Light meters


TPF Noob!
Oct 30, 2007
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Wellington, New Zealand
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Does every camera (I have a Minotla X-300s film camera) have a built in light meter? Some people have told me yes, but I can't seem to find one. Anyway, looking at buying a handheld one, are they easy to use? And how can you test for accuracy?
Not all cameras have built in light meters...but probably 99% of cameras made in the last 30 or 40 years do.

Any camera that has any sort of automatic mode, must have a light meter...otherwise, it wouldn't know what settings to use.

The light meter in a camera, measures the light 'reflectively''s a reflected light meter. That means that it's measuring the light that is reflecting off of the subject...and coming into the camera.

A hand held meter is very easy to use. Most can be use as reflective light meters, just like the camera. You hold the meter where the camera is, and take a reading toward the subject. Not a whole lot of point to this if your camera has a meter.

The real advantage is a hand held meter is that you can measure the incident light (if you have an incident meter). This means that you are measuring the light that is falling on the subject, rather than reflecting off of it. To do this, you go to the subject and point back toward the light and/or camera and take a reading. This is important because you are eliminating the reflectivity of the subject from the equation...which would otherwise affect your meter reading.

Also, when metering for flash/strobe need a meter that is capable of that.
Thanks for your help Mike. Yep, my camera has an auto mode, I just don't know how to read the meter in it......
Does your camera have a small screen, or does it display info when you look into the view finder?

Normally, you half press the shutter release button...and that activates the meter. The camera will show you a shutter speed and an aperture value....that is the meter reading.
It should have a light meter, I think. If I am thinking of the correct model, there will be a wheel in front of the shutter release that changes the shutter speed or sets it to auto. The meter display is a series of LEDs in the viewfinder. When you are in auto, the metered speed is displayed. When you are in manual the selected speed blinks and the metered speed is steady.

You can check the battery by lightly pressing the shutter release when the camera is switched on. The mode LED (A or M) should light. If it blinks the battery is low, if it doesn't light at all the battery is dead.

Does the above description fit your camera?

From a bit of appears that your camera may use a series of lights in the viewfinder, to show you the meter readings.

You would put the camera into auto/aperture priority. Then you would adjust the shutter speed until the lights indicate that you have the correct settings.
Caution... potential stupid question coming... lol

I know on a manual camera, what you said will work, Mike... but when you put a camera in aperture priority mode, is it not becuase you want to give preference to playing with the aperture, not the shutter as you suggested?
Yes, with this camera when you are in auto you adjust the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. There is an AE lock in front of the shutter release.

That's right.

The early 'auto exposure' cameras worked this way...which is basically like the modern Aperture priority. First you choose the aperture that you want to use....then the shutter speed to match. In this case, the camera can't automatically adjust the shutter speed, so you adjust it until the camera tell you to stop.
Thanks everyone :) Helen, yes that description does fit my camera - I just can't work out how to read what the meter is telling me. How stupid do I feel right now?!?!?!?!

Mike - that makes to work out how to read the meter. I think there is usually a flashing LED and one that sits at the shutter speed it's set at...or something....I'm confusing myself I think.
Hold on a sec - am I correct that my camera may only have shutter priority? So I have to set the apeture and it works out the shutter....I haven't discovered any other auto mode....sorry for the questions.
Maybe your right...I'm not exactly sure. :scratch:
Hold on a sec - am I correct that my camera may only have shutter priority? So I have to set the apeture and it works out the shutter....I haven't discovered any other auto mode....sorry for the questions.

That is correct in that the only auto control the camera has is over the shutter speed. You set the aperture, the camera sets the shutter speed. But isn't that called aperture priority?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, when you are in manual the metered speed is shown by the constant LED. The set speed (ie the speed you have set manually) is shown by the blinking LED.

So, if you set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter is set to 1/30, and you point the camera at the scene to be metered the steady LED might show 1/250 (actually just '250' of course) and the blinking LED would show '30'. That means that the meter reading is 1/250 at f/16.

Does that help?

Yep, that makes perfect sense, that's exactly the info I was after, thank you Helen :)

I will go home and have a play and then I'll be able to use the meter properly. Thanks you so much, I appreciate everyones help.
If it is anything like my dad's Nikon F2A, there is no real "aperture priority" or "shutter priority"... you do it yourself.

Example, you know whether you want a deep or shallow DOF and you set the aperture to what ever you want.

In film, you set the ISO based on the kind of film in the camera, and you can normally "push" the ISO 1-2 steps up or down based on needs... but mostly you set it based on the ASA rating of the film for most reliable results.

In the view finder is a small needle that points far left (underexposed) or far right (overexposed). Play with the shutter speed until it points up straight... voila, a well exposed pic!

The priority mode will be likely whatever you set first, and all the other settings follow suite based on what the internal meter tells you. This "needle" for me, could be a set of lights for someone else or a dot with an arrow one side or the other. Either way, the concept is pretty easy... it tells you when it is set right.

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