12 Best Light Meters Reviewed & Tested in 2020www.sleeklens.com
I think that anyone with any basic knowledge of photography should be able to easily guess what photography light meter is used for because its name says it all. A camera light meter is used to precisely measure the amount of light around you so you can always be sure you are using the correct exposure on your camera. Light meters give you all the necessary values needed to achieve the perfect exposure like ISO, aperture and shutter speed. There are two major types of photography light meters, incident and reflected meters.
Incident light meters measure the amount of light falling onto the subject while reflected meters measure the amount of light that’s reflected from it. Incident meters are proven to be more accurate because they will provide accurate exposure even if you’re measuring light of surfaces that are too dark or reflective. Their only flaw is that they aren’t ideal for subjects that are too far away or moving too fast.
Reflective meters are more common since these type of meters are the ones used in cameras themselves. They measure different light levels in the scene and give you an average value based on these readings. All though they are faster than the incident light meters they can also be fooled by areas with large amounts of contrast or many different levels of light. Other two terms that need to be explained are spot meters and flash meters.
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What’s a spot meter?
Spot meters are reflective meters that are used to very precisely meter certain objects in the scene with their readings unaffected by the very bright or dark spots in your image.
What’s a flash meter?
Flash meters are designed to measure the amount of light coming from a flash which can’t be done by traditional meters because of it’s very short duration that’s usually greater than 1/1000 of a second. There are also some special types of photography light meters available like cinema models with expanded settings for frame rates that can display lux, shutter angles or foot-candles or color meters or spectrometers that can measure color temperature and CRI or display spectrum graphs.
The first thing you'll notice when you take a look at this meter is it's large 2.7 inch touchscreen providing for an easy and intuitive control over the interface and it can be used for both ambient and flash metering.
Incident Metering for Ambient & Flash
Range: -2 EV to 22.9 EV at ISO 100
Cine Setting: Frame Rate & Shutter Angle
2.7" Color Touchscreen LCD
Flash Analyzing Function
Filtration Compensation Mode
Language is fixed depending where you bought the product
It can function in the range of -2 to 22.9 EV at an ISO of 100. Beside being used for stills it can also be used for video with it's Cine and HD Cine modes which give you the ability to set your desired frame rate from 1-1000 fps and shutter angles from 1-358 degrees. Other features worth mentioning are flash analyzing function that uses both ambient and flash metering readings, filtration compensation mode which compensates for the light that is lost by using a filter and a memory mode for 9 readings. The maximum ISO range it can measure is from 3 to 409,600 in 1/3 increments. It runs on 2 AAA batteries and also features a mini-USB port for firmware upgrades.
It offers both spot and incident measurement modes as well as flash and ambient. It also offers PocketWizard wireless triggering, exposure proofing, 14 slots for custom settings and even pre-exposure warning. All it's measurement capabilities can be calculated from ISO of 3 to 8000. Incident and reflected modes can work together to give you highlight, shadow and mid-tone measurements all displayed on the meter's analogy scale. Looking through it's rectangular 1 degree parallax-free spot viewfinder you can see f-stops, shutter speeds and a lot more in both dim and bright light situations. It can sense light down to f/-2.0 at an ISO of 100.
There's also the ability to set exposure compensations up to +/- 9.9 EV for custom film exposure corrections or bellow extensions and +/- 5.0 EV for filter compensation. This meter offers one interesting feature that analog camera shooters will love and that’s dual ISO capability. With it you can take a single measurement and display shutter speed and f-stop for two different film speeds. There are three different exposure profiles that can be saved and easily switched between and can also be created on your computer and transferred via an USB cable. At the bottom of the list of impressive features lies yet another one and that’s weather sealing.
If you aren't interested in all the fancy bells and whistles that more advanced models offer and you're looking for a more affordable but still quite functional solution this meter could be just for you.
Incident Metering for Ambient & Flash
40° Reflected Light Metering
Range: 0 to 19.9 EV at ISO 100
Flash Range: f/1.4 to f/90.9 at ISO 100
Cine Setting: Frame Rates from 8-128 fps Repeat Accuracy: ±0.1 EV or Less
It meters both ambient and reflected light by using a 40 degree angle reception lens and it also meters flash lighting. While being very pocket friendly it still has a respectable metering range from 0 to 19.9 EV at an ISO of 100 and can also work with flash light ranging from f/1.4 to f/90.9 at the same ISO. It was also made with video and film makers in mind with included frame rate range of 8-128 fps and a shutter angle of 180 degrees. Lastly there's a 3-8,000 ISO range and it runs on just one AA battery.
With the help of integrated contrast measurement you can get an indication of whether the sensor of your camera can handle the high contrast subjects. It also features a convenient swivel head which gives you more control over your readings. The unit is quite small and ergonomic and can easily be used in one hand. It can display exposure values in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments, digital readout in 1/10 stops and analog indication of contrast in 1/2 step increments. There are also shutter speed and aperture priority modes available as well as an extensive range of frame rate speeds for video makers including the 25 and 30 fps modes. It can show exposure times from 1/8000 of a second to 60 minutes, has flash sync speeds from 1 second to 1/1000 of a second and can measure light in resolutions of 1/1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps.
An ergonomic design that sits comfortably in your hand and a large LCD display are the first things you'll notice while looking at it. Across the top of the display you'll notice a pointer scale which shows exposure in 10ths of stops and in 1/2 stop increments. Supported shutter speeds range from 1/8000 of a second to 30 minutes and 1 to 1/1000 of a second for flashes. It's cine mode supports frame rates of 8-128 fps. It can be used as an ambient meter as well as a flash meter with or without a sync cord and has an aperture range of f/1.0 to f/128. There’s also a calculation function that averages measurements stored in the memory which can be useful when measuring reflected light and you can store up to 2 of these. One last feature worth mentioning is the analyze function that uses both the flash and the ambient metering to help you measure the amount of light more precisely in mixed lighting conditions. On the power side of things the meter runs on 1 AA battery that can last up to 50 hours in ambient mode.
Right out the gate it boasts one very impressive feature and that's the ability to measure the amount of light of any type of light source be it LED, flash, natural, HMI or incandescent light. You can view all your readings on a spacious 4.3 inch color touchscreen and use one of the meter's many functions like spectrum graph, camera filter, CRI, lighting filter and white balance compensation. The R in it's name shows that it's capable of wirelessly triggering a PocketWizard connected flash at a maximum distance of 30 m or any flash for that matter just with a touch of a button. It's capable of measuring the amount of ambient light in the range of 1.0 to 200,000 lux and color temperature in the range of 1,600 to 40,000K. There's also a display mode called text mode which gives you the ability to see your color temperature, color compensation and light balancing filters for the color temperature you wish to achieve. While we're mentioning color temperature it's important to add the fact that it's linear CMOS sensor is very sensitive and can analyze the color temperature of any light source from 380 to 780 nanometers in 1 nanometer increments capturing spikes in the output.
I know that many of you wouldn't consider an analog meter to be comparable to it's digital peers or even useful in this day and age but you'd be surprised when you find out that it's not the case. This one is a redesign of their old classic meter and brings many new features that make it a competitive offering on the market. Firstly, it works without a battery, how awesome is that? It's made possible by using an amorphous silicon photocell. There's a needle lock for quick and easy measurement readings and a memory pointer so you can easily reference to your last measured value. Other features include a lumidisc that gives you the ability to adjust illumination contrast and measure illumination intensity and a lumigrid for measuring reflected light.
First, it can work in ambient, flash and spot metering modes and can measure both incident and reflected light. It boasts an ISO range of 3 to 8000 which can be set in 1/3 step increments. Supported shutter speeds range from 1 to 1/1000 of a second for flash sync and 1/8000 of a second to 60 minutes in ambient mode. One of it's most impressive features is it's waterproof housing which makes it an interesting choice for outdoor shooters looking for that extra level of protection. You can measure ambient, spot or flash exposures in 1-5 degrees angle using it's viewfinder. Video makers will find it interesting because this meter requires no formula conversations. Using the 11-step gray scale you'll be able to obtain precise black and white values and you'll also be able to obtain foot-candles, lux and other readings by using the photometry. The power source for Starlight 2 is just one 1.5V AA battery.
It's equipped with a spherical diffuser which can be rotated up to 270 degrees and can take spot measurement readings using the viewfinder. Like it's name implies it has enough features to be suitable for both photographers and video makers and the large selection of shutter speeds from 1/16000 of a second to 30 minutes really helps here. There's also an aperture range of f/1.0 to f/128 as well as the ISO range of 3 to 8000. You'll be viewing your measuring results on it's backlight display and you can also take spot measurements parallax-free viewfinder. It's able to store up to 10 measured values and has a custom alt mode that let's you set the meter to your liking. Lastly, there's a flash sync terminal that allows you to easily attach and meter flashes.
Looking at the esthetics it's bound to attract attention with it's 2.2 inch color TFT screen, symmetrical button layout and shiny black plastic housing dominated by the red Gossen logo. It has an interface designed and optimized for easy one-handed usage and high performance that can also be updated via the integrated USB port. The software on Digisky also has four built in profiles that can all be individually customized and switched between at any time. If you're a video maker or a cinematographer you'll surely appreciate the built-in movie function which gives you the ability of setting values like ISO, EV steps, cine speeds, photometry, filter values and sector angles. HDR photographers will like the option to measure the contrast and illuminance of a subject. On the hardware side of things there’s also an integrated rechargeable battery. In the end, let's talk some numbers. It can display apertures from f/0.5 to f/128, shutter speeds from 1/8000 of a second to 30 minutes and flash measuring times from 1 second to 1/1000 of a second.
It measures both ambient and flash light in incident or reflected modes. One very rare feature it offers is the ability to measure flash duration. The front of the unit is dominated by it's backlight LCD display and a set of buttons underneath it and it's all packed up in a very sleek and functional package. The ISO range you'll find on it is from 3 to 8000, f/Stop range of f/0.5 to 90 and a measuring range of EV 1 to 19.9 in ambient and f/2.0 to f/90.9 in flash mode. It can store information of measuring modes, ISO and shutter speed in it's memory and is powered up by only one AA battery.
It's design is rather understated but don't let that fool you, this is meter is a workhorse. The front of the device is dominated by the large 3.5 inch LCD touchscreen display and a simplistic graphical interface consisted of different colored tiles making it very easy to navigate through.
There is a large amount of different modes available for color readings like CCT, CRI or LB and shutter speed modes for exposure readings. It's measurement range is from 70-70,000 lux and it can record wavelengths from 380-780 nanometers. Other specifications include a flicker rate of 100 kHz/sec, maximum stray light of -25 dB and a spectral bandwidth of 12 nanometers. Last two features worth mentioning are the integrated Li-ion battery with a runtime of 5 hours and an SD card slot that is used to store JPEG images or Excel documents generated by the meter that contain important data about your lights.
Buying anything technology related can sometimes be a real chore if you don’t fully understand what you’re getting yourself into and things aren’t any different when it comes to products related to photography. What’s even more interesting is that it’s sometimes easier to choose a more complicated device like a camera itself, than some of its accompanying accessories. The story is pretty similar when it comes to choosing the best light meters; on the surface, they are simple devices with a very straightforward purpose and thus it should be really easy to pick the right one that will suit your needs, but often it’s the exact opposite and it can be hard to differentiate one light meter from the other. For that reason, we chose to create a model by which we can choose the best ones out there for you and create a list that will help you make the right purchasing decision and be satisfied with the item of your choice. So, let’s see what criteria we’ve used when writing this article and let’s examine each of its aspects in more detail.
The method of taking a reading – Most of the photography light meters can measure two different types of light: incident or reflected. Depending on your needs, you will either have to choose a camera light meter that’s able to measure one of those two types of light or one that can do both if you are prepared to accept a higher asking price. If you aren’t aware of what those types of meters are, then check our FAQ section in this article and read about them in more detail. Either way, we will always try to point out the exact functionality of each of the light meters in our article so you can be sure that you’ll pick the right one for you.
Power requirement – Photography light meters can either be digital or analog and despite all the advances in technology photographers and videographers alike still have use for both types in today’s times. Analog meters allow you to acquire your readings faster than the digital meters, but lack the advanced functionalities and features brought by modern technology. The analog meters also have one other advantage and that is their ability to work without batteries, which can be very beneficial in a lot of different situations. While the digital meters are more widespread these days, we will always make sure to offer you at least one analog meter to choose from in case you need that exact type of light meter.
Price – Just like with any product, for a lot of users the price is the most important factor that affects their final purchasing decision and the story isn’t any different with light meters. This means that you get a lot of choice when choosing the best light meter; you can opt in for a basic one that won’t cost much money, one with a nice balanced set of features and a reasonable price and also a high-end model that offers all the bells and whistles that are needed by any professional out there, but of course at a premium price point. While the latter are the most exciting ones to look at, our focus will always be on picking ones that will give you most of the functionality you would expect to find on a modern light meter, but without costing you very much money.
What’s an incident reading and what is it used for?
Incident reading is used to measure the light that is falling directly over your chosen subject from a source that’s used especially expose that subject before anything else. To acquire the necessary reading, you’ll have to point your camera light meter toward your camera from the subject’s position. If you’re working in a controlled environment like a studio the incident meter will probably be your best choice for most of your needs since it doesn’t have to deal with the light changes brought by very dark or reflective surfaces and you’re in a total control of your lighting.
What’s a reflected reading and why should I use it over the incident reading?
Reflected reading is used to measure the entire scene and give you an overall estimation of the exposure settings you should use with your camera to get a photo with balanced exposure in each of the important areas. Since most of the people will be shooting in those conditions where there are constant changes in lighting, reflected meters are most commonly widespread out of all the other types. Even your camera light meter uses the same technology. There’s also a way to improve the accuracy of your readings even further and that’s by using something called an 18% gray card. It’s actually a very simple method as its main purpose is to provide you with a consistent surface that is easier to read the amount of light from.
What’s flash metering?
As its name already implies, flash metering is a special type of metering that only applies to those working with flashes and the specific type of light they emit. More than anything, this is due to very short bursts of light that are hard to measure by more conventional types of meters. These require a constant connection to your flash unit either via a dedicated PC port or wirelessly by using a strobe.
What’s spot metering?
Spot metering is a method of measuring the amount of light that reaches a very small portion of the image frame (usually one that ranges from 1 to 10-degree angles of view). It is based on reflective metering, but still requires a different type of meter altogether since a traditional reflected meter would be thrown off by all the different light sources in the scene and wouldn’t be able to acquire a very precise reading of the amount of light found in your desired spot. Some meters can also be adapted to work as a spot meter by attaching a special accessory to them.
What are specialty meters and what are they used for?
While the more traditional photographers will be satisfied with all the functionality brought on by the usual types of light meters that can be found on the market, there will always some users that require something with a couple of additional features and made for an entirely different use. When talking about specialty meters we are mostly referring to those working with video, rather than still pictures. Since movies are made out of a lot of different frames that move very quickly it is very hard to accurately measure the light in your scene without a special cine model of light meter. These are usually equipped to take into account the different framerates and also display their measurements in units such as foot-candle or lux. Other than those types of meters you can also expect to find some that are able to provide you with extra information such as color temperature or even provide you with a spectrum graph.
Why should I consider buying a dedicated light meter when my camera already has one?
While it’s true that most of the basic functionality provided by a dedicated light meter is already contained inside of today’s cameras and will be enough for casual users and amateurs there’s still too much use case scenarios in which the integrated light meters won’t suffice. This is particularly true in terms of metering precise parts of your scene, for those occasions when you’re doing professional work with the use of flash units and especially if you’re a videographer or movie maker and getting the most accurate exposure possible is of utmost importance. So, in a nutshell, dedicated light meters aren’t made for everyone, but if you’re considering yourself to be a professional of any kind, you should seriously consider having one as a part of your gear.
An amateur photographer, songwriter, musician, computer and technology geek and an occasional comedian, I'm a little bit of everything. I always aim to pursue things I'm passonate about and try to look on the positive side of things whenever I can. My mission is to wrap my articles in that aura of positive energy and keep a healthy balance between being serious about my work and spicing things up with a little fun now and than. After all, life's a game and there's always a different way to play it.