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Thread: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

  1. #11

    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    +1 for pentax spotmeter. You'll notice after research that a lot of books and courses related to shooting film rely heavily on a spot meter. There is a reson for this as it gives the most accurate results (IMO). I have used incident meters in the past and then bought a minolta spotmeter f. World of difference and once I got the hang of it, my metering sped up significantly. I recently traded the minolta for a pentax spotmeter and I wouldn't use any other meter at this point. I've seen the older ones (just as accurate when calibrated) and they're also phenominal machines. I'd stalk the *bay and look for a deal. Remember you can always send it out for calibration.

  2. #12

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    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by bmoffitt1990 View Post
    Well - this was another question I had actually, but I didnt want to bring it up in the "gear" section. For landscape photography, which light meter would be better?

    Everything I have read said that if you can get a spot meter, then get a spot meter. Wondering what the community thinks.
    I shoot primarily outdoor scenes of all variety and I've only ever used a spot meter. If you plan to shoot B&W using some form of the zone system, a spot meter is essential. However, if you really want to "deep dive" and follow Phil Davis teachings, then, I believe, an incident meter is used. For B&W and color neg film, I use a Pentax Digital Spot meter. For color transparency, I use a Sekonic L-558 spot meter because it has a very unique feature; I can meter a shadow area where I want to hold detail and store that reading, meter a high value area where I want detail and store that reading, then average the two. But, there's more...then, while holding the metering button down I can scan the scene looking at the EV variance. I find this extremely helpful to determine if I want to adjust the average exposure reading. All that said, each photographer has his/her way of working and you will eventually determine what works best for you.

  3. #13
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    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    The spot meter supports approaches like the Zone System, where you intentionally place the brightness of specific details of the scene into target tones on your print. There is a lot of craft that goes into actually getting those detail brightness levels to those tones, and that's what the Zone System is all about. But it starts with the ability to measure the brightness of those details in the scene.

    If you don't explore those approaches, you can get away with just about any hand-held light meter. I have everything from a vintage Vivitar Model 43 (actually a very decent meter) to a Sekonic L-718. For large format, I still use one of my Pentax Spot V's, though those d'arsonval meters in them are starting to get a bit flaky. The electronic spot meters tend to read out in exposure rather than in EV, and so require more mental arithmetic to get zone readings. The mechanical calculator dial on the Pentax is a big reason why it is so popular, because one can scan all the zones at once.

    Had I to learn it all over again, I'd probably use a digital camera to determine exposure, which requires enough experience to learn how the sensor in the digital camera and the film in the large-format camera respond differently. But the photos I take on the digital camera have near-zero marginal cost.

    Rick "digital is the new Polaroid" Denney

  4. #14

    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lassethomas View Post
    From my point of view the choice of meter is related to type of film.
    For black and white and color neg I tend to use a incident meter.
    For slide film a spotmeter is essential I think, to help to evaluate and guard the highlights.
    If you're shooting a landscape and your subject is far away, and has different lighting than what is available around you, are you hosed? How can you tell what the luminance is on your subject?

  5. #15

    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by f9likethekey View Post
    +1 for pentax spotmeter. You'll notice after research that a lot of books and courses related to shooting film rely heavily on a spot meter. There is a reson for this as it gives the most accurate results (IMO). I have used incident meters in the past and then bought a minolta spotmeter f. World of difference and once I got the hang of it, my metering sped up significantly. I recently traded the minolta for a pentax spotmeter and I wouldn't use any other meter at this point. I've seen the older ones (just as accurate when calibrated) and they're also phenominal machines. I'd stalk the *bay and look for a deal. Remember you can always send it out for calibration.
    The *bay lmao...Is that a faux pas in these forums?

    Where can I send it out to get calibrated?

  6. #16

    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by rdenney View Post
    The spot meter supports approaches like the Zone System, where you intentionally place the brightness of specific details of the scene into target tones on your print. There is a lot of craft that goes into actually getting those detail brightness levels to those tones, and that's what the Zone System is all about. But it starts with the ability to measure the brightness of those details in the scene.

    If you don't explore those approaches, you can get away with just about any hand-held light meter. I have everything from a vintage Vivitar Model 43 (actually a very decent meter) to a Sekonic L-718. For large format, I still use one of my Pentax Spot V's, though those d'arsonval meters in them are starting to get a bit flaky. The electronic spot meters tend to read out in exposure rather than in EV, and so require more mental arithmetic to get zone readings. The mechanical calculator dial on the Pentax is a big reason why it is so popular, because one can scan all the zones at once.

    Had I to learn it all over again, I'd probably use a digital camera to determine exposure, which requires enough experience to learn how the sensor in the digital camera and the film in the large-format camera respond differently. But the photos I take on the digital camera have near-zero marginal cost.

    Rick "digital is the new Polaroid" Denney
    I picked up Barnbaums book before I got into 35mm and got really into the zone system. I am an engineer by trade, so the technical aspect of photography is very interesting to me.

    Seems like I should pick up a spot meter...

  7. #17
    Small town, South Carolina, US
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    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    BTW, my light meter app has a spot meter function plus averaging etc.

  8. #18
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    I've standardized on Pentax digital spotmeters for many years now, for every format. Maybe that doesn't fit your cost parameters. But a few years ago I stumbled upon an almost brand new one at a ridiculously low price. So luck and timing is a factor.

  9. #19

    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by rfesk View Post
    BTW, my light meter app has a spot meter function plus averaging etc.
    I wonder what the accuracy is compared to a spot meter. Would be really interested to see a robust study because this would obviously be the most cost effective option.

  10. #20

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    Re: Light Meter for Large Format (4x5) Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by bmoffitt1990 View Post
    If you're shooting a landscape and your subject is far away, and has different lighting than what is available around you, are you hosed? How can you tell what the luminance is on your subject?
    Well, yes, in that case, then a spot meter would be handy.
    Of course there are black and white landscapes that would benefit from a spot meter, but in my experience that is not very often.
    Usually you can most of the dynamic range of a scene within the parameters of the film, and the penalties for overexposing are not as harsh as with slide film.

    But if you using the zone system and want to place your scene within that, a spot meter is the way to go.

    I think my struggles with spot meters is the actually process. It takes too long time, and it makes you focus too much on technical issues and parts of the composition, instead of the being in the place and taking in the whole composition. If that makes any sense.
    A good incident meter, that you learned to use, and compensate for, is more versatile to me for b/w and color eng.

    With that said, whatever meter you get, you need to spend a lot of time and film to learn it.
    A light meter may be based on science but your exposures are not.

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