At the Focus exhibition this year I visited the JP-distribution stand to look at various bits and pieces including the latest Lastolite accessories and the Sekonic range of light meters. They very kindly sent me a Sekonic L-358 light meter to look at in more detail so that I could write a review for the web site. I've been using it for a few weeks now and have been very impressed with the way it works and the additional functions that it offers the studio photographer. I won't tell you every little detail and specification here as it would take too long and all the technical information is already on the web site. But I will try to point out the features that I think will be very useful in the studio.
It's fairly small and light, grey plastic with a large digital read out. It has nice big numbers on the display, very useful when using it in dimly lit studios. It works in the same way as other meters in the Sekonic range. By pressing a mode button you can select all the functions easily by scrolling through them with a revolving button they call a 'jog wheel' on this particular model.
It has all the usual functions of measuring ambient and flash, with or without a cord. You can also set two different ISO's on this model, useful if you still use film and Polaroid of a different speed. Amongst many other features this model also has aperture or shutter speed priority, which I found to be very useful for studio work.
Basically you can set the meter to work in either mode, take a reading, then by using the jog wheel it will automatically display alternative readings from a variety of speeds or apertures. This is a nice feature to have as it saves time recalculating. Say you want to shoot at a certain speed, you just set the meter at that speed and it will tell you what aperture to use. By turning the jog wheel up or down it will also help to bracket the exposure helping you select higher or lower speeds to get more or less depth of field.
Another feature that impressed me was the measurement of the flash percentage in the total exposure. This could be useful in so many applications, especially room interiors shots, always tricky. Basically it displays a % measurement of the flash in the total exposure compared to ambient or tungsten. If you are shooting a room interior lit with tungsten light and the meter shows say 60%, then you know that 40% will be tungsten. By adjusting the jog wheel to show a slower shutter speed, you can increase and emphasise the amount of tungsten light in the exposure, giving more warmth. To decrease the amount of tungsten in the final exposure you can use the jog wheel to display a higher shutter speed which will reduce the effects of the tungsten light. This is a key feature of this model and can be used to great advantage when shooting in any mixed light situations.
The brightness difference function is another feature that caught my eye, used to check the evenness of lighting. A measurement can be taken from the subject to the main light source and stored into the memory. Now you can point the meter at a second light source and by pressing the AVE/EV button it will tell you the difference between them in EV values. It also shows a measurement on the analog scale in f stops. In simple terms it can be used to set lighting ratios, which as I'm sure you know are very useful for studio work.
As I said before it can measure flash with or without a sync lead and calculate multiple exposure. It can measure in 1/10ths, 1/ 2 or 1/3rds of a stop. You can also buy a range of accessories for this model, including a dual sync lead, allowing both camera and meter to be used at the same time. A wireless flash radio trigger system is also available for this model. The RT-32 transmitter slots into the back compartment of the L-358 and you can choose between two receivers the RR-32 (32 channels) or the RR-4 (4 channel) versions.
To sum up, Sekonic have always made superb meters for both ambient and flash measurement. This model is no exception, the Sekonic L-358 is a very sophisticated light meter that offers a wide specification for the more serious photographer. To read about all of its features and functions, look at lightmeters/Sekonic/L-358 on the web site. As I said it would be a little boring to reproduce them all here. I've just selected those features which I think really make this model worth buying for the studio photographer. At around £200 I think that it represents excellent value and would be a great long term investment.