This post is part of the series: HDSLR Videographer’s Virtual Gear Bag.
Pocket Light Meter (free) by Nuwaste Studios, is a really useful and easy-to-use light meter. A light meter helps you determine how well lit a scene is, helping you decide what measures, if any need to be taken to make sure a scene is lit properly. There are many competing apps in the iOS appstore, but this is the best in my opinion (and I’ve tried most of them). See my review after the break.
Some meters have measured output (lux, footcandels, etc.), which is more useful if you are doing traditional photography. The thing I like about this particular light meter app is that it seems to be geared towards the DSLR videographer because, in addition to standard measured output, it specifically deals with shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO.
One of my favorite features is the ability to choose which of the three settings (shutter speed, f-stop, or ISO) to lock. That way, if you are “set” on some settings, like shutter speed for cinema (1/48), or you want to take advantage of a wide aperture, you can.
The app also comes with two different interfaces. They added a “wheels” interface in a recent revision, which I personally despise. It doesn’t seem to have the locking feature.
Here is the “old” interface, which I prefer:
Here is the “new” interface, which I hate:
In the “old” interface, when you tap on a field (T/F/ISO), you get a pop-up, scrolling selection window, like the one below:
Using the “LOG” button, you can also save your readings. It saves a “log” image to your camera roll. You can also have them synced to your DropBox account. Here is what a “log” image looks like:
While I doubt that this little app has the accuracy of a real light meter, Pocket Light Meter is very helpful in determining what you need to do to properly light your scenes. For instance, without getting your camera out, you can very quickly determine if the ambient lighting in a room is going to allow you to capture the scene well enough to avoid raising the ISO so high that noise becomes an issue.
UPDATE: The app maker recently released an update to remove any unit measurements (lux, candles), stating that no camera-driven app can accurately give you those readings. Translation: this app is a good tool for a general aid, but does not replace an actual precision light meter instrument. This app is just fine for getting a basic reading of a scene to help you decide if you need to add light.