As much as I love shooting with cameras that have a light meter (or two) built in, I often take a vintage camera from the cabinet and use it just for fun, and to be honest, to liberate myself from the auto this and auto that feature in the more modern cameras. I mean, yes, Nikon F4 or FM3A are wonderful tools and all, but it feels like a refreshing shower in the heat of the summer to use a Kodak Retina or a Leica IIIf, “simpler” as they are. Of course they are nothing of the sort, au contraire actually, but you know that of which I am speaking of here.
Most of the time, I shoot manually by following the Sunny 16 rule, learned by heart (and errors a lot) more than 25 yrs ago. The rule is excellent, it takes nothing to carry (just your your brains and eyes), and if followed and applied correctly to the specific situations in the field, gives great and consistent results. However, I have had my fair share of ruined frames, due to difficult “harsh light with deep shadow” sort of situations.
Although I do not use a meter as a regular habit, I do carry one or two in my bag, two of best ones, refurbished and reading spot on: a Lunasix 3 and an old Weston Master III (bought in pristine condition in the early 90s, cell has been changed to a new one a few years ago by Ian Partridge, whom I highly recommend). A Minox meter used to be a regular companion, when shooting with the IIIs or Riga, but not so anymore. While sort of reliable (those that I have in my collection), these are kind of obsolete and best confined to my cabinet.
So, to make a long story short, when the TTartisan model I meter came on the market, I bought it and used it extensively; at one point it failed when I attempted to take the battery out (I broke something inside) and now it is confined to my cabinet as a display thing. I purchased the second model, which is this one. Sleeker design and allegedly better in its construction, features, functionality. I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and I can tell you that all of the above do check. I am surprised many times at how accurate it is.
Made by aluminium anodized (black), it is very light, and measures only 40x35mm, 5mm less than its predecessor, and has a sturdy feeling about it. Using this meter is really easy: once you have installed the battery, set your ASA number on the inner dial (left). Point the meter’s front lens to the object of your focus and take a reading, using the small round button on the back of the meter. The large dial on the left is the aperture setting, with the right dial being the shutter time. A +/- LED lighted symbols will let you know how far or close you are on the right reading of the scene, with a green dot between the +/- symbols indicating a proper combination.
Both dials are now clickable, which is one of the improvements the TTartisan Meter II boasts over the model I; the aperture dial in the first model was not clickable, making it a possible problem if inadvertently touched. It slipped the position without you noticing it and misleading you in reading the proper exposure figures. It happened to me a few times, and believe me, it’s not fun to realize you shot the frame at the wrong aperture setting.
The shutter dial is showing 12 time indicators, with another 11 intermediate positions, which would make setting your right combination easier than in the first model, where there only 12 shutter positions on the dial. This way, you’ll be able to narrow the shutter setting much better, when looking for the right shutter number.
The meter comes with a small screwdriver so you can open the battery cover, held by two minuscule screws. Once these unscrewed, the battery cover aside, you’ll see the battery compartment. Do not force the battery in, and do not force it out when you’re changing it. There are no spare screws in the box (the first model came with some), so it pays to take care of the screws when opening the cover.
The shoe position on the meter can be moved in three positions, by unscrewing it and screw it back as desired; this should make easy the use of it with and on different cameras. I usually leave it on the position shown here, because I use the meter on Leica and somewhat similar cameras, with the (almost) same top plate features. But is good to have a choice, and one or another of the shoe positions should work with your camera.
Also differently from the first model, the sides of the meter are ribbed, which is a plus; the anodized aluminium is smooth and silky and as such, prone to slip off your hand. These ribbed sides are also helping one to remove it from the camera shoe, making it easy to take off or push the device onto the camera.
The take button, located on the back of the meter (as you point it to the subject of focus). I have found this device to be rather excellent in low light as well in situations of deep shadows. Actually, it delivers pretty much no matter of the light condition, as long as we’re not talking here about midnight scenes or extremely dark / harsh sun.
A good thing to have. Of course I could very well do without it, but I discovered a long time ago that if you can make yourself as comfortable as possible, why not? It reads fast, it is small, it is reliable, accurate and it does not cost a fortune. Plus, it looks really elegant on an old camera.
One other thing: for those Minox users out there, this little device supplants the Minox meter with a high degree of success. I know it’s not Minox and this would deter some hard core Minoxers, but as you know, Minox meters are less and less found to be reliable, given the fast decay of the selenium cells. Just attach the TTartisan Meter II onto a lanyard and let it hand around your neck, just like you would do with a Minox meter.