If you’re into analog film cameras, by extension you’re also into light meters. This is because while most modern cameras contain excellent TTL metering systems, if you use film cameras made prior to the 1970s and ’80s chances are: A. the camera has a meter but it doesn’t work anymore; B. the meter works but it’s no longer accurate; C. they stopped making batteries for your meter when Jimmy Carter was President; or D. the camera never had a light meter in the first place. If you resonate with any of the above and your film camera has an accessory shoe, the solution for each of the abovementioned grievances is the Voigtländer VC Speed Meter II.
Available in a choice of black and silver, Voigtländer’s jewel of a light meter measures a mere 1.6 x 1.5 x 0.56" and weighs about 1.5 ounces, making it comparable in weight and mass to a squared-off 9-volt battery. Aesthetically speaking, the VC Speed Meter II is a lot prettier to look at than a 9-volt battery, and it visually complements every camera on which I’ve ever seen it. It’s also a piece of cake to use and it’s very accurate.
Though it looks integral to the original design of many classic, analog cameras, the VC Speed Meter II does not couple to your camera, even when you slip it onto a hot shoe.
To take a light reading, you set the ISO dial (located within the aperture dial) to the desired setting, and activate the meter by pressing the square orange button located on the back of the meter. (A green and/or red LED on the top of the meter will light up). From here, it’s simply a matter of rotating the Aperture or Shutter-speed dials until the center green LED is the only glowing lamp. The red LEDs located on either side of the green LED indicate over- or underexposure. When the red LEDs give way to a solid green LED, you’ve hit the sweet spot.
When you release the orange button, you lock the exposure. The LEDs remain lit for an additional 10 seconds before returning the meter to sleep mode. This is a handy feature that greatly extends the life of the VC II’s two SR44 button batteries, which can be hard to track down when you’re far from home. Unlike the LCD viewing screens on point-and-shoot cameras, the LED indicators on Voigtländer’s VC Speed Meter II are easy to view even when shooting under bright, sunny skies.
The ISO dial, which is located within the aperture control dial, is extremely easy to accidentally bump and should be eyeballed from time to time when out taking photographs.
The VC Speed Meter IIs silicon photo diode calculates the exposure by reading a 30° AoV of reflected light, which is slightly wider than the viewing field of an 85mm lens on a full-frame (24 x 36mm) camera. The meter features an EV range of 1 to 20, and an ISO sensitivity range of 25 to 3200. Shutter-speeds (1 -1/2000-second) and aperture markings (f/1 - f/22) are marked in full-stop increments, while ISO markings are in 1/3-stop increments. Since both apertures and shutter speeds have to be set manually, you can under- or overexpose to your heart’s content using the meter reading as an accurate reference point.
There are many small handheld light meters on the market, but none approach the size parameters and level of functionality found in the Voigtländer VC Speed Meter II, especially when it comes to bringing second lives to analog film cameras. Do you have a camera that would benefit from one of the little beauties? If so, tell us about it in the Comments field, below.
The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.