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Thread: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

  1. #1

    Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    I'm wondering if anyone else is thinking on these lines: instead of carting around a light meter (600g) and a small viewing lens to gauge potential shots prior to camera set-up (700g); perhaps a small cheap light digital camera would do both jobs?

  2. #2

    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    My Pentax Digital Spotmeter only weighs 8.8 oz, and its more accurate and specific than a digital camera. I'd rather have true spot metering capability. As far as a viewing aid, I took a piece of cardbord, cut a 4x5" hole in it, and trimmed in down to about a 1/4" width all the way around. It fold up and doesn't weigh a thing. Just hold it out in front of you and guestimate your focal length by how far from your eye it is.

    Adam

  3. #3

    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    Yea I thought about it at one time. A decent idea but I wouldn't use it as a meter. I think a separate meter and framing guide is better. Still, I'd try it and report back to us what you found. Remember tho that the proportions are different and you'll need to figure out whatever focal length your using with the "D" camera that doesn't have them. Still it will give you a right side up image that works for some. If your shooting b&w, a digital b&w option would be nice. Colors seem to get in the way sometimes.

  4. #4
    Robert M Teague
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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward McLaughlin View Post
    I'm wondering if anyone else is thinking on these lines: instead of carting around a light meter (600g) and a small viewing lens to gauge potential shots prior to camera set-up (700g); perhaps a small cheap light digital camera would do both jobs?
    No, but I often do this with my Nikon F6.
    Robert M. Teague
    Kaneohe, Hawaii

    Now on Twitter: roteague
    http://www.visionlandscapes.com

  5. #5

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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    I bet my Nikon gets the exposure right far more often than a gaggle of spotmeter-equipped zone-systemites ;-)

    Seriously, spend a minute to compare your spotmeter to your digital camera's metering, make ISO allowances for the difference, and go shoot. Having a Histrogram in invaluble and a zoom lens, even if the proportions are different, makes the fancy Linhof multi-focus or those director's finders a joke.

    But I'd spring for something like the cheap, tiny Nikon D60 with a compact zoom (or the small Pentax or Olympus). Something that actually uses f-stops in the same range as your lenses and real manual control. All but a few of the compact digitals make accessing shutter speed and aperture info a huge hassle and I suspect they may not be as accurate as the larger DSLRs.

  6. #6
    Still Developing
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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    I always carry a 5D along with my 45SU and it serves as a perfect finder. My 24-105 is probably the best wide zoom that Canon do and makes a good 110-360 finder, but I don't use it as a light meter. My pentax spotmeter is a lot more functional and I love the mechanical calculator (very easy to 'browse' different settings and the range of exposure). The 5D is bloody heavy but it takes OK snapshots..

  7. #7

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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio View Post
    Seriously, spend a minute to compare your spotmeter to your digital camera's metering, make ISO allowances for the difference, and go shoot. Having a Histrogram in invaluble and a zoom lens, even if the proportions are different, makes the fancy Linhof multi-focus or those director's finders a joke.
    I don't have personal experience in this regard, but I have read about many folks who are paying far more attention to the histogram than to the EV of the meter. One example that I can cite is Robert Morrissey (Master Lighting Guide for Commercial Photographers ISBN-13 #978-1-58428-198-6).

    It is no surprise that histogram information provides far more detail than most handheld meters will.

    That said - it's pretty clear that both have worked pretty effectively. But I would be dubious about cheaper meters in lower-end digitals without performing some tests. If the variance is only a few tenths of a stop or so, you "probably" won't notice the difference.

  8. #8
    PhotogDuffer
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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    Gosh, I used to take along one my Minolta SRT-series film SLRs with a zoom lens, set the ASA the same as the LF film speed, then zoom to approx. the same as the LF view, set the aperture & shutter speed on the SLR using the built in meter, then transferred the settings to the LF shutter. Not the most scientific means, I suppose, but it always seemed to give pretty good results. As I got use to doing it, I knew when to add in a bit of "Kentucky windage" to tweak the result a mite.

    EuGene

  9. #9

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    Caution: A bit long, and newbie alert!

    A word of warning before you read this: I have only exposed about 20 sheets of 4x5 transparency film, and have only had 10 sheets developed so far!

    I have taken photos (mostly lousy ones!) on and off for 30 years, mostly 35mm slides. (Potluck, beverages and slide show!) A bit over a year ago I was going to get more serious about it, and thought digital was the way to go. I decided to test the waters by getting about the most inexpensive DSLR I could find, the Olympus E-500. (I was also swayed by it's built-in dust removal system, since I knew two Canon owners who had sent their rigs in for cleaning about a year after purchase.) It came with two "kit" zoom lenses, one equivalent to about 28-90mm on a SLR, the other equivalent to about 80-300.

    I shot away, and got some decent photos, but when I showed my wife shots by Jack Dykinga and David Muench (I'm a color landscape fan), she kept saying "How come everything is so much clearer and sharper than your pictures?" I explained to her that they used large format cameras and she said "Maybe you should get one of those?" I told her it was too complicated for me, and that I'd have to buy a bunch more stuff...

    So now I have a 4x5! The camera came with a 150mm lens, and I decided to hold off on a light meter and use my digital camera instead. Of my first ten developed shots, I'd say all but two were exposed right on or within 1/3 stop. One of the two bad ones was to be 5 seconds, and I tried counting "one-thousand and one, ..." The other one I believe was off because my camera did not read an "even" stop, I was using ISO 50 film and the slowest ISO on my digital is 100, and I was guessing a filter factor for a polarizing filter. After all that adjusting in my head I think I was just plain confused! About 6 or 7 of these exposures were with Velvia 50 and the rest with Astia 100, all expired film people had given me.

    Here's my system:

    1. First, the Olympus with the 28-90 lens is pretty light, and fits in a chest pouch I used while backcoutry skiing with a Canon Rebel I used 5-10 years ago. So the first thing I do when I go out with my 4x5 is strap on the pouch and digital camera.

    2. The Olympus sensor is a "four thirds", with an aspect ratio of 4:3, or 1.33. Not too far off from the 1.25 of 5x4 (Brit style!) I set the 4x5 up in my living room with the 150mm lens and framed a "shot", then held the digital directly above and zoomed until I had pretty much the same shot framed. Put some duct tape on the zoom part of the barrel and marked that focal length on the duct tape.

    3. So then I went out and took 3 photos and decided I had to have a wider lens. I picked up a 90, and found that it frames almost exactly what I get with the DSLR zoomed to 28mm (Actually 14mm with a 2x multiplication factor...) So I wander around with the DSLR, look for a scene and try it with the lens zoomed to one of the two lengths equivalent to my 90 and 150. When I get what I want I set up the 4x5.

    4. I work at a college, and we got raises last summer, but weren't told how much they would be. So the raise was never really applied until after a bunch of negotiating and budget hassling. So my Feb check included all the $$$ for each month retroactive to last summer. With the economy so shaky I decided the prudent thing was to spend it all on LF gear! So I rounded out my lens selection with a Fuji 240, and I've found that it frames pretty much what the 28-90 does at its longest setting.

    So that one lens performs as a "multifocal view finder" for my three lens LF kit; I use it to find a scene and select a lens. Then I set up and focus the 4x5. At that point I take a shot with the DSLR and check the histogram. In a year of using that camera I feel I got pretty good at correlating the histogram with the various tones in a scene. If I don't like what I see on the histogram, I compensate one way or the other and shoot again until I get the tones placed where I want them. I then set the 4x5 and take the shot.

    One problem I was having was a bit of confusion when the DSLR didn't read a "standard" shutter speed. (I set it for aperture priority at f/22.) The final piece of the "system" is an index card on which I wrote all the sutters speeds in 1/3 stops, with the standard ones highlighted. This makes me much quicker and more confident when working in third stops.

    So that's what has worked for me SO FAR. I have not ruled out getting a spotmeter, but I'm going to stick with this system until I feel a need to do otherwise. I do like the ability to compose with the DSLR before setting up the LF. One other thing I intend to try when I start doing some moving water shots is to try different shutter sppeds with the DSLR and looking at the pic right away to select the speed that give the desired blurring of the water.

  10. #10

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    Re: Use of cheap digital to act as both meter and viewscope

    Not interested at all in using a dig for either purpose.

    One of the purposes of my photography is to learn how to see better without a camera. Nine times out of ten, when I set up the camera, I do not need to move it more than a few inches to get the composition I want. While using framing cards, dig or film cameras to find compositions are perfectly valid ways of working, by not using any of those one eventually learns to see compostions just as well (if not better). I do occasionally use my fingers to frame a shot if I feel the need.

    Granted, I have 30 years of experience doing this and NOOB's might find it easier with some sort of compostion-finder. Also, I never really used a 35mm much -- never got into the habit of walking around composing thru a viewfinder.

    Metering...my Pentax Digital Spot gives me all the info I need. If I want to know the amount of light under that bush across the creek, it is hard to beat a spot meter. A spot meter seems so easy...a low value, a high value, and perhaps a couple inbetween out of curiosity...and I have all the info I need for exposure and developing.

    Vaughn

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