a light meter Photo by Lawrence Aritao on Unsplash

Buyer's Guide to Light Meter: Why You Need | How to Choose | 10 Recommendations

When it comes to photography, one of the essential pieces of equipment you must have is a light meter. A light meter is a device that measures the intensity of light to show the photographer the right exposure settings.

This article will discuss in detail why you need a light meter, how to choose the right one, and also provide ten recommendations you can consider when purchasing a light meter.

Why Do You Need a Light Meter?

While many photographers feel they can eyeball the scene and get accurate exposure, nothing beats the precision of a light meter. There are many reasons why every photographer, whether amateur or professional, should invest in a light meter.

Some of the most important reasons are:

1. They Take the Guesswork Out of Exposure

A light meter will measure the light in a scene and give you an accurate reading of what the correct exposure should be. This takes all the guesswork out of exposure and ensures that your photos are correctly exposed.

2. They Help You Understand Lighting

A light meter can help you understand the lighting in a scene and how it will affect your exposure. This is especially helpful when shooting in difficult lighting situations or learning more about lighting.

3. They Are Essential for Film Photography

a photographer is measuring the light with a light meter

Photo by Ritchie Rodas on Unsplash

If you shoot film, a light meter is an essential piece of equipment. This is because the film is not as forgiving as digital when it comes to exposure. A slight over or underexposure can ruin an entire roll of film, so a light meter is essential for getting the best out of your films.

How to Choose a Light Meter?

1. Sensor

The sensor is the part of the light meter that measures the light. The most common type of sensor is the silicon photodiode, which is very accurate. However, there are also other types of sensors, such as the Cadmium Sulphide (CdS) sensor, which is less accurate but cheaper.

Therefore, it is essential to consider what type of sensor you need before making your final decision.

2. Types of Light Meters

In today's market, there are two main types of light meters, analog and digital. Analog light meters are the older type of light meter, and they work by using a needle to indicate the intensity of light the camera is exposed to.

Digital light meters, on the other hand, are newer and use an LCD screen to display the light readings. Most of them have a touchscreen interface that makes them very easy to use.

While analog light meters are cheaper, digital light meters are more accurate and offer more features. Even to date, some companies still make analog light meters. This is because some photographers prefer using them since they have longer battery life and are more durable and pocket friendly.

3. Size and Weight

No one wants to carry around a bulky and heavy light meter, especially when you are already carrying many other gears. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a light meter that is small and lightweight so that you can easily carry it wherever you go.

placement of a vintage camera and a light meter side-by-side

Photo by Michi on Pixabay

4. Price

Each photographer has a different budget, so choosing a light meter within your budget is crucial.

However, it would help if you kept in mind that the more expensive light meters come with more features, so it is essential to consider what features are important to you before making your final decision.

5. Features

When choosing a light meter, it is essential to consider its features. Some of the important features to look for include the following:

The Ability to Give Incident Light Reading

Light meters can give two types of reading: incident light reading and reflected light reading. The incident light reading is the reading of the intensity of light falling on the subject. This is the more accurate reading as it is not affected by the subject's color or surface.

The reflected light reading is the reading of the light intensity reflected off the subject. This type of reading is not as accurate as incident light reading because it can be affected by very dark objects that will reflect very little light and ultra-reflective objects, such as a white wall, that will reflect a lot of light.

The Ability to Give Flashlight Reading

If you are using a flash, getting a light meter that can give you an accurate flashlight reading is essential. This is because the flashlight is very intense, and if the light meter cannot give you an accurate reading, your photos will be either over or underexposed.

Wide Range of Shutter Speed

Different lighting conditions will require different shutter speeds. If your light meter can not give you a reading for the specific shutter speed that you need, then your photos will be underexposed or overexposed.

10 Best Light Meter for Photography

1. Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U Light Meter

Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U Light Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specification

  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 2 x 5.9 inches
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • LCD touchscreen: 2.7-inch
  • Exposure range for incident light: EV – 2 to 22.9
  • Exposure range for reflective light: EV 3 to 19.9
  • Flash range for incident light: F 1.0 to F 128.9
  • Flash range for reflected light: F 2.8 to F 128.9

Pros

  • Very user-friendly with its large, bright LCD touchscreen
  • Offers both incident and reflective light metering
  • Has a very wide exposure range
  • It can measure flash output as well
  • Has flash analyzing functions
  • Has the filtration compensation feature

Cons

  • Language options are limited
  • Expensive

2. Sekonic Speedmaster L-858D-U Light Meter

Sekonic Speedmaster L-858D-U Light Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Dimensions: 10.04 x 6.42 x 3.58 inches
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Display:LCD touchscreen( 2.7")
  • Incident light flash range: F 0.5 to F 161.2
  • Reflected light flash range: F 1 to F 161.2
  • Incident light ambient range: EV -5 to EV 22.9
  • Reflected light ambient range: EV -1 to EV 24.4

Pros

  • Has accurate controls for flash and ambient light
  • The large touchscreen display is easy to read
  • Its hemisphere shape is adjustable
  • Has a set of movie modes that are integrated into the meter

Cons

  • Spot metering is only available in reflected mode
  • Expensive

3. Sekonic C-700R-U SpectroMaster Color Meter

Sekonic C-700R-U SpectroMaster Color Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specification

  • Display: LCD touchscreen(4.3")
  • 2 АAA batteries
  • Weight: 8.3 ounces
  • Dimensions: 7.2 x 2.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Metering methods: all light types
  • Flash range: 20 to 20 480 Lux
  • Ambient range: 1 to 200 000 Lux

Pros

  • Has wireless connectivity
  • Has a color spectrum reader
  • Has a Linear variable filter and CMOS sensor
  • Large touchscreen display
  • Can measure natural and artificial light

Cons

  • Has a large display screen that is fragile
  • Expensive

4. Gossen GO 4033-2 Digipro Light Meter

Gossen GO 4033-2 Digipro Light Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • 1 АA battery
  • Reflected and incident metering methods
  • Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Dimensions: 0.75 x 2.56 x 4.65 inches
  • LCD screen: 2.7"
  • Flash range of F 1.0 to F 115
  • Ambient range of EV -3 to EV 21

Pros

  • Its head is rotatable, making it easier to take measurements in different positions.
  • Has an intuitive user interface that is easy to use
  • Has numerous flash measurement features that make it ideal for use in photography
  • Has a memory function that can recall past readings
  • It is relatively small and lightweight
  • Has integrated contrast measurement functions

Cons

  • Outdated compared to other models
  • Expensive

5. Kenko KFM-2200 Cine and Flash Meter

 Kenko KFM-2200 Cine and Flash Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Display: LCD screen(1.2”)
  • 1 АA battery
  • Incident and reflected light metering methods
  • Incident light ambient range: 2.0 to 19.9 EV
  • Reflected light range: 2.0 to 24.5 EV
  • Dimensions: 0.39 x 0.39 x 0.39 inches
  • Weight: 2.82 ounces
  • Incident light flash range: F 1.0 to F 128 + 0.9 stop
  • Reflected light flash range: F 2.8 to F 128 + 0.9 stop

Pros

  • Measures both incident and reflected light
  • Has a digital LCD that is easy to read
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Has 3 measuring modes (ambient, flash, and cine)
  • Has a 1-degree spot angle

Cons

  • Expensive to purchase as compared to other light meters

6. Sekonic Light Meter Flashmate L-308S-U

Sekonic Light Meter Flashmate L-308S-U

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Display: LCD screen( 0.9")
  • Dimension: 2.5 x 4.3 x 0.9 Inches
  • Weight: 3.4 ounces
  • Incident and reflected light metering methods
  • Incident light ambient range: 0 to 19.9 EV
  • Reflected light ambient range: 0 to 19.9 EV
  • Incident light flash range: F 1.4 to F 90 + 0.9 stop
  • Reflected light flash range: F 1.4 to F 90 + 0.9 stop

Pros

  • Has reflected light metering of 40 degrees
  • Has a flash range of f/1.4 to f/90.9 at ISO 100
  • Pocket-sized hence can be taken anywhere
  • The readings are displayed in half or third-stop increments
  • Has a wireless flash option
  • Has a shutter angle of 180 degrees

Cons

  • Low battery life
  • Expensive to purchase

7. Gossen Digisky Digital GO 4039 Exposure Meter

Gossen Digisky Digital GO 4039 Exposure Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 3.52 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.6 x 1 inches
  • Display: TFT-LCD(2.2")
  • Has both incident and reflected light metering methods
  • Ambient range of EV 15 in 1/10 increments
  • Flash range of f/0.5 to f/128
  • No battery required

Pros

  • Has an up-to-date design
  • Has a rechargeable battery that has been embedded
  • Has a memory function that can recap measurements done in the past
  • The display is clear and easy to read
  • Has a cine meter setting that is helpful for filmmakers

Cons

  • Has an over-complicated interface that may be confusing to some

8. Sekonic Light Meter L-398A Studio Deluxe III

 Sekonic Light Meter L-398A Studio Deluxe III

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • No display
  • Does not require batteries
  • Has both incident and reflected light metering methods
  • Incident light ambient range of EV 4 to 17
  • Reflected light ambient range of EV 9 to 17
  • Flash range of: f/0.7 to f/128

Pros

  • Does not require batteries, making it more reliable
  • Has a memory pointer that enables you to reference quickly to your last measurement
  • Has a needle lock that enables you to quickly and easily read the measuring readings
  • Has a swivel head that allows you to take measurements from different angles and take accurate readings easily.

Cons

  • It is an analog meter
  • Expensive

9. Gossen Digisix 2 Exposure Meter

Gossen Digisix 2 Exposure Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Has one lithium metal battery
  • Has both incident and reflected light metering methods
  • Has an ambient range of EV 0 – 18
  • Has a flash range of f/2 – f/32
  • Digital display: 0.6"
  • Weight: 1.28 ounce
  • Dimensions: 0.91 x 1.97 x 2.95 inches

Pros

  • Meters both incident and reflected light
  • Small and light hence easy to carry around
  • Easy to use due to its simple design
  • The ambient and flash range is wide

Cons

  • Not suitable for use during professional photography shoots
  • Expensive
  • Lacks flash metering

10. Ikan CV600 Digital LED Light Meter

Ikan CV600 Digital LED Light Meter

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Dimension: 15 x 6 x 12 inches
  • 1 Lithium Ion battery
  • Wavelength: 380-780 mm
  • Color correction filter calculator
  • Color Touchscreen LCD: 3.5"
  • USB slot

Pros

  • Has both color and exposure meter for imaging
  • Can detect flicker up to 100 kHz/sec
  • USB slot where you can insert a USB memory stick to save your data
  • Has many color option filters
  • The color touch screen makes it easy to use

Cons

  • Expensive

Conclusion

Using a light meter is the best way to get accurate exposure, whether you're shooting digital or film. While your camera's built-in light meter can do a decent job, it's not always accurate. That's why having a separate, dedicated light meter is a good idea.

Knowing the ten best light meters for photography, you can now decide on the most suitable one for your specific needs.

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