Back in September of 2021, I received a package from Cameractive, an online store based in China. In it, were two light meters for me to test and review. The first one, the Doomo-D was reviewed several months ago here on RCB. The second meter, a much smaller unit, the Cooldark V102 light meter, took me some time to get around to testing it.
|Cooldark V102 light meter mounted in the hot-shoe|
If you do any searching for shoe-mount light meters, you’ll come up with quite a few new meters that have only recently been available. I have already reviewed the DOOMO-D which features analog dials to get a reading, much like the Voigtlander VC II. A different class of light meters, which seems to have originated with the Raveni Labs light meter, utilize a small OLED screen with the controls being several buttons on the top, with a front-facing sensor. When I say tiny, they are barely larger than the flash shoe they mount to. A good review of a series of shoe-mount light meters is on 35mmc.
My primary concern over the Raveni Labs meter was the fiddly nature of the controls, and of course, their size, and the price. It’s bad enough that I have a problem with texting. Second, was my fear that the display would be hard to read in full sun. So, I put off buying one when they first appeared. When the Cooldark 102 meter arrived to review, I was soon away for a long trip to the Southwest, and didn't test it right away. Finally, in Nov./Dec. 2021 I had the time to test the meter and give it a whirl.
The Cooldark V102 Light Meter
I wasn’t familiar with the name, but I was intrigued by the small size. It’s barely over an inch wide, and what’s immediately apparent is a small USB port on the left side. This meter has a rechargeable battery that is charged via the USB-C port. Great idea! The manufacturer claims 20 hrs of continuous use on one charge. Since I only need it on for a few seconds at a time, that’s going to work fine for me.
There is no instruction manual with the meter, but if you point your smartphone at the QR code on the package, it takes you to an online manual, which I printed out. The page at Cameractive also has a diagram that shows the controls – which are pretty easy to figure out.
• Metering Angle: 30 degrees
• Aperture Range: F1-F64
• ISO: 6-6400
• Shutter Speed: 8s -1/2000s
• Dimension: 27mm x 30mm x 13mm
• Battery Capacity:120mAh
• Battery Life: 20hrs non-stop
• Weight: 12 grams
Of course, it weighs next to nothing! After I charged it up – I pressed the metering button (lower L) and the display sprang to life. Setting the ISO, mode, etc., are accomplished by pressing the upper L button and the right side buttons adjust the settings. Pretty simple. The small metal buttons are easy to operate for me. The meter has aperture and shutter priority modes, which is really all you need. When it’s in Aperture Priority, the arrow is on the aperture setting, and if in Shutter Priority, the arrow is on the selected shutter speed. It’s reflective metering, which is pretty much what we do most of the time. This tiny meter also is priced right - $45, not including shipping.
I mounted the meter on my Ricoh 35 ZF, and was very pleased with the display being easy to read in most conditions – in really bright sun, I needed to shade the screen to read it. The readings were consistent with my iPhone metering app, as well as with my Nikon FE2 that I was using. I was originally concerned about the placement of the screen on the top and not the rear, but in use, it was perfectly fine.
For a small camera, the Cooldark 102 meter is really perfect, as it doesn’t get in the way of anything. The only downside to such a small meter is that it could easily be lost – but as long as I keep it on a hot shoe, it’s not going to fall off. I think it's a great choice to mount on a camera such as an Argus C3 or C4, Kodak Retina, and all those old fully manual cameras that have either a cold-shoe or hot-shoe and either a non-working meter or no meter at all. At the current price, you may want to buy a couple of them. Thanks to Zhang at Cameractive for sending this delightful little meter!