We Review the Reflx Lab Light Meter

We Review the Reflx Lab Light Meter

A long time ago, I picked up my first Leica, a beater of an M4 that had been collecting dust and mold at the bottom of an old leather camera bag in a retired photographer's closet. With it came a number of oddities: close-up adapters, table tripods, and the like. But perhaps most interestingly, it came with an old Leica MC light meter.

The history of the Leica MC meter is a deep dive. Due to the construction materials used at the time, many - if not most - today are non-functional or provide inaccurate readings. Even brand new, its readings could be iffy at best, but the concept of this type of kind of accessory has always fascinated me. Three quarters of a century ago, engineers managed to create a device smaller than a thumb to provide reasonably accurate light readings decades before the first digital meter was produced.

As technology advanced, the need for analog meters has, if not passed, been reduced. With the resurgence of film photography over the last 10 years and the rising popularity of older cameras, the need for an efficient, small, and easy-to-use meter has increased significantly.

Several companies have come forward with clip-on meters: TTArtisan, DOOMO, and Voigtlander all offer products along these lines. But one stuck out from the crowd to me: the Reflx Lab Light Meter. 

The Reflx Lab meter is a small device, perhaps the size of a postage stamp at roughly 35 mm by 28 mm. Built out of zinc and aluminum, it feels solid enough to sit in my bag without the need for any kind of protection. It is powered by a CR1632 battery with an advertised standby life of one year. The metering range is roughly 30 degrees. The shoe mount is swappable; with two minutes of work, it can be adjusted to fit in line with a variety of different camera bodies. For future models, it might be nice to have a version with some kind of locking device to keep the shoe attached. My Mamiyaflex shoe mount had a bit more play than other shoe mounts, and the meter had trouble staying attached. A decent counterargument against such a lock would be that it would add to the size of the meter, making it taller and bulkier. 

In use, I found the Reflx Lab meter to be relatively easy and, after some trial and error, rather intuitive. For the purposes of testing, I compared meter readings to my Nikon Z6 II, my Nikon D750, the TTArtisan light meter, and the Light Meter App. I also used a variety of cameras and film stock, including a Mamiyaflex, my Widelux, and my Leica M3. 

In most settings, the meter provided accurate readings, if perhaps overexposed by a half-stop. The digital meter was nice, though a lit version for low-light shooting would be a good addition for later models. 

I will say that the meter was perhaps a little less reliable in low-light settings. I found it overexposed by a full stop of light when shooting in mixed or low-light environments. The website states that "EV compensation helps you cope with extreme lighting situations," so it's entirely possible that this is an element I didn't take advantage of, so take this criticism as only partially informed. Regardless, even a full stop may be less than ideal, but it is far from a dealbreaker, particularly considering the cost of this meter is less than almost any other meter on the market. Practically speaking, the kind of deeply low-light conditions I speak of would be difficult to shoot in under casual circumstances.

So, under what scenario would you need an external light meter such as this? As I mentioned, many older cameras lacked internal light meters, and even some more modern ones have meters that are no longer functional but would not be economical to send off to repair.

The Reflx Labs light meter represents a positive step forward in making film photography cheaper and easier. The affordable price tag puts it in the range for most casual shooters, while the metering is far more accurate than most vintage analogue meters. 

C.S. Muncy is a news and military photographer based out of New York City and Washington D.C. With a passion for analog and alternative formats, he is rarely seen without a full cup of coffee and is frequently in trouble.

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