View Full Version : Leica M3 Handheld Light meter workflow?

03-13-2018, 10:56
Hi all,

I'm heading away on a trip next week to Istanbul and will taking my M3 and a couple of lenses. I have a couple of Leicameter MR-4s, one of which I have used on the M3 in the past (as well as honing my Sunny 16 rule skills without a meter). However, I now have a Summaron 35mm with googles, so using the meter on top adds more bulk which I want to avoid.

I've got a Sekonic L308s meter that I want to take with me as it is compact. As I've only used it in a studio setting before for flash readings, I wonder if anyone has any tips on getting ambient readings in the street with handheld meters? What's the best method to get a clear, balanced reading. Having used the MR that reads on the 90mm line, I am trying to figure out the best method.

Thanks in advance!

03-13-2018, 11:24
All due respect, why would you change to an unpracticed metering technique just before a significant photographic opportunity?

03-13-2018, 11:34
All due respect, why would you change to an unpracticed metering technique just before a significant photographic opportunity?

I should have added I'll be taking a digital body with me as well. To your point, I always think the best way to learn is in practice.

03-13-2018, 12:01
Put it on incident metering mode and take reads in full sun and shade. Change exposure based on the light that is illuminating what you're interested in.

03-13-2018, 12:05
I've been using a Sekonic 308 as my main meter for years, with all kinds of cameras including my M3's (which are my primary 35mm film bodies). I use the 308 in ambient incident mode all the time. I take highlight and shadow readings in every situation, and adjust on the fly depending upon the values in the scene in front of my lens. In bright sun I meter with the dome aimed directly at the sun for highest highlight values, turned away (no direct light on the dome) for shadow values, and then I choose my settings based on the scene and how I want to shoot it. I take meter readings in open shade, bright sun, and darkest shadow areas, almost always with the meter held upright and the dome positioned like a face; this position is the most common way to get a correct reading in pretty much any light. As I'm walking around I just keep metering, putting the dome in highlights, shadows, and mid-tone ranges as the light and scenes change. My meter is always in a pocket easy to grab when I want to check, and I'm always making adjustments to my camera settings depending on the scene and how I want the images to look.

When I was in photography school, we all carried incident meters with us all the time and practiced taking readings in all kinds of light and settings; after a while you get to be able to "smell the light", as an old photographer friend liked to joke. As with anything, experience begets competence and confidence, but especially shooting negative film, this way of working becomes fast, easy, and reliable very quickly. Chrome (slide) film requires a bit more care and precision, but if you tend to shoot one speed of film as your primary go-to, (as I think a lot of us do) the settings you need at that speed become second nature pretty quickly, so that pretty soon you might just use the meter just to confirm your exposures after you shoot as I often do. From there it even becomes easy to adjust up or down a few stops when you load faster or slower films or want to push or pull your main stock.

03-13-2018, 16:44
1.Next week.
2. Digital body.
3. Known meter.

Read lightmeter manual.
Set light meter and digital camera to same ISO.
Take reading on the light meter for different light scenarios outside.
For each reading verify it with digital camera.
Mount your regular meter on Leica. With or without lens.
Take reading and take another reading with meter you are about to take to ex-Constantinople.

03-13-2018, 16:53
Put it on incident metering mode and take reads in full sun and shade. Change exposure based on the light that is illuminating what you're interested in.

Not much more to know than the advice above. Simple, effective, and very quick in operation. Depending on the strength of the sun, you'll see 3-4 stops difference between sunny and shadow areas. Subject in a sunny area but facing away from the sun (e.g. backlight/contre-jour)? Use the shadow metering to guide your setting. Want a silhouette instead? Use the sunny exposure.

The slower alternative is to measure every shot from the position of the subject, pointing the incident dome where the camera lens will be.

03-13-2018, 17:14
I had this same problem and solved it by using my Leicameter MR-4 as a handheld meter. I know it works and does the job fine and also means when I want to put it on the camera i have it with me.

I usually have it in a bag or pocket and use it once to get a reading for an average of light around me and then don't use it again for most of the day.

03-14-2018, 00:37
I lead a simple life.

Take the meter you most trust based on your favoured subject type and take that.


David Hughes
03-14-2018, 02:23

If you want to avoid bulk and weight then do not take the M3, two lenses and a meter. ;-)

Or else consider that the Leica meter adds very little to the package and can be left in place and used fairly quickly. They are a pain with an ERC but many think ERC's are a pain and don't bother with them...

As for workflow, I take a reading, think about it, set the camera and then squeeze the shutter button.

Many people reading this might just think I'm being sarcastic but I'm not.

That's because I like to travel light and have realised that I need to take a good (=heavy and bulky) tripod to squeeze the best out of an M and it's lenses. I once took a small pocket camera and my M2 out for the day and duplicated each shot with each camera. Printed to 5x7 the results were identical...

Nowadays I take a small P&S or two that I know has a good lens and I get through a lot of film or else fill a lot of cards...

Regards, David