Review: Keks EM-01 Light Meter (2021)
The Keks EM-01 light meter was created for the frugal sunny16 challenged and spearheaded the burgeoning budget light meter market. Options were limited not too long ago, but now the competition is heating up. The EM-01 light meter was recently updated for 2021 and Keks was kind enough to send us one for some Spanish Inquisition-style inspection.
When I used to own a Leica M3 way back when, I paired it with a Voigtlander VC meter II. Other than the old selenium Leicameters, there was hardly any other option. While I didn’t have any major issues with the meter itself, the accompanying $225 tag makes you tilt your head, especially after losing one in Seoul years ago. The Keks at $112 is probably purposefully placed at exactly half the price. Which is better for separating you from your hard-earned bucks/quid/yen/doge/etc.?
The 2021 Keks EM-01 light meter received a facelift, with enhanced accuracy and build quality improved. The new Keks light-meter arrives with a flat glass front sensor cover design, giving a minimal appearance. The new model has also redesigned the light-meter body, with improved control buttons fitment and click feeling.
- Construction – Aluminum body, steel screws, Aluminum shoe mount
- Metering – 30º average metering (reflected light)
- Mode- Aperture-priority or Shutter-priority
- 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 – Rechargeable 220mAh
- Battery Life Per Charge – 20 hours continuous metering
- Charging – 5V/450mA via USB-C
- Mount – Plastic/ Aluminum* (option) Shoe mount, adjustable to size and position (3 sizes Shoe mount)
- Inside The Box – Light-meter, One Plastic shoe mount set, Type C Charger, Instruction Manual
- Size: 42 x 27 x 20mm
- Weight: 36g
0.91″ OLED Display
The OLED display shows the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV, and LUX reading. There are also two selectable metering mode, the aperture priority mode and shutter speed priority mode. The display will automatically adjust the brightness in different environments. There’s a battery status indicator as well, which flashes when the battery is low and stops flashing when the meter is fully charged.
On the aluminum top plate, 4 buttons control the aperture and shutter speed. With the meter facing up, the left side buttons adjust the aperture and the right side adjusts the shutter speed just as with the Voigtlander VC meter. To set the ISO, hold the button on the back of the unit next to the screen and then press either up or down on the aperture adjustment.
What’s in the box
Any camera with a hot/cold shoe can use the Keks EM-01. It comes with an assortment of larger and smaller mounts to fit any camera, as well as you are able to position the mount in the center or to the side of the bottom of the meter (3 positions) using the provided hex key. On the bottom too you will find the USB-C charging port.
Keks EM-01 vs. Voigtlander VC II
Here is a look at the Keks EM-01 against the Voigtlander VC II side by side. The Keks and the Voigtlander are the same width, but the Keks is 1mm taller, 9mm shorter and weighs 3g less.
The Voigtlander has no screens and opts for old school physical dials instead of the button system of the Keks. The readings are displayed on the top of the meter as opposed to the back screen of the Keks. Personally, this difference forces me to meter in a different way. With the VC II, you have to point it in the direction of your shot and have it where you can look over it to adjust the dials to make sure you get the “red circle” of correct exposure, set your camera then compose and shoot. Whereas with the Keks you can frame your shot, activate the light meter then look up to see the reading then set your exposure accordingly and fire. To me, the latter is a more efficient and intuitive process.
The Keks EM-01 on non-Leicas
In metering accuracy, the Keks EM-01 light meter performed virtually identical to the Voigtlander VC II. Autumn in Japan gives you such mixed lighting that it served as a good test. When I say “virtually,” I mean if the VC says f2 at 1/60th, the Keks might say f2 at 1/50th. Even when comparing it with the Nikon FM3a’s meter, the Keks readings remain within 1/3rd of a stop.
I’ve read about sluggishness issues with the buttons and scrolling but not in the sample I was given. Perhaps this was addressed in the latest version. I can not comment on battery too much since I have not used it till it drained but it has lasted over a week of shooting everyday without a battery warning. USB-C charging is great.
When you wake it from sleep by pressing the meter button, the screen will show the previous exposure. You will have to push it again to get a current reading. Not much of a nitpick but just something to be wary of. To me, a memory of the previous metering is unnecessary, I’d much rather just meter immediately from sleep.
As mentioned, the budget light meter market is heating up. TTArtisan has just released a light meter more in the analog vein of the Voigtlander VC II after the success of the newish Doomo D.
I get it. The VC II retains the “spirit” of these pure analog mechanical masterpieces a bit more. Dials are more fun than buttons and an LED screen readout if not screams then utters “digital”. But in practical use the Keks makes a compelling statement. Bonus points definitely go to being USB-C rechargeable and having a modular mount system to fit any camera with a hot/cold shoe.
So if you’re not a stickler for as-analog-as-possible and just need a $100ish small, simple, accurate meter that also fits on cameras that don’t start with “L” and end in “ca” then Keks hits the spot. What are your experiences with the Keks or other similar options?