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Friday, January 10

Great meter - shame about the price?

I absolutely love the idea behind this exposure meter. It's a tiny wee thing that plugs into the earphone socket on an iPhone and turns the smart phone into an incident light meter. Genius! I know there are light meter apps for the phone and I've used one myself in the past when forced to but I wouldn't like to rely on them. The Lumu looks as if it could be a serious piece of equipment.

light meter, exposure meter, analogue, analog, darkroom, photography, film, enlarging, silver gelatinBUT - it costs the same as entry level light meters. Now, I might be a bit price sensitive at the moment because my disposable income is, ah, indisposed, but £78, $129 or €95? And that's the introductory price. The normal retail price will be around £12, $20 or €15 dearer. The price includes a neck strap and nice leather pouch.

The Lumu's specification is excellent but the diminutive Sekonic L-208 Twinmate (left) costs about the same as the Lumu will at launch and is a proper reflected and incident light meter. The Sekonic weighs only 2oz and is just over two-and-a-half inches long so it's not exactly a burden to have with you at all times.

Keep in mind that the Lumu seems to be an incident only meter which is not going to be much good, for instance, if you're standing in shadow and wanting to take a pic of a sunlit distant landscape. You also have to make sure you have your phone with you at all times and that it's not going to die on you when you're out shooting. And how would it be in actual use? It hangs around your neck and when you want to take a reading you have to unplug it from its keeper, get your phone out and turn it on, plug the device in, do the business and then reverse the process. Compare that to the Twinmate where you just hold it up, take a reading and you're done.

Is the Price Right?

Have I got it wrong here? Should an accessory you plug into an iPhone to measure light cost the same or more than a pukka light meter? Please take a look at the video above if you haven't already. Finished? OK, so what would you be willing to pay for the Lumu which, by the way, was partly-funded by a Kickstarter campaign and ships this month?

If a market researcher put the question to me I'd go for a figure of around £30. Is it just a coincidence that the Lumu is about the same price as a decent entry level meter or do the makers figure that's just what the market will bear?

A small, lightweight exposure meter is a great idea for people who like going walkabout with an old Leica or Rollei or something else without a built-in meter. Sunny 16 gets you by most of the time but there can be tricky lighting conditions where it's nice to have a meter reading. I got caught out myself in the summer when out shooting with the Nikon F under a dense canopy of leaves. I posted the decent pics I got that day here but there were more than a few that must have been two to three stops under and I thought at the time I was being generous with the exposure.

Sometimes that extra bit of care at the exposure stage results in a negative that is much easier to print in the darkroom. For me, that would mean the Sekonic Twinmate rather than the Lumu, even though it's undeniably cool.

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Jan Moren said...

Yes, I don't get the point at all. It seems worse than a regular meter in every way, and better in none.

Eric said...

The gadget looks quite complicated so I would think a price nearer £50 would be correct. £80 does seem s a bit steep.

Paul Glover said...

If "beauty lies in simplicity" as they say (and I believe it does) then my ugly beat-up old Luna Pro F is much more beautiful than this stylish-looking device. It cost a good deal less too and doesn't need an expensive smartphone.

Really, what could be simpler than "grab the meter hanging around your neck and use it"?

I do have a light meter app because it was free to download and works OK enough to use as a backup, but for various reasons it would never be my first choice as a meter unless I didn't already own one.

Markus B. said...

I have the Lumu since a few weeks - supported their initial Kickstarter project. Like you, I loved the initial idea of the project, however the final product turns out to be not so practical - at least not for me. I prefer to carry around as little equipment as possible. But with the Lumu, your one light meter becomes a product of two pieces which you first have to find in your pockets and assemble when measuring your light situation. What's more, you have to turn your iPhone upside down to use it with the Lumu (the iPhones headphone jack is on the lower side of the phone). That becomes even more cumbersom, if you use your iPhone with a passcode - because the latter one cannot be entered when the iPhone is upside down. All in all, a very sexy product but not as practical as I hoped for. And in terms of measuring light, my verious tests with my iPhone Fotometer Pro app deliverd identical results to the ones from the Lumu.

Michael Stevens said...

These are far cooler, far cheaper and you don't have to worry about the battery running out!

Bruce Robbins said...

I've actually got a couple of Westons, Michael. You're right about not having to worry about batteries - it's the photo cell packing up that's the main concern. Both of mine are dead. Saw one in a charity shop yesterday and it was dead, too. Good meters when they're working, though.

Oscar said...

I was really curious when I heard about this product, but since I use an Android phone I didn't bother. It's probably impossible to maintain compatibility with all present and future Android phones so the company only promised support for one or maybe two phones, not the model I own. Too bad.