Any input on Minolta "Spot Meter F" : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I need a spot meter and wanted the ability to see the EV reading through the view finder but at the same time have some fancy electronic capability, the Minolta Spot Meter F was the only one I found that accomplished this. None of the Sekonics did, which suprised, how cumbersome, every time you press the trigger you have to look on the side of the meter to get the reading. The Penatx spot meter displays the reading through the view finder but you have to spin the dials manual. Does any one have any input or experience on this Minolta meter or another one which will accomplish the same task....

-- Bill Glickman (, September 23, 1998


With the Minolta Spot F, you can see either the EV through the viewfinder, or you can see plus-or-minus readings compared to whatever you choose to be "zero". Either method allows you to quickly find the contrast range in a scene.

Drawbacks include: you choose the shutter speed, and it tells you the aperture. Especially for LF, I would prefer the other way round.

One disadvantage is that some people think it is a camera, and in the holster, on a belt, it looks like a gun.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 23, 1998.

I owned the Minolta Spotmeter F and later the Pentax Digital Spotmeter. I much prefer the latter. The Minolta has too many buttons to fiddle with so is harder to use. The dial on the Pentax is much more convenient, and also there's no on-off switch. The Minolta has 1/10 stop accuracy, vs. 1/3 stop for the Pentax, but I find that extra accuracy more a nuisance than an advantage.

-- Stewart Ethier (, September 23, 1998.

I use a very old Pentax spotmeter and do not find it cumbersome at all to "spin the dials." You quickly learn to do the spinning in your head anyway, particularly if like me you only use one film all the time. Erik

-- Erik Ryberg (, September 24, 1998.

I use a Minolta Spot F. Fast, simple, reasonably rugged.i have a question: I have been a professional (and well published) photographer since 1984 and before that I assisted for a few top level national pros for three years and have never seen a need in still photography for meter readouts in EV readings (much preferring to use the direct language of the camera, f-stops) can someone tell me why you would want to read light in EV numbers and then translate that to f-stops? It seems clumsy and inelegant to me but maybe there is a reason I am unaware of.

-- Ellis (, September 25, 1998.

One of things I forgot to mention in my earlier post was that one of the ways, the primary way i think, that i use my Spot F is to meter the brightest area, input to memory, measure the darkest area (that I want detail in) enter that reading into memory and then I push the average button. I not only get a middle reading, I can see the spread on the linear scale at the top of the display. I can then hunt around in the scene to discover how different areas compare to the midtone value. This is displayed in the viewfinder as a plus or minus value like "+.07" or "-1.3" I then consult the internal experience/intuition computer in my head and act accordingly. Presumably the Gossen has some similar memory and averaging function. be a slave to your film not to Zone system ideology.

-- Ellis (, September 25, 1998.

The mechanics (well, software) of the Minolta Spot F seems to be more suited to slides than B&W, which is what I use. For example, I don't care what the "average" reading is, because I meter for the shadows, and let the highlights fall where they will. The scene contrast tells me whether I can fit it on the film, or whether to give special development, or whether to reach for the "N+2" 35mm body.

The linear display was something I used a lot when I first got the meter, but now I just use the EV numbers and do the subtraction sum in my head. That way, I don't have to take the meter away from my eye.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 25, 1998.

I have owned both and much prefer the Pentax. For me, I only wanted a meter for zone system purposes and I find the Pentax to be much more convenient for that relatively limited purpose. If you don't use the zone system, and like a lot of electronic gizmos, you would probably prefer the Minolta. In particular, the Minolta can also be used as a flash meter. I never used it for that purpose so I don't know how good it is but it is at least an option.

-- Brian Ellis (, September 27, 1998.

>>I never used it for that purpose [flash] so I don't know how good it is but it is at least an option.

Just for completeness, yes, it is excellent flash spotmeter.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 28, 1998.

The following was a response I wrote to someone with a question about using the shadow and highlight buttons on the Minolta F, and may be helpful for this question.

I've used a Spotmeter F for a few years, after using the Pentax Spotmeter (non-digital). First, I'll digress from your questions a little.

The qualities of the F which I like are: it's small and light; it will retain readings in memory after it's shut off; you can memorize a reading and then quickly compare other areas to the memorized reading without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

What I don't like is that there are no shutter speed readouts between the 2s, 4s, 8s, 15s, 30s, 1m, etc., standard speeds. The Pentax meter has a rotary dial from which you can quickly interpolate between the standard speeds. However, this dial can be easily disturbed by accident, whereas if I shut the Minolta off, the reading is retained. After taking a little time to get used to the lack of non- standard shutter speeds (I do a lot of long exposures), I found that the features I liked outweighed the drawbacks.

On to your questions.

I shoot mostly color transparency film (chromes) and critical exposure is a must. For this type of film, conventional wisdom says that highlights lose their detail at 2.3 stops above normal (normal: I'll call 0), shadows at 2.7 below 0. The Minolta F has built that 5 stop range into the shadow and highlight buttons.

To use the shadow button, read a subject, then press S. This memorizes an exposure in the meter; the exposure shown will render the subject you've just metered as shadow with detail. With this same reading in memory, if you now read that same subject, the meter will indicate that it is -2.7, or 2.7 below 0. It has 'placed' that metered area in the shadows. With this reading still in memory, you can test other subjects to see where they fall. For instance, if there is a bright area that you want to retain as a highlight with detail, and your reading of that area says more than 2.3, then you have to decide whether to adjust your exposure to retain the highlight at the expense of the shadow (the original subject area metered in this example). I hope this is clear; it's probably easier to do than to explain.

The highlight button works exactly the same way, except that you start with a bright area of your subject.

If you're confident that you can find middle gray, read it and then press A. This memorizes that exposure as the correct average reading, and then you can proceed to read the shadows and highlights to see if they still fall within the 5 stop range.

When you go on to your next shot, don't forget to push M-CLR, to clear the memory.

Even after using spotmeters for years, I still have trouble picking out middle gray, or 0, in a scene. Often, I'll have to start with the highlights and shadows and work my way in towards the center. That's why the shadow and highlight buttons are so useful to me. It's probably easier to pick the highlights and shadows, the boundaries of your image, than to accurately pick the middle gray, which is actually at 18%, and is in color in real life.

Spotmetering is more of an art than a science, and lots of experience is necessary. You'll find that you may have to start by reading an area that you think is 0, and then recheck that exposure by starting with the shadows, and then recheck it again by starting with the highlights.

I've calibrated my meters to fit my film and lenses and my work habits. I typically use the Minolta F for ambient light indoors, and my Minolta IV for incident light readings of flash indoors. For exterior work, I use both meters, but find that the F consistently overexposes and the IV consistently underexposes. The incident reading on the IV is faster, but if I've got time, I'll always check it with the F, which rarely lets me down. I'll even depend on the F when shooting other formats, unless I'm shooting quickly with my 35mm with its program meter functions, which seems to be able to handle most situations well.

After shooting many jobs, I've arrived at some shortcuts that work for me, and you'll undoubted develop your own. Some shortcuts I use are: I'll place bright yellows at about 1.7; I'll place white paper at no higher than 2.0; grass in sunlight is about a -.3, or 0; grass under overcast skies should be higher, about .3; skies at dusk with the sunset behind you should read about -2.0; of course, these are just rules of thumb that must be checked against the most important parts of your subject.

The ultimate test of whether your metering system works is in the chromes. I shoot 2 chromes at the 'normal' exposure, and bracket one at 2/3 stop over, and one at 2/3 stop under. I test process one normal chrome, and if necessary, adjust processing on the rest. Rarely do I have to adjust processing, because of my time consuming metering process. The client gets all three brackets; the 2/3 stop spread is usually enough to account for any subjective preferences on their part.

The foregoing is specifically in regards to chrome film. Negative film has wider latitude, and b/w wider still. I believe that if you can consistently expose chrome film accurately, you'll be able to handle all the others with ease, and can give a good start into Zone System b/w.

I hope this has helped.


-- Don Wong (, November 27, 1998.

I am a motion picture cinematographer. I read that F only has 1/50 cine speed. Is that true?

-- Eng Teoh (, January 28, 2002.

My Spotmeter F doesn't have a cinespeed setting.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, January 28, 2002.

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