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Light Meters-- digital vs. analog

Steven . , Sep 12, 1998; 03:09 p.m.

Are there any advantages to a digital light meter over an analog? What are they if any? If anybody has experience with the Polaris digital I'd like to know their thoughts. Thanks in advance.


Frank Kolwicz , Sep 12, 1998; 05:38 p.m.

I've never used and anlog meter, so I can't say about the comparison. I have noticed that some of the analog meters seem to have rather cluttered looking read-out scales and the digitals seem less confusing.

The Polaris works fine. It has a digital/analog readout - one of those little bar graphs in 1/10 stop below the full stop in digital numerals. Like this:

f/11 [[[[[[[[[

which would read as f/11.9; 1/10 stop less than f/16.

It does ambient and flash metering from f/1 to f/128 or something and has a decent low-light range. The reflected reading mode does not allow you to see what you are metering like a spot meter does, so you have to be careful with that. For flash it does cord and cordless readings and has a few different read-outs.

In all, I'd say it was pretty good for the money and small and light-weight, too.


Gary Watson , Sep 12, 1998; 06:03 p.m.

There are so few current analog meters for comparison! I own two Sekonic meters: a 308B Flashmate and a 398M Studio Deluxe. The 308B is about the size of a deck of cards, is light, well-made, and packs an astounding range of features. It has no moving parts and can read very low light levels. The 398M is the ancestor of the old Norwood Director. It uses a selenium cell, a quite heavy magnet, and needle readout potentiometer: a tough, battery-less system that is subject to damage from extreme impact, though. It has low-light limits, can't monitor or trigger flash, is so-so for reflective work but is deadly accurate for most ambient(incident)work, easily equal to the 308B. Digital readouts are no more informative than analog readings: easier to read, granted, but no more revealing. Several friends have broken Polaris meters:switches have failed or cases cracked. I'm obviously biased, but the little 308B does the same things, is slightly more money, better built, and is backed with a 3 yr warranty and first rate tech help. It's your money, though.

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , Sep 12, 1998; 06:15 p.m.

I have used quite a few models, with various photo- cell types: Weston Master III(analog), Sekonic L-398(analog), Minolta IV (digital), and recently a second hand Gossen Luna-Pro (analog). The box score on analog versus digital, at least for me, is that the analog scales, as well designed and with clear graphics as those on the Gossen are as easy to use as the digital scales on the Minolta for ambient light use. And at half the price at least. Sekonic and Weston were a little smalllish numeras for dim light. With analog, the range of EV combinations is visible at a glance, a plus. Digital meters usually have backlight, a plus for them. For flash, I do not believe there is an analog meter made. I think a fair comparison might be the scales on a traditional analog multimeter/ohmeter instrument versus a digital multimeter. If properly designed you can get the same ruggednedss, reliability, accuracy and operation out of analog technology where ambient measurement involved. As to brand, I might suggest you keep in mind that some mfrs have been around for a very long time and have excellent service facilities. I can say Gossen is probably the head of the pack in the latter category because they are now backed by Bogen, a responsive and reliable distributor. Since you may buy only one meter ever, I recommend you give it the thought you are obviously devoting. Hope I have helped.

Dan Smith , Sep 12, 1998; 10:38 p.m.

Whatever model you get you will learn to use. No one is really better than another if it fits your working style and is comfortable and easy to read. A lot of good photos are still taken with older meters and a lot with the latest digital wonders and a lot by experience and no meter. Get whatever feels most comfortable to you.

Mark Robbins , Sep 12, 1998; 11:11 p.m.


Yes there is an analog flash meter. It is called the Luna Pro F and is made by Gossen.


I find this analog meter to be excellent for most of my work. The only thing that annoys me is that flash cannot be triggered by the meter - you have to trigger it with a seperate switch.

The dial is big and easy to read. There is no need to choose things from menus - everything is immediatley 'at hand'. The meter is also very rugged, i haven't had a problem with it in three years of abuse.



Curt Wiler , Sep 13, 1998; 04:00 p.m.

It seems that the "best" digital meters try to make their displays "look like analog." That may be a clue.

I have owned analog meters from an old Weston, to the Norwood (now Sekonic 398) and two Gossens; I am now using a Sekonic 508 (digital) as my main meter because it combines the functions of a very good incident meter - and a good spot meter. I used the Norwood (Sekonic 398) as my most accurate meter until it stopped working (probably after 20 years or so, I don't remember, or the reason it stopped). It was my reference to check the others against. The real issue is what functionality you want. I would buy another Sekonic 398 today because it is easier to get accurate readings with it than any other meter in bright light; but that is a little too limiting for what I am doing now. This meter was the best mostly because of the large incident light receptor with no shadowing on the sides, not necessarily because it was analog. Personally I find a good incident meter to be the best check for in-camera metering, with the spot function secondary but essential in a few unusual lighting situations.

Analog meters are easier to read relative values on - think of analog vs digital watches. Unfortunately, cameras have gone largely digital themselves. Bear in mind that if you are using any hand-held meter you will most likely have the camera in manual mode, so you should give some thought to how you will take the readings from the meter and use them to set the camera. For example, if the meter only gives shutter speeds in full stop increments, it doesn't help to have the camera using 1/3-stop increments.

The bottom line is the best for you is whatever you are most comfortable with.

Ron Shaw , Sep 14, 1998; 10:22 a.m.

I prefer analog simply because my brain thinks in analog (but then Im old :-). I can see instantly that Im a third stop over such and such, without having to think about it. Pick it like you would pick a watch. If you prefer digital watches, then you will probably prefer a digital meter, and vice-versa.

Michael Hassoun , Nov 04, 1998; 07:13 p.m.

I used a luna pro for a while, found it slow to use, heavy and bulky. but ..I work in the street, those are my needs. I have now a sekonic 308,IT IS GREAT .light,slim, easy to read. nothing is perfect so someone explain to me what the wife of the engineer there did to him the evening before he decided to set the auto-off on 4 min!!!! it's a pain to miss a picture because you did'nt use your meter for 4 min and have to switch it off. what's the point of using a AA battery???


Aruna Kalu , Jan 13, 2004; 02:55 p.m.

My question does not fit the subject. However I am a beginner looking to buy a decent light meter. Any ideas on what to buy? Again sorry for the off the topic question.

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