Modified Pentax Spotmeter : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I acquired a Pentax digital spotmeter five + years ago and had it calibrated by Zone VI. I believe they put in a new photocell that allow a more linear response relationship over what came from the factory. Since it is about Spring here in Colorado and I anticipate much use of the meter, I wanted to know if I need to get it checked periodically. I remembered that Zone VI said that sending it in for a "tune up" was advised and I was not sure if it was a marketing pitch or the real thing.

Has anyone found a need to perform these checks or do these modified meters go for extended periods and much use without a hitch?

Many thanks.

-- Michael Kadillak (, April 12, 2000


For a quick check, get a gray card and take photos of it under various intensities of light with a 35 mm camera using what the spotmeter tells you is the light intensity. Print the negs side by side. They should all be the same density. If not, you may need re- calibration.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, April 12, 2000.

Micheal, I own both the Zone VI modified Soligor and Petax spotmeters and have had a bit of experience sending them in for recalibration. My story, as briefly as possible, follows: I dropped and broke the Soligor which had to be sent for repair. Zone VI does not repair broken meters so it went to Quality Light Metrics, who repaired it and reset it to "factory specs" and recommeded having it recalibrated ba Zone VI. When I received it back, it did not read even close to what it had, so I sent it, posthaste, to Zone VI for a "tune up". At this time I purchased the Zone VI Pentax from Calumet (the parent company of Zone VI now) since I needed a meter, and my experience dropping the Soligor pointed out my need for a back-up. Lo and behold, when the Soligor returned, it not only did not agree at all with my brand new Pentax, but came without receipt or work order, just the meter in some styrofoam peanuts in a box with a little sheet saying it was now accurate to 1/3 stop (twice the tolerance Zone VI advertises) and that it was linear from EV 5 to EV 12 (also not what was advertised!). The charge to my credit card was $150, almost twice what was advertised for calibration. After mumerous phone calls and e- mails to Calumet's Bob Soelke in customer service (who ended up being singulary unhelpful in this matter), I contacted Brooks Brown at Zone VI itself (no longer possible). Eventually, I sent in both meters, and after a week, they returned, agreeing approximately with each other. I have never received a receipt for the work nor have I received the promised credit of the overcharge to my credit card. It seems that since Calumet took on Zone VI things just aren't getting done there. I suspect some internal political/power struggle problems that prevent the once wonderful Zone VI service from happening. All inquiries/problems must now be handled by Calumet, which, for some strange reason, seems not to know what they are doing when it comes to Zone VI. I consider myself lucky to have got my meters back alive! With most products one can contact the manufacturer, but with Calumet/Zone VI, this is not the case, and the one hand doesn't seem to know what the other is doing. I will continue to do business with Calumet when purchasing other brands, but for me,I have resolved to purchase no Zone VI products until the issue of who is responsible for the guarantees, customer service and repairs is cleared up. My advice to you: don't send your meter to either Calumet or Zone VI if you can avoid it, especially if it is still working satisfactorily. Sorry this was so long! Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, April 13, 2000.

For what it's worth, my Zone VI cold light turned hot-as in spots. So I sent it in to Calumet to activate the life time guarantee. After a lot more time than I wanted to wait, I did indeed receive a free replacement. The delay seems to have been caused by the fact that my light was 'old style' and the lights they sell now are 'new style' more compatible with poly-contrast filter, maybe. So I guess they had to fire up the factory to run of a copy of the old style. Anyway, they did what was guaranteed, but it took a while.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, April 13, 2000.

I've had my Zone VI Pentax for about 2.5 years. I got it from a friend who had used it for a few years before that. He got it from an old guy who'd had it for who knows how long. My estimate is that it's at least 15 years old and, to the best of my knowledge, it's never been re-calibrated. That said, it consistently gives perfect readings. They're built to last and I suppose that if things go right, they can go for a heck of a long time without needing adjustment.

-- Dave Munson (, April 14, 2000.

Much appreciation to the articulate responses to my question. Makes me wonder about the duration of the learning curve for a self taught large format photographer before the advent of the computer? On the other hand, I guess film is still relatively cheap -

-- Michael Kadillak (, April 15, 2000.

For Zone VI Pentax meter repairs, I recommend Richard Ritter. See his ad in Shutterbug, or contact at He was the one at Zone VI who modified these things while Fred was there, so there isn't anyone who knows more about them!

Incidentally, he does great large format camera modifications/repairs at most reasonable rates. Speaking from personal experience!

-- Alec (, April 17, 2000.

I'm not looking to start a flame war or anything, although lively debates are always educational. Ive heard the modified Pentax meters are nothing but a Fred Picker sure-I'll-take-your money sales scam. I know I've used my lowly unmodified Pentax for 10 years and have never had a problem with it. Has anyone every done real comparison tests with modified/unmodified meters? Do the Z6 meters really help make better negatives easier to get, or is it more a matter of knowing what to do with what you meter tells you?

-- Wayne (, April 17, 2000.

My experiences have been the same as Wayne's and agree with his insightful diagnosis. In my opinion, 'cultists' are prone to fall for such gimmicry and the cult's gurus are ready to take their money. To check your spot meter, take a spot meter reading from a gray card at at an angle perpendicular to the card, and from the same location as the card, and under the same lighting conditions, take an incident light reading using a meter known to be reliable such as one of the latest Gossen's. The two readings should agree. I recently got a Sekonic L-508 which can take incident and spot readings. The Sekonic was right-on on both incident and spot readings and in perfect agreement with the Pentax Digital Spot meter and the Gossen incident light meter when checked by the above method. No, I have not sent my meters to Zone VI or X or XX, nor intend nor need to.

-- Julio Fernandez (, April 21, 2000.

It depends on the way the meter is used. Mine I have both the Solagor and a Pentax Dital spot. I use the Pentax 90% of the time. It see a rought life its been droped of ice legdes to only lamd in the middle of the raod. That day I only broke the lens still worked the reading were still right on. It took a 400 mile trip in the back of a truck when I got home and checked it it was off 1 1/2 stops. If you use it alot once evey year to year and half.

-- Richard Ritter (, June 20, 2000.

Fred Picker was right. I use Pentax V spotmeters since 1988. I have had several models but one thing is true: the modified Zone VI meters are better. I have had also very bad experience with sending the Pentax V to Zone VI after Calumet bought it. They sent a not-working meter back and after my complaining I was waiting longer than 6 month for it! No answer to my letters to the Calumet-people, I can tell you: a real bad style. But the meter is working, yet. Last week I bought the first time a modified (September, 12th 1999 by Jim Beilt or so) digital spotmeter in lack of a modified analog meter on the market as a backup. I like the modified meters the most because they have the best shadow reading I have ever seen. And both the old one and the digital one are absolutely identical in metering!!! I think the digital is a bit more accurate on the spot. Sure, sometimes and some days I wondered what kind of sales manager Fred Picker was. But meanwhile I am quite sure he was a tough guy knowing a lot of things better than all the Calumet people together. I am missing him.

Martin Blume, Germany, March, 26th 2001

-- Martin Blume (, March 25, 2001.

Interesting question so I'll tell my story. I have had the analog Pentax Zone VI meter for years. I bought a digital one on Ebay, and then noticed that the two meters didn't agree, so I figured the digital one should go to Calumet for calibration. They serviced it promptly, gave me a piece of paper which said it was 1/3 stop off. Still the two meters didn't agree, often by more than 1 1/2 stops. So I sent the analog one in (had it 10+ years) and they sent it back (another $53 later) and said it was 2/3's stop off. But still the meters don't agree by a country mile, despite both having just been calibrated. I'm out $106 and I don't think I've really accomplished anything. It's all relative, and film speed on any particular meter is just a number which will work or not work depending on how you process your film. I think the moral of the story is to take your meter and do your film speed test and then leave it alone unless your proofs show you something is amiss. If you are proofing your negatives with the so-called "proper proof" technique, you will know with the first batch of negatives you process if your meter starts giving you bad readings. Other than the above, I've been totally satisfied with both meters.

-- Kevin Crisp (, March 26, 2001.

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