Meter Calibration

Started Mar 18, 2013 | Questions
deerpark243
deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Meter Calibration

I have a Sekonic L-358 and a nikon D3, but when I go to take a (ambient )meter reading and put that reading into my camera it's about 2-2 1/2 stops over exposed. The reflective meter in my camera is pretty close. And pretty much when I take a flash reading too(from the hand held). I've seemed to have tried everything. Anybody have any ideas?

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Deerpark243

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Nikon D3
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Peter Berressem Forum Pro • Posts: 10,647
Re: sunny sixteen rule
1

I suppose that the most easy way to check the meter's calibration is to use the "sunny sixteen" method, taking an incident metering..... how's the weather in CA ?

wiki sunny 16

If this results in an okay for the meter I'd go from there to find out the reason for the discrepancy you noticed..

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drh681
drh681 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,742
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...
2

You have the same ISO entered in the Sekonic and the Nikon?

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deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: sunny sixteen rule

The weather is overcast out here in So. Cal, but that's a good Idea, I'll try it. Thanks

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Deerpark243

deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...

Yes that was one of the first things I checked....I thought it might have been the dip switches on the wrong settings.

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Deerpark243

tclune Senior Member • Posts: 1,201
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...
1

Good question. That sounds wildly off unless there is something like you suggest.

drh681
drh681 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,742
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...

deerpark243 wrote:

Yes that was one of the first things I checked....I thought it might have been the dip switches on the wrong settings.

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Deerpark243

What DIP switches?

the ISO is set with the ISO button and the jog wheel

http://www.sekonic.com/Products/L-358/Overview.aspx

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deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...

The dip switches are in the battery compartment ....there are 4 of them.

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Deerpark243

drh681
drh681 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,742
Re: Meter Calibration; Are you sure...

I think you are overthinking the issue. check out Sekonic's videos.

a new meter should be properly calibrated coming out of the box.

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deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: Meter Calibration

Hi again,

Well now I don't think it's my Sekonic L-358.I thought I had misplaced my Minolta Auto meter 3 F but I found it. So I set both meters with the same exact settings side by side in controlled conditions and took an ambient and a flash reading and they were only 1/10th off from each other. This may sound strange but it could be that my perception of the exposure from the meters is off.I posted a pick in this forum which I think it is pretty close to right on and I underexposed it from the L-358 reading. So I'm leaning towards the D3 or me.

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Deerpark243

drh681
drh681 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,742
Re: Meter Calibration

Hi again,

Well now I don't think it's my Sekonic L-358.I thought I had misplaced my Minolta Auto meter 3 F but I found it. So I set both meters with the same exact settings side by side in controlled conditions and took an ambient and a flash reading and they were only 1/10th off from each other. This may sound strange but it could be that my perception of the exposure from the meters is off.I posted a pick in this forum which I think it is pretty close to right on and I underexposed it from the L-358 reading. So I'm leaning towards the D3 or me.

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Deerpark243

It could be a difference in the metering pattern used by Nikon.

The two hand meters use an averaging system(thus the term ambient metering)

Modern DSLRs use a matrix system; and Nikon further refines that with consideration of color values.

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deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: Meter Calibration

I know what an ambient reading is and the D3 is in full manual. What it sounds like your saying that I should use a reflective reading from the D3's system?

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Deerpark243

drh681
drh681 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,742
Re: Meter Calibration

no... I'm just pointing out that the meter in the D3 is working in a different mode(reflective but with much more sophisticated evaluation of the image area.

Matrix meters are the engineering application of the Zone System metering process.

And yes, for most everyday imaging, you can trust the camera's metering system. Learn the various modes available, and you can make it sing any tune you like.

If I recall, you can also move the primary meter point around in the view finder or lock it to a selected focus point.

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Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 11,622
Re: Meter Calibration
1

Camera metering is reflective metering. Reflective light meters read the subject as somewhere between 12% to 18% gray, depending on the meter.

Matrix metering starts out assuming the subject is neutral gray then makes a few adjustments, i.e. guesses at a better exposure.  You can guess better than the meter in most cases.  Using the Expose To The Right technique will give you even better exposure control.

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

Your Sekonic can be used as either a reflected light reading or an incident one.  For ambient light reading have dip switch #1 turned off, #2 off, #3 on, and #4 on so that you are reading in 1/3 f stops.

For flash I turn #3 off so that aperture is displayed in 1/10th stops to make adjusting strobe power more accurate.

If you are measuring ambient light then set the meter for Shutter Speed Priority mode. The output at any given aperture and ISO will be a shutter speed.

You should be capable of mentally converting one set of aperture and shutter speeds to another set which will give an equal exposure but you can always change the meter shutter speed reading by adjusting the aperture and ISO values.

For a reflective light measurement retract the dome, measure with the meter at the camera position, and aimed at the subject.  This will give you an 18% neutral gray exposure.  Look carefully at the subject and adjust the exposure if the subject or background are bright or dark enough to cause the meter to read incorrectly.

If you want to measure ambient light in the incident mode then extend the dome and position it at the subject pointing back at the camera.  This is generally the most accurate way to get a reading but you may still have to adjust the exposure slightly.

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deerpark243
OP deerpark243 Junior Member • Posts: 28
Re: Meter Calibration

Thank you Sailor Blue,

It makes a lot of sense, now I get the idea of what my limitation of my meter is.I'm retired and I have a lot of time on my hands and I want to dedicate it to photography....I can take some alright picks now but I want to master light(and get it out of the way). Very nice articles at Photo Camel by the way, I plan on spending quite a bit of time their.

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Deerpark243

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 11,622
Re: Meter Calibration
1

B&H TV -YouTube has some very good free tutorials.  Sekonic also has some excellent free tutorials.

BHPhotoVideoProAudio - YouTube

Sekonic Classroom

Sekonic Webinars Archive

This series is one one of the best I have found on using a flash meter for portraits indoors and out as well as using a spot meter for scenics.

Sekonic - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 1 — Portraiture Using Available Light

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,484
Blindly Trusting Your Meter Can Lead To Problems...

deerpark243 wrote:

Hi again,

Well now I don't think it's my Sekonic L-358.I thought I had misplaced my Minolta Auto meter 3 F but I found it. So I set both meters with the same exact settings side by side in controlled conditions and took an ambient and a flash reading and they were only 1/10th off from each other. This may sound strange but it could be that my perception of the exposure from the meters is off.I posted a pick in this forum which I think it is pretty close to right on and I underexposed it from the L-358 reading. So I'm leaning towards the D3 or me.

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Deerpark243

That's funny: I have a Sekonic L-328 and a Minolta Flash Meter V and they are always 1/10 of a stop different when doing incident readings. Fortunately, the Minolta can be adjusted in 1/10 stop increments inside the battery compartment.

As someone mentioned, the incident meters measure the light falling on the subject while the D3 is measuring reflected light. The subject reflectance matters when using the camera meter. If the subject tends toward being dark or light the brain behind the camera meter will need to be engaged to properly interpret the meter reading in order to obtain the desired exposure. Matrix Metering adds additional wrinkles when comparing the camera reading to an incident meter.

Frankly, I find Nikon's Matrix Metering to be more trouble than it is worth... Many photographers do not realize (or remember) that Matrix Metering was introduced as a marketing ploy to attract amateur photographers to switch from 110 point and shoot film cameras to 35mm SLR. Metering and exposure has always been the major stumbling block for rookies and Matrix Metering promised to do the metering and exposure interpretation for them.

The Nikon FA that was introduced circa 1985 was the first SLR with Matrix Metering; I owned one and it was a very nice camera. I especially appreciated its optional motor drive that could power the FA; it was a nice compact package compared to the pro-oriented F series cameras.

Unfortunately, Matrix Metering is not fool-proof. It cannot read the photographer's mind so it will produce the desired exposure in every situation. And it doesn't work very well in difficult lighting. I'm constantly amazed at all the threads on this forum asking for advice about how to cope with the variables introduced by Matrix Metering.

The solution is simple: forget Matrix Metering. Stick with center-weighted and spot metering. I often adjust center-weighted so it measures a smaller part of the frame than its default setting. When I want to measure a smaller part of a subject I use spot metering. I can quickly and easily measure the reflected light and adjust the camera settings if necessary if the subject reflectance requires it. Or I locate a part of the subject that is close to 18% mid-tone (usually referred to as "gray") and use that reading. I've learned through trial-and-error how to interpret the meter readings. (The process would have been a lot easier if I had had a camera LCD back in the 1980s!)

In fast-moving situations I have found that center-weighted gives me consistently better results than Matrix Metering. I usually shoot in manual mode so changes in subject reflectance does not alter the meter reading and the camera exposure setting. But if the subject/lighting allows for it center-weighted will work well with auto-exposure modes too.

For many years I relied on my incident meters because they were fast, easy and I didn't have to deal with subject reflectance. I only slightly adjusted the camera settings if the subject was extremely bright or dark. But when it became possible to adjust the center-weighted pattern and use spot metering with Nikon cameras I found myself using the incident meters less often. I still rely on incident flash metering for multiple flashes because it is faster and more accurate than any wireless TTL system.

I would not assume that a brand-new meter is properly calibrated... Years ago my wife gave me a new F3 from B&H Photo that was off by two full stops right out of the box. I had seen new cameras that were off by 1/3 stop or so; usually I just use the ISO setting to compensate. But the F3 was off by so much that the ISO compensation trick would mean that some ISO settings would not be usable. So I sent the F3 to Nikon; when it came back the meter was spot-on.

Incident meters can also be poorly calibrated. The last time I checked the industry standard for meter calibration was within +/- one stop, which is a lot of slop as far as I am concerned. So I always check new camera/incident meters against another meter that I know is properly calibrated. Or one can use the Sunny f16 Rule meter calibration method(which I wrote during the Days of Film...):

Take the camera outside, focus at infinity with a 50mm or longer lens and aim it at a clear north sky at about a 45 degree angle from the horizon.  Do this between 10am-2pm. Using manual exposure setting, set the camera using the Sunny f16 Rule, which is film ISO=shutter speed @ f16. (Ex: Set camera at ISO 125, shutter speed to 125th and aperture to f16.) At normal elevations (say 2,000 feet or less...) the meter should indicate proper exposure. (At higher elevations you will get a Sunny f16 higher than f16 (i.e. f16.3, etc.) because there is less atmosphere and therefore more light...) If proper exposure is not indicated, adjust the ISO setting until the meter indicates proper exposure.  Then adjust the ISO setting in the future to compensate for the meter; I put a small piece of gaffers' tape on the camera back that shows the ISO compensation value so it is a snap to do no matter what ISO I choose.

Incident meters can be calibrated using the same method except you just take an incident reading and see what you get...

Meters can also lose accuracy over-time by being dropped, etc. After a bad fall onto concrete my L-328 began misreading flash exposures while still being accurate reading ambient light.  I noticed the problem when my assistant and I were using different meters and they did not agree. (Sekonic fixed the meter for $75 and it has worked flawlessly since the repair was done circa 1997...) After that experience I began carrying two incident meters when working and I always check them against each other before doing a shoot.

Sorry for the length and if I covered something that was previously mentioned!

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