Affordable spotmeters are difficult to come by. The Minolta Spotmeter F is one of the least expensive digital meters available.
If you are interested in a meter for landscape photography or for video lighting, the Minolta Spotmeter F is a good choice.
Buying a Used Minolta Spotmeter
If you're in North America, eBay is the best place to find used spot meters. As of February 2nd, 2019, prices for the F version ranged from $170-$230. The M version can be found for $130-$170.
More expensive listings include a manual, box, case, front lens cap, and/or close up lens.
Year of Release & Orignal Price
1987 or 1988 was the first year the meter was released.
I own a series of Competitive Camera Corp catalogues spanning 1985-1989. A 1988 catalog was the first year the meter appeared for $369.95.
7 Alternative Spot Meters for Every Budget
- Under $50 - Soligor Spot Sensor, Soligor Digital Spot Sensor, or Soligor Spot Sensor II. The Spot Sensor II will require getting lucky on an auction.
- $125 - Gossen Ultra Spot Meter
- $200 - Pentax Spotmeter V
- $350 - Asahi Pentax Digital Spotmeter
- $600 - Sekonic L-858D-U
Minolta Spotmeter F Battery
One AA battery powers the Spotmeter F. No special replacement batteries are needed. Rechargeable Ni-HM batteries, such and Panasonic Enloops, will work.
The Spotmeter M needs a 6-volt battery. Models 4LR44, 28A, 1212A, PX28A, or A544 are compatible.
Minolta Spotmeter F Review
The biggest drawback is having to use a PC sync port for flash photography. That is a big limitation for studio work with wireless strobes.
On the other hand, if you shoot landscapes or video, flash isn't an issue. Portability is great because the meter is powered by a AA battery. That makes keeping a spare or taking one out of another piece of equipment easier.
Spotmeter F Size & Weight
The Minolta Spot Meter F is lighter and smaller than analog spot meters, but that doesn't say much. Newer spot meters are lighter and more compact.
The meter weighs 366g (12.9oz) in the case with a battery. Without the case, 286g (10.1oz). The Minolta Spotmeter F has excellent battery life, lasting tens of hours.
It'll be up to you if saving some weight is worth paying significantly more for a smaller meter. I'm not sure I'd want to carry it around all day, but it'd be fine for golden hour.
Rough dimensions are 95mm (3-3/4") long, 152mm (6") tall, 45mm (1-3/4") wide, and the grip is 29mm (1-1/8") wide.
Spotmeter F Viewfinder vs Pentax Digital
While not as ridiculously large as the viewfinder on the Pentax Spotmeter V, the viewfinder on the Minolta Spotmeter F is large.
The F-stop or EV reading is displayed on an LCD at the bottom of the viewfinder. Unlike the Pentax Digital Spotmeter, the LCD does not block a huge chunk of your view.
Having an unobstructed viewfinder is what makes the Minolta Spotmeter F a better spot meter than the Pentax Digital Spotmeter.
There is no backlight on the LCD. The illumination button on the meter lights up the exposure reading seen in the viewfinder. For landscape photography, this could be inconvenient as the digital screen will be hard to see when setting up a shot in low light.
Auto? Like Focus?
The spotmeter is not an auto meter. You need to understand the implications of the lack of this feature. A flash trigger needs to trigger the spotmeter via the PC sync port.
You will need to run a PC sync cable that runs from your camera trigger to the Spotmeter F. The other option is to attach a wireless trigger to the Spotmeter F.
Personally, I hate cables. I would rather pay hundreds more for an auto meter than deal with cables running from the camera or needing batteries for triggers.
My Konica Minolta Auto Meter VF is a standalone unit. It has a PC sync port, but the sync port does not have to be used to take a reading.
The meter will automatically detect when a flash has been fired and display an exposure reading.
If I found myself in a situation where it was important to have a spot meter for flash, I would sell the Spotmeter F and Auto Meter VF. I would then shop around for a Sekonic L-608 or Skeonic L-858D-U as a replacement spot meter for both.
Selling for significantly less than a Pentax Digital Spotmeter, the Minolta Spotmeter F is an attractive product for the right photographer. I do think that it deserves a higher rating compared to the Pentax Digital Spotmeter.
Are your primary uses going to be landscapes or video? Then, yes. The Spotmeter F will do what you need and I think it offers the best value.
Any negative customer reviews I've come across have been people wanting the spot meter to do something it was not designed to do.
Do you do lots of flash photography? Then, no way! Buy a auto flash meter so you are not reliant on a PC sync cable.
Minolta Spotmeter F Manual
A PDF copy of the manual can be found on Butkus.org. The manual has all of the product specifications and lists accessories, such as the case, that were offered when the Minolta Spotmeter F was new.
Minolta Spotmeter F vs M Differences
- F stands for flash.
- M stands for memory. Both meters can record light measurements.
- The Spotmeter F can take flash readings. It has a PC sync port at the bottom of the grip.
- F runs off a AA battery. A rechargeable Ni-MH battery will work.
- M requires a 6-volt battery. Compatable battery models are 4LR44, 28A, 1212A, PX28A, or A544.
Original Minolta Case & Accessories
A vinyl case was an accessory that originally came with the Spotmeter F. The Minolta Logo is stamped on the front flap. There is a belt loop on the back. The neck strap can be pulled through a hole in the bottom of the case.
The plastic slip-on lens cap has the same Minolta logo as the case. It has a 39mm inner diameter.
To take light readings of close subjects, the Minolta Close-Up Lens No. 614 is needed. The lens has 35.5mm threads, which match the threading of the spot meter. Replacement close-up lenses can be found on eBay.
How to Open & Disassemble the Minolta Spotmeter F
8 screws are used to keep the outer shell of the Spotmeter F in place.
There are two screws on the bottom, next to the tripod mount.
On the top, there is a piece of vinyl covering four screws. Double-sided tape was used to keep it on. A plastic pry tool or screwdriver can be used to remove it.
The final two screws are located inside the battery compartment.