be needed than are currently in either the camera bodies or lenses so there might be an increased cost.

For most images an accuracy of ±0.15 stop is much more accurate than the built-in metering or chimping, which is what most photographers use.  For most photographers 1/3 stop increments is fine so there just isn't enough reason for the manufactures to give us those capabilities but I for one would welcome 1/10th stop exposure adjustments as an option.

This is one of the reasons, among others, that I rarely use Manual mode exposure setting on my camera, except when using studio type flash.

I'm an old hand so I prefer using both the camera and flash in Manual mode but in the right circumstances I have been known to use aperture priority, E-TTL, and on a very few rare occasions even the P mode of my 7D.

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bravozulu
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to Suntan, Jul 13, 2013

+1 to what Suntan says. I just sold my Minolta Autometer IV on eBay last week. Nobody can tell you what need or don't need. The Minolta is a dual function meter measuring both ambient light and flash intensity.

I do a lot of product photography on a table-top setup with multiple off-camera strobes. And so I use the meter in conjunction with a tape measure to get 1:4 lighting ratios with the multiple strobes. For most folks, however, a meter is a novelty given the sophistication of on-board camera metering.

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photogizmo
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to bravozulu, Jul 13, 2013

Would you say using a light meter is a great way to help understand how lighting, indoor, outdoor and studio photography works or would you say a person would learn better not using a light meter?

One of the reasons I thought of getting the light meter is to help me understand lighting and improve my photography skills but if it makes me lazy then maybe it might not be suitable??

What do you people think?

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PixelMover
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 13, 2013

photogizmo wrote:

Would you say using a light meter is a great way to help understand how lighting, indoor, outdoor and studio photography works or would you say a person would learn better not using a light meter?

One of the reasons I thought of getting the light meter is to help me understand lighting and improve my photography skills but if it makes me lazy then maybe it might not be suitable??

What do you people think?

Consider soup. You are making soup and need to add salt. Your recipe says add 2g salt. You weigh off 2g salt, add it, delicious. That's a lightmeter. It weighs light. Chimping is tasting. Add a bit, taste. Add a bit, taste. Too much, not enough. And it is subjective, not objective.

I'm an old pro and I would feel naked in any kind of proper shoot without a lightmeter. I use the Minolta Flashmeter V. Dead cheap on eBay these days becasue everyone believes they are obsolete and chimping a jpeg-based histogram is the way to go. I trust that thing way more than any in-camera histogram. Measuring, not tasting.

Apart from the technical aspect, there's a psychological aspect too. I see the young lads smirking when I leisurly walk around while the model is in make-up, tweaking, measuring, tweaking. Taking notes, moving lights 4 inches forwards or backwards to get it just so. Feather it to the left a bit. Flag here, done. Sometimes use a stand-in for really precise stuff, but don't even unpack my camera yet. But then when the model is there and the first frame is dead on, they usually shut up very quickly. Sure you can chimp, and tweak and chimp and tweak. But I find it makes you look like you don't know what you're doing, like you're twisiting dials up and down until you get it right by trial and error, rather than by skill. This does not instill any confidence in your model or your client. If the first frame you shoot is absolutely dead on, everyone instantly relaxes, everyone chills and you can just get on wiith taking great pics. It instills great confidence in the model and the client. That is very valuable.

To put it simply, by measuring, I know how much I need to move the light or increase or decrease the power to get it where I want it to be. Chimping doesn't really tell you clearly how far off you are. In the end, it takes longer. Over time, you will find that if you measure every time, you start to develop a feeling of light ratios, distances and power. After a while you'll find yourself setting up lights first time round within a tenth of a stop of your intended setup. I don't think chimping can teach you this because, again, it is subjective. It is subjective because it is you interpreting something the camera interprets from a file that is not your actual file. Hm.

To be honest, if you mostly shoot outdoors in P M or A modes, no, you probably don't need one. Or if you are so familiar with lighting that you can instantly tell from your chimping and histogram what you need to correct. Then you aslo may not need one.

However, if you do want to get serious about lighting, it is invaluable. An LCD histogram does not tell you what the ratios are between the individual lights. Depending on the in-camera jpeg processing options you have set, your jpeg preview can differ quite a bit from the actual RAW file. I shoot wth everything zeroed and still my jpegs don't always match my raw files. So I rely on a lightmeter, gray matter , pen and paper. Sometimes this can be very crucial to get the desired effect (rimlights being brighter but not burning out 100%, getting a background perfectly white while not flaring or 'eating' into your subject.)

Sometimes it can be unnerving because the jpeg preview shows me the contrast is a little too high. The histogram tells me the same, but the light meter says there is only 1,5 stop range difference.  As with everything, you need experience to get the most out of it.

I'd say use both, let them complement each other and learn how to use both together.

Even if you spend $100 dollars on a used one, it'll be a worthwile investment. Just make sure you get one that can measure ambient, flash, mixed and ideally has a 'non-cord' option too for highest flexibility. As for the ones with built-in spotmeters.... meh... never liked those.

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Graham Snook
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 13, 2013

photogizmo wrote:

Would you say using a light meter is a great way to help understand how lighting, indoor, outdoor and studio photography works or would you say a person would learn better not using a light meter?

One of the reasons I thought of getting the light meter is to help me understand lighting and improve my photography skills but if it makes me lazy then maybe it might not be suitable??

What do you people think?

You can manage without one, but if you want to learn how to use light and meter properly, the a meter is the way forward.

If you only ever shoot with continuous lighting you can go your whole life without needing one. but as soon as you step into a studio using strobes you will be like a fish out of water.

For studio lighting a lightmeter is the only way to acurately measure light. It's possible to work without them, but you're not measuring the light you're evaluating it, rather like using a roller to paint with, great for large areas, but pants for detail work. I can set up my lights on my own with no test shots and know how much light my key light is providing and adjust the fill, and background lights and know it's exactly right, not just looks about right.

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Suntan
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to photogizmo, Jul 15, 2013

Personally, I never learned with one, but I can read a histogram and know what it is telling.

Feel free to get one and see if it works for you.

Whether you use a lightmeter or the camera, learning how to setup lights requires more than clicking a button, be it on a camera or a meter.

-Suntan

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photogizmo
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Re: Recommend me an affordable light meter.
In reply to Suntan, Jul 15, 2013

Do you have to chimp or trial and error with the histogram though?

Suntan wrote:

Personally, I never learned with one, but I can read a histogram and know what it is telling.

Feel free to get one and see if it works for you.

Whether you use a lightmeter or the camera, learning how to setup lights requires more than clicking a button, be it on a camera or a meter.

-Suntan

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