Sekonic L-308S Flashmate Review
Light meters and flash meters aren't really necessary these days with the introduction of sophisticated in-camera metering systems, sophisticated through-the-lens flash metering technology, and digital cameras with instant feedback and histograms. It was very different in the film days.
Apart from wanting a new toy, I bought this flash meter for two reasons. The first was to save time when using my studio lighting. The studio lighting just gives a fixed burst of light with no feedback from the camera's metering system.
A degree of trial and error is required every time I use it to get the right exposure and if I change the lighting setup I need to repeat the trial and error process. The use of a flash meter should eliminate the trial and error and achieve accurate exposure first time.
The second reason was with a view to the future if I start to use more complicated multi-light lighting systems. The desired lighting may require checking each light individually to get the right overall balance.
I bought it mainly for use with studio lighting but it also functions as a regular incident or reflected light meter which can be used in difficult lighting conditions if you don't fully trust your camera's metering system.
I had to order the Flashmate and wasn't asked at the time of ordering what colour I would like. I was slightly taken aback when it arrived and I saw that it was fluorescent green. This wouldn't have been my first choice. However, the colour isn't really important.
It is available in black, red, light green and pale blue.
The unit is powered by a single AA battery. These, of course, are available everywhere. Available battery power is indicated on the display, and the icon will begin to blink when the battery needs changing.
An alkali dry cell battery should last about 20 hours.
To save battery power, the unit switches off automatically about four minutes after it was last used. When switched off it remembers the settings and measured values.
When using the Flashmate, settings can be adjusted in full, half or third stops by making a change in the custom setting.
Most digital cameras have the same functionality and it is probably best to set up the Flashmate the same as your camera.
The ISO range is 3 to 8000. This, I would suggest, is good enough for most uses but it isn't high enough for the very high ISO values that have been introduced with some DSLR cameras in recent years.
Incident Or Reflected Light
The flash meter has a sliding Lumisphere which can be positioned over or away from the light sensor. For incident light (where the meter is held in the same position as the subject) slide the Lumisphere over the sensor.
For reflected light (the same as in camera metering systems where you point the meter at the subject) slide the Lumisphere away from the sensor.
Incident light metering should be more accurate, but it isn't always possible or convenient to get a reading.
The unit operates in four modes and pressing the mode button cycles through the four modes in sequence.
- Shutter Speed Priority (ambient light)
- EV mode (ambient light)
- Flash mode (cord)
- Flash mode (cordless)
EV (Exposure Value) mode simply gives you an EV reading for the light available, without any specific exposure values. For a given EV value, you need to check a table for the corresponding shutter speeds and apertures that will give you this EV value.
In the cord flash mode, a synch cord needs to be connected between the flash meter and your flash units. When you press the measuring button the flash will be triggered. An accessory synch cord with three plugs is available from Sekonic so that after taking a reading you don't have to unplug the synch cord from the flash meter and plug it into the camera.
If you aren't using a synch cord, you can use the cordless mode. When you press the measuring button, the icon on the display will blink. You then have 90 seconds to trigger the flash manually so that the flash meter can take a reading.
Decide whether you are going to measure incident or reflected light and slide the lumisphere into the appropriate position.
Switch the unit on by holding down the Power button.
Set the ISO to match the ISO your camera is set to. Hold down the ISO button and use the Up/Down buttons on the side of the unit.
Select the appropriate mode by cycling through the mode options. The sun sign is for ambient light and the lightning signs are for flash. The lightning sign with a 'C' next to it indicates that the unit will be used with a synch cord attached to trigger the flash.
There are two settings for ambient light operation. A letter 'T' (time) indicates Shutter Priority. In this mode use the Up/Down buttons to set the shutter speed to match the camera's shutter speed.
EV (Exposure Value) mode doesn't need any exposure values. The EV reading of the scene indicates the amount of light and different combinations of shutter speed and aperture can be used to get the correct exposure.
In ambient mode position the light meter correctly and press the measuring button. In 'T' mode you will be given an aperture to use. In EV mode you will be given an EV value and using the supplied table select an appropriate shutter speed and aperture.
If you are using cord flash mode and have a synch cord attached, the flash will trigger when you press the measuring button.
If you are using the cordless flash mode, press the measuring button and trigger the flash manually within 90 seconds.
The unit is actually very easy and intuitive to operate.
I'm not a cinematographer but many people are now using full-frame DSLRs that have a movie for very high quality videos. The flash meter can be used for cinemaphotography.
Put it in Shutter Speed Priority mode and keep pressing the 'Up' button on the side of the unit. After the maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 for still cameras is displayed, a series of cine speed frames per second will be shown.
Select the desired frame rate and press the measuring button.
There was a time in the days of film photography when a light meter was an essential piece of equipment.
As in-camera metering systems improved, and with the advent of through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering, it wasn't as important to have a light meter.
Things changed again with digital photography and histogram displays. Photographers were able to assess exposure straight away.
These days a light meter is not essential at all. However, it does save time and if you are trying to set up complicated studio lighting it is still important to be able to measure the output from individual strobes.
Without a light meter I don't think I would fret, but I just feel happier to have for those situations where I think it could help. It's also a big time saver when setting up studio lighting.
Specifications And Details
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