Do you/ should you , use a separate exposure meter ?

sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
edited March 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
Following on from

Buying a better camera does not mean you will get better pictures

http://forum.nikonrumors.com/discussion/724/buying-a-better-camera-does-not-mean-you-will-get-better-pictures-#Item_33

I have started a new thread

my Weston V have has been in box marked "might be useful one day" for the past 30 years

Apart from Continuous studio lighting , I cannot think of any thing It might be useful for

I have to confess to setting my D800, to fully AUTO all of the time and never use spot metering

Post edited by sevencrossing on
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Comments

  • aquarian_lightaquarian_light Posts: 135Member
    I have never and probably will never use one. It's simply less time consuming to just ~know~
    And by that I mean know your way around your camera and flash set ups to the point of it being more intuition than anything. At the very least in a studio situation anyway. If you don't know what flash power to be using in the studio, take a few minutes and get it figured out before the shoot starts. In the field, the built in light meter will do plenty good. Decide what ambient light you want to balance for, spot meter, and just trial and error it to the exposure you want. A meter will just tell you what exposure is "proper" it will NEVER tell you what exposure you really want.
    D800E, 24-120 F4 VR, 50mm 1.8G, 85 1.8G, 28mm 3.5, 135mm 3.5
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    1) I shot a fashion show a couple of weekends ago, lit with a strobe. But the runway (catwalk) was relatively long compared to the distance to the strobe (inverse-square-law at play.) So before the show I walked up and down the runway with my light meter to note the proper exposures at various points of the runway. With that information I shot the entire show in manual and I was 100% confident of the exposures.

    2) I also like to use the light meter when shooting video. It makes it easy to grab a quick incident reading while adjusting the video lights, without having to go back to the camera position & fire test shots every time something changes. Plus with video most often the shutter speed is locked (e.g., 1/50th) and so is the aperture (to creative taste) so what's varying is the ISO, and my meter makes it easy to quickly go up/down the ISO instead of constantly changing it in camera.

    3) In rare cases I would use meter to take various spot readings of the scene to determine if everything is within the dynamic range of camera. I have a fixed 1-degree spot on the meter that doesn't vary in size depending on which lens is mounted on the camera. These days I don't bother anymore (I just look at the LCD / histogram).

    I don't believe an external meter is really necessary, but "I learned it that way" so I prefer to use it certain situations. Plus my meter has a nifty radio that can trigger my flashes and I always get a kick when using it :)

    -Ade
  • GabGab Posts: 63Member
    I personally think that knowing the metering of your camera and shooting raw is enough for an enthusiast like me. I used to shoot full manual as a kid (brought my father's bigger than me at the time SLR to class trips), but now I just use the meter and exposure compensation. I think even if you are a working pro, it's unlikely that your clients would notice if you fixed minor exposure variations in LR as long as you don't have burnt out highlights. The problem with full manual is exactly that, if something suddenly changes the metering will react instantly, while full manual shooters swap their shutter speed I've already gotten the shot. Also modern cameras have really good light meters in them, a combination of spot and center w metering should suffice for the majority of situations.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Hi Gab, there are many instances that you don't want the camera to "react instantly" to exposure changes. E.g., the situations I described above. Often I prefer to take full exposure control rather than having the camera making decisions for me.

    Even when I use speed lights, sometimes I use them in TTL while other times in fully manual mode. Sometimes knowing when to use which automation is half the battle. :)
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 615Member
    edited March 2013
    I used to use them all the time when I shot with battery free cameras. Now, when I need to take an exposure metering, I just use the meter in the camera and make the manual settings.
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    edited March 2013
    I used to use a light meter frequently 30 years ago and still use a flash meter when using strobes rather than the Nikon Creative Lighting System. NIkon's CLS preflash will result in partially closed eyes in most dogs and in about 20% of people in my experience. When I see the problem and tall those folks they have "dog's eyes" they are very puzzled. CLS just doesn't work for dogs and "dog eyed" people which mandates manual strobes or flash. The important thing about using a light meter is to learn to recognize when a scene is too black or too white for it not to average out at 18% gray. Still the matrix metering system is able to handle most situations. Sensitivity as to when it is likely to be off allows you to check the histogram and adjust using exposure compensation. Without having that experience and sensitivity we can just get lost in the moment shooting away not realizing how far away from optimal our exposure has become. Once you know how to use an external light meter you also know how to use your camera's internal light meter in center weighted averaging or spot mode. Most of the time when I am not using strobes I can just leave the camera in matrix metering mode and know when to make a point to check the histogram and adjust exposure compensation as needed.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • GitzoGitzo Posts: 174Member
    Here we are in 2013 talking about using camera internal exposure meters, Vs hand held exposure meters;
    what a difference from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and even 90's; back "in the day", the cameras didn't even have meters in them, and for a very long time after they started getting them........they were only slightly better than guess work! ( for many, guessing was probably even better! ) even as late as the 80's, even though most internal meters were capable of "measuring" the light, they still couldn't be counted on to deliver accurate exposures, without first calibrating the camera's meter with the "ASA" no. of the film. My first really "first rate" SLR was a fine Canon F-1; the required battery (which did exactly ONE thing; powered the light meter), could usually be counted on to last about a year or so; ( about the size of an aspirin tablet ) you sure didn't have to worry about the auto-focus motor, or the "auto-aperture"........neither had been invented yet!

    I had a terrible time "adjusting" when I "parked" the old F-1 and bought my first Nikon, an F-5; ( I think the eight AA batteries may have weighed almost as much as my previous camera!

    I still have my hand held meter to this day though; (probably because I almost never throw anything away)
    (unlike my new "bride", who routinely throws things away even before she's through using them, which I'm guessing is so that she will then have sufficient excuse to "go shopping")

    Has anyone besides me ever noticed that "life" is a lot like a "tread-mill" ?
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Gossen Luna Pro and a Sekonic for flash. The advantage in flash is that one gets to the correct f/stop instantly. the Sekonic reads exactly and then the subject will determine how to adjust exposure.

    And, for the beginner, I will emphasize the practice of setting up a scene, camera on tripod, read the reflected and the ambient light on several areas of the scene, set the camera for the various exposures with the information written on cards in the scene, then shoot a lot of tests and examine in the computer.

    Doing this will help one to learn what is actually going on. After a long time we find we will automatically make exposure adjustments based on our experience. But, the basis for our learning can best be established by using ambient exposure readings, then we will understand the corrections based on subject content. The in-camera meter can only do reflected readings, good but in some cases just incorrect. An example is on snow. The camera will make all the snow and 18% gray card.....one must add exposure, like two stops to get it white.
    Msmoto, mod
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 468Member
    To be honest, with the ability to see/check every photo after each shot, I believe we don't even need exposure meters in cameras any more :-) . In landcapes, I use my meter less and less every day.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Paperman: true. just add or subtract light to taste. For example, a person can follow these steps:

    1. Set camera on A or S depending upon whether aperture or shutter speed is the priority for this photo (although both can be easily controlled from either mode by just looking at what the camera selects
    2. Shoot an image, look at the LCD and the histogram
    3. Adjust exposure composition either + or - to taste and shoot again
    4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have the final image you wanted as best you can judge it from the LCD and histogram.
    5. Fine tune the image in post processing software for your final result.

    This way you never need to learn how to work a light meter although, of course, you are using your camera's built in light meter to set a suggested exposure and you are altering that suggested setting by telling your camera to add or subtract some light.

  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 615Member
    Gossen Luna Pro and a Sekonic for flash. The advantage in flash is that one gets to the correct f/stop instantly.
    That was my setup, too! I got to where I had calibrated my Metz strobe and didn't need the Sekonic any more. I also had a Leica meter sitting on top of my M4P.

    I'm going to look in the garage and see if I can find the Luna Pro.
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 309Member
    D800 has 91k metering. That's 91k light meters. Also I would imagine metering these days are more advanced than just averaging everything to absolute 18% grey. If I were writing the metering program, I would try to meter in such way that minimizes the clipping of highlights and shadows. In fact, Nikon claims the metering includes highlight analysis and scene recognition that's supposed to compare against a database and provide the best exposure corresponding to the scene. I think it's unlikely a standalone meter is going to beat that in accuracy.
    After a long time we find we will automatically make exposure adjustments based on our experience.
    I agree. However, asking beginners to use a standalone meter and set manual exposures has a higher likelihood of wrong exposures comparing to the camera's metering. On the other hand, even by relying camera metering, reviewing their pictures overtime, people will recognize the situations where their cameras tend to over/under expose and can develop experience based adjustment capability while still taking reasonable pictures instead of learning it the hard and frustrating way.
    To be honest, with the ability to see/check every photo after each shot, I believe we don't even need exposure meters in cameras any more :-) . In landcapes, I use my meter less and less every day.
    There is an even simpler approach on landscapes. To be safe, one can just use exposure compensation to cover +/- 2ev from what the optimal metering should be. Modify 1/3 and snap. Modify another 1/3 and snap. One can then go home and take all the time needed to decide which one is best. That's why high end cameras have a larger count of exposure bracketing because people pay for the convenience. That's a large part of what modern cameras are about, convenience so that it's easier to produce good pictures.

    Still on non repeatable shots, we want the metering to as accurate as possible though.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    D800 has 91k metering. That's 91k light meters. ... I think it's unlikely a standalone meter is going to beat that in accuracy.
    Quantity does not equal quality.

    The in-camera meter is 100% useless when used with non-TTL flash. E.g., anytime using studio strobes.

    The in-camera meter can only measure reflected light, which is often much less accurate than an incident light reading from a standalone meter.

    Bracketing isn't the answer to everything. Especially when there's motion involved.

    I agree with not starting a beginner with an external meter. I might distract the student more than anything. My light meter is probably more complicated than some cameras.
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 468Member
    edited March 2013
    @donaldjose

    Paperman: true. just add or subtract light to taste. For example, a person can follow these steps:

    1. Set camera on A or S depending upon whether aperture or shutter speed is the priority for this photo (although both can be easily controlled from either mode by just looking at what the camera selects
    2. Shoot an image, look at the LCD and the histogram
    3. Adjust exposure composition either + or - to taste and shoot again
    4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have the final image you wanted as best you can judge it from the LCD and histogram.
    5. Fine tune the image in post processing software for your final result.


    In landscapes ( underline Landscape ) , one doesn't even need Auto mode really - it only saves time in the first few shots till you get the right exposure . Sunny 16 is more than enough to get it right within a stop and rest is trial and error.

    I don't know how many of you will agree, but my Nikon NEVER, EVER gets the exposure right in landscapes ( again, underline landscapes ) . My exposure depends totally on blowing/not blowing the highlights - just staying a tad under the blowing point . That means a tolerance of no more than 1/3 stop ! ! There is no way, any DSLR can get that right using auto modes even at spot metering.

    Sports/street photography - totally different I guess ... It is quite handy to have camera with exposure meter then :-)

    @tc88

    That is what I do actually - get exposure right within 1/3 stops but I do it manually . Most of the time, you are wrong only in one direction and bracketing seems too much work ( and card space )
    Post edited by Paperman on
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 309Member
    edited March 2013
    That is what I do actually - get exposure right within 1/3 stops but I do it manually . Most of the time, you are wrong only in one direction
    Paperman, yes, I'm just trying to cover all bases. :)
    Post edited by tc88 on
  • CorrelliCorrelli Posts: 135Member
    I used my Lunasix F quite a lot when I was still shooting film with my FM2, especially with slides. I found the exposure wasmmore precise and it slowed me down.

    Now I rarely use it anymore.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    Sekonic L‑358 is what I got.

    Suprisely I have been used it more and more lately especially if I am focusing on one particular spot or highlight to shadow ratios that I want. I also use it at times like Ade described above (way above in #1) taking readings around a room area with mixed lighting or when there are multiple lighting sources that I am shooting through/beyond to get the shot at a point in the room. It takes a bit more prep but can be much better than shooting-looking-shooting-looking etc. Probably the thing I'm looking mostly for is to keep my ISO as low as possible.

    @tc88 - the metering in the camera is reflected off the source which can be very different than taking the light reading falling onto the source.
    For instance with landscape; let's say you have a opening in a forest with trees staggered from you to the focal tree/point and then beyond. An open in the canopy lets light fall onto the focal tree/point. Your meter will grab all the light being reflected from every tree, shrub, leaf, etc. and average it. Even with spot and center weighted it is averaged to a degree. Now you could bracket 5-6 images and then sort them out later, or you could walk up to the focal tree, push a button, and know exactly what the exposure should be. At times you can't do that, but when you can, it can be much better, quicker, and less post editing later. That would be one example where your camera's meter will go wonky and a handheld meter is better.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 468Member
    or you could walk up to the focal tree, push a button, and know exactly what the exposure should be. At times you can't do that, but when you can, it can be much better, quicker, and less post editing later.

    No offense TTJ, but I think I can find ( bet you can, as well ) the correct exposure manually by trial and error faster than walking to that tree and coming back by just checking the LCD screen. After all, you still will have to check your LCD screen after the shot even if you have taken the reading with a handheld meter.

    We still need the meters in our DSLRs for auto modes but when it comes to handheld meters - I really think their time is past.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I rarely use the Gossen Luna Pro now except in special circumstances. However, as a learning tool it is essential and if I were teaching newbies, they would be required to use one and measure incident light, then compare it to the reflected reading. An in-camera meter cannot measure incident light except by looking at an 18% gray card.

    And, for flash, as far as I know, the camera cannot figure this out unless it is connected directly in some way. With the Elinchrom units I use, as many as six at a time, I measure the primary flash, or take a test shot, then turn on all the rest and look again. Often, I do not even use the Sekonic as I am familiar with the light/distance/exposure settings from my experience.
    Msmoto, mod
  • GabGab Posts: 63Member
    Hi Gab, there are many instances that you don't want the camera to "react instantly" to exposure changes. E.g., the situations I described above. Often I prefer to take full exposure control rather than having the camera making decisions for me.

    Even when I use speed lights, sometimes I use them in TTL while other times in fully manual mode. Sometimes knowing when to use which automation is half the battle. :)
    I guess it is indeed very useful for multi flash systems. I used to have this problem with my uncle's forehead burning out with manual flash, I didn't use a light meter ever, but I did guesstimate the manual flash power fairly well most of the times this happened, but his bald forehead starts shining at the weirdest unexpected angles, even with bounce flash. So I started relying on TTL combined with a little ADL & I haven't gotten this problem since then. Now that I bought a new camera I think it will be needed for me to start shooting with manual flashes again, because I only plan on purchasing a cheap Chinese manual flash for it...
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    I can under stand using a flash meter for studio lights
    but modern matrix metering will give better results, to an incident light meter
    and most dslrs have a built in spot meter
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    It depends upon how much the photographer wants to understand about light metering and exposure. Msmoto, and many others championing external light meters, are correct if you want to understand what is going on with the light. But if you just want the photo you can rely upon modern matrix metering to get it right perhaps over 90% of the time as long as you are not photographing snow or a black cat. Nikon's matrix metering is measuring the light at many different points and comparing that to a database from thousands of photos to select the best exposure for that particular pattern of light. Just shoot, look at your LCD and histogram, adjust exposure compensation + pr - as needed and shoot again. Repeat if needed. That should be the quickest way to get 2 or 3 images that bracket the exposure. For example, if Paperman wants an exposure with stays just under blowing out the highlights he can simply watch the histogram to make sure there is a little space on the right side.

    Want even a faster way to rip off some shots at various exposure settings? Use auto bracketing of exposure. See page 132 of the D800 user's manual. I have never done this so I cannot speak from experience but as I understand it you can set the camera to bracket exposure up and down whatever exposure compensation value you want from the camera's suggested "correct" exposure and then press the shutter and rip of 3 or up to 9 shots at once. Then you can select the best on at home in front of your computer. How can you miss the correct exposure with an approach like that and it is so fast!
  • obajobaobajoba Posts: 206Member
    I find that certain colors really mess with the camera's meter (red sports jerseys) and they are really difficult to keep within DR. Add to that I have very light sensitive eyes and tend toward under exposure, which I've spent a lot of time trying to overcome. With the D4 I've found it tends to err on the side of under exposure, too, by about 1/3 stop (or maybe that's my eyes again.) So, a Sekonic light meter recently found it's way into my shopping cart at Adorama...

    Either way, learning the difference between reflected and falling light sometimes requires manual metering with an external light meter, that's how I learned. I do agree, though, that the polaroid method of taking a few shots to get it the way you want it is almost certainly faster, then you add in the use of Viveza 2 (or similar) and the external light meter really does kind of go by the way side if you're not overly concerned with processing time. I will admit to having never shot *any* studio photos either, so I have no idea if it would be more helpful in there.
    D4 | 70-200 2.8 VR | 24-70 2.8 | TC-17e II
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member

    Want even a faster way to rip off some shots at various exposure settings? Use auto bracketing of exposure. See page 132 of the D800 user's manual. I have never done this so I cannot speak from experience but as I understand it you can set the camera to bracket exposure up and down whatever exposure compensation value you want from the camera's suggested "correct" exposure and then press the shutter and rip of 3 or up to 9 shots at once. Then you can select the best on at home in front of your computer. How can you miss the correct exposure with an approach like that and it is so fast!
    I did this quite a lot when I first got my D800; now I never bother
    why ?
    because in every case, the one in the middle was spot on, 100%
    yes I correct in post, but that is adjusting highlights and shadows, not overall exposure



  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    sevencrossing: good to hear. Perhaps someone like Paperman might find it a useful tool to quickly rip off 3 shots 1/3 stop apart.
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