The Reveni Labs light meter is a Canadian-made, 3D-printed, shoe-mounted meter that prides itself on its ultra-compact profile, precise metering, and low weight.
But why wouldn’t a camera have a light meter? Like I said in my review of the Doomo Meter D (I will reference that review quite a lot during this one), most cameras after the 1960s DID have light meters.
The exceptions are many professional cameras and older models: the Hasselblad 500C, Nikon F, and Leica M3 come to mind. These cameras represented the cream of the crop in terms of professional design, but came without light meters. Why?
Generally, professionals were expected to know the rules of exposure, or they used something like a spot meter to get ultra-precise measurements. The center-weighted average/match needle combination of most in-camera meters of the time simply weren’t reliable or accurate enough.
We could spend hours talking about the way professionals like Ansel Adams metered their shots, and our friends at Casual Photophile spent three articles doing just that. For now, let’s get to the Reveni.
The Reveni is a product of the new industry sprouting up around analog photography. It’s now profitable to bring new products to market, especially via Kickstarter or other crowd-funding sources.
With ten times their expected budget, you’d expect a lot from the diminutive little sugar cube light meter. Does it match the hype?
Well, yes. If you look at the original marketing for the meter, it was sold as a “Tiny Meter For Your Old Cameras”. The Reveni is TINY, measuring only 23x22x18mm and weighing 9g with the LR44 battery inside.
By that metric, the Reveni is a total success. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and it does it well. It’s the smallest light meter on the market by quite a wide margin.
We received a test shipment of Revenis (Revenies? Who knows.) and some accessories. The accessories were made after the success of the Kickstarter campaign, and include things like an offset shoe for Barnack Leicas and a double shoe for using the meter and an external viewfinder at the same time.
It’s all quite useful stuff. The double shoe would be great for my Zeiss Ikon Nettar so I could use my rangefinder and meter at the same time, and the offset shoe is a great spacer for my FED-2, which the meter barely fits on otherwise. God only knows why the Soviets made the flash shoe so much lower than the top of the camera, but the Doomo doesn’t fit at all.
That being said, my coworkers and I were disappointed with the accessories. They are 3D printed from powder just like the meters, but are not made as well. Almost immediately after installing the accessories, I noticed powder residue on my fingers and camera. I could scratch the top layer off with my fingernail quite easily.
Aside from that, the accessories just feel like they aren’t built precisely. They fit a bit loosely in every shoe I’ve put them in, bend under pressure, and don’t hold the meter very well.
Over the few weeks I’ve had the Reveni, I can’t count how many times it has fallen out of the offset shoe in my bag. I’m worried that eventually it will break and I’ll lose the meter.
But those are the accessories that most people won’t need, not the meter itself. Although the meter is also 3D printed, it feels a lot more sturdy and doesn’t leave powder on your camera.
The biggest complaint I have about the actual meter’s design is that mine got scratched up quite easily because it was loose in my bag after falling off its own accessory. The Doomo comes with a rubber sticker that helps the meter grip, just saying.
The Reveni takes a standard LR44 battery, and installing it is incredibly easy. No screws or disassembly required, just a simple battery tray. This scores it points over the Doomo, which requires unscrewing the bottom plate to insert the non-standard battery.
The Reveni’s control scheme is entirely button-based, with an LCD screen on the back. It was a bit confusing for me at first, with two arrow buttons, a power button, and a button labeled “M”. My first instinct was that “M” stood for Meter or Measure, but it opened the menu.
In the menu, you can change the exposure compensation, set the continuous metering readout, calibrate the meter, and change the ISO. If I could make a suggestion, it would be to put ISO closer to the beginning of the menu. I have to change that with almost every roll, so it doesn’t make sense for it to be so late in the menu.
The power button is also the measuring button. Makes sense! The LCD readout is bright enough to see in darkness, and quite intuitive. Aperture in the top left, shutter speed below, with an arrow and a ball/line diagram on the right side. The arrow signifies which “priority mode” you’re in, or which setting (shutter/aperture) the arrow buttons on top will adjust.
The ball/line diagram is another story. It took some figuring out, but the ball/line signifies how far above/below the exact stop the reading is. Despite working steplessly, the Reveni converts its readings into hard, numeric intervals. This means that two very slightly different light levels might give the exact same meter reading, which could lead to over/underexposure depending on how precise you need to be.
Hope that makes sense! It's a bit complicated.
The ball/line diagram is a pretty creative solution to this problem, and allows the Reveni to give us simple, easy to understand readings that are also quite precise.
The Reveni can also be user-calibrated. As Hamish from 35mmc points out, some external light meters may not be accurate out of the box. Being able to calibrate it next to a known, trusted meter is a nice touch.
Overall, the display itself is quite nice, and it’s nice to have such a wide array of metering possibilities even if most of them aren’t included in normal photography.
The meter is quoted as being sensitive to EV0.5 to EV20 at ISO 100. For reference, EV1 at ISO 100 would translate to a 60 second exposure at f11, and EV20 at f11 would require a shutter speed of 1/8000th.
If that’s too much math for you, you’re not alone, and I apologize. Just know that the Reveni has you covered in basically every possible lighting situation.
The Reveni can also do continuous readings, in either EVs or shutter speed/aperture combinations. You just have to hold the power button down. I’m not sure why you’d need this, but it’s there if you do, and it’s quite neat.
It may not be brushed metal with clicky, tactile dials like the Doomo, but the Reveni’s design is no-frills, functional, and simple. Despite its miniature size, the buttons are easy to find and, more importantly, easy to understand.
The 3D-printed aesthetic is.. Polarizing, to say the least. Some will like it, some will hate it. I find it less than ideal. After such a successful Kickstarter campaign and so many meters sold, it’s hard to imagine that better materials are outside of the budget, especially if it means a sleeker look and better build quality.
It seems, however, with the announcement of the Reveni Spot Meter, that the company intends to move forward with this material and design aesthetic. Hooray for those who like it, and boo for those who don’t.
With the Reveni, it feels like function was more important than style, which I can appreciate. Although the Doomo seems to fit naturally on almost any classic camera I put it on, I am a shooter primarily. The utility of the tool should be more important than how it looks while working.
So, long-winded descriptions aside, how does the Reveni work?
Using the Reveni
When I reviewed the Doomo, I trekked out into -25ºC winter for one day to shoot a few rolls. We didn’t get much sunlight this winter, so I had to make the most of it. With Spring popping up, though, I decided to give the Reveni a longer time to shine.
Right away, though, I had issues. As I mentioned before, the accessories that came with our Revenis were.. Not great. For the first two weeks, I had the Reveni sitting in the offset shoe on my FED-2. In that time, it must have fallen off 15 or 16 times.
Just as often, I found the meter lying in my bag, powered on. Weird, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
Soon, I saw scratches and abrasions all over the top of the meter. That 3D printed material just isn’t as rugged as the metal its competitors are made of.
Fortunately, the scratching is only really visible from close up, under certain lights. Unfortunately, combining them with the frailty of the accessories left me with a really sour taste in my mouth. The whole setup felt cheap, almost unfinished.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the most careful with my gear. I’d consider myself pretty average in that respect. I’m not throwing my bag around, slamming it into everything, but I’m also not gently resting each camera in a vacuum-sealed container and kissing them goodnight. I expect my gear to get a bit beat up from use, but over the course of months or years, not days.
But okay, how is it to actually use? Quite good, actually. It tells you what settings to use, numerically, and you put them on your camera. After the reading, you can use the arrow keys to cycle through appropriate combinations of aperture and shutter speed, which is really nice. The Synchro-Compur system rides on, fans of Hasselblads and Kodak Retinas. Yee-haw.
This makes the Reveni quite fast to use, in practice. I found it easier to take a reading and understand what other combinations I could use than with the dial system of the Doomo, for some reason. The Reveni really gets out of your way, which is what you want in a light meter.
It’s also nice in subdued light, where the OLED screen really.. Shines. Get it? But yeah, being able to see exactly what the meter is reading regardless of light conditions is incredibly helpful.
So overall, the meter works well. Really well, even. It gives you exactly what you need in a clear, simple way that most people can understand. Even though I didn’t use it at night, it also opens up night photography in a way that the Doomo simply can’t match. If you do night photography, you know how necessary an external meter is.
The same day I’m writing this, I spent a few hours walking around the Kaupinojan woods. It’s a large natural park with trails that I walked around for my review of the Yashica Electro 35, and a great spot for content, even on cloudy days.
After a few hours in the woods, I found the Reveni starting up slower and slower. What was instant when I first loaded the battery became 2 seconds, then 5, then over 10 seconds just to power on and take a reading.
As the sun set between the trees, I sat and worried that my meter was broken. Maybe I had bumped it too hard, or the battery wasn’t making contact. Taking the battery out and re-inserting it didn’t help. Eventually, the meter would only read for a split second before turning off.
I had been using my Reveni for probably three weeks by this point, but only used it heavily for two or three days. I couldn’t imagine the battery being genuinely dead after so little use.
Then I remembered finding the meter powered on, lying in my bag. Could it have been sitting in there, powered on, draining the battery? When I got home from my walk in the woods I looked up the battery life; three hours. Seriously? Three hours?
That’s three hours of continuous use, and the meter normally only stays on for a few seconds when you use it, but still. Swapping out LR44s every few weeks is not my idea of fun or functional. My Doomo, which I got in January, is still kicking with its original battery. It’s rated for 60 hours of continuous use, or three to five months of sporadic use.
I’ll give the Reveni the benefit of the doubt and say that it drained in my bag. I did find it powered on more than once. Even with this in mind, though, 3 hours of battery life compared to 60, or 20 with the KEKS, is a hard pill to swallow. The OLED display assumedly uses quite a bit of power. Maybe a brightness adjustment could help?
Overall, while the meter worked well, there are quite a few things that make it hard to recommend. But performance is the most important thing, right? Did the Reveni help me get proper exposure? How did the photos turn out?
Over the few weeks I had the Reveni, I fitted it to both my trusty FED-2 and a Diax IIb. Unfortunately, the Diax destroyed the roll I put through it, so my FED-2 took all the photos below. I used Kodak Gold 200 to capture these scenes, mostly of Yyteri, a large beach on the Western coast of Finland.
The harsh light of sunset doesn't seem to bother the Reveni too much, although mine generally biased towards underexposure. The good thing, though, is that I can always calibrate it up a bit!
Overall, the Reveni handled challenging light quite well. Kodak Gold is a pretty flexible film, but it's far less flexible than Portra, which I normally shoot for these reviews. I felt confident in the Reveni's metering abilities, and the results matched what I was envisioning.
I find myself with mixed feelings on the Reveni. When it worked, it worked admirably. I didn’t connect with its utilitarian style the way I connected with the Doomo, but I understand why some may prefer it to the competition.
The Reveni, for example, is the clear choice for night photography. It’s also very small and light, which means it can fit onto more cameras. My FED-2 was happy to finally be able to use a light meter.
It’s also quite flexible and precise, allowing for EV reading, continuous metering, and the clever ball/line diagram that gives ultra-precise mid-step readings.
For me, though, it doesn’t quite fit. The build quality is lacking, but is very fixable. Using an injection mold or metal casing would improve the build quality and feel without sacrificing what makes the Reveni special. It could still be smaller and lighter than its competition.
As it is, tbe build quality doesn't feel right. It’s frankly unacceptable that my fingernails can scratch the material. I bite my nails, they're not long or sharp. If you consider the price point and how much they generated on Kickstarter, it's hard to make excuses. The Reveni sells for the same price as the Doomo and KEKS, both of which use aluminum or other metal.
Looking at them side-by-side, I just don’t think the Reveni will last as long.
The external light meter market is getting a bit crowded these days, and with so many options it can be hard to know which to pick. Each one provides a different form factor and suits a different use case, so it’s important to carefully consider each before buying one.
It’s also important to remember that even if I like a certain meter, that doesn’t mean you will. Our shooting styles are probably totally different. We’re different people.
In terms of the actual meter itself, the Reveni will probably only see use during the night. Its size and weight are very appealing, but the poor build quality and battery are impossible to ignore. In all situations except night photography, I’d choose the Doomo.
It’s a personal choice, but the process involved in shooting older cameras is a big reason why I love them, and the Doomo fits more neatly into that process for me.
Which meter will work best for you? Does the Reveni’s tiny size justify some of its faults in your eyes? Which control scheme do you prefer, buttons or dials? Only after asking these questions can you decide which light meter team to ally yourself with!