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Just bought my first lightmeter


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 09:11 PM

So I finnaly bought one, a Spectra IV-A. Seemed like a simple enough unit, though it does calculate contrast ratios automatically. I love that because I try to minimize math on set. Since this is my first one I wanted to see if there were any tips on care of light meter, or when to get it serviced/calibrated etc. Any advice on using them would be good too. The basics I know, but if there are any cool tricks to apply a meter to, let me know. (I found it odd that when I logged on and clicked new posts, getting ready to post this, the first thing on the list was 'shooting 35mm tommorow sans light meter')
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#2 Alan Duckworth

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 01:40 PM

Advice - find TWO other exposure meters that the people you borrow them from believe to be accurate, then set up all three to the same ASA, and under the exact same conditions at the same time, compare the readings. If they all agree within a third of a stop, everything is cool. If your meter differs from the other two - but they both agree with one another - then yours has problems and needs fixing.

Try and do this at low, middle and high light levels - meters can be dead accurate at certain levels and way off at others.

And, compare the readings you get from the meters with the ones you estimate by using the "Sunny 16" rule - there are explanations of this elsewhere in the Forums, if you don't know what it is.

Care of exposure meters - real simple, don't drop it! Seriously, treat it like you would an expensive still camera.

Use of exposure meters - first, read the instruction manual. If no instruction manual, find one on the 'net. Other than that, if it reads incident light (the meter will have a white dome), place at the subject position with the dome pointing towards camera position, and angled slightly upwards. If it reads only reflected light (no dome), I would suggest buying a meter that reads incident. [reflected light exposure meters are primarily for still photography, and mostly black & white even then]. I'm pretty sure all the Spectras read incident light.

This is going to sound dumb, but always doublecheck that you have set the ASA and the framing rate correctly on the meter. Good Luck.
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#3 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 03:01 PM

Shoot still slides w/ a manual exposure camera.
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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 03:27 PM

Shoot still slides w/ a manual exposure camera.


Oh, I definatley plan on it :) I have been shooting negative and walmart proccessing up to this point because I can't meter properly. I get a baseline and guess, or maybe use the zoom to try and cheat my camera as a spot meter, but then I still have to estimate the zone based on the tone of whats being metered. leaves me with a very uneasy feeling.

Also I want to get my light set ups at work done quicker and before I set up my camera (an old beta has a way of making every room just a bit smaller and harder to manage, and most talking heads I have to light for are in the smallest office possible)


Alan: great advice I will definatley take it to heart. Spectras do measure incidence. They are marketed as cine meters. They also have a spot attachement I am looking at getting. In alaska we have a constant problem of clouds throwing spotty light on the mountains. Looks great, but if the mountains are sunny and the area your shooting your subject is under cloud cover, obviously there is an issue, especially if those mountains are covered in snow.
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#5 Alan Duckworth

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 05:24 PM

Didn't realize you were in Alaska - and I thought I lived "up North"!!!

Exposure meters are supposedly calibrated with the assumption that the "typical" subject reflects about 18% of the light or so [I've seen other figures quoted down as low as 13%] - hence "18% grey cards". Snow reflects up to 90% of the light falling on it, so it does create exposure issues if you have "normal" subjects in the frame with snow. If you expose for the snow, the snow turns greyish [and often bluish with colour film], and your subject is underexposed. If you expose for your subject, the snow blows out and loses detail.

If your subject is important I would suggest minimizing the amount of snow in the frame [what lame advice to give to an Alaskan!]. If snow is your subject, try an incident reading - essentially a "grey card" - and then give about one stop overexposure. But this will vary according to your film stock and the "look" that you are after. Check out the opening footage of "Where Eagles Dare" [MGM 1968] for some beautiful snow - and it is grey/blue. It may also have been shot as "Day for Night" and some of the blue is filtration - but not the grey!

Shooting slide film is always an exposure learning experience. I teach some still photography classes, and I "force" my students to shoot slides to learn about exposure.
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#6 Chris Pritzlaff

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 04:07 AM

In alaska we have a constant problem of clouds throwing spotty light on the mountains. Looks great, but if the mountains are sunny and the area your shooting your subject is under cloud cover, obviously there is an issue, especially if those mountains are covered in snow.


Thats when you launch your space satelites with the double nets to eliminate that pesky sun problem. :D
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Broadcast Solutions Inc

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