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How to Use a Light Meter (Sekonic's Low-Cost L-308DC with the Panasonic AF100)

03.7.11 @ 9:11AM Tags : , , ,

First of all, just a quick note that the Panasonic AF100 is currently in stock at B&H Photo. It’s been a hard camera to find, as the demand is exceeding the supply — so if you were planning on buying the camera, please use this link to support NFS (at no additional cost to you). With that out of the way, here’s a video from Abel Cine highlighting the new low-cost Sekonic L-308DC light meter, which like all light meters allows one to light by ratios — measuring stops without needing to constantly consult a camera’s waveform or histogram. However, the newly-released 308DC is a third of the price of most light meters, and is specifically designed for DSLR and digital cinematography:

So, in what situations would you want to use a light meter instead of using your trusty on-camera exposure aids? One factor to keep in mind: if you have a guy standing with the camera while you’re making light adjustments, he could tell you how your lighting tweaks are affecting the image. But if you’re experienced with a light meter, you can be hanging the lights yourself and measuring it where the subject will be, without going back and forth to the camera or needing another party to tell you what’s going on. Anyone out there work with a light meter in the digital age? If so, how do you find it?

[via CineTechnica]


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  • I still use my Seconic L-398A for most of my work. I hate reading histograms and I always prefer a more objective reading when setting my exposure. What I like could be over or underexposed.

  • Light meters work great. I shoot with a 5d and I use a meter on every shoot. It gets your eyes used to what you want to light without having to look at waveforms. After a while you can just tell what you need to expose because of experience and you will use the light meter just to see if you’re at the right reading. Saves a lot of time and gives you more time to experiment. Instead of looking at an lcd monitor you can just look at the set with your eye and see what you need to do.

  • I have a Sekonic L-398 that’s almost 25yrs old & it still works perfectly. I also have Sekonic L-328 that I only use for flash photography. The 398 is my “go to” light meter. I never have to worry about batteries. It just works. I think everyone, photographers and filmmakers, needs to use use a light meter sometime during their career to really understand subtleties of lighting.

    That L-308DC looks sweet though. I just might have to trade my 328 in for the 308.

  • Great Website.

    I’m still using my Light-Meter to. I have an old Gossen. It must be 30 years old now.

  • some people think you shouldn’t use a light meter with digital cameras, as they’re designed for the very different “near-logarithmic response of silver halide film”

  • I’ve been asking around and even my professors. I still have no idea. The question is. Do I still need a light meter when using a DSLR (canon t2i).? Is it recommended. Pls Help. Thanks.

    • Do you NEED one? No. If you’re just getting started, go ahead and shoot without one.

      • thanks! Yeh, it’s been on my mind. I mean, I’m using one for the Super 16 in film school and stuff. But now that I am digital. Wouldnt a light meter, kinda, be obsolete? maybe? IDK.

        • If all you want to do is Weekend shoot, edit, upload to You Tube filmmaking, forget about having a meter. But, if you want to be a professional, that’s another story. Good craftmanship never goes obsolete. I come from a film background (35/16mm) and I’ve been using Sekonics and Spectra meters for over 40 years. As of late, I’ve been shooting Digital, mainly with the Canon MKII D5, and I still use a meter even if it’s just to set lighting ratios. On a recent shoot, I had an interior daylight scene with light coming from a side window (A 12k HMI). Right side of the main character’s face was F5:6, left F2:8, background f4. I even wrote the distance from the subject and the height of the HMI. 2 weeks later, the director decided to add 3 more lines, we went back and reproduced the above mentioned measurements. It looked the same as in the first day. You can’t do that just by aiming the camera and getting auto exposure. Also, I never use on camera sound with any DSLR. We recorded separately to a Zoom, from it to a Beachtek, and from the Beachtek to the camera as a reference sound. No auto focus for me either, I use a follow focus unit and a matte box for filters. Another thing I hear from young “filmmakers” is that the XYZ Digiwonder camera is so sentive you don’t need to light. That’s right, if you want your footage to look like a safety camera at a 7/11 or police surveilance, specially at night. If you want to be a filmmaker, learn to do things right.

          • Thanks for the gold nuggets. Definetely, I have lots to learn.

          • Ooooo, the XYZ Digiwonder!!! I didn’t know that was releases yet! I want one!

            On a serious note, light meters are great because I’m never sure I can truly trust any monitor on a set…especially outside. For run and gun, sure…but you’re not using much for lights there anyway. For a true studio setting, or planned shot, light meters are invaluable.

  • I don’t always agree with what he says, but Barry Green is a very knowledgeable guy; in the thread I linked up there he says:
    “A lightmeter is nigh unto useless for setting accurate exposure with a video camera”

    • This being something I wouldn’t agree with.. but I love Barry.when I can afford THIS Sekonic, I’ll be getting one.

  • I would never light without a light meter. If you do testing with your camera before hand and find out the dynamic range, as well as middle gray you can then take a page from Ansel Adams and make sure whats important to you is exposing properly. Zone system photography.

    I guess you don’t NEED one, but if you ever want to go beyond just “making it look right” to really understanding exposure and how it makes up your image, use a meter.

    • Thank you . I appreciate your comment. Will look into to getting one of these. I do want to go beyond.

      • J.S Lawrence on 03.14.11 @ 4:01AM

        Hey there Josue. This year I’m Directing an entire feature film on the Canon 7D and T2i. I can not stress the importance of using a light meter more on set as your filming. Sometimes it’s easy to make adjustments by the eye, but having a light meter comes in very handy. I would say pick one up and just learn it. In the end you’ll find it adds an extra amount of professional value to all your footage. You can find some older cheaper Sekonics on ebay. Check them out bro! :)

  • dude in the green seems / looks like a total bowman.

  • Links in this article give a 404 error!