An App To Replace Your Light Meter?

 Quick screen shot of the Pocket Light Meter interface.

Quick screen shot of the Pocket Light Meter interface.

Most decisions as to what to carry in your camera bag come down to two main factors: cost and space. I recently wrote about DSLR.bot, which I now use all the time when I need a remote shutter release or intervalometer for my DSLR.  It saved me from buying another $99+ piece of hardware and I enjoyed the DIY part of the project. While not perfect, it has worked wonderfully and is always with me.

I am also currently testing a light meter app to replace mechanical or digital meters. The app is Pocket Light Meter and the ad-supported version is free.  You can find their official website here.

It is important to note that this is a reflective meter only, but I have found the interface to be simple and very easy to understand.  It has a spot-meter function allowing you to tap on your iPhone screen to meter different segments of your frame. This is nice for taking multiple readings to look for light fall off.  It also allows you to lock in ISO, aperture, and shutter when composing a shot, hence compensating for other environmental or artistic elements.

Pocket Light Meter reads in thirds for shutter, aperture, and ISO but you can adjust it to halve or full stops to work with your preference. You can also add exposure correction from -3 to +3. You'll have to work within ISO 0.8-102,400 and aperture range: f/1 - f/51, but I think you can manage.

One added feature I find useful is the log.  The log captures a small thumbnail of your image and some basic data that could replace notebooks for some photographers--especially those shooting film. It will also link to your Dropbox for easy reference once you are back in the studio or on a computer.

Paying nothing compared to a cost of $150 - $650 for digital light meters (granted they are feature rich) means there is no risk to trying this app.  Plus I think you will find it to be a really fun tool. Use it to either fine tune or practice your natural skill set or as a basic/back-up light meter. For more information check out this great discussion thread on the topic of software vs. hardware light meters which also covers some of the benefits, limitations, and results of Pocket Light Meter.

Bottom Line:
Cost:
Ad-supported: Free
Ad-Free: $0.99
Suggested Donation: $4.99 (The developer is British, so buy him a pint)

Pro: Affordable, accurate, nice logging features to replace notebook
Con: Reflective metering only, experimentation required based on your personal gear set-up

 Log data saved to your camera roll on your phone or uploaded to Dropbox.

Log data saved to your camera roll on your phone or uploaded to Dropbox.

iPhone Remote For Your DSLR Camera

I can be hard on gear. If it could talk, it would tell you some horror stories.  I recently lost yet another remote control shutter release to some kind of electrical failure while shooting stars on a cold winter night.  It is probably my third unit in less than two years.  Before heading over to B&H Photo to buy another one, I decided to check out iPhone apps to see if I could find a better solution. I am very glad I did.

DSLR.bot is a feature rich iPhone app that allows for multiple remote control and timing features on most DSLR cameras.  Everything from simple shutter release options to long exposures, intervolmeter features, HDR bracketing, and much more.  While it is not perfect and there are some limitations, for $4.99 it does everything my last $99 unit could do and it is always with me via my phone.

If there is a catch at all, it is that your iPhone will need a small transmitter that you plug into the headphone jack. DSLR.bot works by sending an infrared transmission via the transmitter to your camera's built in infrared rteceiver. These light pulses are translated into binary codes that have corresponding commands. DSLRbot now sells transmitters for a little more than one Andrew Jackson, but there are also some great tutorials online to make your own. 

In the Arts & Crafts world, I am more art than craft.  But I tackled making my own transmitter and it was super easy and a lot of fun to put something together that adds so much functionality to my photography.  Here are the basic parts you need and some online tutorial links.

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Parts/Tools Needed:
2 x Infrared LED Lights
Headphone jack (or cut up an old pair)
Weatherproof tape or Heat Shrink
Soldering Iron

Tutorials:
Instructables Tutorial One

Instructables Tutorial Two

I used a nail file and some super glue to take the small ridge off the LED lights and file down a flat spot on each one so they set nicely together.  You will read all about that in one of the tutorials.  While I also tried it without soldering the connections, it is definitely more reliable to take the 10 seconds you need to solder everything.

  My incredible handiwork.  One of a kind, luckily.

My incredible handiwork.  One of a kind, luckily.

Bottom Line:
Cost: $4.99 plus transmitter parts if you make your own or $26.99 if you order your transmitter directly from DSLRbot ($4.99 app + $22 transmitter).

Pros: Cheap iPhone app, always in my pocket, upgradeable, easy to install, works.
Cons: Requires an “extra” piece, shutter speed is limitations, must be line of sight