If you’ve ever seen a movie that portrays a studio photographer from the 20th century at work, chances are you’ve seen that ‘tog holding a light meter and firing off a strobe to get an exposure reading ahead of bringing a stunning model on set. Chances are that ‘tog was holding one of these – a Profisix.
The Profisix represents German design at its best. Beautifully engineered and built to last. You can use it to take reflected light readings by holding the meter’s sensor towards the subject, an incident light reading by pointing the sensor to the light source, or sync it to a flash head/strobe (via cable, modern meters use a radio) for precise management of artificial light sources.
Find one of these in good condition and full working order and you can expect to pay between $200 and $300. I got lucky and found one for $150.
But why would you bother with one of these? Modern digital cameras, if you know how to use all their features, are excellent at metering, but not so good at teaching you about the “exposure triangle”. This is the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity (ISO setting) that determines a successful exposure. The Gossen Profisix, and meters like it from days of yore, not only indicate the ideal exposure but their dials have a scale that clearly reveals the triangular relationship of exposure values.
If you know a student photographer, an old light meter such as this could be a cheap way to illuminate their path to a clearer understanding of better capturing light. Besides, look at that dial. It’s like a circular slide rule. How can you resist?