Alternatives to the Sekonic L-758 lightmeter

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by pgriz, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. pgriz

    pgriz Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Gotcha.

    Wasn't getting any response on the post with the title: Alternatives to the Sekonic L-758 lightmeter, so decided to... umm.. get a more interesting title. So. If you know nada about lightmeters and their use, sorry for the "false advertising", and please ignore the rest of this post. :sexywink:

    If, however, you know what lightmeters are, how to use them, and can share your experience with me, then please read on.:thumbsup:

    I’ve used the Gossen Lunasix Pro (with a bunch of its accessories) for years. About a decade ago it got “liberated” along with some other photographic equipment, and as the replacement gear had decent metering, I never got around to getting a replacement for it. However… lately I’ve been getting into more challenging photographic situations and am using one or more off-camera flash(s) for fill, etc., and am spending too much time making adjustments. So… I’m looking for a good lightmeter that can do both reflected and incident light, can meter flash exposures, can give me a 1degree spot, and uses simple-to-find batteries.

    The Sekonic L-758DR appears to have all that, but is rather pricy. The L-358 has lots of features, but no spot-meter mode (yes, there is an add-on, but the price of the two together approaches the L-758). So… does anyone on this forum know of alternatives to the L-758DR that they use and are happy with, or is the L-758DR the top of the heap in this area?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The L358 is the one I see bought & used most. I can't think of anyone I know, who has the L758.
    In most cases, the 358 is more than enough for anyone's needs. I did know that you could get the spot meter attachment for it, but I didn't know that the 758 has one built in.

    I guess if you really need a one degree spot meter, then the 758 is a viable option.
     
  3. pgriz

    pgriz Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Thanks, Mike. I got spoiled with the spotmeter option on the Gossen. I'd meter various points of the scene and build up an idea of the dynamic range. Then together with the incident light reading, I'd have a very good idea of how to bias my exposure to maintain maximum detail. This really worked well when I was doing slide film and I rarely had blown highlights or blocked shadow areas. When I switched to digital, I got lazy. Now that I'm starting to push the envelope again, I'm finding that the more challenging light conditions require more thinking about the exposure. I've been using the spot meter in my camera, but it's somewhat kludgy. Hence my desire for the spot-meter.
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    My thinking is that if all that metering is part of the joy of photography for you, then go for it....but it's not nearly as necessary with digital as it was with film, especially slide film. It's just way too easy to just shoot, check the histogram, adjust and shoot again. Or just run through a bracket of 8 shots in the same amount of time it would take to spot meter the scene.

    Not to mention, there are various was to extend or massage the dynamic range of digital images these days.
     
  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Main meter is a Minolta V that I bought used, and my backup is a Luna Pro F, also bought used. The Minolta is an excellent meter that does everything I could ever want and a lot more for < $200 (including attachments). The 758 is an awesome piece of gear, but you could buy a Minolta V and the best Pentax Spotmeter and still have enough left over for a giant latte at Starbux!
     
  7. pgriz

    pgriz Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    @ Kundalini - thanks for the link. It highlighted a key feature that I had NOT been able to do with my Gossen meter - get good readings with flash. Natural light metering, I understand. Flash metering when using two or more flashes, and mixing it with ambient light or tungsten light, is another kettle of fish.

    @ BigMike - call me old-fashioned, but I try to get it right (or mostly right) in camera. The histogram display certainly helps, but until you can see the image on a large monitor in an optimal viewing area, you can't really see all the issues that may be affecting the image. More than once I've had what I thought was a good shooting session (based on the histogram, and magnified look at the image on the camera's LCD screen), and then when I got home, found various obvious and not-so-obvious defects. Too late to go back and re-shoot.

    The other reason for wanting to meter is pretty much the same as described by the wedding photographer in Kundalini's link - to get a clearly defined shooting area, at least in terms of light, so you can focus on the action and details, and not on adjusting the exposure. Just as he does, I usually try to meter according to the incident light, and adjust the exposure only if key detail areas (either bright or dark) will fall outside the dynamic range of my equipment.

    I will see if I can borrow a L358 to play with. Both of you may be right - that the 1-degree spot is a "nice-to-have" but not necessary.

    @ tirediron: Thanks - that gives me another option to consider. Much appreciated.
     
  8. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    I have the L-758DR as well as a number of other meters. I like spot meters with a viewfinder display because it is the easiest and fastest way to determine the brightness range of a scene. The older L-558 has similar specs to the 758, and I would consider buying one second-hand. The L-508 does not have a viewfinder display.

    Here are some of my previous comments on the 758 and similar meters:

    Link 1

    Link 2

    Link 3

    Best,
    Helen
     
  9. pgriz

    pgriz Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Thank you, Helen. Very informative. I'm still wrestling with whether the spot meter is a nice-to-have or essential. The other options onf the meter (downloadable profiles and curves) may be a solution searching for a problem. Have to think about that. But in any case, thanks for taking the time to pull together those posts for me. :thumbup:
     
  10. ashleykaryl

    ashleykaryl TPF Noob!

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    If there was a therapy group for light meter dependency I would have to attend. In a time when most photographers seem to have abandoned all interest in hand held light meters I still believe they are an essential item that should be found in any serious photographers kit bag. For several years I have had three different meters and a couple weeks ago I realised this was a little ridiculous so naturally I immediately decided to look for a new one :lol:

    My mishmash collection included the convenient but basic Sekonic 308B, a well worn Minolta flashmeter III and a Gossen Sixtomat that is daylight only. In normal light conditions all of them gave identical readings to within 1/10th of a stop so accuracy was never an issue but handling was. None of these meters was perfect for every occasion and they all had their limitations, so I figured I could sell one or two in exchange for something more modern.

    I started looking on eBay for a Minolta V, which is still a good meter if you can find a clean one but they are pretty rare, though I just saw a VI when I looked a minute ago. The only downside really with any Minolta now is that they are no longer made so if something goes wrong you may just find yourself with an expensive paperweight. If you really want a Minolta you might consider a Kenko who I believe manufacture the same designs under license. Remember though that this is 1990's technology and there are competitively priced newer alternatives nowadays. The Kenko isn't cheap either and I don't know anything about the quality of the components in use or the construction.

    The point I liked about the Minolta V was the ability to read flash & ambient combined so a search in that direction led me to the Sekonic L-358 which I studied with interest, reading several reviews. It does look like a good meter and I have no reason to believe I wouldn't be satisfied with the performance but for some reason I was reluctant to pull out my wallet. There was a Gossen alternative as well but looking around it was clear that the Sekonic was far more popular with users.

    At that point I made the fatal error of trying to compare the specs on the L-758D and suddenly I knew I wanted one. Ten minutes later I couldn't believe my luck when I tracked down a new one on eBay from a dealer for about $80 more than an L-358 and out came my credit card. I was actually a little concerned that it might be a scam because the price was so good but it had buyer protection and all the rest so I decided to go for it and I am happy to say everything was perfect.

    The L-758D is simply beautiful and quite unlike other meters I have used. As soon as you pick it up you know it's special and although it might seem a bit complicated at first you soon become used to the handling if you spend half an hour with the instruction manual to get a feel for the functions. Just to be clear on this in normal light this meter gives the same basic readings as my other ones i.e correct. The difference is in the handling with extended features and the way it is built plus of course the spot metering. The case is big, so it isn't the most convenient meter to carry around on location but if you are genuinely serious about your exposures I don't think it can be matched.

    The old Minolta has just been donated to a local college where they have a photography department and I shall put the Gossen on eBay. It's an excellent piece of equipment but the omission of flash metering and no swivel head makes it less useful for me, so it has sat in a cupboard now for several years. That leaves me with the Sekonic 308B that can always find a space in your pocket and the new Sekonic. I don't know if this really answers your question but fwiw if you can find a well priced L-758D it's worth the extra money, knowing you have the best.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2010
  11. pgriz

    pgriz Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    @ ashleykaryl: Congratulations on scoring a nice deal!

    Well, I did some serious thinking about how I actually shoot, vs. how I think I should shoot. In the end, the L-358 is the one I ended up with. With the Gossen, I usually used the lightmeter to get a good idea of what the incident light was doing in both highlight and shadow. That then gave me a clear idea of how to bias my exposure after getting the meter reading through the camera. The L-358 does that as well, and is more sentitive.

    The other need I had was to have the flash exposure properly captured. I'm using between 1 and 3 flashes in manual mode, and the meter allows me to dial in the correct amount of flash power, and its distance from the subject. I could have done the same by taking a shot, studying it on the camera's LCD, and then made the adjustments, but the meter makes it both easier and faster. For instance, one of my meters has no ability to change the flash power, so moving it closer or farther away (or using appropriate modifiers) is the way I control how much light it contributes.

    I don't have the 1-degree reflected light meter, but I can continue using the camera's spot meter option to get those readings. After thinking about it, I realised that for the typical scenarios I have when I shoot, it's a nice-to-have, but not essential.

    Now... if someone offers me a L-758DR for the price of a L-358 or less, then I don't have to think very hard. But until then... the L-358 is already doing what I need it to do.
     
  12. ashleykaryl

    ashleykaryl TPF Noob!

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    It sounds like you made a sensible decision. Over here in the UK I was looking at retailers selling the L-358 at £200 and mulling that over, knowing that I already had a pair of perfectly usable flash meters for most tasks. When I happened to find a brand new L-758D for for £247 though I figured I should grab it immediately. As the dealer explained on the website, the box had been previously opened but the meter was unused and came with the usual 12 month guarantee. That saved me around £150.
     

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