KEKS EM-01 Light Meter Review

KEKS EM-01 Light Meter Review

1800 1012 James Tocchio

The KEKS EM-01 is a compact, well-made and functionally elegant shoe-mount light meter. It’s described on the manufacturer’s website as “a whole new generation light meter.” After using it for a month or so, I’m not sure what that means. But I do know what this light meter means to me – it means that I can finally use my favorite camera and actually make decent photos with it!

A couple of years ago in celebration of a big accomplishment, I spent $4,500 to buy myself the best film camera that Nikon ever made. I expected that the Nikon SP 2005 Limited Edition, a perfect reproduction of the Nikon SP of 1957, would be the camera I used every day for the rest of my life. Since then I’ve only run about ten rolls of film through it. This mismatch of expectation and reality exists for one reason – the Nikon SP doesn’t have a light meter.

Many years ago I could meter by eye. Squint at the scene, choose my aperture, and then estimate the shutter speed. Most of the time I’d get it right; a decent photo made. The ability to do this has left me. I’ve no idea why. Maybe I have more on my mind these days, or maybe my brain was damaged that time I fell over at the gym and woke up three minutes later unable to speak. Maybe I should’ve told my doctor about that.

Whatever the cause, I’ve accepted the truth – I can no longer meter by eye and I’d largely given up on the Nikon SP, the best and most valuable camera I own. It’s been sitting in my office for a year or two, just a decoration. Something to look at occasionally and say “Ah, such a pretty camera.” A camera I take out once every few months, shoot, and put away again after being frustrated by photos that look nothing like the way that I wanted them to look.

I know that this shouldn’t have stopped me. I could’ve carried an external meter, but the decent ones all cost upwards of $200 and I don’t like carrying bulky things in my pockets. I could’ve used my phone to meter, but I don’t like fiddling with my phone when I’m taking photos. The best solution seemed to be the shoe-mount Voigtländer VC Speed Meter II, and this is indeed an excellent product and a very attractive answer to the problem of meter-less cameras. But I didn’t love the top-mounted three-LED readout, and its relatively high price point of $225 kept me from buying one.

There just wasn’t a perfect solution to my particular problem. Until I found the KEKS EM-01 shoe-mount light meter.

Details and Specs of the KEKS EM-01 Light Meter

I’m sure that there’s quite a great deal of significant engineering and design behind the KEKS EM-01 light meter. But on paper at least, it’s a simple device. Here are the quick specs.

  • Construction – Aluminum body, steel screws, plastic mount
  • Metering – 30º average metering (reflected light)
  • Aperture Range – F/1.0 to F/64; 1/3 stop increments
  • Shutter Speed Range – 30 seconds to 1/6400 of a second; 1/3 stop increments
  • ISO Range – 50 to 8000; 1/3 stop increments
  • Display – 0.91″ OLED
  • Battery – Rechargable 220mAh
  • Battery Life Per Charge – 20 hours continuous metering
  • Charging – 5V/450mA via USB-C
  • Mount – Shoe mount, adjustable to size and position

What’s in the Box?

The light meter comes in a small black box, and inside this box is the meter itself, a USB-C cable for charging the battery, two additional plastic shoe mounts of differing sizes, and a tiny hex wrench to remove and install these shoe mounts. Instructions for use of the meter can be found attached to the inside of the box lid.

That’s all that comes with the meter, and that’s all you’ll need. Fit the correct mount size for your camera’s hot or cold shoe, and pop the meter onto your camera. You’re done.

Using the KEKS EM-01

The KEKS EM-01 mounts to any camera with a hot or cold shoe, and its mounting point is adjustable. By unscrewing the mount we’re able to attach larger or smaller mounts, as well as position the mount in the center or to the side of the bottom of the meter. This makes the meter well-suited to nearly any camera.

Once the meter is mounted to the camera, use is simple. To set the ISO, hold the metering button (the one on the back of the unit next to the screen) and then press either up or down on the aperture adjustment. Once you’ve selected the right ISO, you’re ready to meter.

The unit works in a way that’s similar to a camera’s aperture-priority or shutter-priority mode. After setting the ISO we then select either the desired aperture or shutter speed, after which pressing the metering button on the back will result in an instant calculation and display of the final variable which will result in a correct exposure.

Say we’re shooting 400 ISO film and we want to shoot a shot at F/8. We set our ISO to 400, and then simply press the aperture button up or down until it’s set to F/8. After that, pressing the metering button will tell us which shutter speed we should choose. The ISO, aperture, and shutter speed values are all adjustable and displayed in increments of 1/3rd of a stop.

The KEKS EM-01’s 30º metering angle of view strikes a good balance between average and selective metering. It corresponds well with the readings I’m getting from my Leica R5 in side-by-side comparison when the R5 is set to selective metering mode. For users accustomed to average metering, like the 60/40 split of most Nikon SLRs, for example, this meter will measure more precisely. It may take some getting used to, but more accurate metering is usually a good thing.

The OLED display shows the currently-set ISO value, as well as the scene’s exposure value (EV), and a lux reading. It of course also displays the shutter speed and aperture, selectable by the user. It’s bright and vibrant, and entirely usable even in direct sunlight. There’s a battery status indicator as well, which flashes when the battery is low and stops flashing when the meter is fully charged. I’ve not yet had to charge mine.

The buttons click with a pleasant snappiness, and the OLED shines nice and bright. Once I found the mount that fit my Nikon SP perfectly, the unit slips into place snugly. The aluminum cover is nicely finished. The thing looks great.

Is the KEKS EM-01 a perfect product? No, and for some users it won’t be the right answer. There are no provisions made for metering exposure compensation, unless we simply adjust our ISO to match our desired push/pull. It lacks the precise spot-metering mode that some more advanced meters offer. In addition, I can imagine the text on the OLED screen being too small for some users who suffer from troubled eyesight. I also wish the mount attachments were made of aluminum. The plastic mount, to me, keeps the KEKS EM-01 from being a perfect product. These issues noted, this light meter will be all we need and nothing we don’t for most people shooting film on meter-less cameras today.

Alternatives

You can buy more serious handheld light meters, like the ones made by Sekonic, Gossen, and others, and in many cases these meters will do more than the KEKS EM-01 – things like flash calculation and spot metering, as well as average metering. But meters with this expanded functionality are bigger, heavier, and more expensive than the KEKS. There’s the Voigtländer VC Meter II, mentioned earlier, but as also mentioned, this meter is about two times more expensive than the KEKS. All of these solutions are excellent products if you don’t mind the extra cost and weight.

The closest competitor in price and specification to the KEKS EM-01 is the Kickstarter-funded Reveni Labs light meter. This 3D printed light meter is about 15% less expensive compared with the KEKS unit, which is a real benefit. This makes the Reveni Labs light meter a better buy for those on a budget. Incidentally the Reveni Labs meter uses button cell batteries as opposed to the KEKS rechargeable battery, and the Reveni Labs meter has a 45º metering field of view, which is less selective than the KEKS. I’ve not used the Reveni Labs meter myself, so I’ll refrain form commenting on its use or appearance. I’m sure it’s a very good product.

Where to Buy the KEKS EM-01

As of this writing, the KEKS EM-01 is backordered with production occurring in batches. New units are scheduled to ship about one month from time of order. My contact at the company has told me that the delays have been caused, in part, by the current global pandemic and that production should be streamlined as time goes on. For now, though, if you want a KEKS EM-01 you’re best served to order it today and patiently wait for its arrival about one month later.

Interested customers can place their orders directly from the KEKS Cameras website, where the KEKS EM-01 will costs $130 shipped to the United States from the company’s Taiwan headquarters.

I’m also happy to announce that my own camera shop is the first shop within the United States to stock the KEKS EM-01. I was so impressed by this little device that I wanted to help KEKS reach more customers, and to be able to offer U.S.-based customers faster shipping when the production delays are eventually solved (for now we are backordered as well).

Consider this a glowing endorsement of the product, but let me also be clear – as always when receiving products from manufacturers or my retail partners like B&H Photo, my editorial review was not influenced by the affiliate or retail side of the business. Had my experience with the KEKS EM-01 been a negative one, I simply wouldn’t be stocking them in my store, as has been the case with countless other accessory products that I’ve tested over the years. Were I in this for money, I’d be selling every strap and bag that companies have sent me over the years, and telling you that each one will change your life. This is not the case.

If you’d like to buy your meter from me, please visit my shop. If you’d like to buy any of the other excellent meters I’ve linked to in this article, you should do that. I hope that after more than six years of running Casual Photophile I’ve established trust with my readers, but clarity is always good. Happy shooting, everyone.

Buy the KEKS EM-01 light meter from KEKS Cameras here

Buy it from our own F Stop Cameras


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James Tocchio

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
22 comments
  • Hi Jim,
    Monday morning in southern New England; already hot and humid. I’ve got my final two replacement windows to install this morning. I should be excited because it’s the end of a project I foolishly started when the weather started to turn into a heat wave with high humidity. But no, I read about the nifty light meter you reviewed and I’m happy.
    I have a cigar box full of functional lightmeters: analog & digital Gossens, a tiny Sekonic, Leica MR-4, a pair of Weston V’s and a Voigtlander II clip on meter. I’m a meter geek. But my mild obsession with metering is rooted in the knowledge that a properly exposed (and processed) B&W negative makes darkroom time creative rather than corrective.
    I like this meter. The ability to recharge rather than replace batteries, the design of the unit and the ability to read the settings from the back are all pluses.
    The problem I have with the Voigtlander is remembering to transfer the meter settings to my camera. I don’t have the problem with a hand-held meter, but for some reason, I sometimes find myself making a correct reading, then not adjusting the camera. Duh.
    But I think this meter will not present the same problem because the readout is on the back, it’s presented as an LED setting, and there are not dials to set (setting the dials sometimes tricks me into thinking I’ve set the camera.) I’ll order one from you in the near future, after I’ve completed the window job.
    Dan

    • Hi Dan. Good luck in the heat. Today is supposed to be a scorcher! Stay hydrated and take your time. And if you need to take a break, well, I’m sure you can find a camera or two to tinker with.

  • I would remove any mention of products competing with the one you sell. It’s just bad ethics given your obvious conflict of interest.

    • Hi Toto. I’ve been completely transparent. I’m selling a product in my shop after reviewing and being impressed. I’ve given numerous alternatives within the article that buyers can purchase, and encouraged buyers to buy other items if those items fit their needs better than this particular item.

      I’m sorry. I run a camera shop. I sell cameras. I also write about them. At no time in the past six years of running both of these businesses have I ever recommended a product based on my own financial interest. I’m sorry that you don’t trust me and I don’t know how I can improve that for you.

    • Toto, your post makes no sense unless you are joking. By mentioning other competing products which other companies sell, James is in fact being thoroughly ethical and fair.

    • How can mentioning your comptetitors on equal terms be bad ethics? I would have thought it was the opposite, personally. Sounds like pretty fair ethics to me.

    • Wait, what ? He not only mentioned other products that might be more appealing to people but also listed other places to buy the item he was talking about – how is that bad ethics or a conflict of interest ?

  • This is so great, exactly meets the requirements of what I need. I’ve placed a preorder hopefully it’s not too long of a wait!

    I loved your overview of the Nikon SP. I one day hope to own one myself. I was wondering if you’re going to post the full review that you mention at the end of your overview?

    • I will write the full review soon. I’ve learned a lot about the camera in use, even my limited use of about 350 photos with it, that I find extremely rewarding but many other things that I find very frustrating. This new light meter has helped me shoot it quite a bit more recently, and I’ll continue doing so until I have enough material for the writeup. Shouldn’t be too long now. Thanks for your patience!

      • I look forward to it! I’m currently on the hunt for an S3 Millenium first as it is more within my budget with the hope that I can get the SP further down the track. Having both the modern interpretations of the 35mm and 50mm would make a perfect kit for me.

  • After reading this write-up, I am left at a bit of a loss. The one important piece of information left out of this whole article is the actual price of the KEKS EM-01 meter. Could this not have been added into the Details and Specs section of the write-up? You mention that it costs less than the $225 Voigtlander VC Speed Meter II and $20 more than the Reveni Labs shoe-mount 3D printed meter. Why be so coy about how much this thing costs, unless the whole point was to direct potential clients to your own F-stop Cameras website? This was more of an Ad than a review.

    • Excellent point about the price, and this was simply an oversight. I’ve added the price of the meter into the article, which is $130 from KEKS’ website, shipped to the USA. Prices vary for Europe, but I don’t have those numbers. We’re following KEKS’ directives with pricing in my shop. There’s no reason to buy the meter from my shop, except that it helps us do what we do here. If that’s of any value to readers then they can make that decision.

      I’ve heard just a couple of comments like yours and I take them seriously. My shop and this website are not large operations. There is nobody making decisions here except for me, and brand partnerships are a new frontier for me. I hoped that running this site at great cost to my business for six years would have bought us some reader trust, but maybe I’m wrong about that. I feel like this review was objective, and in fact the review was written before KEKS and I had ever discussed the possibility of stocking their meters.

      Here’s a peek behind the curtain – this site is a financial loss year after year. Unlike other sites in this tiny niche (photography) I actually pay my writers for their work. I do this because it’s fair and I think it helps people enjoy photography a little bit more than they might if the site didn’t exist. I could be wrong about that. Either way, this has always been a labor of love.

      I’m trying to partner with brands that I admire in an effort to actually turn this website into an entity which adds to my business, rather than one which deducts from it. One of the ways I’ve sought to do this is to find brands who need retail partners to sell their products. I wouldn’t sell their products in my shop unless I personally believed in the product. I think this meter is good. I thought I was transparent in the article, and I thought I provided thoughtful alternatives to this product which are not stocked in my shop.

      Anyway, please let me know if you have any suggestions for improving what I’m doing on this site.

      • I totally disagree Lee, this was a review, not an advert. It felt very impartial and objective. James, you are doing a great job on this site and any regular reader can see you are above reproach on these issues. I think the article was well written, objective and fair, and ‘so what?’ if you want to put out an advert? It’s a free to read site, but no sites are free to run. Actually being married to a web developer has opened my eyes to the actual costs of building and running a site. It’s your site damnit, and if you want to open up revenues from it, go for it. People can go to other sites with ugly adverts all over the place, something your site thankfully lacks.

  • Love the review. I have been looking into getting a handheld light meter but they are not within my budget. Not only is this less expensive but it is also compact. I placed my order halfway through reading the article. It will be a great help on my Bronica and my Nikon S2. Keep up the great work. Thank you for providing all this information in this article and on the rest of your site.

  • James you shill! Selling your website to big pharma! Oh wait, actually it’s a small company and we’re supposed to be all in this together because #filmisnotdead and all that.

    James, don’t worry about these comments, they seem to be the norm on this kind of website. Hamish gets the same comments all the time.

    In times when it’s difficult to tell truth from fiction, people are right to question what they see, or read; it’s just I think that sometimes the compass is pointing in the wrong direction, and it’s easy to copy what someone else said elsewhere.

    No need to justify yourself, you’re doing good!

  • Loved this review for an interesting little meter! I saw it on Instagram and then found this page on the google front page! Your SEO is clearly working. Personally I value your transparency! And it makes me want to come back 🙂

  • I disagree that it being rechargeable is a bonus.
    Eventually that lithium battery, like the one in your phone will become old and tired and need replacing, not so easy to do when its soldered into the unit.
    That gives this meter a finite lifespan as opposed to the Gossens or Sekonics, that have been around for 40-50 years and are still functioning.

  • I was excited about this meter until I read the ISO range – 50 to 8000. Currently I am shooting Lomo Fantome 8, Babylon 13, Adox CMS 20 II and there are a bunch of other films currently available that are under ISO 50.
    The Voigtlander VCII meter is able to meter down to ISO 12 (it indicates 25 but I have measured it down to 12 – just move the dial equidistant past 25). The old school dials on it, I think, match classic cameras better than LEDs/OLEDS etc. But that is a separate matter.
    The new Reveni reads from ISO 1 to 12,800. So that’s handy.

    p.s. the easiest way to get back into estimating meter readings is to walk around with a light meter, guess the reading of whatever you are looking at, then check with the light meter to see what it actually is. In a very short period of time you will get it. (alternatively doing the same with a camera with a built in meter would do the same thing).

  • James,

    Can you update on the shipping status of the light meter? Ordered one from FSTOPCAMERAS on day one of this review and have not heard anything since. Sent you an email there last Friday and no answer.

    Thanks,

    • Hi there. The black ones have shipped out this week. Silver are still delayed. This is a manufacturer delay, and I’m very frustrated about it. In the future we will never issue pre-orders without guarantees from the supplier.

      • James,

        1. Hope you are feeling better.
        2. Thanks for the update (got the confirmation in email).
        3. I appreciate your work here on CP

  • I bought one of these recently and have been trying it out. In many ways, great. But…

    The review mentions accuracy and – specifically – being better than a Nikon SLR. Well, I really like the centre-weight meter on my FM2 and find I can depend on it, used with a little thought, to give great results in most circumstances. If you want true average – move around the scene, set exposure to a mid point. Weighted to the subject – meter on the subject. Especially light or dark subject, and you don’t mind the exposure elsewhere – add or subtract a stop. This is good, intuitive and reliable. You can even get an approximation to the zone system with shadow on zone 3 if you want to try that way or the scene demands.

    The Keks 30˚ is actually like a 28mm lens – and then it is fully average over that area. This means that if there is any bright sky – or the sun – way outside of the standard-lens (35/50mm) view, it will dramatically influence the metering. Often I find it is up to 3 stops out vs the Nikon. Taking a shot on my DSLR (I know, ISO 100 is not exactly 100 etc), the FE2 metering is pretty bang on, the Keks way way under in almost all outdoor scenarios. Yes, I can learn this and compensate, and be within a stop or so. But I can meter once or twice with my phone, guess the rest of the time, and be within a stop or so – without the bulk of a light meter appendage.

    Everything is there with this product, but it’s just not quite enough to stick a 30˚ cone in front of a photodiode, in my opinion.

    (Conversely, I like the plastic shoe from a damage limitation perspective.)

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio