Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Exposure Meter Calibration

In most cases, an incident-light meter will cause a medium tone to be recorded as a medium tone, and a reflected-light meter will cause whatever is metered to be recorded as a medium tone. What constitutes a “medium tone” depends on meter calibration and several other factors, including film processing or digital image conversion.

Meter calibration establishes the relationship between subject lighting and recommended camera settings. The calibration of photographic light meters is covered by ISO 2720:1974.

Exposure equations
For reflected-light meters, camera settings are related to ISO speed and subject luminance by the reflected-light exposure equation:


  • N is the relative aperture (f-number)
  • t is the exposure time ("shutter speed")
  • L is the average scene luminance
  • S is the ISO linear speed
  • K is the reflected-light meter calibration constant

For incident-light meters, camera settings are related to ISO speed and subject illuminance by the incident-light exposure equation:

  • E is the illuminance
  • C is the incident-light meter calibration constant

Calibration constants
Determination of calibration constants has been largely subjective; ISO 2720:1974 states that

The constants K and C shall be chosen by statistical analysis of the results of a large number of tests carried out to determine the acceptability to a large number of observers, of a number of photographs, for which the exposure was known, obtained under various conditions of subject manner and over a range of luminances.

In practice, the variation of the calibration constants among manufacturers is considerably less than this statement might imply, and values have changed little since the early 1970s.

ISO 2720:1974 recommends a range for K of 10.6 to 13.4 with luminance in cd/m². Two values for K are in common use: 12.5 (Canon, Nikon, and Sekonic[1]) and 14 (Kenko[2] and Pentax); the difference between the two values is approximately 1/6 EV.

The earliest calibration standards were developed for use with wide-angle averaging reflected-light meters (Jones and Condit 1941). Although wide-angle average metering has largely given way to other metering sensitivity patterns (e.g., spot, center-weighted, and multi-segment), the values for K determined for wide-angle averaging meters have remained.

The incident-light calibration constant depends on the type of light receptor. Two receptor types are common: flat (cosine-responding) and hemispherical (cardioid-responding). With a flat receptor, ISO 2720:1974 recommends a range for C of 240 to 400 with illuminance in lux; a value of 250 is commonly used. A flat receptor typically is used for measurement of lighting ratios, for measurement of illuminance, and occasionally, for determining exposure for a flat subject.

For determining practical photographic exposure, a hemispherical receptor has proven more effective. Don Norwood, inventor of incident-light exposure meter with a hemispherical receptor, thought that a sphere was a reasonable representation of a photographic subject. According to his patent (Norwood 1938), the objective was

to provide an exposure meter which is substantially uniformly responsive to light incident upon the photographic subject from practically all directions which would result in the reflection of light to the camera or other photographic register.

and the meter provided for "measurement of the effective illumination obtaining at the position of the subject."

With a hemispherical receptor, ISO 2720:1974 recommends a range for C of 320 to 540 with illuminance in lux; in practice, values typically are between 320 (Minolta) and 340 (Sekonic). The relative responses of flat and hemispherical receptors depend upon the number and type of light sources; when each receptor is pointed at a small light source, a hemispherical receptor with C = 330 will indicate an exposure approximately 0.40 step greater than that indicated by a flat receptor with C = 250. With a slightly revised definition of illuminance, measurements with a hemispherical receptor indicate “effective scene illuminance.”

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.