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Old Mar 21, 2008, 5:02 PM   #1
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Are handheld light meters that much better than the meters built into our DSLRs? I mean I would have thought the meters built into a DSLR would be fairly accurate. Or are they just "accurate enough"? But not as good as using a light meter, placing it right on the subject, to get a good reading.

Are any of you using one? Just noticed an ad for Sekonic. Didn't think people were still using them.


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Old Mar 21, 2008, 5:41 PM   #2
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Light meters are especially important in studio settings using multiple light sources. Anytime lighting conditions are difficult a light meter can be helpful and will be more accurate than your cameras meter.
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Old Mar 21, 2008, 5:55 PM   #3
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rjseeney wrote:
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Light meters are especially important in studio settings using multiple light sources. Anytime lighting conditions are difficult a light meter can be helpful and will be more accurate than your cameras meter.
I see. No wonder that's why we always see them used in commercial photography settings. And probably why we don't see them used outside of a studio. Though, I'm sure there are special circumstances where there would also be multiple light sources not in a studio.

But, in situations where there is just the sun or one light source, would using a handheld meter still get us better results than using the in-camera meter? Or would it then be redundant?
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Old Mar 21, 2008, 8:02 PM   #4
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I've seen articles written by advocates of hand-held meters where they took a series of comparison pictures outdoors in plain ol' sunlight using hand-helds and the cameras own meter. Of course the author chose "difficult" lighting situations that often fool a cameras meter: Stuff like a jet-black dog and other high contrast situations. The hand-held exposed the shots better because it was set up to use incident light metering rather than the cameras reflected light metering.

Incident meters use that little plastic diffusion dome over the sensor lens so that they get their readings from the direct intensity of the light falling on the scene rather than from the light reflected from the scene like a camera meter does.

Different types of objects reflect light in different ways and this difference can result in different reflected meter readings for these objects even if they are under the same light. Incident meters are not influenced by degrees of reflection, so they can provide more accurate exposures in many situations.

I might be wrong on this, but it seems to me that you can get most of the benefits of incident metering with your camera by taking the light reading off of an 18% gray card, but it probably isn't quite that simple.

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Old Mar 21, 2008, 8:50 PM   #5
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Perhaps for the rest of us (hobbyists) we can indeed rely on our in-camera meters to get decent results. And at the same time, if need be, we could actually carry a handheld Sekonic "just in case" in our camera bags.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"On another topic...what are your opinions on the Expodisc? It's this disc you put in front of your lens to set a custom WB setting suitable to that scene. Has any one used one?
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Old Mar 21, 2008, 9:39 PM   #6
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I'm going to take a slightly different take here than rjseeney. Handheld meters come two flavors or or major modes of operation, reflected and incident. I am going to suggest that a hand-held meter in the reflected mode is no better than the meters built into upper level P&S andall recent DSLR. Their success really depends on the skill of the user knowing the characteristics the meter (either hand-held or internal to the camera) and aiming the meter appropriately. Incident readings however permit very consistent exposuresin studios regardless of the subject and the composition/framing. These same benefits can be had outdoors as well but the photographer will need to be alert to changing light so that an up-to-date reading can be taken. Note - in general an incident reading can be simulated by taking a reflected readings from a gray card.
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Old Mar 21, 2008, 10:12 PM   #7
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My first 35mm camera was a rangefinder with no internal metering, so I learned to use a hand-held. When I got a SLR with match-needle exposure metering, I thought I had found nirvana. But it had its limitations, as did the hand-held; as do multi-segment super duper fancy meters in or out of camera. What it all comes down to is experience with your equipment, whatever it is.

All any meter can tell you is what to set your shutter speed/aperture combination to. Period. If the light is not even, you have to decide where to fill, or where you want the detail.

Since I mostly shoot RAW, I have quite a bit of leeway in adjusting exposure after the fact, anyway, though I do try to get it right in the camera, to save time later.

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Old Mar 21, 2008, 11:21 PM   #8
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Thaks guys. For me, I'll just stick to using the in-camera meter in my D300 for now. See how things go. Whether shooting in simple of complex lighting situations. I'll be using ambient light 99.9% of the time. So in most cases I should be okay. If I run into a few situations in the distant future where I think I could have used a handheld I might try a cheap one like the Sekonic 308 (http://www.sekonic.com/products/products.asp?ID=3) or at most a Sekonic 758DR (http://www.henrys.com/webapp/wcs/sto...;itemID=187901). Haveone of the two, or their replacement, sitting ready in my bag. Just in case.

I posted this tread because I was thumbing through the March issue ofOutdoor Photographer and noticed the ad forSekonic. Surprised thathandheld meters are still being sold. Assumed the in-camera meters weremore than sophisticated enough to handle all situations. Ambient orincident. Sounds like that's not yet the case. Hence, all the ads for handhelds and the continual demand.



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Old Mar 22, 2008, 8:47 AM   #9
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I have found the metering system in the D300 to make excellent exposure settings without my intervention. I was shooting a Canada goose in flight and expected the goose to be underexposed against the sky. I was surprised to find the goose properly exposed and the sky a bit overexposed.

The matrix metering systems in current cameras can probably make better settings than a handheld incident meter.

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Old Mar 22, 2008, 10:16 AM   #10
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Hiya Bob,

Welcome to the D300 Club!

As for the D300's 3D Matrix metering system's abilities I don't doubt it. And your picture is proof. Thanks for posting it.

As mentioned I started this thread out of curiosity. I don't see myself picking a handheld ambient/incident (now a days they do both...or at least the ones from Sekonic). All I need is another item to toss in my Lowepro Fastpack backpack. NOT!

There's a podcast talking about light meters on the Nikonians site. Done by the "Image Doctors". Episode #40. I'm about to give that a listen.

Have a good weekend.
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