Metering with the Horizon

As I’ve already noted elsewhere the Horizon panoramic cameras I’m using are basically point and shoot models with no electronics. This includes, or perhaps should say does not include, the light meter many of us are used to finding on our cameras these days. As a photographer of a certain vintage this is not a deal-breaker for me. I have many manual cameras and a choice of traditional light meters in my arsenal. I have a large spot meter, a smaller multi-purpose light/flash meter and an older Weston light meter. I also have an app on my phone these days.

Horizon Kompakt | Ilford HP5+ | Kodak D76 (1+1) Shot 15th Fenruary 2021

Now, the Kompakt has no meaningful controls so there is no need for a light meter. I make a judgement as to what speed film to load before I leave the house and forget about bourgeois concepts like correct exposure. It’s a very liberating experience as I’ve also noted before. However, wandering looking for compositions freed from the tyranny of exposure calculations is fabulous until the light changes or until a really good scene presents itself and I start to hope that the exposure latitude of my film will be enough.

Calder & Hebble Navigation 10th February 2021 Horizon S3 Pro | Kodak TriX | Kodak D76 (1+1)

The S3 however has a decent set of exposure controls and I’ve been able to be a little more precise with choice of settings. Initially, I read the light for each exposure using a light meter but this spoilt the spontaneity and freedom I’d experienced with the Kompakt. I eventually settled on an approach whereby I took a base reading with the phone app as I left the house and then used my experience to tweak settings from this base as necessary only taking a new reading if the light changed materially. The restored much of the freedom and has been the approach I’ve happily used for several months now. And then the sun came out!

March 17th we saw something we’ve not seen that much of for months – the sun! Deep shadows, blue cloudless sky and bright, bright sunshine. After months of grim, damp days who could resist the chance to take a walk without dozens of warm and waterproof layers.

Horizon S3 , Kodak Double XX film, developed in D76(1+1) 17th March 2021

By chance I had a short roll of Kodak Double X to use as I’d just finished the bulk roll. I estimated a dozen frames on the Horizon which would be great for a short walk around the block. Rated at 320 I was getting a base reading of f16 and 1/250th of a second – the top end of the S3s range. It didn’t leave a lot of room for manoeuvre so I popped a light meter in my pocket as a precaution. Not one of my aforementioned devices though but a Reveni Labs light meter, about the size of the dice used in many board games. So small in fact that my biggest fear is not about its accuracy but about losing it! This isn’t the place for a review or full product description but you can find out more on the Reveni website.

The Reveni is designed to sit in the hot (or cold) shoe of a meter-less camera and does what it’s designed to very simply and easily. This was its maiden outing and as the lighting on each scene was quite different from the last due to the bright sun and deep shadows I found myself using it throughout the short walk. Apart from the fiddle factor (the Horizons have no cold shoe and the Reveni is tiny) it worked very well. I decided to trust it, at least as much as I trusted my bigger handheld meter, and see what the results were.

Eleven and a bit – not twelve frames!

As the negatives above show the Reveni didn’t miss a beat – and Kodak XX in D76 looks quite good too. The image above, taken in the memorial park, is a straight “scan” which has been inverted with a curves adjustment and a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw. My approach to digitally produced negatives is very minimal; I adjust to bring the negative on the screen looking like the negative on the light pad, invert with a curve and then apply minor adjustments as if I were split-grade printing or dodging and burning in the darkroom. It’s less an aesthetic choice and more that I do not enjoy computer processing!

So, I was very happy with the Reveni meter. It will make a good addition to my kit bag, so long as I don’t lose it. I will look into adding a cold shoe to the S3 at some point for those days when I want the security of a meter but not the hassle of a larger handheld model. I will still stick to the way of working that I’ve evolved over the last six months for the most part though as it frees me to look for compositions and create images rather than concentrate too much on technicalities. That’s been my favourite part of using the Horizons and I don’t want to lose that if I can help it!

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