No light meter? No problem!

In a recent spare moment, I looked through photos I’ve taken with my Pentax SLRs, especially my Pentax ME, for photos to include in the book I still plan to self-publish this year.

Spare moments have been rare this summer. My wedding, a celebration for Margaret’s parents’ 60th anniversary, and planning for our honeymoon in Ireland have consumed us. I’ve also made several trips to the doctor to try to figure out why I’ve not felt well off and on all year. I haven’t had much energy left to figure out the book. But I still want to publish it, and plan to produce it after we return from our trip.

As I sifted through my back catalog, I couldn’t help but look at photos from many of the other cameras I’ve tried. I looked especially at cameras that had no onboard light meter. I vastly prefer to meter in the camera, especially when I can set aperture and let the camera choose shutter speed.

But I’ve gotten some mighty satisfying work from my meterless cameras. About half the time, I shoot Sunny 16: set the shutter speedĀ to the closest value to the inverse of the film’s ISO (e.g., 1/125 sec. for ISO 100 film), and set the aperture to f/16 in bright sun, f/11 in partial clouds, f/8 in overcast, and so on. The rest of the time I’ve either used my GE PR-1 meter, a meter app on my iPhone, or even a metered camera.

Here are some of the photos that made me happy when I came upon them.


Kodak Retina IA, Fujicolor 200, 2008


Voigtlander Bessa, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2012

Putnam County bridges

Argus A-Four, Fujicolor 200, 2010

Putnam County bridges

Argus A-Four, Fujicolor 200, 2010

Seven Slots

Kodak Signet 40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Rays 2

Kodak Pony 135, Fujicolor 200, 2011


Kodak Retina IIa, Fujicolor 200, 2012

Planting petunias

Kodak Retina IIa, Fujicolor 200, 2012

Black Dog Books

Ansco B-2 Speedex, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2012

Iron's Cemetery

Yashica-D, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2013

Blooms on the Edge of the Deck

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2013


Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013


10 thoughts on “No light meter? No problem!

  1. I think it’s a very useful exercise to review past photos and see which we like best, and then try to notice any patterns as to why we like those ones more.

    I know I’ve used and sold on cameras, then months, even a year or more later gone back and looked at the images and wonder why I ever sold it. And in some cases then sought out another example of the same camera to try again.

    Does this favourable review of your meterless shots encourage you to shoot more without a meter now Jim?

    • It does push me a little closer to a thought I’ve had for a long time: spend an entire year shooting nothing but one of my meterless cameras, and get good at reading light using my eyes and my brain.

      • I’m sure that would be a very valuable experience, and I’ve considered similar projects myself.

        I might have to extend it to a few meterless cameras though, I’m not sure I could restrict myself to just one camera for a year!

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