Saturday, April 19, 2014

Meter Meter on the wall.. Who has the fairest light of them all?

A brief overview of meters and the feature sets, there are dozens of meters out there so i'm only covering Sekonic for now. Most of the people I know who are camera geeks use Sekonic anyways.

Sekonic L-758DR DigitalMaster

A more pricey and simpler looking version of the 478 with lots of features, built-in 1 degree reflective meter.
These typically sell for about 499-650. It sounds like a lot but you would typically only replace these meters once every 10-15 years, some photographers have been using the same meters for 25 years.
This meter and the 478 both feature upgradeable firmware and very useful custom configuration on PC or Mac, various features including camera calibration profiles. Neither model allow measuring of color spectrum. Build quality of the 758 is better but if you're expecting magnesium body, prepare for disappointment. Both units include multi-exposure summing for ambient and flash as well as factoring in filter compensation. 758 Manual
Best all around meter available by Sekonic
without the flashy touch screen.

L-478DR LiteMaster Pro

Dollar for dollar this has the most features for the price.
Does not include built in reflective metering. Add-on sold seperately ($99)
ColorChecker calibration targets are not normally sold with any of the sekonic units.
The 478DR is typically priced $299 - $399 without anything except the unit itself.
The 758 and the 478 allow custom calibration of tonality, giving you the possibility of creating custom color profiles.
Once the mid tones are calibrated the 478's OSD touch screen shows a color coded chart along the bottom of the screen showing optimal F-Stop for the best tonality, as well as showing where it will clip highlights and shadows.
The 478 has so many functions that it is wise to edit the menu so it only shows the modes you will use, this is a nice feature. It works with Pocket Wizard's ControlTL (Control The Light) signaling architecture, allowing full remote control of Control TL compatible lighting systems (Elinchrom RX, Paul C Buff Einstein). It will also wirelessly trigger any Pocket Wizard compatible strobe or studio flash.
The reflective metering (spot metering) add on clips onto the location where the dome sits, unlike its higher end sibling the 478 spots a 5 degree metering zone, the 758 has a 1 degree metering zone.  It may not be apparent as to why that is significant, the wider metering zone makes the 478 potentially less accurate, when making reflective measurements you want as little extraneous information making its way to the meter's sensor as possible.
Be very gentle with the directional module on top of the unit, it is more fragile than it looks. If you break it sekonic will most likely not answer your panic stricken calls for help on their support lines.
The touch screen is a little sluggish and hard to read in bright direct light (reflective screen surface).
Despite it's complicated appearance it's not that difficult to use. 478DR Manual
Touch screen with wireless triggering
DSLR and Cine functions.
(I own this one)

L-308DC DigiCineMate

Sells for about 180-279, very basic nuts and bolts illuminance meter with some Cine function. No wireless trigger function. No reflective metering.

Ikan MK350 Spectrometer from UPRTek

Can be used in photography but really designed for
laboratory grade illuminance and color matching.
I just include it because its cool!

Color Calibration Targets:
Vello White Balance
3 cards, plastic. Durable and cheap. Sells for 8-12 bucks.

X-Rite Color Checker
Wide color gamut chart with pigment based inks for a more true to life representation of each color and greyscale value. Pigment based ink is more accurate and less prone to color shift. Sells for $258.