Remember when a light meter was an analog device you held in your hand and used it to read the light and then transferred the exposure information to your camera? Sometimes we would read reflected light, sometime incident, and sometime both -- just to be sure. Weston light meters were one of the most popular meters with professional photographers. They were primarily set up for taking reflected readings, although later models had a snap-on opaque dome that converted them into incident meters.
As a "reflected" meter they measured the light reflected from the subject or from a substituted neutral gray card. I used to measure the light from the palm of my hand, maneuvering my hand in the light to simulate the light that was falling on my subject. Basic, but it worked, even at a time when the margin of error was small due to film latitudes that were a tiny fraction of the dynamic range available with digital cameras of today.
|A selection of early Weston meters ranging from the first Master of 1939 to the CdS cell 1966 Weston Ranger 9 with Ansel Adams zone scale.|
Edward Faraday Weston (1878–1971) was the son of a renowned chemist, Edward Weston, who started the Weston Electrical Instrument Corp in 1888. It was Edward Faraday Weston, the son, who applied for the patents on the original Weston exposure meter in 1935. Edward, the father, died in 1936 and the Weston company was acquired by Sagamo Electric.
The meters had selenium cells for taking a direct reading of reflected light. Beginning with the Weston Master II in 1946 an accessory called the "Invercone" could be attached over the selenium cell, thereby converting the meter to incident reading.
Weston was an early light meter pioneer before film speeds were standardized so the company came up with their own film speed scales, and would publish them in pamphlets called "Weston Ratings".
Weston's son Edward Faraday Weston (1878–1971) received several exposure meter patents for meters that were then manufactured by the Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation and widely distributed since the 1930s. He also established the system of the Weston film speed ratings for the measurement of film speeds.
|Weston made several models of its meter with the Leica name on them Shown here is a 1938 model 650 in an Art Deco box.|
|In 1945 Weston introduced a sleek new aerodynamic design with the black Weston Master II.|
Working with a Weston Meter:
Weston Masters all have a large cell on the back of the meter to read the light. You hold the meter facing you at eye-level and point it at the subject to be measured.
The meter has both high and low light metering levels. On the back of the meter is a plastic door with holes in it. When you flip this panel to cover the cell, you are reading the bright light. To read in low light fold the door down and lock it with a pin. This signals the meter to change its scale from the high to low reading range.
Set the film speed on the innermost dial. Take a reading with the meter. Note the number where the needle is pointing. Turn the outer dial to correspond to this number. Now the next two inner scales will give you all the correct combinations of shutter speed to f/stop. Simple.
|Made from 1964-72, the Weston Master V was the last of the Master series. The U.S. company closed down in 1972, but a similar version of this meter continued to be produced until 1984 by the British subsidiary as the Weston Euro-Master.|
|The clip-on Invercone converted the Weston's direct reading selenium cell into an incident meter.|
|This early photo of Ansel Adams shows him with a Weston Master II around his neck. It was a Weston meter Ansel did not have with him when he took his famous "Moonrise, Hernandez" photograph in 1941 by guessing the exposure.|
Some time ago I have had many of the meters featured here re- calibrated by Quality Light Metric Co. in Hollywood. I am not sure they are still doing this, but their contact info was:
QUALITY LIGHT METRIC CO.
9095 Hollywood Blvd. #550
Hollywood, CA 90028