pentax digital spot meter vs. sekonic L-508 for 4x5 feild/zone system : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

At the moment I'm using a pentax digital spot meter and playing around with the zone system. I like it. It's simple,familiar, and accurate {the meter, not the zone system}. Recently a L-508 caught my eye with all these fancy-schmancy features along with the ability to meter flash as well. Now I'm wondering if anyone has used the L-508 out in the field with it's multipul metering options. I guess what I'm really asking is the L-508 like one of those redesigned tooth brushes that don't work any beter than the plain ones but cost twice as much?

-- john (, September 19, 2000


the Sekonic L-508 is a wonderful, general-purpose light meter. however, as reported by many, the ambient light metering is a half- stop to full-stop underexposing. also, it does not do as good a job in flash, and flash/ambient metering scenarios as the Minolta Flashmeter V. still, it is a very nice meter once it is set up to measure accurately.

search the archives, for my assessment on its flash metering, memory applications, user-interface, and workarounds for some of its limitations. it is the swiss-army knife of meters, and it does a good job for most non-flash applications.

-- daniel taylor (, September 19, 2000.

John: I've been looking into a new spot meter, and solicited responses just last week. The major complaint about the L508 is the lack of any information in the viewfinder. Each spot reading requires that you take your eye away from the viewfinder and look at the side of the meter... which makes it slow to scan a scene for tonal range. The Pentax got the most thumbs up, followed by the Minolta.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, September 19, 2000.

Well, I'm with Glenn, above. One of the pleasures of using the Pentax is that it is simple to use. You can rapidly assess the range of the scene before you without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. And this lets you quickly identify problem areas. As you are already using the Pentax, try visualizing what it would be like not being able to quickly scan your scene.

Also nice is the exposure ring shows all aperture/speed combinations simultaneously.

The Pentax is one of those rare pieces of equipment where the simplicity of the design makes it a joy to use. As much as I like technology, I'm not willing to give up ease of use and efficiency for extra modes and LCD panels. Of course, the fact that my wristwatch didn't come pre-installed with a windows-based operating system probably makes me a Luddite.

-- Brad Evans (, September 20, 2000.

I think that gizmo's can get in the way. Pentax has such a nice simple readout that I would stick with this meter. And, it's easy to do the translation to the zone system. Perhaps I'm repeating the obvious, but I use the following simple system for my Pentax V.

Locate the feature in the image that you want place on Zone 3 as your shadow, and let's say the meter reads EV7 for this feature. The difference is 4. (7-3=4) Thereafter, subtract "4" from each subsequent EV reading to obtain the correct zone with respect to that Zone 3 placement. When you're ready to expose, add "5" to this difference of "4" to obtain the EV meter reading on which you would base your selection of aperture and shutterspeed.

For example, suppose in a sticks and stones image that you want to place a certain rock at Zone 3 as your shadow with detail, and that your meter reading is EV9. Subtracting, the difference is "6". Let's say that you've found a highlighted wood feature that you want to place on Zone 7, and that the meter reading for this feature is EV14. Subtracting "6", you find that this feature falls on Zone 8. (14-6=8.) Therefore, to develop so that this feature becomes a Zone 7, you will need an N-1 contraction. To make the exposure, add "5" to the difference of "6" to obtain use a meter reading of EV11 (11=5+6) that you would use to obtain the correct shutterspeed and aperture.

This may be complicated to write, but it's simple to use. Just subtract the difference.

-- neil poulsen (, September 20, 2000.

If you are going to shoot the Zone System stick with the Pentax. I have used both meters. Neil, I'm not sure why you are doing all that math. Why don't you just get yourself a Zone System scale from Calumet for $3.00 and glue it to your meter. You will never have to do the math again.

-- Paul Mongillo (, September 20, 2000.

The Pentx is a great meter; so is the minolta Spotmeter F. It also has flash capability. The meter is accurate and durable. You can easily scan a subject, with the meter set to EV and find the range of the scene. You can meter the shadow area you wish to place low, touch the "A" button and then meter other areas to determine the EV of those. So as you meter you learn the scale of the scene and thus the development-n, N+, N-, etc. And the shadow area you metered is still in the unit. So when you finish scanning you can convert EV to F stop, determine your exposure and shoot. If you need the flash capability I think you will find the Minolta an excelent choice. Bob

-- Bob Moulton (, September 20, 2000.

If you get the Sekonic you will find the meter reading activated by pressing with the thumb. The Minolta and your Pentax activate by pressing with the 'trigger finger'. I have used the Sekonic and find myself pushing the meter away from myself as I meter while both of the others I keep in place. I have to make a conscious effort to keep it in place when using the Sekonic. I like both the others and have both. If you find the need for an incident meter as well, consider the Calculite models which are very small, light and inexpensive.

-- Dan Smith (, September 20, 2000.

Sorry guys but I'm going to stick my neck out in favour of the L508. IMHO it really is a superb piece of equipment. I have not noticed any of the deviations as far as 1/2 to a stop underexposure, although I know that a few of the "early" test meters used for reviews did suffer in this department. As for not having any info in the eyepiece, I find this quite acceptable, it leaves my eye free to concentrate on the area I am metering rather than wandering around looking for exposure info! Having an adjustable spot metering (zoom) area is a big advantage,it is weatherproof and has an easy to read, LARGE, display. All in all a thumbs up from one satisfied user!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, September 20, 2000.

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