Light Meter Reviews – Comparison Summary

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Light Meters, Uncategorized
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After reviewing a range of different metering choices in actual use, I compiled a summary of findings, as well as my own personal subjective ratings of features and overall utility as a lighting professional. This chart is the collection of all findings in a simple comparison table for those who find this useful (like me):

The Meter Comparison Table in .pdf format.

Note that all of the meters tested were shown to deliver accurate results when testing LED products, as well as conventional lamps. This is not always the case. Many older meters do poorly under LED light sources, either delivering unreliable results, or unstable readings. One example of this are the obsolete Minolta meters manufacturer before LEDs had entered the market. These often deliver CCT results that are far enough off more current meters as to render them essentially useless. Also, some LED products flicker at a frequency that creates moving readings, which never stabilize enough to be readable. The meters I have that exhibit this behavior were excluded from review completely, for obvious reasons.

This is by no means a comprehensive review of all the meters available to designers and engineers. I could have scoured web sites and pulled down more data to include objectively from indirect information. However, that was not my intention, and like the results I get from testing actual products against published data, there is no substitute for directly using and testing any product. The problem for most of us is that testing every option before buying is just not possible, or practical. So, with that in mind, and reflecting the fact that I have both collected more than my share of instruments and put them to use, and have had access to others purchased for and with customers, I offer the reviews as they stand. In this, simply regurgitating what I get from web sites would only pollute the results, as anyone can do that, as that is how I came to purchase those products I have, for both good and bad results. I hope that this this is of value to those making your own decisions, hoping to avoid some of the redundant purchasing decisions I have, that has led to having this many meters collected to review.

That all said, if anyone has a meter they feel was unfairly excluded here, that would like to be added, I offer this. Send me the meter and give me a few weeks time to play with it, and put it to use in tests we are completing on a regular basis. This includes whatever software is required to create a complete picture of the product in actual use. I’ll add what I find to the meter reviews by adding an entry for the specific product, and update the summary comparison table before returning the meter – unless I find I can’t live without it and find myself compelled to add to my collection – which we can discuss at the time.

  1. Andrej Orgulan says:

    Thanks for this comparison, it is very useful.
    How would you rate compact UPRtek MK350D? I’m looking something compact (like passport or this compact MK350) for educational purposes.

    And, if you can tell, how do you rate lighting passport and UPRtek against Minolta in term of accuracy for i.e. x,y CIE 1931 (which is closer to Minolta readings)?

    Thanks for your replay and great article.


  2. kwillmorth says:

    I only reported on the meters I have tested and/or own personally, so cannot speak to the MK350D unit. It appears to be a nice part, and since it uses the same technology and core components, should be equivalent to the 350S. As far as accuracy, all returned virtually identical results. When comparing one to the other, they were within the tolerances of each of the meters themselves, so I saw no advantage in reading accuracy between them. I know that some meters return values with greater fidelity, beyond the .xxx range. I question the value of this, since this level of hyper accuracy is not of much value to 99% of the population, and for those who need that fidelity, low cost portable meters are not what they are interested in for numerous other reasons.

  3. Graeme Gill says:

    An alternative to the all in one instruments is the ArgyllPRO ColorMeter application plus a suitable USB connected Spectrometer, such as the ColorMunki Spectrometer at an entry cost below the spectrometers listed above, or an i1Pro spectrometer or up to a JETI 1211 at the high end. if any of that sounds interesting.

    • kwillmorth says:

      The cost of most USB spectrometers for photometric application are more than those reviewed, and without being packaged with the software specifically, require the end user to put the parts together and verify the results. I have not included these options simply because I only review products I have had direct experience with in actual end-use conditions, or own myself. I do not offer opinion or reviews on products based on spec sheets and marketing information, as I have found that there are many promises and claims made in this modern market place, that are not aligned with actual performance or capabilities. I prefer solutions that are straightforward, packaged solutions, as it means only one support contact is required to resolve issues. Mixing and matching components is always an option, but not one I took here, nor have direct experience with here, so are not included.

  4. Kevin- I’ve seen a few newcomers to the spectrometer world since your last review (Aug 2014). Have you had a chance to work with the following?
    * Lighting Passport Standard Pro
    * Metrue Sim-2
    * UPRtek MK350N_Plus

    Looking forward to your take.

    • kwillmorth says:

      I have a customer that recently added the UPRtek MK350N Plus to the lab we set up for them, so I’ve had a little time to work with it. The N series, including the plus is essentially the same as the MK350S with a smaller size case/display, while the plus adds flicker % measurement. I did not see any advantage in general terms, at least in the uses I’ve had for these meters. Personally, I don’t believe that flicker % is that important a measurement, since it does not indicate modulation depth, frequency, or flicker factor, which are data points that pout flicker % in proper perspective (a larger topic covered elsewhere). The Lighting Passport Standard pro looks interesting, but I won’t be re-purchasing my existing Passport after barely more than a year in service – so won’t likely have the newer generation to use for some time. I do not have any experience with the Metrue, other than to pick one up and gab with a sales rep at a trade show, so have nothing to offer of substance here. I don’t render opinions on these devices without working experience with them. Anyone can do a spec sheet review so common on the inter-webs. I don’t see that type of review adding any real value, so won’t go down that road.

  5. FLUOTEC says:

    Reblogged this on FLUOTEC and commented:
    Note that all of the meters tested were shown to deliver accurate results when testing LED products, as well as conventional lamps. This is not always the case. Many older meters do poorly under LED light sources, either delivering unreliable results, or unstable readings.

    • kwillmorth says:

      Agreed. I’ve experienced some of the older green-filtered Footcandle meters returning inconsistent results with LEDs, and some fluorescent sources, as well as HPS and Metal Halide. Lower cost light meters tend to be the worst, as they use simple photocell sensors calibrated by adding green or gray filters to attain a specific result under what I can only assume, was a halogen reference source. That said, none of the meters in the test, including the oldest, exhibited any significant variation under LED light vs halogen. I will qualify, however, that I do very little metering of conventional lamps, so cannot say with certainty that these devices are 100% across all light sources. I believe the color meters will be best, as they have a broad sensing range, while the simpler light-only sensor heads my still have issues with sources delivering narrow spectrum output, like and HPS or LPS source and some high CCT LEDs.

  6. FLUOTEC says:

    Great post

  7. Francois-Xavier Morin says:

    Following Kevin’s Meter Testing (August 2014), the Montreal IES section purchased 10x AMprobe LM200LED as they seem like a good bang for the buck. The intent was to simply teach students how to use and manipulate a light meter and assess existing surfaces’ reflectances. Might not be perfect, but at 90$CDN ea., it works for us.

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