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Gossen Starlite Review

Although it sounds like a German musical, this little device is less about prima donna melodramatics and more about measuring light accurately as Duncan Evans discovers.

|  Gossen Starlite in Exposure and Light Meters
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Gossen Starlite Light Meter If you have switched to digital from film you’ll probably think, what do I need a light meter for? Just set it up, snap away, check the LCD monitor and adjust accordingly. This then, is the methodology of fools and slackers. And people using basic lighting setups. If you actually want to be creative with studio lighting, you need to know what light is going where and in what quantity. If you’re out and about shooting landscapes in challenging conditions, your camera will offer a reflected light reading, but if the reflectivity of the subject varies from normal, the camera will be fooled and under or overexposure will be yours. Of course, if the ease of digital has interested you in the world of film, such as the exacting discipline of medium format, then it’s a no-brainer, you need a light meter.


Gossen Starlite Specifications

  • Rotary head with optical viewfinder (1° / 5°)
  • Backlit display
  • Multiple flash calculation
  • Ambient or flash
  • Incident light metering EV -2.5 to EV +1
  • Reflected light 5° EV 0 to EV +18
  • Reflected light 1 ° EV 2 to EV +18
  • Flash
  • Incident light metering f/1.0 to f/128
  • Reflected light 5° f/1.4 to f/128
  • Reflected light 1° f/2.8 to f/128
  • Sync Speeds 1/1000 to 1sec
  • Apertures f/0.5 to f/128 in full & 1/10th stops
  • Memory up to 9 readings
  • Size: 164x66x26mm Weight 195gms

Gossen Starlite Build quality
The Starlite is the top of the range meter from Gossen, made from black plastic and grey rubber to keep the weight down. Although made from plastic, it feels reasonably resilient and the plastic doesn’t scratch easily. The buttons are a bit cheap though, as these are made from the same rubber, with a very spongy feedback. The top of the meter revolves around and doesn’t feel like it will snap off at any moment.

Gossen Starlite Modes and features
There are two basic modes of operation of a light meter – recording reflected light and recording incidental light. Reflected light does what it says on the tin, it’s the amount of light being reflected back off a surface that is metered. To this end the Starlite has a magnified scope to look through and settings for a one degree and a five degree spot reading. This allows accurate reading of light bouncing off areas of a scene and lets the photographer work out how much contrast there is and what to expose for. Of course, this is exactly what spot metering in your camera does, unless it’s an old manual SLR or a medium format camera.

The alternative to this is the incident light reading, which is where the big white ping-pong ball comes into play. Stand where the light is falling, that you are going to record, hold the dome up to the light and fire away.

As well as the meter reading button which clears the memory each time, there’s also an average reading button, so that subsequent readings can be averaged out.

Two buttons on the front are dedicated to ISO ratings – from ISO3 to ISO8000 which should cover most of your needs for the foreseeable future. As the ISO is changed, the last metered readings are updated. The idea of having a second button is so you don’t have to change the setting on the first one if you are setting out with two rolls of different film stocks. Really though, it’s a little overkill.

The function buttons on the front select between shutter priority and aperture priority for the metering, and also between reading normal light and being connected by PC-sync cord to studio lighting. This triggers the lights and activates the reading. Certainly for digital people, the studio is where the Starlite will get most use. The aperture can be set from f/0.5 to f/128 for you pinhole fans while the shutter speed ranges from 60mins to 1/8000sec, though if in a studio setting, 1/125sec or 1/250sec are the two most likely to be used.

Gossen Starlite Performance
Although there’s a large display, it is a monochrome LCD and the information isn’t displayed as clearly as it could be. To go from one type of recording to another, a thin line box appears around a small letter. When metering time for example, half a second is displayed with a large 2, while a 2sec exposure has exactly the same 2 but a small “s” appears off to one side to signify seconds. This really is not very clear.

This is a pity because it’s so easy for meters to get bogged down with detail and unnecessary features whereas the Starlite is generally easy to use and the features are handily accessible.

Gossen Starlite Verdict
Whether you need a separate light meter is down to what you shoot and what you shoot it with. It would have been nice to have seen the Starlite being equipped with an infra-red trigger, rather than just a PC-sync socket, and while the rubber buttons aren’t likely to wear out, they don’t shout high quality either. The display could be clearer and better designed, though the meter is easy enough to use and give consistent results.

Gossen Starlite Plus points:

Plus point5 and 1deg spot meter
Plus pointIncident light meter
Plus pointAmbient or flash
Plus pointTwin-ISO buttons
Plus point270 degree rotating head
Plus pointCumulative metering function
Plus pointEasy to use

Gossen Starlite Minus points:

Minus pointDisplay not that well designed
Minus pointRubber buttons
Minus pointNo infra-red

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The Gossen Starlite costs £334.99 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here .

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I bought a Gossen Starlite from my local pro shop in Leeds and I think it is superb in all departments but especially B&W and Colour Reversal. I totally disagree with the reviewer who says that 2 ISO speed options are unnecessary I use Pan-F 50 asa in one camera body and Tri- X400 in the other and the ability to toggle between settings is invaluable. I also disagree with his comments on the build quality which is fine, then it's German, it would be and it is simplicity itself to use. Not convinced, then look at what else is available at this price and you will find there is nothing with these sort of features built by a highly respected lightmeter manufacturer, but shop around there are some excellent offers on this meter at present

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