For this month’s review, we have the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR Smart Light Meter. [Try saying that title fast three times…] It is touted as the world’s first touch-screen-operated light meter, featuring an easy compact design and smooth finger sliding adjustments. Simply touch the screen and slide your finger over the setting on the screen, to make easy settings changes. Another eye-catching feature is the built-it PocketWizard Control TL technology, which places the combination of light measurement and flash power control, right in the palm of your hands. Additionally, the exposure profiling software included, allows the user to create a precise dynamic range mapping and meter calibration, for the best light control accuracy that you can get from your camera. It sounds like a fantastic tool for any photographer to have in his arsenal of resources.
First impressions: The meter fits quite nicely into the hand. All of the buttons are easily available to the thumb and forefinger. Even in the left hand, the ease of access remains.The size of the L-478DR compares to that of an iPhone, only that it is about one inch thick and has the retractable dome at the top. The power cycle is quick too. It powers on in one second and boots in three seconds, for a four second power cycle.
Touch Screen: Touch screen operation is a breeze with the L-478DR. It truly operates as advertised. There is some pressure that needs to be applied when making a button selection. It’s surely doesn’t have the sensitivity of an iPhone or Galaxy, but that detail is easily overcome by a slight amount of pressure applied to select a button and then slide to make the change. Buttons in the corners are easy to access as well. I expected some limitation here, but repeated selections of buttons in the corners are a breeze and they select every time I try it. As far as I can see, the touch-screen-operation is very smooth and well designed.
PocketWizard Control TL technology: In keeping up with today’s wireless developments, Sekonic added PocketWizard technology into the L-478DR. It is important to note the distinction between the model names of the L-478DR and the L-478D, especially if you plan to purchase one in the future. The models are exact in every detail, except that the L-478DR comes with the PocketWizard technology built right-in to the unit. This is a no-brainer if you already own PocketWizards, but is something to seriously consider, if you don’t. You may find yourself owning PocketWizard someday, especially as the price of PocketWizard continues to become more affordable. The Sekonic L-478DR is fully compatible with the entire family of wireless PocketWizard. So, triggering and flash control is available for all of the standard PocketWizard systems, including AlienBees, Einstein, Elinchrom, Canon, Nikon and White Lightening, to name a few. What is super nice about this compatibility is that remote flashes have fingertip control built right in to the light meter. Touch sliders on the light meter will adjust the power levels of the speedlights and studio flash units that are connected to Control TL receivers. On top of that, you can switch Zones on, or off to measure any remote flashes separately, enabling you to make precise lighting ratios, if desired. Overall, the addition of PocketWizard technology to the L-478DR light meter is a superb enhancement and well worth the extra dollars to get it.
In addition to the built-in wireless technology, the Sekonic L478DR has the capability to use a PC synch cord. Since my current wireless system consists of several Yongnuo transceivers, this is the method which I used to accomplish wireless triggering with the light meter. It pretty much works as expected with the PC cord. The only downside for me is that this system is very clunky. My transceiver dangles from the light meter and can easily disconnect and fall to the floor. I tried to use a Velcro strap to mount the two pieces together, but they don’t fit together very well and the nice easy fit in my hand goes away, as well as the easy finger access. After playing with different placements, I may find a good way to strap these two together. For now, I found that it is easier and simpler to just leave the transceiver disconnected. This leads to another nice feature of the L-478DR light meter. In the flash reading mode, the light meter will wait, in ready state, for a flash to occur. Once a flash is detected, the reading is made and a value is displayed. I found this to be a nice work-around for the dangling cord issue. It will take some tinkering on my behalf, but I’ll find a rhythm for using the Sekonic light meter with my off-brand wireless system.
Exposure profiling software: I had high expectations, that the exposure profiling software would “wow” me, much in the way that the color-checker passport did, when I made my color-checker profile for the first time. In this case, not so much, if at all… I could not notice any difference between the factory defaults profile and the custom camera profile that I created for my DSLR camera. The process of creating the profile is relatively simple, but you couldn’t tell that from reading the instruction manual. The profiling instructions read much like VCR instructions. I had to read them very carefully, before starting the process, and follow them very precisely in order to avoid any mistakes. Another huge turn-off to the exposure profiling process, is the need to purchase an exposure profiling target, in order to accomplish the task. There are two available from Sekonic; they are the Exposure Profile Target and the Exposure Profile Target II. Luckily, a third option for exposure profiling is available, which is the X-Rite Color-Checker target. All three color checker targets (Classic, Passport and Mini) are compatible and have been incorporated into this process. My Color-Checker Passport became the hero of the day, allowing me to continue my profiling experiment, using the passport’s target. Like I mentioned above, I had high expectations for the profiling feature. Of course, having a light meter at all, is an obvious advantage, for any photographer. Light is very hard to control without a meter of some sort, whether in camera, or hand-held, etc. A light meter places a photographer’s accuracy very close to 100%. This is where the difference comes in for a camera exposure profile. The exposure profile is intended to close the accuracy gap of the light meter. In my experiments with the exposure profile, I could not differentiate between factory defaults and the custom camera profile I created. In theory, I could very well be 95% accurate without the profile and the difference of 5% may still not be noticeable to my eyes, when the profile is added. I realized that in this regard my expectations were misplaced and wrong. The accuracy difference is in there. It just doesn’t have the “wow” factor that I wanted. This doesn’t change the conclusion, which is that the exposure profile is not a driving reason to buy this product. The light meter alone is reason enough.
Overall, I would rate the L-478DR, three stars, out of five. The touch-screen operation and PocketWizard features are super sweet, and the compact design and versatility are very nice too. But, the lack of a noticeable difference with exposure profiling and the need to purchase an exposure target are a turn-off. Additionally, the price for this tool is rather steep for the novice photographer and advanced hobbyists.
There are additional features of the L-478DR light meter, such as reflective light reading, enhanced HD Cine/Cine features, filter compensation mode, etc., but only the top three photography related features were selected for this review.
Reviewer: Joe Aragon