The Sekonic L-358 is a combined flash and ambient meter that takes many of the existing features that have made this Japanese meter brand so successful and encloses them in a new improved housing.
The shape is more practical to hold than the flatter variety and almost resembles a modernised version of the Sekonic Studio meter that the brand name was popularised by.
In the hand the L-358 balances well with the index finger falling naturally over the reading button. The front has the LCD metering display and a collection of buttons to set various features. A wheel, operated by the second finger, is positioned to the right.
To change mode you press a button and adjust the dial. To change exposure reading values the dial is turned alone.
A look at the display highlights the meter's specifications as follows:
Hold down the mode button and rotate the dial to navigate through ambient metering using either aperture or shutter priority or EV values, flash with and without cord reading.
A black symbol indicates it has full power, this drops of to half and then an outline when the battery is near exhausted.
Can be selected anywhere between 1/8000sec down to 30 minutes. The meter then displays the necessary aperture to suit that speed. EU appears if it's out of range.
Can be set between ISO3 and ISO8000.
A square appears around the exposure mode that's selected. F is aperture T is shutter EV is exposure value.
Can be selected anywhere between f/1 and f/90. The meter then displays the necessary shutter speed to suit that aperture. EU appears if it's out of range.
A scale across the bottom shows the aperture or shutter speed depending on the mode you are in. The aperture scale shows values from f/1 to f/90 and the shutter speeds go from 2sec to 1/400sec. The black indicator shows the suggested value.
The meter is not as compact as Sekonic's award winning L-308B, but with the supplied case attached to a belt it can be carried around without too much trouble.
The metering cell rotates through 270 degrees so you can take reflected readings and still keep your eye on the display, you can also take readings of light falling on the side of a subject, studio model photography in particular, and keep the display pointing ahead. This is very handy and saves twisted wrists or necks.
The cell also has a rotating diffuser that sinks back for measuring flat lighting such as copying stand illumination. On some meters you have to buy a different attachment to get this feature.
The diffuser bayonets in place and can be substituted for the supplied flat light receptor that is used to take reflected readings. The trouble is there's nowhere for the one that isn't in use to go - the case doesn't have a pocket and I can see these being lost.
The meter is very accurate, to 1/10th of a stop, which will suit professional users who want precise control using non click stopped lenses, but for most enthusiasts, who have cameras with only 1/2 or at best 1/10th stop accuracy, this is far too elaborate.
The meter was used with transparency film, which is more likely to highlight any problems, and it worked well in all our tests. Like all metering devices you still need to have a degree of knowledge to operate it to get the best results and here the averaging feature helped considerably to balance highlight and shadows from potentially awkward and contrasty situations. Ten individual readings can be taken and averaged out, with the exposure scale showing each value recorded in memory.
This is good for use in the studio allow precise control of multiple light positions to ensure an accurate balance. It can also be used to balance daylight with flash and a percentage is indicated on the LCD.
I normally use an EOS which tends to get things right most times but found this meter giving me a little more confidence for those trick subjects where the camera's integral meter would certainly be flummoxed.
You more than likely already have a good meter in your camera, but there are benefits to owning a separate meter. While this model is more expensive than Sekonic's best selling L-308B, the comfort and flexibility of the swivel head is more than enough to make up for the price hike. Shame it couldn't be a touch smaller and have a better incident reflected change over.
Test by Peter Bargh