Great vintage collection: exposure meters

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Why does everybody uses their phones to take pictures, instead of a proper camera? Of course there are many answers to this question yet the most obvious is death is this simple quickly an above average result. This is because our smartphones calculate stuff like distance, focus and the use of flash light. This was not always the case!

Some history on picture taking

When photography was invented somewhere in the early 1800’s “taking a picture” was only done by some very handy man. These guys had to figure out how to take a decent picture. They had to use their own chemical formulas and invent their own equipment. It took a lot of trial and error to get a picture right, or at least have a picture show something that looked like the original. In the decades to follow it became clear that “taking pictures”, was something that humanity loved. So there was money to be made, leading to the manufacturing of plates, film, emulsions, cameras and equipment. Working towards standardisation was the next. Around 1900 the camera became available to the masses, usually as small black box with a round hole in from; the box camera as shown below. A Coronet from around 1910.

Coronet 1910 box camera

The perfect picture

To help the common man to take some nice pictures there was a little education to be done. Fortunately only a few factors to take into account for a nice picture. These were shutter speed, distance and light. This could easily be explained through a measurement table. Still easier written down then achieved in practice. This is where Picture taking became an art. Were most people when had problems with taking a decent picture other people were looking to take the perfect picture. Below some paper based camera aid tables.

different photo tables

The maturing of photography

During the evolving of photography between 1920’s through the 1970’s many inventions were done, as well as new developments were made. There were different sizes and qualities film paper, different type of film with their own specifications. With flashlight it became easier to shoot pictures in the dark. People want to take pictures on holidays in totally different environments and so on. During this time different measuring tools were invented like the exposure meter, the flash mater and the spot meter. Sold as large individual items at first, to become smaller and smarter through time. The picture that starts this blog post (and the last picture in this article) shows different sizes. Below is the smallest exposure meter to be mounted on a camera, as well as an integrated exposure meter in a Minolta Minoletine S camera.


Minolta with integrated exposure meter

Collecting Exposure meters

Exposure meters come in various sizes and from a variety of makers as you can see in the picture below. For me the real fun lies in the fact that these meters still function. You just point them towards a light source and the little hand starts to float over the scale. I some cases you need to push a little (red) button first. Other have a small grid to let more or less light in. You can actually play quite some time with these. Fortunately I am not the only one who sees the fun and functionality in these vintage light meters. This website by Mr. Ollinger shows a huge online collection of exposure meters. Many models that were made through the years with pictures and specifications. A great source to determine what you have.

Different exposure meters

An other very elaborate article can be found on this website. It shows details about the development of the exposure meter as well as different types available from over time. A third website you find here, covering a wide range of photographic accessories as well as covering several light meters. Of course we sell a exposure meters at when a nice one comes available.

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