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Review: Voigtländer VC Meters

Hello, everybody! It’s a holiday today so I have time to write and catch up with things. If I didn’t have this holiday then I would not have the time to recuperate from hay fever. It is very important to rest my body and mind but it is also equally important that I maintain this blog. Today, I’ll show you guys a very useful gadget if you’re a film photographer and you want something fast and elegant to use.

Introduction:

Voigtländer made these very beautiful meters and they come in silver or black. The finish is beautiful and the fit and quality is very high. I remember that many people were not happy when Voigtländer announced the VC Meter 1 to the public because it came during the time when almost everybody was migrating to digital and many new photographers just got into photography so they never knew the joy of shooting film. A few rejoiced so it is clear that there is a market for these. Fast-forward a decade or so and you now see lots of people trying-out film and these are now a must-have for people shooting with setups that are so old that they never came with any form of metering or the meter is dead.

The VC Meters are very small. They are the smallest and shoe-mount meters that you can buy today new. The VC Meter 1 is now discontinued and can only be bought used but you can still buy them brand new as “new-old stock”. Similar meters were all made decades ago using selenium so these are very welcome for us film shooters. Other manufacturers gave their own offerings but none were made this small and elegant.

IMG_8217The VC Meter 1 is on the left and the VC Meter 2 is on the right. The dimensions aren’t the same as you can obviously see and the operation is a little bit different for both models. I got both of these because the subtle differences in dimension mean a lot to me when the meters are mounted on my cameras and I will illustrate that to you in more detail later.

IMG_8220Here are pictures of the underside. The VC Meter 2 has a slide-flip cover as opposed to a simple screw-on cap found on the VC Meter 1. On the VC Meter 2, its shoe can be adjusted about 5mm to the center or closer to the right edge of the housing by unscrewing it and positioning it to the position you want. This is very important and I will explain it later in more detail. Unfortunately, the VC Meter 1’s shoe cannot be repositioned.

(Click to enlarge)

Here are the meters mounted on my Nicca 3s. It’s now easier to see how the different size and width of the meters matter in real-world use. While the VC Meter 2 has its shoe stuck closer to the center of the housing, it’ll not clear enough space even if I screwed the shoe closer to the edge of the housing because that’s still going to be uncomfortable for me to turn the shutter speed dial. This is where the narrower (but taller) housing of the older meter shines. See how I can now see and access the shutter speed dial better?

(Click to enlarge)

This is a scenario where I would prefer to use the VC Meter 2. Its width doesn’t matter too much here on the top deck of the Nikon S2 and its flatter/lower profile complimented the lines of the camera beautifully. This is more a matter of taste and is subjective so you will have to try these out for yourself and decide which one felt better.

The table below comes from their official website, this is for the VC Meter 2 but the specs are very close to the VC Meter 1’s.

Type: Fixed-point matching type exposure meter for steady light
Photometry angle approx. 30˚
Photosensitive element Silicon photodiode
Display Fixed-point matching system by 3p-LED display
Photometry range EV 1 (1 sec. F1.4) to EV 20 (1/2000, F 22)
Film speed ISO 25 / 15˚ to 3200 / 36˚
Battery Two LR44 alkaline, SR44 silver oxide batteries or one CR-1/3N battery
Dimensions & Weight 38 x 36.9 x 24.9, 42 g

Power:

Both of these operate on 2 LR44 batteries and they will last quite a long time. I use these a lot and I haven’t changed the batteries for about 2 years. The batteries power the meter because it’s electronic. The reading I get are very accurate and I just trust the reading all the time. The coverage is about 30˚, I prefer this to be honest because if the meter has a wider coverage it will also meter the sky when all you want to meter is your subject. If you want the meter to take the sky into consideration then just do an average of what the meter gave you and do a quick guess. This may sound scary for beginners but for people who have been shooting for some time it’s all by instinct. The meter is instantly activated when you press on the bright orange button behind it and it stays on for a few seconds.

WARNING: For people with beer bellies, make sure that the camera is NOT facing the sky when you meter. Your camera may be resting on your beer-gut, take it from me.

Differences:

You now know the obvious differences in the 2 models from looking at my pictures, now I am going to outline the other differences that aren’t so easy to see. In the list below, the number 1 (1st entry) represents the VC Meter 1 while number 2 (2nd) is the VC Meter 2.

Meter:

The meter works operates by pressing a button at the back and it stays on for seconds. It has 3 LED lights that light-up to indicate if you are over or under exposed. The center one indicates proper exposure. This is a conventional design so it’s very easy to understand.

  1. The meter is actively reading the scene when it’s on. This behaves more like an old selenium cell meter. I prefer this to be honest as it gives me quick feedback so I can easily guess the correct exposure if I have a complexly-lit scene. The meter will stay on for about 12 seconds when pressed, giving you enough time to read your scene.
  2. The meter just reads whatever it sees the moment you activate it. This is convenient at times when I want to work really fast. If you want to average the readings, you’ll have to click several times. For example, you will press once for the sky, subject and ground. That’s the separate times that you have to press on the button. The meter is going to stay open for about 6-7 seconds.

Operation:

There are 2 dials on both meter’s top panel. One for speed and another for aperture. The ISO speed is set with a sub-dial within the shutter speed dial. The operation is fairly easy and you don’t need any instructions to begin using it. These dials are uncoupled to your camera’s dials so you will have to set these manually (obviously).

  1. Some people, including me find that the ISO sub-dial is too easy to turn. I would’ve preferred it to be stiffer and I will probably shim it one day. One dial overlaps with the other and the indicator dots are above both dials. Match the values with these dots and you get the right exposure. It’s a little confusing but you’ll get used to it. It has the ISO sub-dial on the shutter speed dial
  2. Because of the wider housing, the dials are set side-by-side and the are in between these have lines that correspond to the values on the dials. Match the dials with the lines to get your exposure settings. I find this easier and you can also read values a stop above or under the correct exposure, a subtle but big improvement. The ISO is at the sub-dial in the aperture dial, the reverse of the VC Meter 1.

Accessories:

These don’t come with any accessories apart from a pouch. You can buy some fittings for these such as the double cold-shoe adapter so you can mount one of these together with a finder beside it. It’s basically just a flat bar with 2 cold-shoes that you can attach to your camera’s hot-shoe. There is also an attachment for the shoe that has a hole for a lanyard. You can use the meter like a necklace this way. Both accessories aren’t cheap and they’re priced almost half of the meters’ suggested retail price. I think only collectors buy these.

Conclusion:

That’s the quick overview of how the meters work. I don’t think it can get easier than this to be honest. It can be confusing when you first use it because you’re used to your meter and this new one is a bit different from the usual huge carousel-like dials of conventional light meters. This work more the meters that are found built-in to a camera.

I really enjoy using these and I always bring them when I shoot with my rangefinders. It is now unthinkable for me to go out without bringing one and I almost always bring one camera with me everyday. I will even sometimes mount one to my Nikon F if I feel like it. You can also use it for your medium format cameras as a replacement to the expensive button-meter type light meters that some medium format cameras use.

(Click to enlarge)

The pictures above are the usual food photos that I share in my personal FB account just to show people what I eat. I know that the cameras are tiny in the picture but I think that it will suffice as far as giving you an idea of how these look on different cameras.

Thanks for following the blog. I’m sorry if I cannot respond to your inquiries fast enough because I am now busier at my new studio. See you guys again next time, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my paypal.com account (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Buy me a roll of film or a burger?

Thank you very much for your continued support!

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

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