As a hybrid photo/video shooter with a love of external lighting, a light meter is a tool that usually finds its way into my gear bag. A light meter is great for quickly making sure that you have perfect exposure but also for helping you better understand how your different light sources are interacting. Unfortunately, for a couple years, it’s been difficult to choose a Sekonic meter if you shoots stills and motion. There was the modern, touchscreen-based Sekonic L-478, which has exposure modes for stills and video but lacks a spot meter, or the much more expensive L-758Cine-U, which includes a spot meter but also a much more cumbersome, outdated interface.
Now Sekonic has launched the L-858D-U, which combines the slick interface and functionality of the L-478 with a built-in spot meter and the ability to measure flash duration and high-speed sync. An integrated spot meter can be very convenient when you need to quickly measure the reflected light from a subject and don’t want to use your camera’s spot meter, which often requires reframing a shot.
Just the spot meter would be enough to make the L858D-U a compelling upgrade over the L478, but the addition of a flash duration meter is truly exceptional. When shooting extremely fast action, many photographers have noted that different strobes will freeze the action to different degrees. If you have an interest in capturing splashing water, ballistics or sports, it’s extremely useful to know which lights will freeze action better. The L-858D makes it simple to measure the flash duration of a light, and I can see this feature being invaluable if you regularly rent strobes.
The option to meter high-speed sync is also unique to this meter. High-speed sync is a great tool for cutting down the ambient light in a lit photo, but it enormously reduces the output of your light. I’ve found high-speed sync to be an interesting technology, but the trial and error required to properly expose an image has left me frustrated. The L-858 means I may have to look into this technique again, this time with more predictability and consistency.
One of the biggest upgrades over the older L-758D and L-758Cine meters is that the photo and video meters are blended into one unit with the L-858D-U. You can use the meter as a traditional photographic meter with photographic terminology, and you can also use it in Cine and Video modes, where it will match the terminology used with these cameras (e.g., Frame Rate and Shutter Angle). This alone makes the L-858D a great tool for the rapidly growing field of photo/video hybrid shooters.
The Sekonic L-858D-U isn’t a perfect device. While the interface is outstanding, the touchscreen is not as sensitive as I would like. Often it would take repeated presses for an action register. Part of this may be because of the unit’s weather sealing, but many weather-sealed cameras and smartphones have better touchscreens.
All in all, the Sekonic L-858D-U impressed me with its innovative new tools and intuitive interface. If you’re looking for the most full featured light meter on the market, check out the Sekonic L-585D-U at thecamerastore.com or sekonic.com.