In this article, we round up the best light meters by looking at features, accuracy and price.
When it comes to accuracy, you can’t always trust your built-in camera light meter. Even in the digital age, using a quality standalone light meter is still the best tool to get that perfect exposure.
In this article, we’re going to review 6 of the best light meters on the market. They’ve made progress over the years with features for both filmmakers and photographers alike.
We’ll discuss the best ones for shooters of all levels.
What is a Light Meter?
In photography and cinematography, a light meter (or exposure meter) is a tool that measures light in any given situation to find the correct exposure. In turn, you’re then able to calibrate your camera’s exposure accurately to middle grey (18% reflectance) or 40 IRE.
There are three main types of light metering: Incident, Reflective, & Spot.
First, Incident metering measures how much light is coming directly from the source, whether it be studio lights or ambient sunlight.
Next, Reflective metering measures how much light is reflecting off your subject and into your camera.
The incident meter can be more precise, but the reflective is useful if you’re unable to approach your subject.
Lastly, you have Spot Metering. This allows you to focus on a 1-degree area of the scene. This is useful in high-contrast lighting situations or when the subject is backlit. This will allow you to target specific areas of your scene to figure out how much to under or over-expose by.
What To Look For in a Light Meter
The best exposure meters are accurate, reliable, and easy to use. To narrow down your options, it’s helpful to think about the most common ways you plan on using one.
- Am I using a DSLR or a cinema camera?
- Will I be able to approach my subject?
- Do I need a spot meter?
- Do I need a continuous reader?
- Will I shoot mostly in the studio or exteriors?
- Do I like touchscreens or physical buttons?
6 Best Light Meters
By using a quality light meter, you can really fix the look and feel of your project and keep it consistent. It takes a little time to wrap your head around how to use one but soon enough it’ll become second nature.
So without any further ado, let’s dive into light meters and what they can do for you as a filmmaker.
1. Sekonic L-478DR-U Wizard Exposure Meter
First on our list, is a light meter from a long-lasting brand in the field since 1959 – Sekoinic.
The L-478 is one of the world’s first touchscreen light meters. The large 2.7” screen allows you to see the aperture, ISO, or shutter front and centre at a glance.
Also, to cover all bases, it comes with a range of functions for modern cameras including Cine Mode. Easily input your frames per second, shutter speed OR angle, and ISO to get the correct aperture value.
A camera light meter will decide on an exposure reading from multiple zones of 1 frame. With spot metering, the measurement is taken of a single spot. Remember, when the subject is backlit and overly bright, your camera gets confused. Thankfully, this Sekonic L-478 comes with a 5-degree spot attachment.
Above all, this advanced light meter gives you multiple ways to get precise measurements, every time. So, if you’re looking for all the bells and whistles then this exposure meter is for you.
|Large 2.7” LCD display||Eats up the AAA batteries fast|
|Has CINE mode for high-end video cameras||Hard to see the display in direct sunlight|
|DTS Software to store different camera profiles|
2. Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate Light Meter
Second on our list is another model from Sekonic, the L-308X Flashmate. This one has a few advanced tricks that make it simple to get accurate exposure readings in any light situation.
First off, this light meter features 3 easy ways to measure: incident light, reflected light, and ambience. Just so you know, ambient light is the sun, studio hot lights, or any non-strobe light.
The good news is, that the L-308 offers users a range of frame rates and shutter angles to choose from. In addition to this, it has a variety of native ISOs from modern cameras built in.
Next, it has real-time continuous exposure metering. To use this feature, simply hold the side button and scan the desired area. As a result, you can read whether the background is lit evenly or how much falloff you have on your subject.
So when you’re scouting your next film location, instead of guessing what equipment you’ll need, consider using the Sekonic Flashmate.
|Affordable||Feels cheaply made|
|Pocket size & powerful|
|Has DSLR & Cine mode|
3. Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III Camera Light Meter
Next up is a camera light meter that looks completely different from the rest of the list. Due to its fully analogue functions, the L-398 is a favourite among photographers and filmmakers. If you consider yourself a craftsman then you might want to give this one a shot.
First, you get to see a full layout of what you’re working with. This manual exposure meter has all the shutter speed and aperture combinations at a glance. In fact, it has Cine readouts in an easy-to-read orange.
Furthermore, it comes with a group of accessories for bright outdoor readings. For example, the lumadisc is for two or more light source readings and a lumagrid is used to take reflective light readings.
Lastly, forget the frustration of replacing batteries. This exposure meter uses a photocell that generates its own power. Feel like a craftsman with the power to read light in the palm of your hand with the Sekonic L-398A.
|Feels great in hand||No exposure compensation|
|No battery needed|
4. Gossen Digisix 2 Light Meter
The Gossen Digisix 2 is a powerful pocket-size exposure meter. This little guy sure does punch above his weight class.
For all those who like a tactile feel, its rubbery buttons and physical dial give sensory feedback like no other. Many old-school shooters prefer this over a touch screen.
As a matter of fact, this handy meter can be easily fastened on your camera with its hot shoe adapting mount. This way, you’re always ready to measure reflective light.
With its clear-cut display, you can see your f-stop and shutter speed combinations quickly and easily. Also, it has continuous exposure values. This means you can measure the difference of reflective light on a subject by simply scanning it.
|Hot shoe adapter||Lower end build quality|
|Sleep feature to save battery|
4. Gossen Digisky Digital GO 4039 Camera Light Meter
Moving on, here we have an upgraded model from Gossen. This light meter really has features that cover all the bases. If you know your way around a meter then this one might be your next choice to add to your camera bag.
With Cine mode, you can adjust film speed, aperture, and even compensate for filters. For ease of use, the EV (exposure value) appears in an easy-to-understand analogue scale. This allows you to pinpoint any changes from the chosen settings.
By pressing a single button, the large digital display can be switched between aperture, ISO, and f-stop, Plus, its rechargeable internal battery can last weeks. 👌
On a more technical side, you can measure your lighting ratios with your shutter or aperture set as a priority. In short, you have extreme control over your preferred look.
The only downside is if you’ve only used your camera light meter before then you might want to try a cheaper option until you learn the exposure meter ropes.
|Cine Metering Modes||Feels flimsy|
|Large LSD screen||Expensive Lithium Ion battery replacement|
|Sleek design for the pocket||The head does not rotate|
|Battery rechargeable||Not a touchscreen|
6. Kenko KFM-1100 Exposure Meter
Lastly, we have a light meter from Kenko. This simple and reliable tool is both comfortable in your hand and clverly designed. To keep things simple, it has six buttons that do about 20 different things.
For ease of use, the Kenko-1100 can adapt to the frame rate, ISO or shutter speed of your camera, giving you the exact aperture to use. In the same way, it’ll notify you when you don’t have enough light for your exposure requirements.
To capture highlight or shadow detail accurately, the Kenko KFM-1100 can store two measurements that can be recalled for reference. This way, you can decide on the best average of two light readings.
In addition, this meter also has a useful 270-degree swivel head useful for a variety of reasons. However, the dome must be removed to take a reflective reading rather than just sliding over to the side as most meters do.
|Simple and easy-to-use||Dome must be removed to take a reflective reading|
|Accurate and full-featured|
|Had memory Function|
|“Analyze” function for mixed lighting|
Best Light Meters – Wrapping Up
In short, light meters are a handy tool that will completely change the way you film. They allow you to get the most accurate information for your shooting situation quickly and easily.
Luckily light meters come in all shapes and sizes with features for everyone. So choose a model that best fits your needs and learn it like the back of your hand!