James's Light Meter Collection: Balda Expophot
Balda Expophot (front)
Maker: Balda
Model: Expophot
Circa: 1938
Cell type: Extinction (Optical)
Measure type: Reflecting
Designer: J. M. Bing
US Patent #: 2,195,640
Price (new): $1.75

Click for larger adA German/Austrian optical meter, which means that it doesn't use a photo cell to electrically measure the light: you look through it and judge it yourself. My Instoscope is another example of this kind of meter. The upside is that there are no batteries, no cells, no fragile parts. If you drop it, it will not break. The downside is that you can do as well using the Sunny 16 rule.

Balda was a German company headquartered (as many were) in Dresden. I believe they eventually ended up as part of Pentacon in East Germany, which is now part of Schneider.

Very cute meter. About the size of a book of matches. You hold it about chest high and look down on the dial and aim the front edge at the scene. You flip the little door open and you can see (via a 45° mirror) a series of f/numbers, and you take whichever is the dimmest one you can reasonably see. Then you turn the dial to match the f/number with the film speed (in DIN and Scheiner) and that gives you the shutter speed to use.

They made a number of different variations. Some are Austrian, some are German. Mine's from Germany, and the "made in Germany" legend on the top makes me think it was for export. Some versions had a black-on-white calculator face that was fairly easy to read. Mine's red-on-black, the red is partially rubbed off from use, so it's tough to read. Still, it's small and it's cute as can be. No idea how old it is--extinction meters antedate photocells, but they were made and sold for decades because they were very, very inexpensive. Consider that when a Weston or a GE cost $20, these extinction meters were $2.

Karen Nakamura has some information on her excellent Photoethnography site.

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