Vintage hand held light meter help needed.


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Sep 10, 2015
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I am starting to use some vintage cameras and building a darkroom. For these old cameras which of course didn't come with light meters people back then took readings with hand held light meters. Frankly it has been so long I have forgotten how to do it and need some help. I also need some advice on buying a meter. There are plenty on Ebay but I have no idea how to go about it Anyone have any suggestions or articles they can direct me to would be much appreciated.
There are thousands of meters on eBay ranging from ancient selenium-cell meters to brand-new state-of-the-art all digital touch screen units. The price also varies from a couple of dollars to nearly a thousand. What is your budget?
Frankly it has been so long I have forgotten how to do it and need some help.
So, are you want to buy one, or learn the one you already have?
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I am looking at the basic $30 Weston or GE just to determine exposure on cameras like my Graflex 22. Thanks
Gossen Luna Six or Sekonic L-398 ... those were the most common ones that I saw back in the days.
For me it's been a matter of finding one that works (thrift store type finds) and then figuring out how they work. I've often just used another camera to meter. If I'm out and about chances are I'll take along a rangefinder or SLR with a working meter and maybe a Polaroid or an antique or plastic midcentury whatever.
It sounds crazy, and a lot less fun, but there are apps for that that are pretty accurate. I downloaded pocket light meter on my iphone and it pretty much reads exactly like my in camera meter.
BubbaBear said:
I am looking at the basic $30 Weston or GE just to determine exposure on cameras like my Graflex 22. Thanks

MOST of those old meters DIED back in the 1980's...all four of my old selenium meters are dead (two Weston Master III models, one 1950's GE with the black baked enamel finish, and one cheapie made in Japan and sold through Montgomery Ward's), and all four of them died BEFORE Ronald Reagan got out of office. Of course, by that time, they were already twenty or more years old...

My Minolta flash meter from the mid-1980's still works...but for casual metering I use Pocket Light Meter, for GREAT as a reflected light meter. Dead-on accurate. Inexpensive too. ALSO, allows you to snap a picture of the scene, which shows the metering bracket, exposure parameters, AND the actual scene. VERY handy!
Well as you must have guessed by my desire to use light meters and old cameras I like old things. I don't have an iphone. Not even sure what apps are. My cell phone is just a phone. So with that in mind any ideas.
Where are you located? I know that here in Toronto there are a couple of film camera clubs that have swap shows once or twice a year, those are always a good place to find gear.

The sekonic meters were the most commonly used when I was in university in the early 1990s, if you can find one of them they were really good.
Thanks for the suggestions. It has been so long since I used one I don't know what type I need. Not only that I have forgotten how to use one. What I want is just a meter to help get exposures right on some vintage adjustable cameras. Something simple please.
I'd be very wary of buying a vintage meter, as Derrel said selenium cells do die through old age (I too have dead Weston V to prove the point) and most meters that used cadmium sulphide or silicon photo-diodes used mercury batteries that are no longer manufactured. If you do not need flash metering and your budget runs to a new or modern second hand meter I would look at the Sekonic L-398A. The L-398 has been around since the 70's and and is a good no-frills easy to use meter. The original model was powered by a selenium cell hence not recommended but the L-398A is a current model powered by a silicon photocell which should make it more sensitive and longer lasting than the old selenium models.
The Sekonic L-308s is the most popular light meter on the market ... and fairly versatile (not the most versatile though). But that has a price tag of just a little under $200. I had one for years and gave it to my niece (I use the Sekonic L-758DR these days.) This is a fairly basic incident meter, but it also has the ability to meter "flash". Lower-priced units usually meter available light only. A meter that measures "flash" can notice the burst of light provided by a test firing of the strobe and locks onto the reading at that moment in time.

The Sekonic L-208 is their basic meter and it's just a little over $100. It can't meter flash, but it can meter either incident or reflected light. Though this is a current model meter, it looks like something out of the past and it works a bit like the old meters too. You set the ASA/ISO on one dial, take your meter reading, and there's a large dial that your rotate so that it's arrow aligns with the needle on the meter. This aligns a row of f-stops to a row of shutter speeds. Every f-stop/shutter combination pairing is a valid exposure for that lighting situation.

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