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Lightmeters: internal or handheld?


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#1 Paul Ash

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:40 AM

Hi,

I was about to buy myself a (pricey) spotmeter when I read on 8mmfilmstock.com that I should not use a handheld meter, but should trust my ZM4's meter instead.

Any thoughts on this?

Thanks,

Paul

Extract below:

WHEN TO USE A LIGHT METER

An incident light meter is a standard tool in professional cinematography, but with Super 8 film, it's a liability. 16mm filmmakers who come to Super 8, be forewarned. We have seen more unevenly, imperfectly exposed footage from filmmakers who have set their exposure with a separate light meter than from those who haven't. Why? Super 8 cameras have unusual exposure logarithms. You cannot count on an exposure set according to an external light meter, especially a reflected or spot reading type. The zoom range setting, the viewfinder's beamsplitter prism and the internal exposure metering system all affect the light reaching Super 8 film. The best exposures come from apertures set with the internal meters reading the area of most importance in the scene at the focal length (if possible) of the particular shot. Long zoom lens extensions will cause the aperture to open up 1/2 to 2 stops more than a medium extension would indicate. We do not recommend separate light meters. Those who ignore this advice are urged to test carefully their own equipment for its particular, idiosyncratic variations and to maintain their sense of humor when their exposures are wrong.

The place to use a light meter is where you have control over the lighting and can use the meter to help balance the lighting. (Remember the contrast inherent in reversal filmstocks.) Use an incident meter (with a white dome) to keep the main light level within one-half stop in the entire action area, from above head height to waist height. This is more difficult than it might appear, but it is necessary if the lighting is not to draw attention to itself when the scene is filmed on projection contrast film, as are Super 8 reversal films. An easy-to-use low cost meter for this function is the Sekonic L-246; slightly more complicated (and versatile) is the L-398.
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#2 Will Cummock

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 09:33 AM

Yeah, that's about the size of it. They aren't lying. If you are shooting on neg though a handheld would also do a fine job- probably best not to use a mixture of internal and handheld readings on the same shoot.
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#3 Richard Tuohy

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:51 PM

I too think that is an appropriate warning, especially the bit about the sense of humour!
There are of course super8ers who swear by hand held metering. I invariably recommend the internal meter however.
I just wrote a page on my web site this subject: http://nanolab.com.au/bracketed.htm

However, I also see a lot (a lot!) of dud results from people using Beaulieu camera's internal light meters. Maybe it is the result of the local beaulieu service agent ... not sure. Certainly I believe it is possible to get consistently correctly exposed reversal super 8 film using a hand held meter. It does however require a carefully bracketed test roll to calibrate the meter to the camera, as well as fair bit of practice and thought. But it is a good skill to acquire. The photographic principals aren't different with a super 8 camera. Its just that they apparently weren't designed around the idea of using a separate meter and so the particular transmission losses etc due to the non-mirrored reflex and internal light meter systems haven't been factored in to the camera's f-stop markings. Also the shutter opening angles aren't necessarily what the cine settings on a normal light meter will assume. Add to that the fact that most super 8 shooters shoot reversal film which itself is much less forgiving.
cheers,
rt
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#4 Paul Ash

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 10:14 AM

Richard, Will,

Thanks for the advice and the article (Richard) - nice one. In fact, I am going to shoot a couple of test rolls, using auto-exposure on the ZM and also my Hasselblad X-Pan (my travelling stills camera) as my handheld light meter.

I'll let you know how things pan out.

Cheers

Paul
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#5 Marc Laurier

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 11:59 AM

You have an X-pan? Now THAT is a very beautiful camera.
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