8 Best Multi-Purpose Light Meters

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Why bother with a dedicated light meter when all modern smart devices have them built-in? It’s a fair question, and this introduction aims to give you the answers. More folks are keen on photography now than ever before. That’s thanks in part to the decent cameras built into modern smart devices. Image quality is good, but you need better control of the lighting to produce the WOW factor.

We often find ourselves staring into a photo, but we’re not always sure why. Well, composition, angles, and the subject(s) are vital, but none of that matters if the lighting fails. The illumination of a photograph can mean the difference between an eye-grabbing work of art or a mediocre snapshot.

Budget
best-budget-multi-purpose-light-meter
URCERI Digital Light Meter
4.7/5.0
Screen Type: LCD, color backlit
Weight: 6.4 oz.
Ergonomic design, comfortable, color LCD, Min/Max readings.
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Best Value
best-value-multi-purpose-light-meter
Sekonic Flashmate L-308X-U
4.8/5.0
Screen Type: LCD and backlit
Weight: 3.52 oz.
Customizable LCD, dedicated functions, 3 ways to measure, deluxe case.
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Top Pick
top-value-multi-purpose-light-meter
Sekonic Spectomaster C-800
4.9/5.0
Screen Type: LCD color touchscreen
Weight: 8.2 oz.
User-friendly, measures any light source, designed for on set, large touch panel.
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Uses Outside of Photography

Light meters have uses outside of photography too. Perfecting architectural lighting is one. Another is to measure the exact light levels for growing certain plants. I include a few of those in the guide.

Light Meters for Photography

There are two basic types of dedicated light meters used in photography. Both models have advantages over built-in meters in that they’re extra versatile and more accurate.

  1. Reflective Light Meters
  2. Incident Light Meters.



Built-in Vs. Handheld Meters

Most cameras have adequate built-in TTL light metering systems. Even so, they can’t compete with a dedicated handheld meter. Moreover, an integrated meter can only do reflected readings, not flash nor incident. You can walk around a subject or scene to measure complex lighting with a camera. And if it’s still wrong, well, you can always correct it later using image editing software, but it’s extra work.

Light is the make or break of any photograph, and the handheld meter offers a simple solution. Most products are super easy to use and can save a lot of time and disappointment. Most photographers that move from built-in light meters to the handheld devices never look back.

What to Look for in a Handheld Light Meter

There are certain buying considerations to look for in a new light meter, namely:

  • Set your maximum budget
  • Rugged build, comfortable to hold, and portable
  • Ease of use if you’re a novice
  • Sliding lumisphere to measure incident and 40° reflected metering
  • Customizable, backlit color LCD screen
  • Wide metering range
  • Broad Flash range
  • Exposure times from long to fast, e.g., 60 to 1/8000 seconds
  • Anything else you can think of

About My ‘8 Light Meter Choices’ Guide

My buyers guide reviews 8 excellent light meters across all the price ranges. I chose these meters based on personal views, the opinions of industry experts, and real user feedback. Even the cheaper products give you better results than built-in meters. The first three reviews are the Editor’s preference for Best Budget, Best Value light meter, and the Top Pick.

All other products are by price order, lowest to high. The table here lists the light meter reviews as they appear on the page. Use it to navigate to your favored brands or budget.

Multi-Purpose Light Meters Comparison Table

1. URCERI Handheld Digital Light Meter | Best Budget

URCERI Handheld Digital Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Best Budget pick goes to an affordable handheld digital light meter by URCERI. It’s a compact, ultra-light and portable device that’s comfortable to hold and easy to use.

  • Best feature 1: Affordable, versatile light meter
  • Best feature 2: Wide metering range for its class
  • Plus points: Ergonomic design, comfortable, color LCD, Min/Max readings, data hold button
  • Minus points: Not 100% accurate 100% of the time, no swivel head

URCERI MT-912 Digital Light Meter Highlights

The URCERI MT-912 general purpose digital light meter with an affordable price tag. Consider the MT-912 if you’re new to dedicated light meters, as it has a lot to offer the beginner. It’s small and durable with a nice feel to it. This versatile tool can measure luminosity from 0–200000 Lux, and ambient temperature. Its color, digital LCD backlit screen displays data clearly in any light.

The LCD shows both minimum and maximum light readings. And a Data Hold button ensures you don’t lose your settings. There’s even a low-power indicator to give you ample time to change the batteries before they die. And the auto power-off feature helps to prolong the life of the batteries.

Point to note: This product is a decent choice for macro style photography. However, it isn’t a dedicated photographic meter. That’s because it doesn’t do the calculations automatically.

The Not So Good

The readings are close, but they’re not consistently accurate. It’s more of an issue when measuring light at 45°. It’s not bad, but the MT-9123 can’t compete with costlier products when it comes to guaranteed accuracy. The head of this meter doesn’t swivel, and nor does it claim to. Still, a movable head is a feature that would make the tool a lot more versatile.

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Tech Specs
Make & Model: URCERI MT-912
Color: Black/yellow
Photo Detector: silicon photodiode
Display Type: Color LCD
Measuring Luminosity: 0–200,000
Resolution: <1000: 0.1; >1000: 1
Battery Type: 3 x AAA
Battery Life: 60+ hours
Product Weight: 6.4 oz.
Dimensions: 6.9 x 2.2 x 1.2”
The Pros
Affordable, versatile light meter
Wide metering range for its class
Ergonomic design, comfortable
Color backlit LCD screen
Low-power indicator
Automatic power-off feature
Min/Max readings
Data hold button
Fc/Lux button
The Cons
Not consistently accurate
No swivel head

2. Sekonic Flashmate L-308X-U Light Meter | Best Value

Sekonic Flashmate L-308X-U Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

Sekonic is a respected name in light meters, and its L-308X-U Flashmate gets the Best Value slot. This device is a highly versatile and portable tool with a plethora of photographic functions.

  • Best feature 1: Well-made, portable, and versatile light meter
  • Best feature 2: Sliding lumisphere
  • Plus points: Customizable LCD, dedicated functions, 3 ways to measure, deluxe case
  • Minus points: No exposure times at precision settings, unusual price category

Sekonic L-308X-U Light Meter Highlights

Sekonic L-308X-U is a well-made product that fits snuggly in the hand. It boasts a plethora of features and to suit all situations, including 3 dedicated functions. They include Photography, Digital Cinematography, and HD Cinematography. Photo mode is ideal for stills photography using shutter and aperture priority. And the sliding lumisphere lets you measure both incident and reflected light.

The meters backlit LCD screen is customizable. It also automatically lights up at 5 EV (exposure value), which is useful. Sekonic’s L-308X-U comes with a smart, protective deluxe case.

The Not So Good

The only major negative with this device relates to exposure times at the highest precision settings. It doesn’t seem to offer them. It’s in an unusual price category too. The meter is about 70 dollars over the top end budget products, and 80+ dollars under higher-end devices. That means it’s too expensive for some, yet not costly enough for those who want a pro-level meter.

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Tech Specs
Make & Model: Sekonic
Model: L-308X-U Flashmate
Color: Black
Display Type: Backlit LCD
Metering Range: 0–19.9 EV at ISO 100
Flash Range: f/1.0–f/90.9 at ISO 100
Shutter Speed Range: 1/8000 – 60 Secs
Battery Type: 1 x AA (not included)
Battery Life: Not specified by the maker
Product Weight: 3.52 oz.
Dimensions: 2.5 x 4.3 x 0.9”
Warranty: 1 year limited
The Pros
Well-made, portable and versatile
Sliding lumisphere
Customizable LCD
Dedicated functions
Wide metering range
Broad flash range
3 ways to measure light
Includes Deluxe case
The Cons
No exposure times at the highest precisions settings
Awkward price category

3. Sekonic Spectomaster C-800 Light Meter | Top Pick

Sekonic Spectomaster C-800 Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

Sekonic’s Spectomaster Meter is the Editor’s Top Pick. This is a high-precision device capable of measuring all kinds of visible light. It’s expensive, but an invaluable tool for professionals.

  • Best feature 1: Fast button layout; ideal for one-handed function
  • Best feature 2: 270° swivel head
  • Plus points: User-friendly, measures any light source, designed for on set, large touch panel
  • Minus points: Touch response a tad slow, costly device for amateurs

Sekonic Spectomaster C-800 Highlights

The Sekonic Spectomaster is a professional color meter with an impressive spec sheet. It offers ultra-accurate color measuring for photographers and cinematographers. Consider this meter if you work with multiple types of light source on set. No artificial lighting is too much of a challenge for this puppy. Plus, the C 800 Spectromaster is incredibly easy to use despite its sophistication.

The 4.3” touch button panel offers a one-handed function. Moreover, the 270° swivel head lets you measure light effortlessly from all angles. And for the tech-heads, it has CRI, TLCI, TLMF, TM-30-15, and now SSI. This tool even recommends the ideal filters to get the best correction for any light. It’s a pro-level light meter packed with pro-level features, but with novice-friendly handling.

The Not So Good

There’s little to fault with this meter as it performs exactly as advertised. Some users think its response is a tad slow to touch input, but that’s not a con shared by all. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker. The price is high if you’re a keen amateur, but it’s an invaluable tool for professionals.

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Tech Specs
Make: Sekonic
Model: C 800 Spectromaster
Color: Black
Display Type: 4.3 color touch LCD
Measuring Range: 1.0–200,000 lux
Flash Range: 20–20,480 x/s
Battery Type: 2 x AA (not included)
Battery Life: 8+ hours
Product Weight: 8.2 oz.
Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.4 x 3.5”
The Pros
User-friendly, comfortable design
Measures any light source
Perfect meter for on set
270-degree swivel head
Color LCD touch panel
Customize function
Multiple displays
Corrective filter recommendations
Auto Power-off
Auto Dimmer
The Cons
Some complain that it’s touch response should be faster
Expensive for amateur users

4. Leaton Digital Lux LCD Light Meter

Leaton Digital Lux LCD Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

Meet the Leaton Digital Luxmeter. The device costs around 20 dollars at the time of writing, but don’t let the low-price tag put you off. It’s a rugged, reliable meter for multiple applications.

  • Best feature 1: Hardy design, comfortable to hold
  • Best feature 2: Large LCD screen
  • Plus points: Simple to use, mode and hold buttons, auto power-off, low battery warning
  • Minus points: Poor instructions

Leaton Digital Lux Light Meter Highlights

The Leaton Digital Lux LCD is made of decent plastic, is comfortable to hold, and easy to use. This light meter is okay if you’re into black & white photography. It’s not a good choice for more sensitive photographic work or multi-color complex lighting projects. It lacks versatility for photography and doesn’t give exposure settings or other light-related suggestions.

A lot of people tend to buy this meter to make sure their flowering plants get the right amount of light. It works pretty much as advertised, but it won’t blow you away. It has a large, easy-to-read LCD screen, a hold function, and both auto and manual ranges. The Leaton Digital Lux runs on a regular 9V battery and comes with a 15-minute auto power-off feature and low battery warning.

Point to note: Lux is not the same thing as Lumens. Be sure to use a Lux to lumens calculator if you need to convert.

The Not So Good

Instructions are just about okay. The Chinese to English translations can make things seem vague, but still understandable with patience. Leaton hasn’t hinged or tethered the plastic cover that protects the dome when not in use. That makes it easy to misplace or lose if you’re not careful.

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Tech Specs
Make: Leaton
Model: Digital Luxmeter
Color: Green
Display Type: LCD (not backlit)
Battery Type: 1 x regular 9V
Range: 0.1-00,000Lux, 0.01–20,000Fc
Resolution: 0.1Lux/0.01Fc
Product Weight: 4.8 oz.
Dimensions: 6.5 x 3.6 x 1.6”
The Pros
Hardy design, comfortable to hold
Large LCD screen
Simple to use
Mode and hold buttons
Auto and manual ranges
Auto power-off (15 mins)
Low battery warning
Excellent value
The Cons
Poorly translated instructions
Dome cover not hinged
Not a dedicated light meter for photography

5. Dr.meter Professional LED Light Meter

Dr.meter Professional LED Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

Dr.meter is renowned for its range of affordable light meters. This product is the Professional LX1332B model. It makes easy work of monitoring light levels at home, in the studio, or on the go.

  • Best feature 1: Sturdy build, easy to operate
  • Best feature 2: Up to 4 adjustable ranges
  • Plus points: Wide application, rotatable sensor, data hold, carry/storage case, tripod-ready
  • Minus points: LCD not backlit, hanging sensor cover

Dr.meter Pro LED Light Meter Highlights

Dr.meter’s Pro LX1332B light meter has a sturdy build and user-friendly appeal. The 4 adjustable ranges ensure you get perfect measurements every time. Multi-directional swivel sensors are always welcome, and this one offers 270° rotation. This is a superb product considering its price tag, and an excellent first sensor. It’s useful for measuring light in studio photoshoots, stage sets, and more.

The meter is tripod-ready, which is another bonus for those who need to work hands-free. Other product highlights include data hold and the convenient zippered carrying case.

The Not So Good

The LCD screen isn’t backlit, but it’s unlikely to put most people off. Still, it’s a nice feature to have nonetheless, especially those with auto-dimmers. The tethered sensor cover hangs down and tends to flop around. A better option would have been to have somewhere to clip it when not in use.

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Tech Specs
Make: Dr.meter
Model: Professional 1332B
Color: Black
Display Type: 3.4 LCD
Battery Type: 1 x 9v
Battery Life: 200 hours
Sampling Time: 2 times/sec
Product Weight: 11.2 oz.
Dimensions: 8 x 4.2 x 2.3”
The Pros
Sturdy build, easy to operate
4 adjustable ranges
Wide application
Rotatable sensor
Data hold function
Auto power-off
Unit adjustment
Tripod-ready
Zippered carry/storage case
Value for money
The Cons
LCD Screen not backlit
Hanging cover is annoying

6. Extech Ergonomic LT510 Light Meter

Extech Ergonomic LT510 Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

The Extech LT510 is another travel-friendly Light Meter that’s super-easy to use. It’s a rugged, pocket-sized device with several applications and additional features. Let’s check it out.

  • Best feature 1: Photodiode w/ color correction filter
  • Best feature 2: Backlit LCD screen
  • Plus points: Easy to use, pocket-sized, multiple applications, auto power-off, tripod-ready
  • Minus points: Restrictions for photography, removable cap is easy to misplace

Extech LT510 Light Meter Highlights

Extech’s LT510 is compact and versatile. It can measure the light intensity in a space up to 20000 Lux or 1,860 Foot-candles. It does this using a high-precision photodiode and a corrective color filter. Consider the LT510 if you need a meter to measure the light of indoor/outdoor spaces with accuracy. The latter could be to ensure there’s adequate illumination in places like ATMs and parking lots.

This meter is straightforward to use even at the novice level. It comes with a Data Hold button, Min/Max functions, and the option to take measurements in either Lux units of Fc (foot-candles). The backlit LCD lets you quickly see data in failing light. An auto power-off function helps to save unnecessary battery drain. And there’s an optional tripod.

The Not So Good

This light meter is suitable for several applications, but its photographic uses are restricted. That’s because it doesn’t offer exposure conversions and other useful data. It’s a better light meter for performing light tests indoors or shaded and sheltered outdoor locations (see above). The Extech LT510 has a removable cap for its sensor, which makes it easy to lose or misplace.

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Tech Specs
Make: Extech
Model: LT510 COMPACT
Color: Dark green
Display Type: Backlit LCD
Foot-Candle (Fc) Range: 0–1860Fc
Lux Range: 0–20,000
Max Res: 0.1Fc/1Lux
Accuracy: ±5%rdg
Battery Type: 3 x AAA (included)
Product Weight: 5.6 oz.
Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.2 x 5.5”
The Pros
Easy to use at the novice level
Compact, pocket-sized design
Protective sensor cover
Multiple applications
Photodiode w/ correction filter
Backlit LCD screen
Auto power-off function
Tripod-ready
The Cons
Restricted photographic uses
Removable cap, easy to misplace

7. Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III Light Meter

Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The penultimate review is for the L-398A Studio Deluxe III light meter by Sekonic. This model sports a classic design. It’s an ideal choice for photographic and cinematographic applications.

  • Best feature 1: No batteries or external power source needed
  • Best feature 2: Full range of aperture & shutter combinations
  • Plus points: Easy to use, swivel head, needle lock, Lumidisc, Lumigrid, memory pointer
  • Minus points: Complex design looks daunting, quite pricy

Sekonic Studio Deluxe III Light Meter Highlights

One of the best features of the Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III is that it doesn’t take batteries. Instead, it uses an amorphous photocell to generate power. Add this classic meter to your shortlist if you want a genuine analog experience. You can read the exact aperture and shutter combinations via the needle and exposure dial.

This meter is straightforward to use, and it comes with a swivel head and a convenient needle lock. Photographers take incident measurements of 3D objects using the 180° Lumisphere. Or, use the Lumidisc for selective readings. For reflected light, replace the Lumisphere with the Lumigrid. That’s it. You can use the memory pointer whenever you need to recall an earlier readout.

The Not So Good

This meter is manual and can look daunting to first-time users with all its dials and numbers. It does take some getting used to, but it’s a lot simpler than it looks. The Sekonic L-398A is also quite expensive since its void of sophisticated electronics, data logging, and built-in algorithms. Even so, it has its place among fans as there are no startup issues or batteries to worry about. And it WORKS.

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Tech Specs
Make: Sekonic
Model: L-398A
Color: Black/silver
Type: Analog for ambient light
Display Type: Analog
Measuring Luminosity: x
Battery Type: None
Receptor Head: Rotating dome
Light Receiving: Incident & reflected
Receptor Element: Amorphous silicon
Product Weight: 11.2 oz.
Dimensions: 4.40 x 2.30 x 1.30”
The Pros
Easy to use analog-meter
No batteries or external power
Aperture & shutter combos
Full swivel head
Continuous reading w/ needle lock
Ideal prime or back-up meter
Lumidisc for selective
Lumigrid for reflected
Memory pointer
Quality carry case
The Cons
Complex design; looks daunting
Quite pricy

8. Sekonic LiteMaster Professional Light Meter

Sekonic LiteMaster Professional Light MeterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

Those who invest in a Sekonic LITEMASTER PRO L-478-U are prosumers, semi-pros, or professionals. It’s an incredibly sophisticated tool, but it’s also easy to navigate and simple to use.

  • Best feature 1: Simple to use even for novice users
  • Best feature 2: Large color LCD screen
  • Plus points: Build quality, multi-functional, rotating sensor, 5° viewfinder (optional), warranty
  • Minus points: Overly sensitive touchscreen, poor battery life

Sekonic LiteMaster Pro Light Meter Highlights

Sekonic’s L-478-U light meter has a quality feel and look to it, as it should do at this price category. It comes equipped with a large 2.7” color touchscreen display. That gives users fast, smooth metering control for ambient light and flash. It’s a highly capable meter for stills photography, but it also has Cine and HD Cine video modes. The multi-functional appeal certainly helps to justify its price tag.

The swivel Lumisphere receptor head rotates a full 90° to the right and 180° to the left. You can also retract it to use as a flat diffuser. There’s an optional 5° viewfinder as well for spot metering.

The Not So Good

The LCD touchscreen is fast and welcome, but it does tend to be overly sensitive. It’s something new users must be mindful of as it’s easy to change values by accident. The Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U takes readily available AAA batteries, which is great. Battery life, though, is less impressive and may not last a day with continual use and cheaper products.

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Tech Specs
Make: Sekonic
Model: L-478DR-U
Color: Black
Display Type: LCD touchscreen
Display Size: 2.7
Diffuser: Spherical to Flat
Receptor Element: Silicon Photodiode
Battery Type: 2 x AAA
Product Weight: 8 oz. w/ batteries
Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 5”
The Pros
Simple to use at any skill level
Large color LCD touchscreen
Exceptional build quality
Multi-functional uses
Fast navigation
Rotating sensor
5° viewfinder (optional)
Extended warranty
The Cons
Overly sensitive touchscreen
Poor battery life
0/50 ratings