Field Notes, Sekonic L-358 Light Meter.

...ah, the "Flashmaster". I have been using the Sekonic L-358 Flashmaster light meter for about 2 months now. The L-358 is an incident, flash and ambient light measuring device for photographers. I have used the light meter in the past, and now own one for my studio and outdoor work. Most every camera these days has an automatic exposure mode, wherein the sensor in the camera measures the light reflecting from the subject via some pre-determined algorithm. This system is very convenient for the photographer and the systems are very good......most of the time. As an example, the amount of light reflecting from a person in a black shirt and the light reflecting from a white shirt are different and will produce a different light meter reading. MOST camera systems will average the subject and background measurements and very quickly come up with an
AVERAGE exposure setting and the picture is made. Some cameras will activate the automatic fill flash system to overcome a wide exposure value range in the scene. All of this happens very quickly and MOST of the time will produce an ACCEPTABLE exposure of Mary Sue and Aunt Betty in front of Disneyland.

If PRECISE exposure and great photographs are your goal, then you must use an exposure meter, and you must use an incident measuring light meter. An incident light meter measures the LIGHT FALLING ONTO the scene, rather than the light reflecting from the scene. This method provides the best exposures and the greatest level of exposure control. The exposure value may be read in the deepest shadow where you want detail and the brightest highlight, without blowing out highlight detail, and having muddy shadows. The exposure for the "Most Significant Highlight" may be determined.

In my photography training at the Brooks Institute of Photography I was taught to use the incident light method. The meter of choice in those days was the venerable Sekonic L-398M Studio Deluxe II. This meter is the standard by which incident light meters are compared. It uses a selenium cell and therefore it has no batteries and will operate in all most all environments. The Sekonic L-358 is the high tech big brother of the L-398M. This great meter is BOTH a strobe(flash) meter and in the words of the web site;


The Sekonic L-358 Flash Master is an advanced, yet easy to operate, exposure analyzing light meter, that incorporates the latest technology in handheld meters. The L-358 features a retractable incident Lumisphere for standard or cosine corrected light readings, provides both hemispherical and narrow angle readings. Measurements can be taken in either incident or flash metering modes with accurate and convenient flash and ambient analyzing. In all electronic flash measurements, an analyzing feature simultaneously evaluates both flash and ambient
light and displays the values in three ways: a) combined readings of flash and ambient, b) percentage of flash in the total exposure or c) simultaneous display of flash, ambient and combined readings on the analog scale. An easy-to-read illuminated LCD panel directly displays full, 1/2 or 1/3-stop shutter speeds or apertures and exposure/calibration compensation. Selecting settings is quick and easy with the built-in Jog wheel and cine shutter speeds up to 360 frames per second makes the L-358 a versatile tool in the most demanding lighting scenario. Optional spot finders extend the versatility of the meter with a choice of 1, 5 or 10 degree measuring angles with a viewable parallax-free viewfinder."

I really enjoy using this meter and feel it is a great photography tool. The meter is easy to use, rugged, and most importantly, provides consistent, accurate exposure information. There is a very good tutorial on using the meter here.

If you are interested in becoming a better photographer this meter is the light measuring tool for you!