I have already written about why a light meter is important, and I’m in the market to buy one. So I thought I’d do a comparison and share my results.
What am I looking for in a light meter?
- It should be able to handle low f-numbers (lenses are getting faster all the time)
- It should be able to handle high ISOs (modern cameras can easily shoot at 12800 ISO or more, so I don’t want a meter that stops at 6400)
- It should have high frame rate modes
- It should obviously have footcandle and lux readings; and if possible nits as well
- It should primarily be an incident meter but with the option to add a spot meter
- It must have an error of less than 0.1EV (that’s one-tenth of a stop)
- It must run on regular batteries
I’m going to be using it primarily for lighting on location.
Unfortunately, light meters are getting as rare as Canon announcements, so my choices have boiled down to four:
- Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D ($339)
- Lumu light meter ($30)
- Sekonic L-758Cine ($820)
- Spectra Cine Professional IV-A ($400)
I’ve avoided the Sekonic L-398A (about $200) because it doesn’t cater to high ISOs. I’ve avoided the Sekonic L-308DC (about $270) because the price isn’t too different from the more modern L-478D.
I didn’t consider the Lumu due to its high price.
The comparison chart
Here’s the chart (click to enlarge):
- Prices and specifications may be wrong or inaccurate. Please refer to manufacturers websites for correct information. I am not responsible for any decisions you take based on the above chart.
- Items in red are what I consider ‘fails’
- Some features have different ranges based on whether flash, cinema, etc., modes are used. Some are display ranges while the other are ‘true’ ranges. It’s hard to tell which is which without actually testing them side by side.
- One big negative of the Luxi for All is that it cannot be locked into place on a mobile phone, and any slight misalignment will cause a wrong reading.
Which one am I buying?
It’s actually pretty obvious. The L-758Cine stops at ISO 8000 and uses a hard-to-find battery. The Spectra Cine has a hard-to-find battery (though with an excellent battery life) and stops at 360 fps.
The utility of the Luxi depends on the app, so another app might offer better features. However, not all apps are available on Android, which is sort of a deal-breaker for me because I own a Samsung S5. As far as the current Luxi app is concerned, it is too rudimentary but still a great deal for the price. My needs are just more demanding.
All said and done, the L-478D is probably the only meter that checks all the boxes. There are two things I don’t like about it. Firstly, you can’t use a 1º spot meter with it. The 5º degree spot meter is near worthless, but I can live with it, because the internal meter on my Sony A7s is a 1º spot meter, so I’m okay. Secondly, it has a crappy touch screen, but there are no major horror stories so I gather I can live with it…until I can’t.
One thing’s for certain. It is time for Sekonic to upgrade their light meters, at least the 758Cine. I also believe all future light meters should have accurate in-built color meters. I’d pay $1000 for such a light meter, especially if it is weather sealed and doesn’t have a touch screen!
What do you think? Which is the best light meter around and why? You can purchase the light meters here: