Monday, November 22, 2021

TT Artisan Light Meter

 Eleven days after I uploaded my shoe mount light meter article, I took delivery of this light meter from TT Artisan. It came in a nice Japanese-style package!

The light meter requires a 3V CR2032 battery, which is not included due to shipping restrictions. A small screwdriver is supplied for installing the battery + a user manual. The official set up instruction is available on You Tube, so I'll skip those details.

I guesstimate it to be about 15% larger than the Voigtlander VCII.

Unlike the VCII, there are no alternative locations for the feet. As is, the light meter didn't clear the rewind knob of my Contax II and clones made in Kiev. A cheap and quick solution is some sort of an accessory shoe that can elevate the meter. 

Does it overwhelm a Barnack type body?

Despite the larger dimensions, the dials and markings are smaller than the VCII. Perhaps this only matters to a certain demographic that requires reading glasses, that's why I noticed it. 😉 

The TT Artisan has a 45 degree measuring angle vs. the VCII's narrower 30 degrees. This probably accounts for the 1/2 stop difference. Since it’s equipped with a Silicone photodiode, low light sensitivity seems to be as good as the VCII or at least at par with the Vivitar 24.

The Doomo Meter D shares similar technical specs with the Voigtlander VCII, including the svelte proportions of the latter at $125. I snagged my TT Artisan at the introductory price of $56/shipped. The price is now hovering at the $70 mark, but it still is the only shoe-mounted light meter with analog dials available new for under $100.

The Canon P is loaded with ISO 100 film. Watch out for the results in my Flickr!😊

Monday, November 8, 2021

Tube Rolling Fun (and Peril) + Adapters

Tube rolling is a fun aspect of the audio hobby. It only gets tedious when audiophiles start splitting hairs about a VT231, 5692, etc. I draw the line when an audiophool claims, " line stage preamp resolves the R train rumble under Carnegie Hall better when I use a 6AS7 in place of the original 6SN7..." 🙄  

Those two tubes may be pin compatible BUT a power transformer 🔥melt-down🔥is imminent since the 6AS7/6080 draws 2.5 amps @ 6.3V. That's over 4 times more filament current drawn by a 6SN7, which only draws 0.6 amps @ 6.3V.

 💣 💣 💣 Rolling tubes is dangerous unless you have a working knowledge of electronics to comprehend tube data/specs. 💣  💣  💣 

It's been a while since I listened through Telefunken 12AX7 smooth plates on an RCA phono. Since I used to graft this circuit on a Dyna PAS preamp, I ordered a pair of 12AU7/12AX7 > 6SN7/6SL7 adapters to relive the experience on my RCA octal preamp.  

Back in the 90s, Steve @ Angela Instruments had a boatload of Raytheon 5755s and shared a sleeve with me. Since I never found a project requiring these tubes, I got a pair of 5755/WE420 > 12AX7 adapters to listen to them in the Shure M65 clone. Piggy-backed to 12AX7>6SL7 adapters, they also worked nicely with the octal phono preamp

Despite slight differences in transconductance and plate impedance between the 6SL7/7F7 and their younger 9-pin siblings (ECC83, 12AD7, 5751 and 5755), there was no visible variation in square waves nor frequency response aberration when I bench tested those tubes in both circuits.

Admittedly, loctals don't look as glamorous as their octal cousins with bakelite bases. But I'm very fond of them to the extent that I built and use a full function loctal preamp. I've been adopting unloved loctals at radio shows and hamfestsEssentially the industrial looking 7F7 and 7N7 are rebased 6SL7 and 6SN7, respectively! My only issue with loctals is, the tube pins are prone to corrosion. This is easily remedied by a wire brush + DeoxIT before use.

I purchased these tube adapters from the seller xulingmrs. They are very well made and fairly priced. Shipping cost and transit time from China was also reasonable. Highly recommended!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

My Collection of Classic Shoe Mount Light Meters


This collection of light sensing gizmos is merely a reflection of the gear head in me since I'm quite proficient with Sunny 16. My dad taught me how to take photos using his unmetered Yashica Penta J. When I see unloved vintage/classic camera paraphernalia for a couple of bucks, I am eager to provide a good home for them. If you want to see my handheld light meters, click here

Except for the Voigtlãnder VCII, all these light meters employ the match-needle system on an analog dial, which remind me of a slide rule, albeit, circular. For more information, the user manual (when available) is hyperlinked in the text under the picture of each light meter.

Leica Meter 2

 This selenium light meter doesn't need batteries. The light it is measuring powers the meter. However, selenium isn't as sensitive under low light conditions compared to a battery powered CdS (Cadmium Sulphide) or modern Silicone photodiode. It is smaller but thicker than the Voigtländer VCII and looks great on an early Leica Barnack body.

I paid a couple of bucks for this at an antique store a few decades ago. The selenium cell didn't react to light and the incident light attachment was missing. I sent it to Quality Light Metric and George Milton replaced the dead cell. I consider this more of a collectible than a user, thus, it spends most of its time inside its brown leather case, which prolongs the selenium cell's life. 

Gossen Pilot 2 aka Sixtino

Significantly bigger than the Leica Meter 2 and a tad more sensitive in lower light, this Gossen selenium also measures both incident and reflected light. In my nearly 30 years of scouring Photorama camera shows, thrift stores and flea markets, I've yet to encounter one with a dead cell. This is one of the three I own and this particular unit was recently acquired at a flea market for $7. A bit bulky and just slightly smaller in girth than the Sekonic L-208, it's a nice meter for daylight photo walks. Highly recommended if you want a battery independent light meter!

Kalimar Clip-On 

Not much information can be found about this relatively compact light meter except that which I've already linked. Kalimar was a US distributor of photographic equipment, which sourced cameras and photo accessories from all over the world and had their name stamped on the product.

This CdS light meter requires a PX625 Mercury cell, which is toxic and no longer available. The use of a modern PX625A yielded inconsistent readings. So I hacked a dead PX625 and inserted a 675 sized Wein-cell hearing aid battery into the PX625 shell. Voila! The needle moved when I pressed the button and got readings that were consistent compared to my known light meters. It's also more sensitive in lower light than the selenium meters. 

Sekonic Twinmate L-208

Sekonic is a Japanese company but the Twinmate L-208 is proudly made in the Philippines. Its Silicon photodiode is powered by a single CR2032 lithium battery and has a light sensitivity range of EV3 - EV17. It is a significant improvement over the above selenium and CdS light meters. Just like all the previous ones, this can measure both reflected and incident light.

 Given its size, I think it looks better on a TLR camera. I really like the center match-needle/analog dial ergonomics compared to the $40 digital light meters from China fitted with tiny buttons to navigate around a squinty LCD screen. Is it necessary for every device to resemble a smart phone nowadays?

This CdS meter was designed to be powered by a Mercury 675 battery. Surprisingly, it works great with a modern LR/SR44 without modification. The specified EV range of -1 to 24 maybe a bit optimistic but it's pretty close to the VCII meter in terms of low light sensitivity and accuracy. It has no incident light capability, just reflected light. 

Just like the L-208 this is also a center match-needle type light meter with an analog dial that's easy on the eyes and shows other shutter speed/f-stop options. Slightly more compact than the L-208 and sleeker in design. This has become my go-to light meter for photo walks while the Voigtländer VCII takes a rest.

These are easy to find on eBay for $20-30/shipped, which IMO should be the ceiling price. Otherwise, they will be priced out of the market by the minuscule computerized light gadgets from China, which are probably(?) more appealing to hipsters jumping on the analog (film) photography bandwagon.

Voigtländer VCII

I paid under $200 for this light meter in the mid 2000s and it's still available for $225 from Stephen Gandy at Not cheap but in the big scheme of things, it has paid for itself. Its accuracy and sensitivity are probably surpassed only (albeit, slightly) by the built-in meter on my Leica M6. The Si photodiode is powered by two very common LR44/A76/357 batteries and it only measures reflected light. It's not a match-needle type of meter. Instead, it sports a dial for shutter speed and another dial for f-stop/ISO setting + LED indicators. This is an analog design with only a hint of digital (LEDs) and IMHO, MoMA worthy!

Hot on its heels is a new kid on the block, the similarly sized, styled and spec'ed Doomo Meter D at $125. It's ironic that this retro-clone of the VCII is also the most expensive shoe mountable light meter manufactured in China. 

Perhaps analog dials and retro tech logic do command and deserve a premium? Hmm...🤔  Right before I clicked the publish button, I noticed something new in the TT Artisan's website. Let's see how that goes...😉