James's Light Meter Collection: Weston Model 617 (Type 1)
Weston Model 617 Type 1 exposure meter
Maker: Weston Electrical Instrument
Model: Model 617 (Type 1)
Circa: 1932
Designer: William N. Goodwin
US Patent: 2,073,790
Original Price: $39.75
Cell type: Selenium
Measure type: Reflecting/averaging

Weston 617 version 1 original advertisment (1932)This is the first of Weston's photographer's meters, it was introduced in 1932. It is very large (6½ inches long) and heavy—nearly 1lb. But it's got a heavy bakelite case, it has rounded ends and groves along the top and bottom so you can hold it like binoculars.

There's a button on the right side, along the top, which sits right under the user's index finger, which is used for changing the scale sensitivity of the meter. The meter normally reads for bright light (0-1,300 foot-candles), but if you press the button, the scale is 0-130 foot-candles (low-light). My General Electric from this period requires you to put a metal mask over the cell to cut the light.

Weston 617 exposure meter - light baffle detailAnother interesting note: this is a true reflected light meter (its contemporaries were all incident meters of one form or another). The man who designed this, William Goodwin, claimed that they had made the meter itself, but were held up as they tried to figure out how to limit the light striking the selenium cells in a such a way as to mimic the angle that a standard camera lens would see (around 46°).

They tried a tube but didn't like it. Ultimately they consulted with a cinema engineer who suggested a honeycomb-type baffle. Goodwin claimed this was the final piece of the puzzle, and they put the meter up for sale.

I know all this little bit because DeJur used the "honeycomb" on their meters. Weston sued them for infrigement, and a synopsis of its development ended up in the Federal Reporter (see Weston v. DeJur). Weston lost on the grounds that the honeycomb idea wasn't patentable.

Here's another interesting web page for this meter: Scott's Photographica Collection.

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