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Can It Get Any Smaller? - A Review On The V102 Meter

Copyright 2021 by Klaus Schörner / www.bonnescape.de

The testing of the KEKS EM01 has sensitized me to the subject of clip-on light meters. And so it was probably only a matter of time before I came across the new exposure meter from CAMERACTIVE. The device with the designation V102 should - if you can believe the technical data - be even smaller, lighter and more powerful than the EM-01. In the meantime I have "examined" a test sample.

V102 - First Impression

With Instagram advertising, a YouTube channel and an online shop, the Chinese company CAMERACTIVE is presenting various articles for analog photography. I have not yet found more detailed information on the company address, but the shipping information suggests that the company is based in Shenzhen, a metropolis in the immediate vicinity of Hong Kong. After a pleasingly short delivery time of only two weeks, the light meter reached me in neutral packaging. I don't know whether the provider also makes the device itself. In any case, the copy I have before me has no branding. 

Dimensions and fastening

Small, downright tiny - the feather-light, but sturdy-looking, black plastic housing is only 30 x 19 x 27 mm (WxHxD) if I include the protruding buttons and the screwed-on foot. The weight is only 12 g. The body has a rough surface and seems to come from the 3D printer, as does the screwed-on foot. The latter is made up in such a way that it can be plugged into the accessory shoe of most cameras and - thanks to its rough surface - sits comfortably tight there.

 

The V102, on the MAMIYA RB67, is hardly noticeable and does not interfere with operating the camera. With large lens hoods, however, you have to be careful that they do not protrude into the measuring field.  

The four brass-colored adjustment knobs mentioned look out of the shell. Since they protrude far enough and have a clearly noticeable pressure point, operation is not a problem despite my not exactly delicate fingers. The shell recesses around the buttons are significantly larger than the buttons themselves and the display placed in between is also sunk into the shell. This suggests that the V102 should be protected from rain as much as possible so that no moisture collects in the depressions that could penetrate the sensitive interior. Also freely accessible is the USB-C interface on the left-hand side in the recording direction, into which the attached charging cable can be plugged. Of course, it would be on the bottom of the device like the KEKS EM01 placed a little more protected. But you can charge the V102 without removing it from the camera. 

  

  • The foot is screwed to the base plate with three screws. At least the two rear holes are in common places. You could also exchange it for a metal shoe if the material should break.
  • The USB-C interface for the charging cable is unprotected on the left side of the housing (in the direction of recording) Therefore, the  exposure meter can remain on the camera while charging. Something but you should be careful with the open interface, that no moisture gets into it

Key assignment, display and measurement characteristics

If you look at the control panel from above, the lower left button is used to switch on the V102 and to start the measurement. With the MODE button above, you can choose between the input menus for the ISO value, the correction factor and the measurement type AV (time preset), TV (aperture preset) or EV (light value). The two buttons on the right are used to change values ​​in each input menu. I think it takes some getting used to that the upper button is used to decrease and the lower button to increase the respective value. I would intuitively have expected that to be different. The display, which is just 12.5 x 6.5 mm, is only half the size of the KEKS EM01. Despite the small digit size of only 1.2 mm to 2.2 mm, the information is easy to read because it is in a semi-bold font and stands out sharply and brilliantly against the black background. 

Regardless of the ambient light, the display always remains the same bright. When the sun is shining, you have to cover the display with your hand to be able to read something. But this is the case with almost all displays. In standard measuring mode, four parameters are displayed: the ISO value at the top right, the battery symbol for the battery charge below it, the shutter speed at the top left and the aperture below it. The value pre-selected depending on the operating mode - time or aperture - is marked with a small triangle. The other is determined by measurement. 

  

The setting and measuring range of the V102 extends from ISO 6 to ISO 6400, from 1/2000 second to 8 seconds exposure time and from f-stop 1.0 to 64, all in 1/3 steps. An exposure correction - for example to compensate for filters in front of the lens - can also be entered in the setting menu from -3 to +3 f-stops in 1/3 steps. This is a comfortable thing, but be careful: a correction made here is not visible anywhere else and will mercilessly cause incorrect exposures if you forget to take it back after removing the filter. Cameractive indicates a measuring angle of 32 °, which more or less corresponds to the standard of the currently available light meters. Spot metering or light metering with a diffuser in front of it are not possible with the V102. 

The measuring angle of 32 ° corresponds roughly to the image angle of an 80 mm lens on the 35mm camera. With focal lengths around 50 mm or 35 mm, the result is a center-weighted measurement. Depending on the subject, the measurement results can theoretically differ from those obtained with integrally or selectively working TTL light meters. In comparison with my other light meters, however, I hardly noticed any differences. And if so, in more complex lighting situations, they were due to the different measurement characteristics. I did not find any incorrect exposures in the films that I exposed with the help of the V102.

Since I reported on two comparable light meters with the KEKS EM01 and the CAMERACTIVE V102 in a short period of time, a direct comparison is recommended. I have marked aspects in red that appear particularly noteworthy in a positive way:

 

Device:                   V102                                               EM-01

Source of supply:   cameractive.shop                     kekscameras.com

Origin:                    Shenzhen / China                     New Taipei / Taiwan

Current price:         $ 45                                                 $ 108

With Voigtlander Vito: The Cameractive V102 light meter in a practical test.  Photo: bonnescape.de    With Voigtländer Vito: The EM-01 exposure meter from KEKS in a practical test.  Photo: bonnescape.de

 

Material:      plastic                                                         aluminum

Surface / Color:   rough / black                                smooth / black or silver

Weight:        12 g                                                                 36 g

Dimensions: 30 x 19 x 27 mm                                    43 x 21 x 29 mm 

The Cameractive V102 light meter in comparison with the KEKS EM-01.  Photo: bonnescape.de
The Cameractive V102 light meter in comparison with the KEKS EM-01.  Photo: bonnescape.de

 

Measuring angle:                32°                                          30 °

Measurement modes:        AV, TV, EV                              AV, TV, EV

Display size and position:  12.5 x 6.5 mm/ top                   23 x 7 mm / back

Exposure compensation:    -3.0 to +3.0                             ---

ISO range:                           6 - 6400                                  50-8000

Shutter speed range:          1/2000 - 8 sec.                        1/6400 - 30 sec.

Aperture range:                   f1,0 - f64                                  f1,0 - f64

The Cameractive V102 light meter in a display comparison with the KEKS EM-01.  Photo: bonnescape.de

Battery charge display:              Yes                                   ----

Display of charging process:      After switching on            Always

Battery capacity:                         120 mAh                         220 mAh

Charging voltage:                        5V / 0.5A                        5V / 0.5A

Charging interface type:             USB-C / left side             USB-C / bottom

Operating time per charge:         20 hrs                              20 hrs

 

Conclusion

The most striking features of the battery-operated clip-on light meter V102 offered by CAMERACTIVE are its tiny size and its low price. In practical use, the dwarf shows itself to be efficient and outshines more expensive competitors. Its display is only half the size of the recently tested KEKS EM01, but it is meaningful and easy to read. It also offers some of the features that are missing in the competitive product, such as the input of exposure compensation and the display of the battery charge. Its ISO and shutter speed range are also more oriented towards realistic parameters when taking photos with film than is the case with the EM-01. 

Given the less than half the price, there seems to be a lot to speak for the V102. However, with the neatly processed plastic shell, which apparently comes from the 3D printer, with a somewhat "homemade" impression, it becomes clear that here, too, only water is used for cooking. The V102 does not come close to the high-quality, elegant impression of the EM-01 with its matt-finish aluminum shell. And as welcome and praiseworthy as the input option for exposure corrections is: I would have liked an icon in the standard view that reminds me that I have saved a correction in the sub-menu. Unfortunately, the range of uses of the V102 is also limited: Since the foot is attached in the middle, the housing attached to the camera protrudes approx. 5 mm beyond the accessory shoe and conceals essential control elements on many cameras. For example, with the LEICAs II, III, M2, M3 and M4 - especially the widespread rangefinder models without their own exposure meter, for which the V102 would be interesting - exactly that part of the shutter speed dial that should be visible when setting the time is covered . The manufacturer could easily have increased the range of uses of the device if he had positioned the foot flush to the right. which should be visible at the time setting. The manufacturer could easily have increased the range of uses of the device if he had positioned the foot flush to the right. which should be visible at the time setting. The manufacturer could easily have increased the range of uses of the device if he had positioned the foot flush to the right. 

Nonetheless, the small clip-on exposure meter presents itself as a serious, powerful problem solver for on the go. Without visually violating the design of the camera with a flanged, voluminous housing, the V102 can significantly increase the practical use of many analog cameras that do not have their own intact light meter with practical features and precise measurements. 

 

Update from 02/14/2021: As I learned from CAMERACTIVE, there are further mounting holes under the base of the V102, which, together with the apparent, supposed ventilation hole, enable alternative positioning. This possibility has not yet been indicated in the operating instructions or in the advertising. The foot can be unscrewed and attached offset so that no control elements are covered on a LEICA (see photo below). 

In addition, CAMERACTIVE informs me that the company is actually not the manufacturer of the V102, but has taken over global sales on its behalf.

 


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