Gossen starlite? Sekonic L-508, L-608?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Wich one will be the best option? The gossen starlite seems to close to the sekonic L-608. The flash analyzing function is missing. How important will be this feature? In the other hand it can read in lower light.

-- Hector Pena (hectoreps@proaxis.com), March 01, 2002


Hello Hector,

I went for the starlite for the reason you said in that it measures lower light levels and also that it has the zone system function already built in.

I tried the starlite, L-608 and pentax digital at my local dealer and liked bits from each, i.e.

pentax: simple / uncomplicated which worked for and against it and it can't handle flash which I don't used often but saves having to carry two meters around. Liked the pistol grip feel for taking readings.

sekonic: liked the zoomable spot (1 to 4 rather than 1 or 5 of the starlite), similar spec to gossen but as mentioned, didn't read as much in low light and I wanted zone system function.

starlite: features eventually won it for me over the other two. Useability can be a bit of a letdown at times - I find I can twitch a little when taking a reading which means I'm not as accurate as I should be due to the still buttons and how you have to hold the meter. The low light readings are taken in the incident setup, don't expect to get the low EVs with the spot meter (5 goes lower than 1) but it doesn't take much for it not to give you a reading unless it's my inexperience with spotmeters (I'm generally inside dark churches taking pictures and still have a grey card with me just in case).

As I said, I don't use flash much but the starlite has given me the best exposures I've seen at a portrait session a whie back. It's possible to go a lot deeper into the flash setups than I'll ever need, e.g. multiple light setups. You'll just have to get used to knowing which fnctions are available in which modes as I still find I want to make certain measurements but can't as I'm in a mode that stops me.

I've had the meter approx 4 months now and on the first trip out I had with it, managed to crack the front "glass" - it seems fragile. I've also found that the thumbwheel can need a couple of clicks at certain points to get it to register but hopefully these can be sorted under warranty.

In general, for b&w I've been getting thin negs so will have to re- rate my film. For the zone system function, out of interest I compared the final reading after using the zone function with an incident light reading and they came out the same (outdoors landscape shot). It seems to give exposures that are more highlight based (i.e. for tranny film rather than negs) but it might be how I'm taking the readings.

This might seem like a downer on the starlite but I'm geting more used to it and how it works - practice makes perfect.

You haven't said what type of pictures you take and what you think is important - your needs will vary depending on subject / technique and hence the things you need to get out of whichever meter you choose.

Hope some of this helps.

-- Andrew Pell (adp88@btinternet.com), March 01, 2002.

Your comments about your Gossen are consistant with my past experiance and the questions from many friends. These meters IMHO have for a long time been designed by conceptially limited technologists. They may give accurate information but the nature of it is very unphotographic. They instill a layer of complexity and annoying information which needs to be interpolated. Drives me nuts. I long ago standardized on Minolta meters. Totally photographic in the info the deliver, and if interpolation is needed it is done from a midrange value that can be depended on. I have tested Minolta meters that differ by 15 years in manufactuer but deviate less than .25 stop in readout. I have standardized on matched flashmeter III's. Take a look at the Minolta line, they may simplify your life a lot.

-- Fred De Van (fdv1@ix.netcom.com), March 01, 2002.

Andrew: did the lack of a visible reading on the Starlite not bother you? I had the Sekonic 508 and got rid of it because of that, otherwise I found it very accurate. Hector: The 608 does show readings in the viewfinder, like the Pentax but it lacks the zones. It is loaded with flash stuff which probably accounts for its high price. If flash is not a must, my feeling is that one would be paying more for it than the thing is worth. As I much prefer to see the numerical result of each reading without taking the eye away from the viewfinder I would not consider the Starlite. I personally feel the Starlite is a 'catch-up' product to the 508, though a little late.

I agree with the poster which commented negatively on Gossen for essentially the same reasons. The logic structure of Gossen meters like the Ultra spot 2 I found so abominable that I had to wonder if the people that designed it ever took photographs or ever consulted users. Yet, other older Gossen meters I previously owned were amazingly accurate and durable, and more logical.

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@sympatico.ca), March 01, 2002.


I accepted that I wouldn't get a visible internal reading unless I got the pentax which would be too basic for my needs. It would be nice to see how a reading changes if you flinch as you press the button, i.e. to see if you are accurate with the targeting but unfortunately this isn't possible.

I can't fault it's accuracy but I think a lot of it is down to me not having enough experience with taking spot readings to date. I've also got an older Multisix which gives good readings but I never felt I was either using the right technique or pointing in the right places as I always got contrasty negatives. I solved that with a metering prism on my Bronica but now I've moved up to LF I'm back with seperate metering. I went for a multi-function meter to save carrying two items around in an already too heavy case.

I wonder if companies are trying to cram too many features into the meters so they can say that theirs is better than the others without fully going through the ergonomics of the finished product?

-- Andrew Pell (adp88@btinternet.com), March 02, 2002.

Thankyou all of you for your comments. They help me a lot.

-- Hector E. Pena (hectoreps@proaxis.com), March 03, 2002.

Andrew: You could be right about cramming features VS ergonomics but from conclusions drawn over the years over product designs it seems to me that business have each their own peculiar culture which are mirrored by the company's products. In some companies, user's perception and logic guide the design of all products. Such business have useability labs in which panels of users at several levels of expertise work unaided with product prototypes under close scrutiny. In others, the attitude is that they know better and user's opinions do not count because their ignorance disqualifies their opinions. If I was to choose examples of each,I would pick Microsoft for the former and Gossen for the latter.

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@sympatico.ca), March 04, 2002.

I agree strongly with Fred on the functionality and accuracy of Minolta meters. Certainly Minolta meters are the most popular brand, by far, in the studios of NYC. That should tell you something.

I will admit, however, that the Sekonic L608 has some features I like. I do wish my Minolta Spotmeter F had both aperture and shutter displayed in the finder (it only displays aperture). On the other hand, I've had mine for about 15 years and nothing has ever gone wrong with it. And it's not because I babied it, either. It's been exposed countless times to Arctic cold and Amazon heat and humidity, and it just keeps on ticking. In fact, I've never had any problem with any of the Minolta meters I own, and some are nearly 30 years old. Most importantly, I've never even had to have one adjusted, much less repaired.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), March 04, 2002.

Just a brief update to the thread - Sekonic has now launched a 608 that includes an interal display - I haven't had a go with one to date so can't comment how good it is.

My Starlite has been sent back for repair (hopefully under warranty) due to a few things I would have thought shouldn't happen:-

a) the first time I used it in the field, the screen cracked. It was in it's case, put into my camera case and not trapped AFAIR, the lid shut. The next time I opened the case, there was a half inch crack on the readings screen.

b) the thumbwheel on the side that let's you change readings etc misses / has a bad contact so you've to do more than one click sometimes to get it to register. On talking to a dealer at a trade show, it seems that this could be a known problem, and

c) as I got out the meter to have a look before I rang the dealer, the battery was flat. On trying to change the battery, the lugs on the catch snapped off so it was not possible to fasten this cover. The cover / lugs seem to be made of a soft / ductile plastic which isn't very strong.

I'm disappointed with the meter for the things that's gone wrong with it within approximately 6 months of ownership in which time it's only been used on about occasions five times. I supposed it could be argued that the screen and lugs could be my fault but the design doesn't seem to be "fit for purpose." As I think I said on a previous post, I like the features of the meter but wish that they were put together in a more robust package. If these things have gone wrong to date with what I'd consider light use, I'd hate to think how a professional would get on with one being used as a daily workhorse.

The above points are in my opinion and I'm not suggesting that all the meters are weak - mine seems to be in certain ways.

-- Andrew Pell (adp88@btinternet.com), May 18, 2002.

I think you got a lemon Andrew, my 508 has been going strong for 2 years already and it has not been treated kindly in many instances. Another thing I read the manual and I saw that the screen lights up at 3 EV but the sensitivity is 1 EV, why do people keep saying is 3 EV?

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), May 18, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ