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Is it possible to replace the selenium in selenium light meter?

Kevin Lui , Aug 17, 2007; 07:20 a.m.

I know inaccuracy of selenium light meter is a very common problem in classic cameras. Most of them response to light but it is over/reduced some stops. I have read some books about repair cameras and the writer says we can add/remove/disconnect resistor(s) so as to make it accurate again. I, then want to know, is it possible to replace the selenium directly?


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Charles Stobbs , Aug 17, 2007; 07:43 a.m.

I think Radio Shack has some in their catalog. If not you can probably Google up other sources.

Nick Clarke , Aug 17, 2007; 09:13 a.m.

Megatron are a source of replacement selenium cells in the UK, but whether a cell of the same size would have the same output as one in an old camera, and how you could calibrate the meter across the light range is probably more of a problem than just fitting a new cell.


Often another issue is the variable resistors used - these go bad in many meters (eg Kiev, Nikon Photomic)and may not be replaceable.

Dan Fromm , Aug 17, 2007; 09:38 a.m.

Look, when a meter goes bad it needs to be serviced, and that includes recalibration. One can't simply replace a part that's suspected to be bad and get accuracy at any light level or linearity.

If you want to have your camera's selenium cell meter made right, perhaps Quality Light Metric (google for them) can do it. Odds are that you can't do a good job yourself.

Luis Triguez , Aug 17, 2007; 11:51 a.m.

I cleaned time ago a selenium cell of a Russian meter with acetone and it worked. Also, I have to say the meter wasn`t totally dead.

Nevertheless intelligent people prefer to send it to repair. One of the best places is:

Quality Light Metric Co, 6922 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90028-6117 USA Tel: 213-467-2265



Patrick Dempsey , Aug 17, 2007; 03:45 p.m.

Kevin, you seem to be aquiring a large number of Classic Cameras recently... if you intend on using them, a solid hand-held light meter is probably a very good investment. Selenium cells have a varied life and Ive read that in some cases they died shortly after leaving the factory... others have held on for over 40 years still producing perfect exposures. There is wide speculation as to why and how these cells die, as well as a multitude of recommendations on fixing them. A trained professional with an understanding of electronics and access to devices for calibrating light-meters is probably really the only reasonable answer. In some cases, purchasing a second example of the camera with a working meter may be cheaper than a meter repair.

In my limited experience; even when working properly, most Selenium meters have a very limited range and can be inaccurate in low-light conditions. Ironically, the situations that these meters are the least accurate are also the ones where you typically NEED a working meter! Ive found that many times these meters are unresponsive indoors and during low light like near sunset, despite there being plenty of light to take a photograph! There are also many lighting situations where it is sometimes difficult or straining to view the meter needle in the viewfinder of many old cameras.... this includes low light as well as situations which cause glare and flare, or if the subject is predominantly dark on one side. In these situations a hand-held meter is simply easier to read and less of a headache!

A hand-held meter will give you the ability to work in lower light, to expand the kinds of metering you can do, and allow you to use high-speed films which the older meters cannot calculate for. It will also allow you to use cameras without their own light meters in tricky lighting situations. Another advantage is that having one meter which you use for all cameras means you get to know the quirks of that meter and can learn to read it very quickly. This is opposed to having, as an example: 10 different cameras with 10 different meters all responding to light slightly differently. Also you might be able to find a reliable light-meter for the cost of repairing the meter in ONE of these 10 cameras. The exception would be if this is your MAIN camera, in which case a repair as well as having a second body on-hand might be warranted. There are also many cameras which have automatic shutters that are completely dependant on the meter circuit, and due to this limitation repairs are really your only option to continue using them! Also due to those limitations, these cameras are often not very expensive, (unless the specific model is rare or collectible) so purchasing a second body may be much cheaper than repair.

Theres a ton of options out there, and its really a different topic all together!

Patrick Dempsey , Aug 17, 2007; 04:00 p.m.

Oh, also be aware that many old hand-held meters are also Selenium powered... and these are just as likely to fail, and sometimes very limited in low light as well. I personally don't like LCD screens and prefer the dial kind of light meter... during the 1960s and 1970s many meters were made which have a dial and are battery-operated CdS cells. I believe the later Weston Masters took batteries as well as the Gossen Luna-Pro. Today Sekonic makes several light meters with a dial-type display for those of us old-fashioned types who prefer seeing all the options at once instead of one at a time... those include professional models as well as simple budget models. Even the budget versions have a greater sensitivity range than even professional Selenium meters, and ANY meter found on a classic camera.

Luis Triguez , Aug 17, 2007; 05:37 p.m.

Patrick is right, as usual, but if possible, avoid meters that need old mercury batteries

Kevin Lui , Aug 17, 2007; 09:34 p.m.

Thank you very much. It seems that fixing a selenium meter is quite a difficult job. I want to fix my Retina IIIc 's selenium light meter. When I take it out, I found the light meter response to light but not accurately. It is sad , I think , to see the meter lost its function and become a decoration of the whole camera.

I have Gossen Luna-Pro. I brought it few months ago and it comes with spot attachment and enlargement attachment. It comes from a film-retired photographer. It react to light accurately, more than the previous one I have. I put 2 LR44 batteries in it rather then finding the wein cell or zinc-air battery. The needle falls into correct place when I press the test button.

I dislike LCD meter. It is because the screen usually become haze when the surrounding is too bright or dim. I can not take the reading. I borrowed a pro Sekonic meter before, It is too sensitive that it jumps when a car pass by or a man walk pass. I prefer the needle display one because the adjustment can be make easier.

Patrick Dempsey , Aug 17, 2007; 09:54 p.m.

Yeah, unfortunately its just one of those quirks when dealing with Classics... Ive got a Minolta SR-3 with the removable coupled meter... the meter doesnt work, but at least its removable so it doesnt take up space on that beautiful camera!

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