Weston Master II

I have to admit it was a particularly stubborn streak in me that lead to buying and using this meter. I’d been reading lots of material by my idol Ansel Adams, and was going through a phase where I equated results with equipment – hence a Weston Meter that wasn’t even calibrated in ASA/ISO!


Dr Edward Weston was an English born engineer who made significant contributions in the area of electroplating after moving to the USA in 1870. He then went on to design and perfect a number of electrical measuring devices, founding the Weston Electrical Instrument Company in 1888. His son, Edward Faraday Weston (so named in honor of the great English Physicist), worked with his father starting in 1928/29 and experimented with the photo-electric cell. By 1931 they were applying for the first patent on the first Weston Exposure Meter, which was granted in 1935.

Because of his British roots it was natural for Weston the elder to have a UK subsidiary, and indeed one was founded in 1898. By 1936 Weston had sold 51% of his interest in the W.E.I. Co Ltd to British Sangamo, and from that point on the British company was known as Sangamo-Weston Ltd. The sale coincides with the death of Edward Weston, and was probably an effort by the estate to liquify assets.

Weston Meters sold in the US have typically been manufactured in New Jersey, those in Europe typically by Sangamo-Weston in the UK. The Weston Exposure meter was favored by Ansel Adams, and since he influenced everything in my early photographic steps it became by first stop too.

Technical Details

A selenium cell creates an electrical charge based upon light falling onto it, this causes a magnetic field to be created in coils that then influences a needle to move. The meter is used to measure reflected light, typically by holding it horizontally over the subject to be metered. The light value is read from the scale and then used to establish the permutations of shutter and aperture that will yield the “correct” exposure.

The large circular dial lends itself to use with the Zone System, where the metered value would be aligned with the desired zone – and indeed this is how I always used mine.

Why it’s special

Invented by the man who invented electrical meters, and used by Ansel Adams – what more could you ask for! It’s also beautifully made in a very old-school way.

The Museum Sample

Purchased around 1985 or so, for an amount now forgotten, almost certainly from City Photographic in Bedford Place, Southampton UK (at time of writing they’re still in business). I had it calibrated by a service somewhere in England, you could still do that back in the mid ’80s, and it actually works very, very well indeed. It’s quite a pleasure to use in it’s leather case, and of course fits well with a very deliberative approach to shooting.


Additional Info

  • Manufacturer : Weston
  • Year Introduced : 1946
  • Year Discontinued : 1955
  • Year manufactured : 1948
  • Serial Number : L3560