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Nowhereman

Still make sense to get Sekonic L-398A?

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Interested in using it for incident reading for my M3 and M6, I've looked at the few threads on this light meter. I realize that it doesn't read below EV 4, but I'll be shooting only handheld ISO 400 film, sometimes pushed to 1600. Does that mean that I'll reasonably be able to figure out when I need to go down to 1/15th and 1/8th sec? (Perhaps not accurate enough for ISO 100 Ektachrome, if it resumes sales this fall...).

 

I'm interested in the 398A rather than a digital meter because I want an analogue scale showing all the aperture/shutter speed combinations. I'm now using the L-208, which is a bit fiddly and I cannot read the dials with our reading glasses.

 

So, it makes sense to start using the 398A, for reasons other than nostalgia?

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If it's more legible for you, then a good reason. I have one, but I find it's too big, too heavy, too fiddly to use, prefer the 208, but we might be opposite here!

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A big exposure meter, that you can't comfortably fit in a pocket, is for the most part, a waste of money, as they rapidly tend to become "cupboard queens".  I have a large Polaris digital Spot-meter that falls into exactly this category. I now mostly use it for checking other meters. For an incident light meter, I use a rebuilt Sangamo Weston Master V. I particularly like this meter, as it also covers the non-standard speeds and apertures of my older cameras and lenses. As the Weston Master is selenium, there is no battery to go flat, so it is always ready for use. For my Barnacks that don't have meters, I use the very neat Voigtlander VC-II meters, which I now have two of, one black and one silver. The downside of these is there is no incident diffusor, if you want to work from incident light. 

 

Wilson

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In short, no I'd does not make sense.

 

Get a new Sekonic L308. Uses one AA battery that it never seems to drain. Incident and reflected modes (though I usually use incident). Small, accurate, easily positioned for use in a natural grasp, light and fits in a shirt or pants pocket.

 

It is digital, but the screen is highly legible and the aperture/shutter combinations can be very rapidly cycled through using a button on the side that falls comfortably under your thumb.

Edited by Mute-on

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Here's how my thinking has been going. First, I considered the Sekonic L-398A: I don’t think this will give me more than I get with the L-208 — some better accuracy but limited to low light of EV 4 (at ISO 100) and I still will have to use my reading glasses to read the meter's dial. Maybe analogue nostalgia is not enough, though I keep on thinking that the larger bulb might give better incident ratings than the L-308. Also, the poor low-light ability may not matter because the L-398A stops being effective at the limit of hand-holding exposure — and I won't use a tripod.

 
Then, I thought about the Sekonic L-308: relatively small and no reading glasses needed. Lower light capability but only shutter priority, no aperture priority setting. The latter shouldn’t matter because I need only one reading and can figure out the other paired setting in my head.
 
Finally, looked at the Sekonic L-458D-U ($399 at B&H): started thinking, why not get a state-of-the-art meter? But then realized that I’ll never be interested in making dynamic range profiles for my Leica M10, as I'm only interested in  hand-held meter for shooting film. Also, I read a couple of hugely negative comments on how the touch screen is not as sensitive as an iPhone.
 
So, I think I’m down to either the L-398A or the L-308 — and going back and forth between the two.
_______________

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A big exposure meter, that you can't comfortably fit in a pocket, is for the most part, a waste of money [...]

 

Aw, ya big silly. Just get larger pockets!

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If you carry a mobile phone...perhaps just get a lightmeter app.

No point in having another bulk in your pocket.

 

I use "Lightmeter" does incident and reflected in an analogue style to EV2. Can also zoom into subject a bit. I'm on Android, but i assume it is available for Apple phone too.

 

 

 

Having said that I also use L208 and Zeiss Ikophot. I have many lightmeters including Pentax Spotmeter, Lunasix, etc. My M6 has a very accurate meter.

 

I find they can vary from 1/3 to 1 stop difference. I calibrate against a clear blue Australian sky 90 degrees to sun and know this is f11.5 1/100 at ISO 100, and a touch more in Summer...closer to f16.

 

The app works well for my digital cameras.

 

...

Edited by david strachan

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So, I think I’m down to either the L-398A or the L-308 — and going back and forth between the two.

 

The 308 is a fantastic meter. It's affordable, small, reliable and very accurate. 

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enjoy it, i am sure you will do fine with it. ..... personally I have gotten used to using the L398A. Don't find it too big, and it is still the most accurate meter out there. i just wanted a pure analog meter currently made w/o need for battery. Happy to be off the digital grid once in a while. Nevertheless, you will not go wrong with what you purchased and it will serve you very very well.

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Sorry to add salt to the wound, nowhereman - but I used one of the earlier versions of the L-398A (L-28C2, I think), and:

 

1) it was easy to carry in a pocket (the egg-shape makes it easy to slide in/out), and

 

2) I used one in light so dim I ultimately had to just set 1/60th sec and f/1.8 for hand-holdability, and then boil the Tri-X in Dektol to get an image - effective ISO about 3200, and the selenium Sekonic was still (although just barely) registering a reading.

 

However, I am now using the 308 with my 120-film cameras, and it is a nice meter also. Only downside is the "auto-off" battery conservation - which usually kicks in (~4 minutes) JUST as I'm ready to meter the next situation. I've learned to "bite" the on/off button if my hands are full of camera, to turn it back on fast.

 

At least the selenium models are not battery-dependent and never "off."

 

One note on the L-398/L28C2 meters - to get any response in low light, they have MASSIVE magnets to get any needle deflection out of the micro-current produced under low light. In the 80s-90s, that argued against them since they could easily erase magnetic floppy disks (remember those?) from several inches away! Probably still capable of erasing credit-cards' magnetic swipe strips.

 

You could put one next to a CRT display, and produce 4"-wide gaussing patterns from the magnetic field! http://www.dansdata.com/images/io012/degauss600.jpg

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I have the Sekonic 758DR - yes a bit on the big side but the great thing about it you can calibrate against your camera (4 different profiles from memory) using the grey scale target available from Sekonic. It also benefits from separate spot and incident metering. Calibrated against my M240 I can achieve 'spot-on' perfect exposures. I rely on the 758 when using the M6 as I think the M6 light meter is out of cal.

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adan - The determining factor for me was that I would have to use reading glasses for the L-398A, while with good long vision, I don't wear glasses and could easily see the large digital readout of the L-308. Another thought is that, if the Kodak effort on new Ektachrome is real, I would need to use the meter for ISO 100, which, I suppose, in low light is more problematic for the meter than shooting Tri-X and having flexibility in development, no?

______________

Alone in Bangkok essay on BURN Magazine

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The upshot is that I ordered both the L-308 and the L-398A, and ended up keeping the latter. While the L-308 is a capable meter, I simply didn't like the user interface. Yes, I can figure out from one readout what other aperture/shutter combinations are; but I found that I was often pressing the rocker switch in the wrong direction when I did want to change the shutter speed readout — this wouldn't be a big thing if I used the meter all the time, as I would get used to it; but my use will be intermittent, when I shoot film rather than my M10. More importantly, the f-stop reading has right next to it, in much smaller figures, the 1/10th interval: so that halfway between f1.4 and 2.0 is shown by small 5, which I can't read without my reading glasses. Also, it looks to me that the larger bulb of the L-398A takes sidelight into account better than the L-308. 

 

Clearly, the L-398A does not have the low-light sensitivity of the L-308; but I won't need that frequently — and when I do, I can use the Light Meter app on my iPhone.

_________________

 

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The upshot is that I ordered both the L-308 and the L-398A, and ended up keeping the latter. While the L-308 is a capable meter, I simply didn't like the user interface. Yes, I can figure out from one readout what other aperture/shutter combinations are; but I found that I was often pressing the rocker switch in the wrong direction when I did want to change the shutter speed readout — this wouldn't be a big thing if I used the meter all the time, as I would get used to it; but my use will be intermittent, when I shoot film rather than my M10. More importantly, the f-stop reading has right next to it, in much smaller figures, the 1/10th interval: so that halfway between f1.4 and 2.0 is shown by small 5, which I can't read without my reading glasses. Also, it looks to me that the larger bulb of the L-398A takes sidelight into account better than the L-308. 

 

Clearly, the L-398A does not have the low-light sensitivity of the L-308; but I won't need that frequently — and when I do, I can use the Light Meter app on my iPhone.

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in really low light situations, I kind of "cheat" and use the RedDotCam app in my Iphone. it shoots at f2.2 and you can set the iso, from there I can pretty much see how everything is going to turn out. in low light you only really need to this once, maybe twice, and then just go for it. Generally speaking, and I know you know this from your work, but regular inside light is 1/60 f2 as iso400 and then I just work down from there. I enjoy taking pics of jazz performers at usually that works just fine adjusting for spot lights and the color of the performer (white people in spotlights and you need to ratchet up to 1/250 or even 1/500 .... ENJOY!!!!!

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Thought I should report back on my experience with the L-398A since I bought it in September. I'm happy with it and use it whenever shooting film. It's accurate. At noontime in blazing tropical light it's interesting to see the huge and fast swing of the needle — usually 3-4 stops from the sunny side to the deep shade of a street. In that situation, I take a sun and deep shade reading and adjust the exposure according to which side of the street I'm shooting, without looking at the meter again.  

 

I used the L-398A only once with the Leica M10 and didn't find a need for it after that. Perhaps the M10 is a special case because it seems to me that, compared to the M9 and MM, it requires substantially more underexposure to protect the highlights. And it's best to look at the histogram for that — but that's another issue and, as I haven't done a direct comparison, I'm not sure whether the M10 is really does require more underexposure than these other two cameras, but it sure seems like it.

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