Best Light Meter For Photography

Last Updated on April 8, 2021

photographer using light meter

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Are you searching for the best light meter for photography?

Whether you shoot portraits, landscapes, or product photography a dedicated light meter can improve your exposure beyond what a built in camera light meter can.

While modern DSRL cameras come with built in metering there are a number of reasons why you will want to invest in a dedicated external light meter. Achieving consistently accurate exposure is simple to achieve with a high quality handheld light meter. Light meters are a required tool of the trade for professional photographers such as landscape, portrait and product and still life. And it is easy to learn how to use a light meter, so using one is win win.

Best Light Meters For Photography

woman taking picture in the woods

If you are new to using a light meter don’t worry because you are in good company. The prevalence of built in camera metering has led to many photographers neglecting this particular tool, but that is a mistake. Built in metering is unable to account for the light that falls on your subject and this can lead to poorly exposed images. This is particularly important for portrait photography among other types of photography.

Gossen Digisix 2

  • Compact design
  • Reflective Metering
  • Incident Metering
  • 25 degree angle of view
  • EV range is EVO-18 at ISO 100

This compact and light weight meter is one of my absolute favorites. It is incredibly portable and packs a ton of performance that will help you get perfectly exposed images every time. It offers a 25 degree angle of view as well as incident reading from the translucent dome. The digital readings are easy to see and you get EV and exposure value readings. This meter is also incredibly fast meaning it will not slow your sessions down at all. You can read the information from the top and operation is as simple as pressing a button. All readings remain on the screen until you take another reading or turn the meter off. You can slide the diffuser with a finger which is a great design touch.

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Sekonic L 208 Twin Mate

  • Analog meter
  • Reflective metering
  • Incident metering
  • 33 degree angle of view

I love the throw back look of this analog light meter and it is very popular with street portrait photographers and landscape shooters. The needle read out may be a little intimidating for some photographers but it is easy to learn and performance is awesome. Operation is as simple as turning the dial to lineup the index marker with the position of the needle. Then you can read your aperture and shutter speed combos directly off the dial. The great thing about the display is that is offers more accurate readings than a digital display for extremely accurate exposure. This is one of my main go to light meters.

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Sekonic L 308X Flashmate

  • Feature packed
  • Reflective metering
  • Incident metering
  • Flash
  • 40 degree angle of view
  • EV range of 0-19.9EV at ISO 100

This light meter is definitely larger and more complex than the first two options but is a great light meter for those looking for a flash component and cine metering. The L 308X offers both reflective and incident metering with flash. You get an easy to read digital display as well as cine metering. This option is more challenging to use so may not be the best option for the beginner unless you are up to the longer learning curve. The other drawback is you have to turn the meter to read the display after taking a reading. But it will give you the exact aperture and shutter speed settings for proper exposure (remember digital is not as accurate as a dial display). This is a very versatile meter ideal for the experienced user.

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Sekonic L 858D Speedmaster

  • Adjustable lumisphere
  • Reflective metering
  • Incident metering
  • Flash
  • 1 degree angle of view
  • EV range of -5-22.9EV for incident and -1-24.4EV for reflective at ISO 100

This is a true pro level light meter. It does come in at a premium price and the performance and features to match. With this meter you get incident metering for flat and 3D subjects thanks to the retracking and rotating lumisphere. Features also include cine and cine HD modes along with flash support. This meter also measures the duration of flash as well as ambient vs flash ratios. You also get high speed sync support. This is a really good meter and it offers some of the absolute best and most versatile performance on the market. With it you effectively get two light meters as you get spot reflected and side ambient light readings. All this and the lumisphere retracks and rotates. This model is very popular with professional photographers and videographers. Keep in mind that with all these features comes a steeper learning curve but it is well worth it.

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Lumu Power 2

  • iPhone metering
  • Reflective metering
  • Incident metering
  • Flash
  • EV range of -4-20EV at ISO 100

This is a great meter option for the iPhone photographer. It connects right through a lightning connector. Once plugged in just download the Lumu Light Meter app. Then you can measure your flash and ambient exposure along with color temperature. This little meter attachment let’s you measure flash and shutter speeds. You will get all the readings you need for excellent exposure with your iPhone. It has an interesting look and great performance but it does come in at a hefty price tag.

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How To Choose a Light Meter

tree at sunset

Angle of Coverage

Handheld light meters generally provide you with a fixed angle of view which effects the angle you hold your meter at when taking a reading. Some meters offer adjustable angle of view so keep this in mind when using your light meter.

Spot Metering

Spot metering is not offered by all models but this is a great feature to have. For spot metering you focus the meter on key areas of your scene. This technique is best applied by taking multiple readings across your scene covering the various lighting levels found in it. Then you take an average reading from those points to get the optimal exposure settings.

Incident Metering

For this type of reading you will use a translucent dome placed over your meter’s cell. The meter is positioned between your subject and your camera with the meter facing toward your camera. Then the reading is taken from this position. This allows you to capture lighting conditions when shooting particularly dark or light subjects. This technique is often used when shooting portraits.

Flash Metering

These readings allow you to measure the intensity of your flash photography. When an incident light attachment is added to your handheld incident meter a reading can be taken from where your subject is located. This will allow you to properly expose your flash photography subjects.

Sensitivity Range

Sensitivity range refers to your meter’s ability to perform under low light conditions. Many lower end light meters are not able to meter low light any better than a modern camera’s built in metering capabilities. If you intend to shoot in low light conditions then be certain to invest in a meter that offers an EV of at least EV0 but going as low as an EV-6 is best for night sky photography.

Display Type: Digital vs Analog

Old school meters all came with an analog display. And some modern (often low cost) meters do as well. These types offer a dial read out that points to the reading or exposure settings for your scene. Digital read outs usually display your outputs as a numerical value in EV and occasionally as your exposure settings. Because an analog meter can theoretically offer more precise readouts some high end modern meters offer an analog display.

Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes

Some meters will allow you to match your shutter and aperture priority modes found on your camera. This allows you to set a fixed shutter speed or aperture settings and the meter will offer the corresponding exposure settings for your lighting conditions.

Cine Mode

If you are a videographer or cinematographer then a meter featuring cine modes is a must. High end video production requires calibrated frame rates and shutter speeds. Also if shooting with a cine camera then you will need frame rate and shutter angle information.

For more photography lighting guides and tips read these articles