James's Light Meter Collection: Sekonic L-164B/C Marine Meter II
Sekonic L-164B/C Marine Meter II Japanclick for instruction manual
Maker: Sekonic
Model: L-164B (or C) "Marine Meter II"
Circa: 1970-1978 (B), 1978-1993 (C)
Price (new): $99
Cell type: CdS
Measure type: Reflecting/Averaging
Battery: 1.35v PX-13

Underwater meters were around for years, but typically they were simple meters which were sealed into a heavy plastic case that could withstand water pressure to a reasonable depth. These show up on eBay fairly often; I often see a Weston Pixie with an underwater jacket.

This is the only meter than I'm currently aware of which appears to be purpose-built for use underwater (up to about 200 feet, according to the literature). It's large and very easy to read. The controls are on the back, in the form of two largish, contoured knobs which can be easily turned by hands in gloves. The cell is located in a tube that looks directly out the rear, so you simply hold this thing up to eye level as if you were going to read the meter face, and that's what you're aiming at.

Setting it easy. If you pull the black knob out and turn it, the ASA/DIN speed turns and you can set your film speed. At normal position, turning the knob cranks the calculator dial around. The red knob is the on/off and battery check. So you turn it on, aim it, and then you turn the calculator so that either the ƒ/stop you want is matched to the pointer, in which case it tells you the shutter speed to use on the bottom, or you pick the shutter speed against the pointer on the bottom, and read the ƒ/stop that the needle points to at the top.

There are three versions: the original L-164 Marine Meter, which is functionally and cosmetically different (albiet not that much). Then there's the Marine Meter II, which came in both a B and C model. I don't know which one I have, as it's not marked on the meter itself. Sekonic had both instruction manuals available so I downloaded both, and the manuals are identical. Note: Sekonic has removed everything about the meter from their website ,at least all that I could find, so the PDF link goes to Mike Butkus's camera manual website.)

Richard Holzman was kind enough to fill me in on the differences between the three models:

  • L-164 - Marine Meter, 1966. Bright orange color body.  My example is more red-orange.  ASA film speeds.
  • L-164B - Marine Meter II, 1972. Cream color body. ASA +  DIN film speeds.
  • L-164C - Marine Meter II, no verifiable date. Yellow color body.  ISO film speeds. 
  • Sekonic no longer has a model list online but earlier ones were very wrong.  They could not agree on the date and model of their first meter in the recent 70th Anniversary PR.

According to their website (again, no longer there), Sekonic ended production back in 1993, though I read somewhere that they were being made again at least as of around 2001. These meters are surprisingly pricey (if they work). Good ones typically fetch in the $50 range on eBay, which is unusual for this vintage, and considering that they're CdS meters which take the dreaded PX-13.

©opyright by James Ollinger. All Rights Reserved.

Company names and models are registered trademarks of their respective owners
and are not affiliated with this website in any way.