EXPOSED! A check of the light meter on my Pentax ME-F

The unfortunate episode with my first roll of Ferrania P30 led me to conclude the light meter on my Pentax ME-F might be off – or at least thrown off in certain lighting conditions. To test this I bought some reliable Ilford FP4 and decided to do some bracketed test shots, trying out scenes in different lighting conditions with 1x, 2x (1 stop over) and 4x exposure (2 stops over). The Pentax has a handy exposure compensation dial to make this easy.

I developed in Paranol S at 1+25 for 9 minutes, and scanned on the Epson V550 on automatic settings.

Looking at the film strip as it hanged to dry I could see no underexposures at all. The 1x exposures seemed to have the most balanced density, with 2x also looking okay and the 4x quite thick. The scanner however took all the shots in its stride…

This straightforward scene of the park looks pretty passable in all versions, though there seems to be slightly more detail in the grass in the 1x exposure.

Paul is backlit here outside the cafe, and the 2x or 4x versions perhaps give the best balance for his face, although the highlights are slightly more blown out, and some editing on the 1x version can easily bring the brightness up enough to give a better result.

These views of the coffee cup, again backlit, give similar results to the previous shot. I sort of prefer the blown out 4x one, but editing to either of the others could get the same effect.

Here the shots Robin and David in the park are all pretty reasonable, although there is slight loss of detail in the highlights of the more over-exposed versions.

Robin alone here is definitely best in the 1x exposure, his bright white vest losing all definition in the 2x and 4x frames.

Meanwhile David is backlit, and the 2x version offers the best balance without tweaking.

So in conclusion, it seems as if the meter is pretty accurate, slightly thrown by bright backlighting, as might be expected. Best results would probably mean exposing front lit scenes at x1 and backlit at x2 to compensate, although being lazy it would it most cases probably be fine to just leave the dial on x2 and rely on the latitude in the film and the capabilities of the scanner to retrieve a happy result.

As for what this means for the Ferrania P30, I’m not entirely sure. A bit of further research online seems to indicate that it prefers to be over-exposed a little, so I might try setting the ISO dial to 40 or 50 and see how that goes.

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