Film photography has a handicap and that is the electronics of the light meter. Typically film cameras were made of much better quality than was necessary and will last a few lifetimes if properly kept. Light meters built into old film cameras do not always have the same shelf life. This leaves us film lovers with one of four options.
Option 1: Buy an external light meter. This is expensive but a single light meter will be able to be used with any film camera making it a one time investment. Using them is not as straightforward as one would hope so read the instructions well.
Option 2: Buy an App that turns our cell phone into a light meter. I use this method and find it really works well. I have not missed a shot due to exposure using this App. The problem is that it requires you to pull out your cell phone to take each reading, something the external light meter would require as well. You are dependent on another devise to get the first one to work.
Option 3: Stick with cameras that have an internal light meter that works or can be repaired. There are plenty out there but it will largely restrict you from TLR, some rangefinders and large format cameras.
Option 4: Learn, trust and use the Sunny 16 rule. Everyone knows this rule but few people trust film enough to really give it a go. All you need is to set your shutter speed to equal the reciprocal of your ISO. So if your ISO is 100 you set your shutter speed to 1/100th of a second. Then you are left with a single variable to decide on, aperture. In a sunny day it should be f/16, partly cloudy f/11, no blue in the sky f/8, very dark clouds, f/5.6 and so forth.
This last option is also one of my goals for 2017...I want to learn how to expose without a light meter. I found the following video on YouTube where it is explained very well. Travis also explains that the main reason people do not use the sunny 16 rule is out of fear of the results and a lack of trust in film.
A stop over or under is simple to fix with film. Two stops and you need to work a little more at it but still very salvageable especially in the darkroom. So human error is corrected through the latitude of film.
As a recap, if you like film cameras you may as well start learning how to calculate exposure without a light meter. The rule is simple, the fear of ruining a few shots could easily be overcome by trying out on some everyday shots and finally the only way to realize how forgiving film can be is to give it all a go.
This week my goal will be to shoot an entire roll using the sunny 16 rule. Lets see how I get on...
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.