Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Choosing Light Meters


Hello Saurabh,

Nice to have news from the east side from time to time.
The subject you bring is quite interesting in our frenetic and disoriented "Latest up to date" consumption world ...

Tools are just tools , and the reference you pointed are really good standards for years like the L398 analogue is a very reliable and very handy Light meter.

The new Digital light Meters advertising about brand new products, accurate readings, shutter angle and filters compensation etc etc does not improve your craft or foot-candle reading or even talent really.

Vittorio Storaro had done all his "Writing with light master-piece work" with an L398 and still work with it ,because he knows his light meter like no one does!

Trust your emotions and mainly your eyes relevant to your talent.


Jerome Fournier Lanzoni.
European Based Cinematographer.

Tools are just tools, but there are advantages to digital and analog meters.

I own both, but I tend to use my digital meters more. One reason is that they are more rugged. If you drop an analog meter even once even gently, it may need to be recalibrated. It might not, but it may change slightly, and you have to check it against another light meter.

If you drop an electronic meter, it is less likely to be damaged, and, more importantly, when id does fail from being dropped, it is more likely to be either completely non-functional or to be 10 stops off or something - you immediately notice that you have a problem.

For me, the most compelling improvement I have with my electronic meters is low light sensitivity. If you plan to do a lot of low-light work, an electronic meter might be the way to go.

On the other hand, I think that the way the analog scale is laid out gives you a better visual reminder of how light is logarithmic -
non-linear in the way it works for exposure. Also, analog meters do not require batteries to work.

I think I would recommend the digital meter these days - especially since there are fewer and fewer people out there that can repair and calibrate analog equipment properly when you do drop it...and you will drop it some time.

Mark Weingartner
LA based

>For me, the most compelling improvement I have with my electronic >meters is low light sensitivity. If you plan to do a lot of low-light work, an >electronic meter might be the way to go.

I would add to that good advice that modern meters can be more reliable throughout their range (shadow to highlight) as well as having somewhat better color sensitivity characteristics.

As far as choosing a meter goes...Personal preference I guess, but I don't know why a professional DP would want to use one of the new dual purpose meters. Aside from it being good to carry two separate meters, the dual meters make poor spot meters. The zoom meters are known to be unreliable as the sensor doesn't respond well to that design. The others have shabby optics for the most part and all seem prone to flare
from lack of snoot and baffle. The meter that sadly replaces the
wonderful "Spot F" is pretty worthless as a spot meter, and not a tool that I would want to use as my primary light measuring instrument, not a comfortable, ergonomic tool like the dedicated spot meters were/are.



Anders Uhl
ICG, New York

Well I have a case full of meters from Minolta, Sekonic, Spectra, Pentax & Gossen.

The meter I find myself using all the time now is the Minolta 6 combo one.

Simple, reliable, multifunctional, cheap


Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based

> Subject: Re: choosing Light meters

If you can only afford one meter, I would highly recommend the Spectra IV. I find it to be the most accurate on the market. And, if you are just starting out and work on productions that starved for lights, the meter will read down to f/0.5. On night exteriors, I find it to be particularly valuable.

As others have mentioned, I would also avoid the dual meter Sekonics. The spot meter in particular is very poor. On a night exterior I was trying to get a reading on some deep background trees that I had lit.

No reading at all ... My gaffer let me borrow his meter and low and behold I had a F/1.0. I never used the meter again.

Rick Lopez
web :

“In his youth, Carter had believed everything was possible. Then in grief, he believed everything was impossible. And now ... he felt that when you had lived enough of your life, there was no difference between the two.”

-- Glen David Gold, “Carter Beats the Devil”

I've had great results with the Sekonic L-608Cine. Although the supplied pouch is too tight that I already dropped the meter from trying to pull it out. I think the Spectra IV is still the best priced and worth every penny though.

My two cents.

Raymond Ocampo
San Francisco, CA

Rick Lopez wrote :

>If you can only afford one meter, I would highly recommend the Spectra >IV. I find it to be the most accurate on the market.

The Spectra IV is excellent, especially for the money, if you are shooting film. If you are doing stills it is a bit awkward. To change shutter speeds you have to press a "lock" button, then click through to the one you want, then press the "lock" button again if you want to change ASA. To change ASA you press another "lock" button, etc. It's all a bit slow. But the meter can be switched to read footcandles or lux and has ratio and averaging readouts.

It uses batteries rather quickly and they are 6v. PX28's that you won't find at Walgreen's. Be sure you have a couple of new spares in your kit.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614

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