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Archive 2013 · Using a D800 as a light meter?
  
 
CRFTony
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p.1 #1 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


I'm not sure what subforum is appropriate to post this, but I figure this is the closest match.

Professionally, I now shoot with my D800 and I love everything about it. Despite that, I recently decided to buy a Mamiya RZ67 camera even though I've never shot film (well I did as a kid with my mom's point and shoot, but that hardly counts). The biggest issue is that, since I shoot digital, I've never had a need for a light meter. With my D800, I pretty much know the settings just my looking at the scene, but I can do a quick test and make any minor adjustments if needed.

Obviously, that's not possible with film. I don't really want to buy a light meter if I don't need to as I'm only going to be playing with the RZ67 and can't justify spending a lot for accessories. Can I "cheat" by using my D800 as a pseudo light meter? What I mean is, say I'm shooting Tmax400 film. Can I set my D800 to iso 400, set my aperture and shutter, do a test shot and if everything looks right, copy those settings onto the film camera? Or is the sensitivity off between film and digital?

I'm sure this is a dumb question, but any advice is appreciated.



Jan 24, 2013 at 03:16 AM
scottam10
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p.1 #2 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


Sounds reasonable to me.

I think that there can be slight differences between iso values reported by digital cameras and actual film - you may find you need to dial in a slight offset, but you'll work this out quickly enough

Film generally has higher dynamic range than digital, so it's more forgiving

Give it a go and see if you like the results



Jan 24, 2013 at 03:23 AM
ja_joyce
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p.1 #3 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


ISO is ISO so yeah, to first order if the exposure is good on the D800 then it will work on film. But you'll probably need to fine tune the exposure a little through experience, for example on digital you expose to keep the highlights, on film you typically expose to keep the shadows. If you really want to go crazy read up on the zone system and use the camera as a spot meter.



Jan 24, 2013 at 03:26 AM
huddy
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p.1 #4 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


You sure can. I often do this when using a OCF with my 645 gear. There are Polaroid backs of course but that is probably not as economical for you.


Jan 24, 2013 at 03:26 AM
CRFTony
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p.1 #5 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


Awesome -Thanks for the replies!

Yeah, I checked out Polaroid backs but I just don't think I'd use it enough. And I figured I'll always have the D800 with me when I'm out shooting anyway so this will work out perfectly.

Thanks again!



Jan 24, 2013 at 03:30 AM
ReyGay
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p.1 #6 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


I still use my old Minolta Autometer III with the rare 10 degree attachment for difficult landscape shots. It's used often as I don't want the inconvenience of moving the camera around once it's stuck on the tripod. I can then estimate the stops needed to compensate for the grads or additional fill in lights, etc...


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Jan 24, 2013 at 05:51 AM
hjanssen
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p.1 #7 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


ja_joyce wrote:
ISO is ISO so yeah,

iso is iso, but when you look at DxO-mark you see that nearly all DSLRs are a little optimistic.



Jan 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM
 

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Two23
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p.1 #8 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


I shoot cameras a LOT older than the Mamiya. Today I'm using a Leica IIIc made in 1942. Last weekend I shot 4x5 using a lens made in 1852. I mostly shoot b&w. Some thoughts. B&w film has a lot of latitude for exposure error. You don't need tenth of a stop precision here. I generally use a lightmeter mainly because it's just so much more convenient. I don't like fumbling around with two cameras and there's always the risk of dropping one. A meter is very light and I just hang it around my neck on a cord. There are times my subject is distant and I can't get a good reading on it with a lightmeter. Or, the lighting is tricky (usually flash at night) and it's just a lot faster to take the shot with my D5100 and then transfer the exposure settings to my 1928 Bessa (or whatever the camera du jour is.) I've not seen any difference between film and DSLR when it comes to exposure readings, and I do this sort of thing a lot. I am generally using a very compact L-208 meter, which was only a hundred bucks from ebay. You can use the D800 to get exposures, but I'm betting if you shoot the RB a lot you will quickly tire of the hassle of doing that, or end up dropping something.


Kent in SD



Jan 24, 2013 at 02:13 PM
SoundHound
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p.1 #9 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


Even a cheap DSLR gives you a lot more information than most/all lightmeters. You can see the LCD for the effect of your settings and you can change from spotmeter to medium and wide with AE settings and by varying your focal length. Also the Histogram with give you a good idea of the dynamic range of the shot. Also you have information about the White Balance (turn of Auto WB).


Jan 24, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Bernie
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p.1 #10 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


As on my D300, I believe the D800 histogram still shows the curve based on the internal jpeg image that is created and not the true colors that exist. If you shoot the same scene with different WB settings you will find the histogram will change. There are some rather involved methods to adjust for this. I just set my camera to daylight permanently, shoot raw, and go from there. Since you'll probably be shooting daylight film, that should put your cameras into closer sync.

So in situations when you have color casts such as sunrise, sunset, tungsten or other artificial lighting you may find yourself wanting to make adjustments to the light meter reading. This will not be just for artistic interpretation, but the response of film is different compared to silicon. Also keep in mind reciprocity failure when shooting long exposures.



Jan 24, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Two23
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p.1 #11 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


Now that I've thought about it, I've remembered that there are some decent lightmeter apps for the iPhone if you have one of those already. They aren't as accurate as a lightmeter, but I've heard they're accurate to within half a stop. That's plenty good enough for b&w film. Some of you here are making this more difficult than it really is. As for using a camera to get exposure vs. a lightmeter, it really comes down to convenience. A lightmeter is much more convenient, and using another camera means you don't need to buy anything else. I also think using a meter helped me to REALLY learn exposure, over time.


Kent in SD



Jan 24, 2013 at 03:57 PM
ja_joyce
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p.1 #12 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


Two23 wrote:
Now that I've thought about it, I've remembered that there are some decent lightmeter apps for the iPhone if you have one of those already....

Kent in SD


Yes. I have one of these in my iPod Touch, I think I spent 99 cents on it. I assumed the OP was going to be photographing with his dSLR as well as the film camera, but if not I would use the app rather than schelp a big camera around. One other thing is camera meters the light through the lens, so if you using e.g. a zoom with lots of elements on the dSLR compared to a simple lens on the film camera there may be a difference there to. That's why there is no substitute for actual experience.


Edited on Jan 24, 2013 at 05:12 PM · View previous versions



Jan 24, 2013 at 05:09 PM
lxdesign
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p.1 #13 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


not a dumb question at all -- I used my D700 as a light meter several times when I was shooting with a Yashica TLR. It works - just make sure your settings are matched with the type of film you have.

But that said -- do you have an iphone? There are several light meter apps which work extremely well - and do the same thing basically that your D800 will do. I use this when I am shooting my 4x5 camera.



Jan 24, 2013 at 05:11 PM
lxdesign
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p.1 #14 · Using a D800 as a light meter?


ha -- and I didn't even realize that the last few responses mentioned the app light meters..... they work


Jan 24, 2013 at 05:12 PM





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