Pentax Spotmeter V 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale
For my analog/film photography, I have been a long time user of spotmeters, my first was made by Soligor and when I dropped that too many times, I replaced it with the Pentax Spotmeter V. The Spotmeter V is an analog spotmeter that has since been replaced by Pentax with a digital version. The meter will measure the luminescence of a very precise area of the subject designed by a round spot much like a bullseye within the meter.
What brought me to use this precise light meter tool was my introduction into the zone system many, many years ago. In a future article I will discuss the zone system in more detail, suffice to say when using black & white film that was hand developed, there were a number of film processing tricks a photographer could use. This was predicated on the fact that they knew the lighting conditions of their subject and what the black & white values that they wanted in the resulting print. The secret trick to make this happened depended a lot on using a spot meter that could record exact light readings in various places within the subject; from the lightest values, mid values to the darkest values.
One thing that I did not like about the lesser expensive Soligor spotmeter was the undersized handle grip, which was rather annoying and maybe a reason that I dropped this delicate instrument one too many times. The Pentax in turn has a large handle and from that perspective alone is a delight to use. You can really get a grip on this little beauty.
The second was the Soligor had a two phase scale; you had one set of values with a slight squeeze of the button and if needed a different sensitivity, you squeezed a little harder to get the second set of light values. In comparison the Pentax has one continuous scale within the view finder, which is much easier to use, especially if the light values were in the mid point of the scale that for the Soligor had the readout jumping between the two values and a bit confusing to know exactly what was going on.
To use this spotmeter requires the photographer to take the value(s) viewed inside the meter and then translate it to the rotating scale on the outside of the meter, see below, to determine the required camera settings. As example, if reading a gray card (18% gray) and the meter pointed to the value of 10 & 1/2, you moved the dial to point at the 10-1/2 mark and for an ISO 100 film, you could chose a series of exposures that provide you with an appropriately exposed film (e.g. 1/15 sec at the half click between f/8 and f/11).
The final luminescence value determined for the mid-point is called the exposure index (EI) and when using the older Hassleblad lens, there is a corresponding EI scale on the lens. Thus this meter and lens make a great combination. When the EI is set on the lens, the aperture and shutter speed sequences were coupled together and locked in. A change in the aperture created a corresponding change to the exposure time. Thus a photographer could make one exposure and then quickly change the coupled exposure index settings for a different combination and still have the desired film exposure.
Although I no longer hand-process my film, I still depend on this meter to evaluate the lighting of my subject and then determine what my exposure should be.
This Pentax Spotmeter V has been a work-horse for me and has been trouble free for the past ten plus years. recommended.