Using Sekonic L758D with the Zone System

Using the Sekonic L758D with the Zone System - A quick guide to taking spot readings and using the LCD to display tonal relationships and scene contrast.

Sekonic L758D LCD displays scene contrast as well as Zone System tonal relationships

Time needed: 1 minute.

How to use your Sekonic L758D with the Zone System

  1. Turn the meter on

    and set it to the reflected light mode for 1-degree spot meteringsekonic-L-758D zone system

  2. Set Shutter Speed Priority

    Note “plus” and “minus” display along the bottom of LCD display. The middle “0” reading represents Zone 5 or middle 18% grey. The numbered markings are plus and minus one stop deviations from middle grey. So Zone 4 = “-1”, Zone 3 = “-2”, Zone 6 = “+1” and Zone 7 = “+2”sekonic L758D

  3. Clear any previous readings

    using M.CLEAR button, press until only the middle LCD indicator is flashing at zeroSekonic L758D and Zone System

  4. Take a low light reading

    for Zone 3 (dark grey, just seeing texture) and store in MEMORYSekonic L758D and Zone System

  5. Take another two mid grey readings

    of a general area of interest (middle values) and store in MEMORYSekonic L758D and Zone System

  6. Take a high light reading

    for Zone 7 (luminous grey, with texture) and store in MEMORYSekonic L758D and Zone System

  7. There will now be 4 indicator bars

    equal to the number of readings along the bottom displaySekonic L758D and Zone System

  8. Turn the jog wheel to place low reading (Zone 3) on the -2

    and note how the other indicators fall along the bottom of display, especially the highest value (furtherest to right)
    Sekonic L758D and Zone System

  9. Keep hold of the MID.TONE

    and read off the f stop and shutter speed, this is your exposure for your chosen placement.Sekonic L758D and Zone System

  10. If your high value (far to right) exceeds +2 Zone 7

    then consider reducing development accordingly (ie N-1, N-2) or change the composition

Analog versus digital displays

I have recently started using the Sekonic L758D with the Zone System. For over 30 years I have used a Pentax digital spot meter. In 2009 I had the entire circuitry replaced when the display suddenly stopped working. It is my understanding that Pentax no longer makes this meter.

I purchased the Sekonic L758D as a backup. It has multiple functions, including flash, but its menu and display are no match for Pentax’s simplicity of use. I currently use both meters.

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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.
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  1. Useful stuff. Thanks.

  2. Hi Alex, thanks for that. I have been using my sekonic for years for color work and now as I am getting back into b/w you finally help my understand that midtone button i was wondering about for so long 🙂

  3. Hi Alex I purchased a pentax spot meter some time ago. Recently I got caught out in torrential rain (in NSW not WA) My spot meter was water damaged in the bottom of my pack. I dried it out as best I could but its not working. I took it into a camera repair shop in London court and he said he couldn’t fix it. Do you have any suggestions where I might be able to get it repaired? or is it a lost cause.

    • Hi Peter,
      Pentax is distributed by CR Kennedy is memory serves me correctly. For repairs either contact their head office in Melb or their Perth office if they still have one- check their details on the web.
      All the best,

  4. Hi Alex,
    This is a very useful refresher when moving back and forth from 120 to 4×5 film, even as a long-time L758D user! My first L758D came to grief at Ningaloo Reef when the sand gave way and sent me and meter plunging into the briney. 🙁

    Nowadays the bulk of my work is with RVP50/RDPIII and the L758D taking the place of the rudimentary TTL meter on a Pentax 67. When I’m not doing that it’s sheet RVP on an Ebony SV45TI.


    • Hi Gary, glad you found the article useful! If only sekonic would make a simple finger operated dial for reading off your zones rather (like the pentax digital spot) rather than just the LCD displays with those minuscule numbers. So sekonic if you are listening to this……..

  5. Alex. re my spot meter. I got in touch with CR Kennedy and they said sorry but no can fix so I’m so annoyed with myself that I was out without a lot of protection and got it wet. Thankfully all my other gear survived OK. I continued on using my digital camera spot mter function and got some 4×5 shots that I’m happy with.
    I do have a sekonic L 358 meter but it doesn’t have all the functions that yours has but I can use it to take multiple readings and avg them. So I will continue to use that.

  6. can you use this technique for color negative film like ektar as well? or do you just recommend spot metering the shadow and set it to -2?

    • Hi Chris, the zone system works with colour negative and positive films, even digital. If you meter the shadow then you get a Zone 5 mid 18% grey exposure determination expressed by the meter in terms of the combination of both shutter speed and aperture. If, as you say, you don’t use the recommended aperture and shutter indicated by the meter, but give two stops less (ie -2), then you are exposing the shadow area at Zone 3. That’s two full stops darker than Zone 5. So that can work for your shadow, but you need to know the contrast range of the scene. If your viewfinder contains areas which are brighter than say Zone 8 you might find your colour negatives difficult to print in the darkroom. However, if your workflow is to digitally scan the negatives, then you may be able to retrieve image forming information higher than Zone 8. This would depend upon your specific set up, ie scanning technique and equipment.

  7. I have the 758DR, and don’t ask me why but it’s quite a bit different than yours. I meter my scene, then hold the MID.TONE button while twirling the knob until readings fall where I want them on the “Zone” scale, then use the f stop and speed indicated. Once you release the MID.TONE button, for any reason (like changing the aperture), the settings (f/stop and speed) return to the original settings, so you have to remember the settings. This is way more complicated than the 758D, but it can be done.

    • I am not familiar with the L758DR. As far as I understand, the main difference between the L758D and L758DR is that the latter has the radio card for pocket wizard communication. If you are using the method I describe for the L758D, just make sure you are in aperture priority mode. With the L758D I can move the saved light readings up and down the exposure scale while holding down the Mid.Tone button and rotating the jog wheel. The chosen aperture will remain constant as the exposure time changes. If I release the Mid.Tone button, I can then adjust my aperture up or down by rotating the jog wheel. Then, if I press the Mid.Tone button again, I can scroll the saved metered values up and down the scale with the correct times for the new aperture. I would be interested to hear if other L758DR owners have the same problem you are experiencing.

      • We’re good, Alex. This explanation showed me the error of my ways…my DR behaves just like your D. I just misunderstood what you were saying in the original post. Thx! BTW, the use of the MID.TONE button as described works in all modes (F, T, EV) both incident and spot. At least that’s so on my DR. And just so everyone else understands, once you adjust the jog wheel while MID.TONE is held down, it will revert to the original settings (f stop & T) when you release the button. You have to note the settings while the MID.TONE is held down; those are the settings you want to use.

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