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| Re: Do I really need a Light Meter? |
It just depends on how much control you want to have over your work.
You can certainly get by without one and chimp all day long. Also, in the studio, you could rely on your camera's reflective meter and a gray card to read values comparatively ... but both get to be a PITA.
But here's my big rub with relying on the histo alone ... while the histo can show me the range and amount of my light values ... it CAN'T tell me what PART of the scene is associated with those values. On my Kodak SLR/C, I can chimp down to the pixel and get an RGB value reading, so I can distinguish the difference between a shadow area vs. a black fabric area and decide whether I'm over/under where I want to be. Most camera histograms don't have that ability.
There's an old saying that says something like "Your best second lens is a good tripod." Likewise, I believe that a good light meter is a very wise LIFETIME investment. To me, it is the tool that provides the stability and confidence in your lighting technique, similar to what a tripod does for your glass, i.e. "Your best second light is a good light meter."
I don't always use a tripod and I can adapt and overcome without one in many different ways ... but a rock solid tripod is a foundational piece of gear. A rock solid light meter is much the same (imo) ... there are other ways to get by without using one (bracket, sunny 16, histo, etc.), but when you want to produce your best work, use your best tools/techniques.
So whether it is the convenience of using a handheld meter that you prefer (vs. chimping), its usefulness at being able to place it in specific portions of the scene or the ability to get different forms of information (EV readout is my favorite), it is a tool I highly recommend.
Will it make YOU a better photographer just because you buy one ... not necessarily. Will it allow YOU to have better precision & control (if you so choose) ... I think so.
You can certainly get by without one, but you can certainly do better with one ... your call.
HINT: Borrow or rent one for a few days ... then you'll have a better understanding of how it can help you.
LensRentals (et al) can hook you up ... but at $250 for a new one, consider this. BUY IT ... use it for as long as you want. You'll either love it and keep it, or you'll wind up not using it. THEN, you can always re-sell it. The money you 'might' lose won't be that much different from a rental fee ... but you'll have unlimited time to play & learn with it.
BUY IT ... money well spent.