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Shooting 16mm without a Light Meter


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#1 Jon Carter

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 11:27 AM

I am shooting a film on 16mm Tri-X Reversal (b&W) using a Bolex H16 Reflex Camera. I do not own a light meter, but I have a Canon AT-1 35mm SLR. Is there a way I can use this as a meter? I was told that it's possible, but I am confused as to how to set the shutter speed on the Canon AT-1. There are 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, etc. Any help is appreciated!

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#2 John Sprung

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 02:00 PM

You could set the speed to 1/60 and use the same stop given by the SLR. That'll be close in most cases. But if you're spending the money to buy and develop film, why not get a proper light meter?




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#3 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 03:29 AM

I used a Canon T70 35mm SLR for light meter readings with my K3 16mm camera. Film stock was Ektachrome 7240 and the exposures turned out perfect. Well it was a no-brainer considering that the effective shutter speed on the K3 is 1/60th at 24fps, and there is no light loss from the mirror shutter. I believe that a Bolex H16's effective shutter speed is about 1/66th at 24fps, probably close enough to 1/60th. However, you would have to compensate for the light loss from the beam splitter prism. I don't know how much light loss there would be - perhaps 1/3 of a stop or something like that. You'd have to find out.
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#4 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 05:24 AM

On a Bolex you have 1/3 stop loss for the mirror plus 1/3 stop loss for the 130° shutter (on spring-wound Bolexes). A standard film camera has 180° shutter.
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#5 Taylor Genovese

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 05:27 PM

Are you just strapped for cash and that's why you don't want to get a light meter? For all the money you're going to spend on developing and digitizing the film, I think a light meter would be a good investment.

If you don't think you're going to be using it very much, then renting one would be a good decision.
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#6 Brian Rose

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 10:58 PM

There are some shortcuts, like if you're shooting outdoors, the sunny 16 rule is one...but they're just that, shortcuts.

I'm with the others that, if you're shooting film, you NEED a lightmeter, and if you can't afford one, you can't afford to shoot film. The lightmeter is your insurance policy. It's there to eliminate the guesswork. Do you REALLY want to risk all the money spent on stock, processing, telecine, on top of all the other productions costs? Because that's what you're doing without a light meter. You risk everything coming out underexposed, or overexposed, and even if you get lucky on the exposure, your stuff will still probably look flat at best, and at worse, utter poop, because that meter is there not only to help you decide exposure, but also the intensity of your light levels. How will you know how much to light the key, backlight, fill, kicker, without metering each to figure out the contrast ratios? How will you know when to bounce daylight to fill out the shadows? You can only do so much by eye, because the eye is far more forgiving, has far greater dynamic range than film.

So please, get a meter. In fact, get two. I always have two on set: a spotmeter which is my primary, and then a Spectra pro as a backup.

And if you can't buy one, surely you can rent or borrow. They're so well made, so solidly built that you could probably find someone who would let you borrow it for a day.

But really, get one, get a good one that's either new, or has been serviced (no buying used off ebay!) and don't look back. It's a purchase that pays for itself almost instantly by saving many days of costly reshoots.
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#7 Tom Jensen

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 11:56 PM

rent a light meter or buy an older Spectra

Edited by Tom Jensen, 11 August 2011 - 11:58 PM.

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#8 Kip Kubin

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 08:43 AM

I was borrowing a Sekonic Cine meter.... that had to be returned


Bought a Gossen Luma Pro as per the suggestion of R Deakins on his web forum.

It was $65 on ebay

and it's the best thing I've ever done....not only was it way cheeper, just as accurate it's quicker and easier to read.... there are reasons for an expensive light meter but there are cheeper ones that work great and are reliable
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