Sekonic Flash Master L-358 Light Meter

It's time for a classic light meter, rather THE classic light meter, the Sekonic Flash Master L-368!

It's been around for over a decade and a half, and despite the fact it's never been a flagship for the company it's still found in studios and camera bags all over the world, and some pros swear by it.  So what's the cause of the longevity?  Does this meter offer something that others don't?  Is there some merit to the argument that the development of the sensors in modern cameras have rendered light meters obsolete?  Today's review explores the strengths and weaknesses of this much debated industry staple.

 

Single Sentence Summary

An essential piece of equipment -- for those rare opportunities when I have the time to plan.

Why I Bought It

Plain and simple, I bought it to make myself a better photographer.  For the same reason I support shooting in film, using a light meter is another means by which to force yourself to focus on applying your knowledge of the fundamentals.  When you're shooting film you need to know that your exposure is just-so to meet your artistic vision, and with the lack of immediate feedback you need to be certain.  That's where the L-358 comes in; it gives me the feedback I need to be certain with film, and I actually use it much more in digital than with film.  I can set my lighting to be perfect before snapping a single shot, and that's critical.

What I Like

First and foremost: confidence.  Sometimes, in both wedding photography and in photojournalism, I don't have the time to take test shots and adapt.  The L-358 lets me lock in to exactly what I need in a rush, or ahead of time.  The unit is smaller than many of the other meters on the market, and it fits easily into a pocket.  The custom features allow you to adjust to support 1/2 and 1/3 step increments, which lets me really tailor in my settings to absolutely nail the lighting I want (when I have the control). 

I love the PocketWizard capabilities (when coupled with the RT-32CTL), as the PocketWizard III units play a key role in my wedding shooting.  The fact that it accounts for the use of multiple flashes is fantastic too.  I tend to use the groups in flash work often, and being able to save measurements based on the different settings is great.  There are a number of times with the Canadian Forces that I can't fire and test a camera during a live exercise/deployment, but I need to know that my camera will deliver when I need it to fire.  The L-358 gives me all that I need in those low-light situations, so that when the action comes I know that my camera is ready to roll.

What I Don't

Time.  Most of my digital shooting affords me the opportunity to fire a handful of test shots.  If I were to try to use the meter in one of those situations it would cost me the time to pull it out, get into the position of the subject, and tuck it away.  Unfortunately in these instances, those who argue against the need for light meters have a pretty good point: the meter in each of my cameras (at least in my D810, D800, and D4s) do an adequate job of metering it.  Plus, with my assistants' help I can always adapt and get feedback instantly on my camera screen.  It's honestly a rare occasion when I use it, but when I do, I really nail the exposure.

The RT-32CTL shouldn't be an accessory.  I don't understand why it's not assumed and included in the L-358, and I hate when companies don't just build in features like this, but charge you another chunk of money for it.  Sure, I get that many people won't use it with PocketWizards, but really it's probably at most only a couple dollars more in parts, why doesn't Sekonic just build it in!

Batteries.  I hate any device that uses custom batteries.  Why can't they have designed it to use AA's or even 9v batteries?  Due to how often I travel abroad I have to keep a spare in my Pelican 1510 lid organizer, it's super annoying.  Particularly given how rarely I have to use it, when I need it to work I absolutely need it to work.  Not cool Sekonic, not cool.

The design of button-holding while adjusting with the turn dial makes single-handed use difficult.  I'm rarely shooting where I have both hands free, and having better single-handed design would have been a HUGE benefit.  I understand that the nature of my work may not match how the average light meter user would use it, but I feel like this one isn't such a crazy thing to think of.

Bottom Line

When I need to meter, I REALLY need to get it right.  This unit nails it, fits well into my PocketWizard workflow, and is conveniently small.  Sure, I don't use it as often as I would like, but that's the nature of my work, not a fault of the unit.  I totally love it, and would love to spend more time learning the advanced functions to start toying in the more artistic creations.

Score

8/10

I dig it, and I'm not sponsored, so you should dig it too.

 -Wes.