Start-up Guide for the Sekonic L358 Exposure Meter

 I've had requests to write a very simple guide to getting started with
the Sekonic L358 exposure meter. So here it is, in very simple terms.
Please let me know if any portions of this article are not clear.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. --Eddie.

 

(Hey, after enjoying this article, you can come make some photo friends at the ILP forums.)

Some assumptions: There is a fresh battery of the correct type in the meter. You will use your camera in full manual mode, because you don't need and don't want to use its in-camera meter now...you've got the L358!

Let's begin:

Turn your L358 meter on by pressing the power button. If you forget to shut it off when you're finished...not to worry...it will automatically shut itself off, thankfully. Ü

 ISO Setting: You'll want the ISO setting on the meter to match the ISO of the film you're using (or the digital ASA speed you're using).
Do this by pressing the ISO 1 button at same time as you turn the dial/wheel. As you turn the wheel, you should see the ISO setting change at the upper right hand corner of the display screen. Make it land on the same ISO as your film. (Note: If you like to rate your film, TCN400 for example, at 200ASA, then set the meter's ISO to 200.)

 

Now that you have that set, you have a choice of metering for flash, or for available light. Let's do available light first.

 

Metering for available light:

Since your camera is in full manual mode, you'll be able to set its aperture and shutter speed independently, and they'll stay there. In auto mode on the other hand, the settings change with the amount of light in the scene...which is not always a good thing because the camera can be fooled by bright backgrounds, dark clothing, etc. But in full manual mode, the settings stay right where you put them...this is a good thing! More control...and the camera can not be fooled.

Most photographers like to pick an aperture to use, and then measure how much light there is for that aperture. This is where the handheld meter comes in so handy. You pick your desired aperture on the L358, then it tells you what shutter speed to use with that aperture. This is called using the meter in aperture priority mode, very similar to aperture priority on your camera. Here's how to do it:

 Putting the L358 meter in Available light, Aperture priority mode: Press the MODE button while turning the wheel. Turn the wheel until you see the sun symbol encased in a box. When the sun is in the box, it means that you have the meter set to available light mode. Now, you will notice that as you turn the wheel slowly (while you press the MODE button), the sun setting has two sub settings: one where the "T" (shutter speed) is in a box, and the other where the "F" (aperture) is in a box. Turn the dial slowly till you know what I'm referring to. (If you turn the wheel too far and it gets off the sun, it's okay, just put it back to the sun.) With the sun symbol in a box (still pressing the MODE button), turn the wheel to make the box land on the "F". This means the meter is now in aperture priority mode. And that means you can dial in your aperture, and the meter will give you a suggested shutter speed reading for the light you're in. So, with the sun symbol in a box, and the "F" in a box, you are ready to turn the wheel again (without pressing any other buttons), until you see your desired aperture appear in the display.

 
Try it out: Turn the wheel so the aperture lands on f 4. Move to a place with adequate light. Place the meter such that the white dome is pointing to the light source...the sun for example. Now press the big black button on the side of the meter (the activation button). You will now see the recommended shutter speed to use. You would now just use that reading to set your camera's shutter speed.

 

Putting the L358 in available light, shutter priority mode: There are times when you want to pick your shutter speed first (instead of the aperture), and you don't really mind what aperture you set -- for example, in sports photography. Say you want to make sure you shot at 1/500th second, and let the meter tell you what aperture to use. This would be using the meter in shutter priority mode. Here's how to do it:

While pressing the MODE button in, turn the wheel until there is a box around the sun symbol, AND, there is a box around the "T". This will mean that you have the meter in available light, shutter priority mode. Now simply turn the dial (without pressing any other buttons) until you see your desired shutter speed (the shutter speed you want to shoot at). Then aim the white dome at the light source, and press the activation button once (on the side of the meter). The display should now show you the recommended aperture reading to use. Set your lens' aperture to this setting, and you're good to go.

 

Metering for strobes

If you're new to metering strobes, then let's keep things simple for now: use a sync cord with one end attached to the meter, and the other end attached to the flash/strobe. Also, for simplicity sake, set your camera to 1/60th sec. and leave it there. Yes, leave it there...most every camera will sync with strobes at that speed (or under). (Note: if you have a Pentax67, the sync speed is 1/30th sec.)

 Putting the L358 in flash mode: While pressing the MODE button, turn the dial until the box is around the lightning bolt with "C" figure. The C means that the meter will fire your strobe when a sync cord is attached to the meter and the strobe. (The lightning bolt without the C is for when you can trip the strobe manually without the sync cord...let's save that for another time.)
So with the box on the lightning bolt/C figure, you now have the meter in flash mode. Now, without holding any buttons in, dial in the sync speed you'll be using. Do this by turning the wheel until you see the speed you want on the left side of the display. Remember, for now, we'll use 1/60th second sync speed (it will show on the dial as 60, not as a fraction). You are now ready to take a reading.

 
Place the meter within your shooting area, with the dome of the meter aimed at your strobe. Now press the activation button once (on the side of the meter) and your flash should fire. The right side of the display should now show you a recommended aperture to use on your lens. If the display shows, for example, f8, then set your lens to that aperture...f8. Simple, yes? With your shutter speed set to 1/60th, and your lens aperture set to what your handheld meter suggested, you're ready to shoot...except for one thing: Before you start shooting with your strobe for real, you'll have to remove the sync cord from the meter, and attach it to your camera's sync terminal so that it makes the connection between camera and strobe. Now you're ready to go.

Note: Some photographers advise to aim the meter's dome toward camera position. Depending on factors such as how even your lighting is overall (fill lights, reflectors, etc.), this works well. However, if you shoot with one light source and little fill, try aiming the meter's dome as I suggest in the instructions above... toward the main light source. This will give you a reading that will help you avoid overexposing the highlight side of the subject. Still, some photographers say always point the meter toward the camera postion... with practice, you'll gather what works best for you.

Ü

All for now!

(If you have any questions, try the message board at ilovephotography.com. Hope to see you!)

--Eddie.


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