GEAR REVIEW - SEKONIC L-758DR
When I first ventured into the realm of flash photography, like most people I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I can vividly remember standing in the studio, frantically adjusting my shutter speed to try and correct my exposures and couldn't fathom why I was getting black bands across the bottom of my photograph and my subject remained as overexposed as the previous photo. Arghhhhh!
I then took the time to learn about flash photography and things quickly began to fall into place. However, even after this period of enlightenment and understanding what I was doing, my exposures were still way off. I'd take a photo and review it on the back of the LCD screen. Yup, everything looked great!
I'd then get the RAW files transferred onto the computer and be stunned as to how bad the exposures really were. I'd go looking for my favourite photos from a shoot and mistakenly pass over them without realizing they were the ones I was looking for. In short, things were looking horrible and I was spending an absolute age editing files, all because I didn't get the basics right in camera. There had to be a solution. It was then that I stumbled upon light meters - something that I previously thought had been consigned to antiquity for the most part and only used by those still shooting film. How wrong was I? Very!
After some extensive reading, looking at reviews and watching demonstrations on Youtube, I opted for the L-758D. What I liked about it over other meters was the ability to accurately measure both incident readings and reflective, as well as being profiled to individual lenses and camera bodies. What's the difference between reflective and incident readings you ask? Oh go on then.
In a nutshell, incident readings measure the intensity of the light falling upon your subject from a light source. This could be sunlight, light from a speedlite or a 40w light bulb. The light can be direct or indirect. Sunlight beaming down upon you is direct light. Light from a speedlite being bounced off the ceiling or a white wall is considered indirect. It all adds up to the same thing though - the amount of light hitting your subject.
Reflective metering is the amount of light that bounces back off your subject. Why is this important? Well, different materials and their colour reflect different amounts of light. A black skirt will reflect less light than a white blouse. A matt surface will reflect less than a gloss one. The same is true with people. Dark skin tones will require more light than light skin tones to be correctly exposed.
Without question the L-758D was one of the best purchases I ever made for the studio and outdoor photography. Since my D90 didn't meter with non CPU lenses like the 28mm f/2.8 Ai-s and 180mm f/2.8 Ai-s, the ability to get accurate exposures off the bat, rather than chimping (and still getting it wrong) was a real bonus. Once calibrated to my camera and lenses, exposure issues became a thing of the past. It actually helped cement the F-stops in my mind and I could do calculations very quickly. This left me free to concentrate on my subject and shaping the light, rather than getting engrossed in the intensity of light itself.
Prior to purchasing the meter I'd been using Phottix Strato II 5-in-1 Multi triggers on my lights, which operate on the 2.4Ghz frequency. While they were great triggers and never missed a beat, they weren't compatible with the Sekonic's triggering system. I'd bought an RT-32 module that fitted inside the light meter, which enabled it to trigger lights and take a reading, all from the meter itself. Clever huh!! This essentially turns the L-758D into the L-758DR (the "R" standing for radio).
In order to make the system work, I needed 433Mhz triggers to match the frequency of the Sekonic RT-32 module. Pocketwizards were going to be my initial choice but the price was really prohibitive to me at the time as they were retailing for £140 a unit. With my 3 light setup plus an additional trigger for the top of the camera, I was facing shelling out £560, which is nothing to be sneezed at.
A bit peeved at this prospect, I went searching and discovered the Interfit Strobies STR158 Titan Pro Transceivers. There functioned on the required 433Mhz operating frequency and were actually rebranded Phottix Atlas triggers. The price then was £69 a pop! Literally half the price of the Pocketwizard Plus II triggers. Needless to say, I was a happy chappy. From then on things just got easier. The meter worked flawlessly with the Titan Pro triggers and I could forget about over or underexposure and focus on ratios, shaping my light and my model.
It's an extremely sophisticated piece of equipment with a lot of useful features. If accurate exposure of all elements in your image are essential, there is no beating a light meter. The L-758D can tell you the mix of ambient to flash light upon your subject which allows you to control the look and feel of your photo. It can tell you the dynamic range of your camera and custom calibrate up to 3 different lens/camera combinations. Most importantly, it makes you look like a professional and that you know what you're doing. Of course you need a beret to complete ensemble, haha.
So if you are finding yourself in the same situation of struggling with exposures and are fed up with chimping. Give a light meter a try and kiss your exposure headaches goodbye - hey that rhymes! A basic L-308 will set you back about £140. Personally, I'd plump for the L-478DR or L-758DR because of the flexibility they offers and the ability to precisely calibrate it to your camera. The results it helps you achieve are well worth the extra outlay and convenience though!