With all the in-camera metering systems today do you still work with a handheld meter? What do you use it for? Do you find it delivers superior results?
For most of the time I have been a photographer, which began long before the general adoption of TTL metering in cameras, I have used and carried in my bag an incident light meter. I think I came to this as much of my photography has been of people, and I quickly learned that basing an exposure on how much light was falling on a subject provided a more accurate exposure for that subject than measuring the light reflected by the subject. With people photography you want to expose accurately primarily for skin tones, but not relative to how much light the complexion reflects because an accurate exposure for a dark complexion should be relatively less than if the complexion was quite fair and reflected a lot of light. That latter, fair skinned subject, SHOULD expose the film to more light. This becomes abundantly obvious if you are per chance photographing a very fair blond wearing a black tuxedo and black hat, or a very dark skinned person wearing a white headdress and white garment. With either subject in the same environment with the same level of illumination the exposure of each should be the same, and may very well not be read by a TTL camera meter, and it should remain the same even if they traded costumes and the fair blonde wore white and the dark skinned person wore black.
But like many, for subjects that are mixed in color and reflectance averaging the reflectance values across the scene, it is convenient and I have learned I can obtain predictably accurate exposures with the meter in the camera, and that is so much more convenient. BUT!!!! I have my little incident meter in my bag and when I recognize a subject is not typical or average, like the proverbial black cat in a coal bin, or the white horse in a snow storm, the incident meter is the only way to read the right exposure based on how much light is falling on the subject.
I would have to agree with David Brooks on this. There are times when you just can't beat an incident meter. I used to determine most of my non-wedding exposures with a Zone VI modified Pentax digital spot meter. However, when time was a factor I would rely on my trusty Multi-Pro (which sadly floated down the Delaware some years ago).
I always used VPS for weddings and became able to guess my exposures quite accurately, based on shadow definition and f8. Of course I didn't hesitate to pull out the incident meter if I had any doubts at all.
I've been out of the wedding business for a number of years now and recently purchased a 20D. I am amazed at the accuracy of the exposures, even in some tricky backlit scenes. Now with the ability to alter ISO speeds on the fly vs. the single speed of VPS (80), guessing the exposures just doesn't seem practical.
I am contemplating a return to wedding work, and anticipate that a new incident meter will be among the first tools that I add to my arsenal. The only question now is, which one?
In the 1950's, when I first learned photography, a light meter was mandatory. With the advent of digital, my interest was rekindled several years ago, so I purchased a Sekonic L-358.
It's a fine meter but I find that I seldom use it. With natural light, I get more accurate results by shooting a test shot with my D-70, then looking at the histogram and the flashing highlight displays.
Shooting multiple flash in a controlled environment, the meter is useful to set ratios, etc. But again, with experience and the LCD display, the meter is seldom needed.
I used to carry it in my camera bag - now I just leave it at home.