James's Light Meter Collection: Norwood Super Director
Norwood Super Director (front) Japanclick for manual
Maker: Helio-Tech (Walz)
Model: Super Director
Circa: 1958
Designer: Don Norwood
US Patent: 2,824,696
Price (new): $19.95
Cell type: Selenium
Measure type: 3D incident (Reflecting/Averaging available as accessory)
Modern Photography Test: August 1958

click for larger imageThis was the last (that I'm aware) of the Director line, at least with the Director name. It was obviously an update of the very popular Norwood Director meter, and the patent is credited to Don Norwood himself.

This particular meter was made in Japan. Norwood licensed his patents and trademarks to American Bolex, and that company changed its name to Director Products. Then a few years later it became Brockway Director, then Brockway Camera, then part of Scopus, and (I believe) ultimately part of Ponder & Best, which became Vivitar. The company that physically made (at least some of) their meters, Marion Electrical, became part of Honeywell. So Norwood's stuff ended up back in his own hands, via a company called Helio-Tech in Pasadena, California (where Norwood lived). Helio-Tech got the Japanese company Walz to make this meter.

I think it's funny—the manual (and the guy who wrote the review in Modern Photography) says it's supposed to be easy to use, yet it's one of the most complicated meters I've got. And I don't mean complicated as in complex and capable of many things (like my Luna Pro sbc), I mean complicated as in difficult to use.

The original Director used perforated metal slides that let in certain amounts of light, and if you used them, you could "direct read" theƒ/stop scale. This is similar, except that instead of carrying around a stack of slides (each one being about the size of a US postage stamp), this one had a single adjustable "valve." That is an improvement.

Except in practice. Here's how you use this beast. First you dial in the ASA film speed on the calculator wheel. Elsewhere on the wheel there's a red arrow that's pointing to an outer ring. You pick a shutter speed and turn the dial until the red arrow points to it. Now you look at a little window on the dial that shows a letter. That letter corresponds to a setting on the adjustable "valve" on the top of the unit (marked A through K). Set that to the letter. Now you can direct-read the ƒ/stop scale.

Here it is in action: I set the ASA to 125, and I'll pick a shutter speed: Ed Scully's favorite, 1/200th. The window shows letter "H". Set the valve on letter H on the top. I'm good to go. Until I want to change shutter speeds.

In fairness, it does give you a full calculator dial with various shutter/stop equivalents. Plus an EV scale. Plus a method of compensating if you're working beyond the limits of the scale. That's great—but it's all crammed onto this very small meter. I find the dial very hard to read, the letter scale on the top almost impossible, and nothing on this thing is easy or intuitive.

Interesting idea. I think if they'd scaled it up a bit and made it easier to read and a little less complicated, it would have been a lot better.

One nice little thing about this meter's pedigree: the photoshere /photodisc/ photogrid attachments on the top are identical to those on the other Norwood Directors, so if you lose one, you can borrow one from another meter. I've got several Norwoods of various types, and none of them were complete; so now I can mix and match as needed.

For more information, see my article The Many Lives of the Norwood Director.

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