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Proper exposure with a press camera

 
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JimBob



Joined: 03 Oct 2008
Posts: 12
Location: Wichita, KS

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 12:30 pm    Post subject: Proper exposure with a press camera Reply with quote

This may be a dumb newbie question, but how did the average press photographer set the proper exposure? I've been using my DSLR as a light meter, which is somewhat time consuming and certainly wasn't an option 40 years ago.

Was it common to dial in a standard exposure for the estimated conditions, or is there some better way?
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Les



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 2682
Location: Detroit, MI

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They used hand held light meters. First there were actinic meters, that used sensitized paper. relatively accurate particularly in doors when extinction meters lost accuracy, but you'll be hard pressed to find fresh paper for that Waktin's Bee Bee from the 1920s.

by the time the Pacemaker came around Photographers were using several different kinds of light meters from General Electric's Dw-68 to any of the several Weston series meters.

I would say the exposure system used by far was experience. Shoot a lot of film every day and you know that a cloudy sky is f8 a dark sky is 5.6 and indoors it's 10 feet away at f16 (or whatever it would have been for the type of film they used)

I knew a guy that used the Old Ektarchome 64 for so long he could shoot without a meter and without bracketing, and get great shots every time.
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Henry



Joined: 09 May 2001
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Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a GE DW-68, got it at a camera meet for $15 with original box and instructions, and I can tell you that it's a joy to use! No batteries (that's right!), shutter times calibrated for Graphex (1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, etc.), and it's exactly the same era as my Century (1954). Who says you can't live in the past?
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glennfromwy



Joined: 29 Nov 2001
Posts: 903
Location: S.W. Wyoming

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Press photographers on the night beat often used a couple of pre-determined distances and aperture settings appropriate for those distances, using their favorite flash bulb. In this instance, the shutter speed has little to no effect on the exposure until you get into really high speeds. In that case, you just open the aperture to suit. Once you're used to that you're going to get a good shot just about every time. Good enough for press work, anyway. Weegee used this method on most of his night shots.
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Glenn

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JimBob



Joined: 03 Oct 2008
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Location: Wichita, KS

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info. I suspected that experience had a lot to do with it. Unfortunately I haven't shot enough film to build that kind of mental database yet. I've read Ansel's books so many times that I get caught up in the +/- third-stop details and forget that I can get usable images with a much bigger exposure error. It works for disposable cameras and print film.

I never researched light meters, but I had assumed they were fairly recent additions to photographic history. I looked at the GE meter and there are quite a few available on Ebay. I figured I would need a meter sooner or later, so maybe a vintage GE meter would be a good (and fairly cheap) addition to my LF kit.
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Henry



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 1439
Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a word about the GE DW-68. While mine functions perfectly well in daylight conditions, both for reflected as well as incident light readings, it is not usable in low light, indoor situations. For that I rely on my Gossen Luna-Pro F, which has the further advantage of being capable of flash readings (I guess that's what the "F" in "Luna-Pro F" means!). I also confirmed the accuracy of my GE with the Gossen, and you will want to do the same if you acquire one.
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C. Henry



Joined: 13 Dec 2005
Posts: 356
Location: North East Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2009 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Henry's cautions about the GE DW-68 light meter apply to all the GE light meters, or for that matter, any old light meter.
I have a GE PR-1 of about the same vintage as Henry's DW-68, but mine has checked out as accurate down to only one stop short of the minimum on the low range scale.
The bottom line is compare readings of any old light meter with those from a known accurate light meter or through the lens built in meter of a fairly
recent SLR before trusting the accuracy of the old meter.

C. Henry
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pv17vv



Joined: 22 Dec 2001
Posts: 255
Location: The Ardennes, Belgium

PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I had assumed they were fairly recent additions to photographic history


Weston 650 : 1935
Weston Master Universal : 1939
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JimBob



Joined: 03 Oct 2008
Posts: 12
Location: Wichita, KS

PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate the posts on the early light meters. I assumed the early meters were based on light-sensitive paper, or were time consuming to use. I wasn't aware the electronic meters went back so far. I've been using metered cameras so long that I've never considered using a separate light meter. Now that I'm shooting MF and LF cameras with no meter, it looks like it is time to make the move.
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Les



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 2682
Location: Detroit, MI

PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rahamstine Electrophot early 1932
Weston 617 mid to late 1932

But neither of these meters are useable today, and meter collectors have brought the prices up to the cost of a mini speed.
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glennfromwy



Joined: 29 Nov 2001
Posts: 903
Location: S.W. Wyoming

PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unless you want it for a collectible, forget those oldies. If you're going to invest in a light meter, invest in a good one.
You won't regret it.
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Glenn

"Wyoming - Where everybody is somebody else's weirdo"
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JimBob



Joined: 03 Oct 2008
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Location: Wichita, KS

PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again for the advice. I think it's time to invest in a real light meter. The antique route is tempting but I'm leaning towards a good general-purpose meter with spot meter capability...something like a Sekonic L-508 if I can find one at a reasonable price.
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