Useful Apps for Film Photographers – Part 2: Incident Light Metering


A few weeks ago I already blogged about useful apps for analogue photographers. In the meantime I have discovered more digital helpers that I would like to share with you.

Let’s focus on light meters this time, incident light meters to be more precise.There is quite a range of light meter apps for iOS or Android devices. Most of them use the reflected light of an object via the built-in camera, just like the light meter in your camera would. However, once you saw how light metering is done at film sets or in fashion photography you will see that the pros hold their light meter right next to the object they want to photograph. In this case the actual light that falls on the object is measured. This is called incident light metering.

Up until now you could only do that using dedicated devices and those don’t come exactly cheap. Luxi, Lumu, and Incident Meter all promise to do this with your mobile device, yet all use different methods to do so.

Luxi Light Meter ist available for the iPhones 4 and 5 and uses the internal camera similar to the already mentioned apps. However, it come with a little diffusor dome like the one that covers the sensor on conventional light meters. The “intelligence” rests in the accompanying app and not in the hardware.  The advantage is clear: The price tag is much much lower than even an entry-level dedicated light meter. The disadvantage though is that it only really works with a particular make and model of mobile device because it has to fit exactly over the camera aperture. [Update: After a software update from August, 8th 2013 the previously mentioned Pocket Light Meter App also supports the Luxi diffusor unit.]

This is where Lumu comes in. Like Luxi the designers use Kickstarter for funding but follow a different philosophy technology-wise.  Instead of using the phone’s camera they put a real sensor in the very classy designed device that plugs into the 35mm headphone jack. Thus it is relatively independent of your hardware as long as your device has such a connector. Furthermore Lumu claims to have a much higher accuracy than those devices using the phone’s camera particularly in low-light conditions.  Nice details include a strap to carry Lumu as a necklace and a leather carrying pouch. That looks all very classy and cool but comes at a comparatively hefty price tag: 129 Dollars is cheaper than, say, a Gossen Digisix, but it’s not exactly a bargain either.

If you really want it cheap, you can go the low-tech way. Incident Meter is an app that doesn’t even let you take a reading. Instead you have to use your camera’s light meter using a standard grey card once on the bright side of your subject and once on the dark side and the app will calculate the right shutter speed from these two readings. This doesn’t sound too convenient, nor do I know how accurate that is but at approximately 99 Cents the app is definitely the cheapest option for taking incident light readings. (Grey cards are less than a tenner online or at good photo retail stores).

I hope you’re finding these app reviews useful. If so, keep your eyes open because there will be more soon.

2 thoughts on “Useful Apps for Film Photographers – Part 2: Incident Light Metering

  1. Pingback: Useful Apps for Film Photographers – Part 4: Reciprocity Failure | A Kraftwerk Orange

  2. Pingback: Apps for Film Photographers: Useful or Not? | A Kraftwerk Orange

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