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Photography Question 
Bill Thornley

hand held flash and light meter

Could someone please offer some advise, my daughter has asked me to buy her an hand held flash and light meter, she has a Pentax SLR (not digital). It is a present for her twenty first birthday, I have searched the www and local photography shops without success. I would appreciate contact details of where to purchase. Many thanks.

Bill (UK)

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4/16/2007 1:35:36 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Bill,

Light meters come in two categories. “Reflection” & “Incident”. Her camera is fitted with a reflection style meter. This design is the most popular. The refection meter measures the intensity of the light that is reflected from the subject. This design has a few pitfalls. Namely, the meter averages (integrates) the light. The theory of use is based on the fact that the average scene reflects 18% of the ambient light. Many scenes vary from the average thus sometimes the meter reading is quite wrong. The camera’s built-in meter sports some refined logic and yields a “weighted average”. Hand held reflection meters are superior when augmented by an informed user. A spot reading design is superior as it uses a telescope like view tot takes a measurement of a tiny user selected spot on the subject plane. This design is outstanding however a commitment must be made by the user to learn the “ins and outs” of exposure.

The incident design is quite different and clever. The meter is positioned at the subject plane and pointed back towards the camera. The theory used, it intercepts the light before it sticks. The sensor is covered with a translucent dome. This causes complete integration and the exposure is calculated assuming the subject is a gray card (placard) with an 18% reflection characteristic. This method eliminates the need for the user to choose where to point the meter. The exposure data resulting is quite reliable. The incident method is the defacto standard for Hollywood motion picture photographers.

Specialized meters are needed to measure flash.

Consider: The Swiss Army Knife of meters is:
Sekonic L-308S FlashMate Digital Incident – Reflection – Flash about $200 in the US.

Alan Marcus

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4/16/2007 7:46:01 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Bill. While Sekonics are good, IMHO they don't do well in terms of portability beyond the studio and for some reason, after-warranty service centers seem to find them a bit difficult to calibrate.

My recommendation is a Minolta AF III or IV meter that does ambient and flash, both incident and reflected light readings, is pretty simple to use once she gets the hang of it and offers things like multi-functions with memory storage and exposure averaging for different parts of a scene. I've used one for quite awhile and find they seem to be built like a hockey puck, durable, accurate, reliable and operate on a A/A battery. Nothing fancy, just accurate readings.

You can pick up older models in good shape reasonably priced on E-bay or new at places like If you do and need a manual for a used one, let me know I'll send you a PDF file.
Take it light ;>)

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4/16/2007 8:41:53 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Mark's recommendation is a good one however -

The following unexpected October 1, 2005 announcement:

"Konica Minolta Announces Withdrawal Plan for Camera Business and Photo Business" Sighting inability to keep up with image sensor technologies such as CCD; "it became thus difficult to timely provide competitive products even with their top optical, mechanical and electronics technologies...."

It is unclear to me how this effects their meter production and sales. Sony has assumed the repair of Konica - Minolta cameras.

Alan Marcus

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4/16/2007 8:57:57 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Good point. I was a bit surprised Alan, at Sony's marked efficiency in fielding and handling product inquiries re. Minolta Products and support. And I was a bit nervous myself about the takeover or buyout. But they've really seemed to come through fine. I requested info and at one point service on a spot meter from them since 2005 and to their credit, they provided it quickly and efficiently starting with contact through their website.
Be well and "Happy Konica". (No, I can't believe I said that either) .

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4/16/2007 6:18:36 PM

Bill Thornley   Hi Alan and Mark

Many thanks for your input, I really appreciate your replies.



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4/17/2007 8:08:45 AM

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