Spot Meter for Low Light Situations : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm planning a couple of photo excursions next year in slot canyons with very low light and am concerned about the sensitivity of my light meter, which is the Sekonic L508. Although its published sensitivity is only 1 EV less than others like the Pentax Digital and Minolta Spot meters, I recalling having read a few reports that it is not sensitive enough in low light situations. Has anyone here who uses the L508 had problems in low light situations? Have you found it adequate in those situations? How are the Pentax and Minolta spots in low light situations? I'm leaning towards purchasing the Minolta if I get another meter because it has a memory function, which I use a lot on the Sekonic. Thanks for your feedback.

-- Howard Slavitt (, April 12, 2000


Howard, FWIW, I have used my Zone VI modified Pentax spotmeter in many low light situations (including slot canyons, which were not all that dark!) I have never found a practical situation where the Pentax digital was not able to function. Of course, I try not to work in total darkness, but the Pentax reads down to EV 3 with no problem. Hope this helps, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, April 12, 2000.

I have used the Pentax digital spot in many low light situations including slot canyons. I recall a few cases where the meter reading never exceeded eV 3 and went all the way to 0. My exposures were just fine given the appropriate amount of exposure compensation for the film used of course. One shot I had in Antelope canyon lasted for 12 minutes. Astia gave a very interesting color shift in this case! A little more purplish than I remember.

-- Richard Ross (, April 12, 2000.

Sekonic has a discussion board similar to this one on their web site that you might want to check out. This topic is discussed.

-- John H. Henderson (, April 12, 2000.


I have the 508. I shoot some cities at night and have noticed it does not seem as sensitive as I would like. I end up spot metering something lighter and working backwards from there. I almost always shoot a polaroid to check anyway. The lowest I have been able to get it to read is 30 minutes at F32 and this is far lower than anything I have shot...

It took me 10 minutes to learn - quite an intuitive device. It would be nice if the values showed up in the spot window but this is a small quibble.

I have never owned another meter so I cannot compare to the others' low light sensitivity...

-- Alex Corbishley (, April 12, 2000.

Howard, I have the 508, and find that its incident reading ability is much better than its spot reading ability... I also have the 778 Sekonic, which is a far superior light meter in the spot mode. When I am shooting in dark areas, I have had times when all light meters have failed me, meaning the meter can not measure such low light levels. If you are shooting a slot canyon mid day, I doubt you will have this problem, but if its overcast or evening / morning, I am sure there will be areas that can experience this. My fix was buying a Quantam light meter that measures down to -5 EV. Its an old fashion incident meter, but at least I know where I stand in certain parts of my scene that my others meter will not register.

-- Bill Glickman (, April 13, 2000.

I tried the 508 when it came out. The spot meter isn't quite as sensitive as Pentax Digital Spot meter, which I now own and the reason I returned the 508. I thought the spot meter sensitivity of 508 is EV 3 whereas pentax (or minolta, sekonic) spot meters can get down to EV 1. So the difference should be EV 2. I'm very happy with the pentax and it's very fast to read and adjust the exposure settings. But if you want memory functions, then your choice is toward the Minolta or Sekonic, etc.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, April 13, 2000.


I had a Sekonic 508 and found that the low light sensitivity was a problem for me. I found a great deal on a Gossen Ultra Pro and the spot attachment and like the low light capabilities of this meter. However, I REALLY miss the compact form factor and user interface of the Sekonic.


-- Harry Pluta (, April 14, 2000.

What about the L508 Cine version? Is this version better than the older L508?

-- jose angel (, April 14, 2000.

I've been using the Zone VI modified Spotmeter for a few years now and it's wonderful. It's very accurate and consistently gives me wonderful results. There have been a couple times when the light level was too low for the meter to give any useful reading (everything measurable falling at zone III or below). In those rare occasions I whip out my Quantum Calcu-Light XP, a meter which I swear can measure any amount of light and be dead on. As for the memory function, the Pentax is analog, so when you set the dial you've got all appropriate exposure combinations at your fingertips until the light changes or until you change it. It's a joy to use and is very reliable in all kinds of conditions.

-- Dave Munson (, April 14, 2000.

Just made a comparative test on both the Sekonic L-508 Cine Master and the Minolta Autometre IVF. In both incident and spot mode (Minolta with spot attachment), the sensitivity of the Minolta is 0,5 of a f-stop higher. At 100 ASA, the Minolta started measuring 1 minute at f4.0 and the threshold for the Sekonic was 1 min. at f4.0 when the Minolta showed 1 min. at f4.05. To my amazement, the two meters have 0,5 of a f-stop lapse in low light measurements ! The lapse reduces progressively to none when light increases (equal at f8). Having no means to check further, I am not able to say which is the most precise in low light. However, 1min. at f4.0 is 30 min. at f22! Taking into account the reciprocity failure, who would expose a sheet of Velvia in such poor light? I find the Sekonic to be excellent with it's zoom spot (1!-4!) and very precise.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 15, 2000.

BTW, I think I made a mistake purchasing this lightmeter for photography only. I thought it had all the features of the standard L508 Zoom Master, but some interesting studio capabilities lack!

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 17, 2000.


Actally the problem I had was not shooting Velvia, but rather doing Zone system photography in B&W. I need the ability to detect the light levels in the shadows as well as the medium tones and highlights. And in B&W I have been known to make exposures that have lasted for several minutes when doing nightime exterior architecture shots where I want people in the scene to disappear.

Best Regards, -harry

-- Harry Pluta (, April 20, 2000.

Sorry, Harry. I didnt' mean to turn your comment to nonsense. I just find the Sekonic good enough for my colour work. You opened my eyes on other needs, when working in B&W or special photography and I rekon you where certainly limited by the Sekonic sensitivity.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 20, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ