"Which handheld light meter should I buy?" is probably one of the most asked questions in the film photography forums, film interest groups, and also in my workshop, Embrace The Grain. With the gazillion choices of different brands, models and options, the decision can be understandably daunting. Now let's mix in the choices between buying brand new or used, or download that "free" phone app, the choices start to get even more over-whelming and quite confusing. So which meter should YOU buy? Well, let me ask you a few questions:
1. Do you have a meter that actually WORKS in ALL light situations?
A meter needs to be able to read the light ACCURATELY, including in tough lighting situations such as high contrast light and back light. It needs to be able to function like it is intended to be: measuring incident light and/or reflected light.
2. Do you have a meter that has all of the basic functions that YOU need?
Buying a meter is like buying a car. You can buy a car with a manual window crank with no A/C or a car with seat warmers and backup cameras, both will get you from point A to point B. Although it might be more posh traveling in a luxury car, it will still get you the same end result: your destination. So start at the basic function of a meter, incident metering, and go from there. Figure out which function you must have and which you can do without is the key to selecting the perfect one.
3. Do you want to STOP wasting your hard-earned money?
Let's face it, shooting film is EXPENSIVE! The processing fee, the scanning fee, the shipping cost and the film cost all add up quickly. You are spending at least $20 to $30 per roll!! This is why consistency is a priority when you are shooting film. Consistency comes from accurate metering. That's it! Nope, I am not tricking you. It is really that simple. It will cost you at least $50 up-front though, and what does this $50 mean to YOU? I can tell you what it means to ME. It means that spending $50 buying a proper meter is the same amount of of money that I would have wasted on processing and scanning TWO rolls of underexposed scans that turn my stomach.
If you answered "YES" to all of the questions I asked above, then you need, and you MUST have a handheld meter now. Use your common sense! "Free" doesn't always mean it is better. A handheld meter should your film camera's best friend. These two should be two peas in a pod. If you have a film camera in your hands, you should have its sidekick, the handheld meter, somewhere close and ready to jump into action! Now, stop wasting money on scans that make you go "ewwww". GET A HANDHELD METER!