I bought a light meter as a part of a long ago photography class. I never used much it in that class, after how it worked was explained and then we moved on to other things. I was shooting with a camera that had a meter built in, and I was always forgetting where I put the thing. It was in the wrong bag or pocket when I needed it, and finally it vanished along the way.
Many years later, I took a portrait lighting class from Richard Peterson here in Denver and bought a new one. I was working with strobes, and learning all about studio lighting, so it was necessary to get a meter with the ability to trigger flashed. I settled on a Sekonic L-308.
Unlike my last meter, an older Gossen, it was digital and easy to use. The L-308 Flashmate is the smallest meter Sekonic makes that will work with strobes, which was attractive to me. I was already lugging a huge Nikon pro digital body around so anything I could do to lighten the load was a good thing. The meter is shutter priority: it gives you the f-stop when you dial in the desired shutter. It doesn’t do aperture priority. I no longer have many cameras that have meter in them anymore, but the ones I do, the F3 and the XAs, are the opposite. They are all aperture priority.
It can also do both incident and reflective light. You switch between the two by using the little translucent plastic cover called a Lumisphere. Cover the sensor to meter for incident light readings, reflective is uncovered. It also does EV and has a mode for use when shooting motion picture cameras. Obviously, I’ve not used these modes.
Along the way, iPhones and their like have acquired light meter apps that are useful. They are good at reading ambient light and have the additional utility of recording what they meter with jpegs so you can match up the shot and the settings later. They seem to be almost as accurate, but that’s just my feeling. I have no evidence to back that up. But they can’t fire a flash set up with a PC cord, or meter incident unless you buy an add-on.
So do I still carry this meter around? Sometimes. And sometimes I don’t. When I hiking with a meterless camera like my Zorki, I mostly rely on my iPhone. It’s one less thing to carry with me, and the latitude of most films makes up for whatever loss in accuracy I feel the phone has.
But when I do the occasional portrait, I reach for the L-308. It does that job far better, and it’s the one I got it for.
The latest version of the L-308 is the S. It improves on the basic model with some tweaks, but mostly it remains the same. They also have a DC model with more features for the film maker who uses it.
Sekonic L-308 Light Meter