Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘bakelite’:

Things Used to Be Simpler (Until It Came Time to Use Your Weston 650)

We recently had dinner with friends here in Connecticut whose home is a casualty of Sandy. They didn’t live on the water but near enough so that the storm surge made their home for the past 40 years, unlivable. They are lucky in that they have insurance and have found a new home.

They’re taking the time now to look at all they have accumulated and make some decisions about what goes and what gets tossed. When they arrived at our home, Peter brought a box filled with truly obsolete cameras and miscellaneous photo gear of no great value. No vintage Leicas, Nikons, or Rolleis,though; the only camera that had sentimental appeal was a Kodak Retina IIIC, which I coveted in the mid-1950’s.

But also in the box was a Weston Model 650 light meter (now gifted to me). Made in Newark, N.J. in about 1936, this is one of the earliest light meters, and if you’re a fan of Art Deco designs made of Bakelite, it is just beautiful. The photos (front and back) show that this is no fast and easy way to calculate exposure, particularly now that most photographers have been lulled into setting even the most sophisticated cameras to “auto” and leaving it there for as long as they own the camera (don’t get me started on this subject).

Weston 650 light meter

No instructions included, but once again a quick trip to www.orphancameras.com leads straight to the original manual, courtesy of Mike Butkus in New Jersey. Mr Butkus relies on the good nature of his site’s visitors to send a small payment for the downloadable files on just about all cameras, etc.

Using the Weston meter was a complicated process — in-camera metering wasn’t an option when I started 45 years ago. The Gossen Lunasix I began with was the best product on the market.

My first photo editor at the AP (“We don’t take pictures, we make them”), gave me the magic formula that I used for years and have never forgotten:

For any camera or film, the correct exposure in maximum sunlight is f/16 with a shutter speed equal to the ASA [now ISO] of the film.

So for Tri-X, it was be 1/500th at f/16 (or f/8 at 1/125th and so on. For less than maximum light, just use your eyes and try to figure out how much less light there is… didn’t take long.

So Peter, thanks for the meter — it has a special place on display.

Weston 650 light meter (back)