Friday, 12 October 2012

Too Square to be Cool?



The Minolta Flash Meter III was released in the early 1980s and feels very much like it's time but how is it for basic metering?


Basics

The meter allows you to select the shuter and ISO/ASA speed via rotating dials where the shutter speed selection is in full stops only and ISO in 1/2 stop increments - the meter has a rotating head and accepts a other attachments via the removal of the standard diffusion dome.


Attachments: standard dome diffuser, 40 degree reflected light, 10 degree spot. Same attachments are compatible with later Minolta meters

This meter runs off 6x 1.55v S-76 or EPX-76 button cell batteries (also known as SR44) although 3x 3v Duracell DL1/3N or Energizer 2L76 have been reported to be successful. These batteries are more difficult to obtain when compared to AA or AAA.

Ergonomically, it's very 1980s with its very angualar shape which doesn't fit so nicely into the hand (unlike the later Minolta meters) and the LCD display is rather small although sufficient.


Compare this with the Auto Meter IV F from the early 1990s.

Mintola Auto Meter IV F

The meter has no auto shut off unlike new meters which will kill the (harder to find) batteries although the on switch is a slider which will not be so easily activated at the bottom of your bag.

One nice feature is the standard 1/4" socket on the rear and centre of the Flash Meter III - very useful for mounting and leaving in a relatively static position for metering when working on your own.

Sensitivity

One important thing to note is the sensitivity of the meter: I was trying to meter flash for an image that was to be at f/1.4 1/250 ISO200 but noticed that the meter would not record anything below f/2.0 ISO200. Indeed, scanning the manual confirmed that the sensitivity of the Flash Meter III was:
ISO100 incident flash: f/1.4 - f/99 +9/10
ISO100 ambient: EV1 - EV18.2
The ambient meter, at ISO100, seems to measure all the way down to f/1.0 +1/10th.

The flash metering sensitivity for the Flash Meter III is one stop less than the new Minolta Auto Meter IVF which according to it's manual has a flash range of ISO100 incident flash: f/1.0 - f/99 +9/10th.

Compared

I've been using the Minolta Auto Meter IV F (takes a single AA battery, shutter is in 1/2 stop increments, ISO in 1/3 stop increments) as my main meter for a while and this is the baseline for my comparison although I've also used the lower end Sekonics L308 (also AA powered, shutter and ISO in 1/3 stop increments).

Ergonomically, the Flash Meter III is least comfortable being a little cumbersome to hold in your hand and also being heavier. Of course this does not affect the metering performance which is in line with my Auto Meter IV F except for the sensitivity note above.

The swivel head is a welcome feature which isn't available on the low end Sekonic L308 although the Sekonic does provide an integrate flat disc whereas the Minolta's need a seperate attachment.

Price wise, the used Minolta Flash Meter III is in the 40-70GBP range compared to an used Auto Meter IV F which can be 100-130GBP; a new low end Sekonic is in the same price range.


If you're looking for a basic flash meter, then the Flash Meter III is an adequate compromise although I still prefer the Auto Meter IV F.

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