James's Light Meter Collection: GE PR-3 Golden Crown
GE PR-3 Golden Crown USA
Maker: General Electric
Model: PR-3 Golden Crown
Circa: 1958
Designer: Allen Stimson
US Patents: 2,483,945; 2,501,547; 2,648,254
Price (new): $34.50
Cell type: Selenium
Measure type: Reflecting/Averaging (2D incident as accessory)

click for larger adThis is one of, if not the last of the GE meters for the mass-market. Weston held out through the rest of the decade, but GE bailed when the state of the art went from Selenium to CdS. A shame, since GE made some good stuff.

The PR-n series was the high-end (the DWs were the middle, and the Mascots the bottom) of the range. This was meant to compete with the Weston Master IV. It doesn't have all the stuff, but it's clean and easy to read.

Mine has seen better days. There's a crack in the window (hard to see here) and the previous owner had put a couple of pieces of white tape for marks (you can see them at ƒ/8, ƒ/11 and ƒ/16) and it's been tough cleaning them off. Thanks.

This is a minor revision to the PR-2 Guardian. Just looking at it, I can't figure out what the point is. The Guardian had several changes from the original PR-1, but this one seems to offer almost nothing other than minor cosmetic tweaks to the meter face and calculator dial; not necessarily for the better. It doesn't offer any new accessories, it doesn't do anything more. Mine suffers from the same sluggish movement or sticky needle-lock as my Guardian, and is likewise impossible to use without reading the manual. Even the owner's manual is thinned down and not as informative.

Still, a good, capable meter if/when it works, and if you want to spend the time to learn it. But I think the Guardian has a slightly better dial, and the PR-1 is best overall.

How to use it: to set the film speed (use ASA), press the GE logo in the center of the calculator dial, and turn the surounding aluminum-colored dial. The film speed will show in the window at the top of this dial. The numbers are tiny. Don't worry that the rest of the calculator dial rotates in various ways. Just get the ASA set the way you want it.

Once that's done, you're ready. Aim the meter at what you want to measure, press and hold the button on the left side of the case. That will unlock the needle. When the needle comes to a rest, you can let go of the button to lock it in place.

Tturn the outer ring of the calculator dial until the ƒ/stop that you want to use is lined up with the needle. Just below this outer ring, at about the 11 o'clock position, there's a window that shows the shutter speed. If you want to use a different ƒ/stop, rotate the ring until the f/stop you want is under the needle and read the shutter-speed in the window.

That also works in reverse. If you want to use a particular shutter speed, rotate the ring until the shutter speed you want shows up in the window, and the needle will tell you which ƒ/stop to use.

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