Minolta Auto Meter IIIF – Using a Light Meter with Strobe Lights – Including Balancing Strobe with Daylight

Minolta Auto Meter IIIFThe Minolta Auto Meter IIIF was the first light meter that I owned and used in the 80's.  I would like to have had the IVF, but it was out of my price range.  The reality is that this meter did what I needed it to do.

The best that I can tell, it was no longer made after the early 90's, but you can still buy this meter on Ebay for around $50.  As of this writing, there is one with a starting bid of $9.99 from someone with a 100% positive feedback that states the meter "works great."  I currently own two of these that I purchased off of Ebay.  The most recent one was around $50.  I also own the Minolta Auto Meter IVF which I doubt you will find for $50.

The Minolta Auto Meter IIIF runs off of 4LR44 batteries which you can get super cheap off of Amazon.  This is the link to some that I just ordered from Amazon.  I got (10) for $5.79.  I hope this link will be valid for sometime.  If not, you can simply search for the batteries online or find them locally.  The Minolta Auto Meter IVF runs off (1) AA battery which is nice, but as previously mentioned, you will likely not get this meter for around $50.

What About Actually Using A Minolta Auto Meter IIIF?

The meter has an ambient light option and a strobe light option.  You first need to set your ISO to what your camera is set at.  This post assumes that you know about ISO settings on your camera i.e. 100, 200, 400, 800, etc. and that your strobes are already in position to take a meter reading.  Once you have the ISO set and your strobes set up, you move the switch in the bottom left all the way over toward the lightning bolt (strobe setting). You then press and release the button on the right hand side while pointing the white ball back toward where your camera will be with the meter being held in front of your subjects face if doing a portrait for example.  The reason that I mentioned where your camera will be is because you may have to have your camera in your hands to release the shutter in order to trigger the strobes to get your reading which will be an F-Stop.  So if the meter reads F/8, you would simply set your camera to F/8.  I am trying to keep it all very basic.

BONUS Tip:  Balancing Strobes With Daylight

Although there is a technique to overpowering daylight for a nice effect, my focus in this section will be on balancing daylight and strobe for nice fill flash.

If you have looked at very many images, you have likely seen when a flash / strobes were used poorly outside. You may have even asked yourself..."why are they using flash outside?"  Well, if it were very obvious a flash was used, the photographer likely didn't balance the flash / strobe with the daylight (ambient light).

In order to properly balance ambient and strobe, you first get your ambient light reading from your camera.  Let's assume that you are at 1/200 (because that is around the highest flash sync with strobes) at ISO 100 (because you are outside) at F/8.  This means that you want to get your strobe reading to no more than F/8 and even 1/2 to 1 stop less. One full stop would be F/5.6. Again this post assumes that if you are ready to use a light meter for strobes that you already understand ISO and F-Stops (aperture).

The core reasons for using strobe with daylight are to fill the shadows and make your subject pop.  If you get comfortable using daylight and strobe together, your images will likely improve over not using strobe lighting unless you are already using reflectors for fill which is another way to accomplish the same thing in many cases.  You still may end up using reflectors even with strobe.

Technical Note

I will not go into details in this post: However, if you cannot get your shutter speed in line outside with your F-Stop where you want it to be in order to use a flash / strobe because of sync speed issues and getting a low enough F-Stop that you want, you may need to use a ND (neutral density) Filter.  This YouTube video may help.  FYI, I have not watched it.

Short Light Meter Video
The video below is about 90 seconds and will give you a good idea of why you should use a light meter with strobe lights.  It looks like the Sekonic L-758DR meter pictured which as of this writing is over $600.  So you can see why the Minolta Auto Meter IIIF is a good value for around $50.

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David Williams

About The Author: David Williams is a professional still photographer and videographer focusing on corporate and commercial work. His love for still photography began in 1982 while still in High School. David started making money at photography in 1982. David and his wife Brenda started working together in photography in 1988 when they met and were married in 1989. Brenda is the photo editor for the business. David and Brenda have two daughters in their 20's. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed: our goal is to respond as promptly as possible. You may also call David direct at 919.723.8453. You may share this content using the larger social icons above this bio section. You may find David on various social platforms by clicking the smaller icons to the left of this paragraph under David's headshot. Check out David Williams on Google Plus. Finally, you may also want to visit our home page as well.
  • christopher

    I just found your post…and just bought the same light meter at a great price!!! Thank you 🙂

    • David Williams

      Christopher, It’s a great light meter and thanks for commenting. David

      • omar

        Thanks David. I’m going to read this again but I’m glad to find that i can use an older meter like this today. I have a 7D digital camera and just learning to use speedlites- no strobes. Can this still be useful? and if i’m using it for some video work like an interview would you say i can still use it? I know they use them for videos sometimes but I guess that’s something nowadays we just see on our screens. I may pick one of these up since it seems like a good one to learn on. There was something about averaging that I need to look up because I know i’ve seen that even newer meters don’t do that. Glad to have found this . all the best!

        • David Williams

          Omar, Thanks for commenting. If you are using speedlites in TTL mode, you likely don’t need the meter. If you are using in MANUAL mode, a meter can come in handy to get your settings correct. As for video, you can meter the scene, but as you know you can also get by with looking a the screen. Averaging a scene is where you’d take readings within your frame that may be brighter and darker, but with digital this is easier than the film days. Meters still come in handy especially for lighting set ups that you don’t use on a daily basis. Thanks again for commenting. All the Best, David

  • Alan

    Hi David..
    Nice and concise info..

    I bought this same meter and can’t find out hoe to put this in select Aperture mode.

    Let me explain. As it is now, I can set full shutter speeds… after taking a reading the meter rarely gives a full aperture reading.. usually something like f4.3 or 4.8 ( I know light is random..:)

    What I want to do is to be able to set a full aperture and read off the incremental shutter speed.. . more like how I prefer to work

    Can this meter do this or is it out of its capability?

    I seem to remember my Sekonic L 308b being able to do this.. (but you know what tricks you memory plays on you)

    perhaps you can tell me.. I have a manual but it escapes me if it does tell you how.

    Thanks.. Alan