Found a vintage Nikon bokeh meter, but need manual.

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by uplandlife, Mar 31, 2012.

  1. So, I was looking through the dusty old camera gear at a recent abandoned storage auction, and came across a taped up box labeled "Assorted Nik Stuff - M. Johnston." Feeling lucky, I bought the whole box for $10, in hopes of finding a gem or two. Sure enough, in with the old lens caps and dry-rotted leather camera straps, was one of the very sought-after early vintage Nikon bokemeters. This looks like one of the hand-made ones built in Japan for the US market - one of the ones that actually reads +/- 50 micro-B. But I can't be sure on the scale without reading the manual. So, if anyone knows where I can track one down, that would be great.

    As you can see, this has been pretty well cared for, and the F-mount hardly has any corrosion.
  2. When I mount an original Nikkor-Q 135mm prime, I'm getting a perfectly neutral reading on the meter, which is similar to my experience with that lens. Fairly nice background blur, but still some funky highlight artifacts when it's wide open.So, it makes sense that it's a wash, and meters out at zero.
  3. On a hunch, I tried a more recent vintage Sigma 50/1.4, which is well known for its creamy, hypnotic blur and the ability to make any pet portrait look perfect. Sure enough, the bokemeter came back with almost exactly 40 mB, which seems really accurate to me.
  4. So, you can imagine I'm excited to have this rare and powerful tool, and I'll never go lens shopping again without it. But if anyone's got some documentation, that would be great. And if you have any info on who "M. Johnston" is, be sure to thank him for passing this treasure along.
  5. Wow. I've never heard of this device. It actually measures the smoothness of OOF areas? Interesting. I wonder how it does that?
    In connection with photography, "M. Johnston" makes me think of Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer, but surely if he had something like this he wouldn't just be giving it away in a box of junk.
  6. Very cool. Was this just a Nikon tool? I wonder what the strip with yellow or gold in the middle is for. Decoration?
  7. ...and the 70-200...?
  8. How about some photos of the internal components, and a closeup through the lens mount?
    How is the meter used?
    ... What is the light source? How far away?
    ... What is the focus setting?
    ... What is the f/stop setting?
    - Leigh
  9. Think about today's date, folks!
    Tom M
    PS - Matt, *good one* +1
  10. It actually measures the smoothness of OOF areas? Interesting. I wonder how it does that?​
    bokemosis, obviously.
  11. The only reason I knew something was wrong was because the name is misspelled. It's "Bokeometer" (ie, rhymes with thermometer, anemometer, enthalometer, etc.) not "Bokemeter". Oh, and BTW, the newer digital ones have automatic range-changing.
    Tom M
  12. Tom, I'm sure Nikon would not have mis-spelled this. I think it's more like "altimeter." I understand that it's pronounced "boh-KEH-meh-ter."

    Leigh: I would show some images of the internal workings, but they are ... very difficult to see.
  13. Leigh: I would show some images of the internal workings, but they are ... very difficult to see.​
    Hi Matt,
    I can appreciate that, given how incredibly microscopically small they must be. :p
    Dare I say infinitesimally small?
    Angels on the head of a pin could easily carry the entire circuit, yes?
    I'm sure this challenges and even surpasses the current state of the art in miniaturization.
    And to think, it was built by hand 50 years ago. Amazing.
    Even more amazing... I think that was before the term "bokeh" was invented.
    - Leigh
  14. Ah. Cute. Okay. April Fool's Day strikes again. I remember thinking that this seemed like a very unlikely gadget (not only is bokeh quality somewhat subjective, but it's really only within the last ten or twenty years that people have been so obsessed with it), but the mock-up was impressively well-done. Nice work, Matt.
  15. Leigh / Craig, the German optical industry used the term, Ebenbilddruckmesser, ie, "exact image compression indicator" for their version of this device years before the Japanese coined the term, bokehometer. Unfortunately, everyone could pronounce "okey - bokey", but no one could pronounce the German word, so the Japanese word stuck.
    As a historical note, the scales on all Leica and Zeiss Ebenbilddruckmesse only ran from -5 to +5 EBBDM units. It didn't need to go further.
    Tom M
  16. There wasn't a functioning Leica "Glow-O-meter" in that box as well, was there Matt ?
  17. Leigh, the German optical industry used the term, Ebenbilddruckmesser, ie, "exact image compression indicator" years before the Japanese coined the term, bokeh.​
    Hi Tom,
    I'm certainly not an expert on the ancient German photo industry, but...
    The word Druckmeßer is commonly used for physical gauges, like anamometers, barometers, etc.,
    as opposed to electrical meters.
    Perhaps usage has changed over the years.
    - Leigh
  18. Hi Leigh - Good point. There has been a lot of discussion in the literature about the possible principles of operation of an Ebenbilddruckmesser. Because of the name, and because it appeared so early in the century, it was probably based on physical rather than electrical measurements, but since no one has actually found one, we don't know for sure.
    Tom M
  19. Hi Tom,
    Yes, we're frequently confronted with uncertainty and speculation regarding ancient technology
    when no examples exist in the archaeological record.
    Consider the Antikythera Mechanism. Quite interesting. Too bad it's impossible. :p
    - Leigh
  20. This is just a cheap Japanese knockoff of the original German gonculator.
  21. No, the gonculator was a totally different design.
    This is a rather ingenious device, obviously designed to circumvent the German gonculator patent.
    - Leigh
  22. The gold strip in the middle is probably the bokeh calibration slot. You take a picture that has perfect bokeh, slide it into the slot and calibrate the meter accordingly.
  23. Close.
    I think it's actually a calibration target. You have to aim the lens at it to calibrate the meter.
    Of course this is a major physical challenge, as are suggestions for certain personal actions. :eek:
    - Leigh
  24. Matt, did you find a long stand and a bunch of skyhooks in that box as well? And does that Bokemeter run on air-cells? I also notice it's the deluxe version with 6 screws holding the lensmount.
    Best instrument I ever came across in a junk shop was a thing a bit similar to yours called a "Deminrolit tester" - seriously, I didn't make that name up! I never did find out exactly what it was supposed to do, but it had a nice big old meter on the front of it. Seem to remember that it was a Pentax/Praktica 42mm screw thread fitting though with a pneumatic bulb release and took 19 PP7.5 batteries.
  25. Beautifully done, Matt—what a great way to start the day!
  26. Love it ;)
  27. Excellent. It measured seven hundred and sixty five milli-Fonzies on my coolometer.
  28. I have a manual for that. Seriously, right here in front of me.
    I'd be glad to send it to you for... MILLION dollars...
  29. Matt,
    Could you test for us reverse mounted lens on the aparatus? I belive it could measure the degree of fuzziness of photographer behind the lens.
    Have a good day sir!
  30. Okay, how long did it take you to build this thing?
    More importantly, can you mass produce it in time for the next Photokina?
  31. Here is a real boke-meter:
  32. BTW, does anyone happen to have an extra can or two of relative bearing oil laying around? My manual compass and dividers are practically bone dry.
    Tom M
  33. I wonder how accurate Matt's device would be on reverse bokeh, e.g.,
    Tom M
  34. For the next Photokina, he probably just needs one, under glass.

    The reason the innards are hard to discern is that they must be even more shoothly blurred than the best lenses they are
    intended to measure.
  35. Matt, I think you may have gotten a bad copy. You need to focus inaccurately on a brick wall, with the meter/lens combination handheld.
  36. Matt,

    Was it hard to remove your lens from this meter again ? There seems to be no lens release button ....
  37. Matt..., just in case you have some of that ham left, I find the right tool for you :
  38. Paul B., that literally cracks me and that Nikkor lens up!
  39. Nicely played. Well done, sir.
  40. there is a distinct possibility that this is the Japanese version of the German Ebenbilddruckmesser, the major difference being that the Japanese version uses vacuum tubes. If your unit is the vacuum tube version is the one, simply obtain a 12 pin falopian tube and insert it in the unit and try it. Let us know what happens.
  41. bms


    Kleinbildkameraobjektiventschärfungsgradmeßgerät is the term your are looking for, I think.
    Nice one, Matt :)
  42. Ok, I confess. This depiction of the famed Nikon Bokemeter is an artist's conception, based on Mike Johnston's early writings in Bokeh: No, Really, You Need To Understand This.

    So just in case anyone is curious about how my images at the top of this thread came to be ... it was some table-top photography of a few real objects, and an hour or so of masking and pixel-tweeking in Corel PhotoPaint. No, I don't use Photoshop.

    The objects were set on a 28" roll of seamless charcoal paper, and lit from camera-right by an SB-800 in 24" Lastolite Ezybox, and from camera left (upstage) with an SB-900 through a Lastolite translucent tri-grip modifier. Those two speedlights were triggered by the pop-up on a D300, behind an SG-3IR. Exposure and strobe power was set manually, since all of those dark tones and glinty highlights were guaranteed to throw off the metering, and I wanted everything involved to share the same light and look, since I'd be compositing them together.

    The meter is a real meter - but it's an old General Electric milliamp meter (still works!). I shot an older Nikon film body, in the same position at the same angle so that I could grab the face of the F mount to bring in over the side of the meter's enclosure. I modified the mount's texture/color after the fact to make it a bit less shiny and still-new looking.
  43. I then shot the same camera body in the same position, but with that Sigma lens mounted to it, so it would be at a natural angle when it was also layed into another version of the first composite.

    You'll also see, below, a better look at the meter's original faceplate. That took a little work. I borrowed the older-style "Nikon" font/logo from the face of a photonic meter housing on a venerable Nikon F.

    You'll also notice that I did a color swap on that enameled red stripe in the deco-looking bit of metal on the front of the old meter. That red color had to go! What was this, a Canon bokemeter? No! It had to be switched to Nikon yellow.

    Thanks for indulging me, folks. Next year I'm going to ... do something else!
  44. Very well done, Matt.
    How did you do the meter face?
    on edit:
    OK. We doubled. But how did you get the Bokemeter name on top of the meter scale?
    - Leigh
  45. Leigh: I cloned out the GE text/labeling, and then used a text-to-path tool to arc a serifed font into position. I then used a couple of artistic brushed to "age" the the next text, and set its opacity a bit low so that the fogginess of the meter's glass appeared consistent. I also had to copy a bit of the meter's needle so that I could paste it into a new layer above the word "Nikon," so that it maintained its original look.

    I did all of that on the straight-ahead view of the meter, and then clipped a copy of that for use in the angular view, and used some keystoning/perspective distortion to make the newly created meter face match the viewing angle and resulting perspective. It's not perfect, but it worked OK at these lower resolutions.
  46. OK. Makes sense. I have extremely limited experience with computerized imaging.
    Thanks for the info. Very nicely done.
    - Leigh
  47. Stupendous! I award you six Internets for this ingenious April Fool's spoof, plus three Internets for the effort, for an unprecedented nine Internets! Congratulations.
  48. NINE I'nets? WOW! Is that a record?
    Plus one for attention to detail. That makes 10!
    - Leigh
  49. Matt: I'll give you $10,000 to have a genuine Nikon Bokemeter in my collection.
  50. Well done Matt.
  51. Wow, my old Bokemeter! I haven't seen that in some number of years (I'm a bit fuzzy on exactly how long it's been).
    Harold Merklinger, Professor Screweyes, and Poindexter Neffe developed that one for me, and it was built by our good friends at Nikon through the kind offices of Uncle Arthur Kramer, who of course was Nikon's account executive with Ernst and Young way back before my time. Uncalibrated, it had too much tolerance for ni-sen--of the type sometimes created by the overcorrected spherical aberration of AIS manual-focus lenses.
    I quietly let it go when I got my new Blair in 1984, and then de-accessioned that one when I got the Clarke in 2001. Now even the Clarke seems like old technology, compared to, say, a 2009 Cameron.
    Nice to see that old thing again! It's still a nice machine.
    Be careful of false readings with large-aperture long teles.
    Best regards,
    Mike Johnston / TOP
  52. P.S. I see I just barely missed posting that on the proper date. Ah well.
  53. Great job Matt, nice work on the photomanipulation, it looks great. Was wondering if you had a specific reason for using Corel Photopaint rather than Photoshop?
  54. Hilarious! Nice work!
  55. Ah, Mr. Johnston! Thanks for joining in, and in the full spirit of the occasion, too. I've noticed what you said about the meter's problems with long lenses. Plus, it just sort of tips over. I can see why you're using newer equipment, now. BTW, there's a new firmware update out for the Cameron, but only it's only available in Gaelic, so far.

    Dave T: The I-use-Corel-and-not-Adobe thing isn't a religious matter or anything. I've been using the Corel Draw suite for many, many years, since I use its Draw module for all sorts of vector-based stuff (commercial graphics, etc), and just got very used to PhotoPaint's way of doing certain things. It's just very familiar ground, and very powerful considering the very low price involved in upgrades/updates along the way. When I need to manipulate individual pixels, it's my go-to tool. Of note, I do all of my RAW conversion in Capture NX2, and most of my general photo-type editing there, too. But the Corel Draw suite is like a very good old friend who's always happy to go out for an inexpensive dinner. We get along great.

    Thanks everyone else for chiming in on this bit of silliness. As long as there were a couple of chuckles along the way, it was worth the fuss. Plus, I actually got to use a camera and make a couple of photographs along the way, which is sort of whole point, right? Right!
  56. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Some nice digital manipulation, Matt!
  57. What a waste of time! U're data is absolutely useless, until we know whether the 'm' stands for micro or mega.
    Jay Drew
  58. ... data is absolutely useless, until we know whether the 'm' stands for micro or mega.​
    Micro is the Greek letter mu 'μ', or the western letter 'u' for those lacking Greek letters.
    Mega is a capital M.
    A lower-case m would be 'milli-', as in 1/1000th, or megalomaniac.
    - Leigh
  59. Leigh B. wrote on Apr 02, 2012; 09:40 p.m:
    Micro is the Greek letter mu 'μ', or the western letter 'u' for those lacking Greek letters.
    Mega is a capital M.
    A lower-case m would be 'milli-', as in 1/1000th, or megalomaniac.
    - Leigh
    Wrong Wrong Wrong again! The falsicity of your comment would obvious to any 4th grader; milli = 1/1000 which is very small. Megalomaniac is a huge maniac, & obviously isn't small.
    Best, JD
  60. "compared to, say, a 2009 Cameron."
    We've had a Cameron here (UK) for about 2 years, and it's broken absolutely everything it's touched so far. I think we need to dump it and get a new one - not much else available on the market right now though.
  61. A great post, Matt! :)
    This reminds me of the famous Turboencabulator, a fabrication of some clever guy at General Electric that mimicked the style of the General Electric Handbook, a huge multi-volume compilation of detailed and technical GE product descriptions. In fact, at many GE locations, the Turboencabulator page was inserted into the Handbook and used for initiation rites of young engineers and technicians.

    Here's a film made by Rockwell that basically uses the description straight out of the handbook. I don't know how the actor kept a straight face...
  62. Stephen, that was unbelievably hialarious!
  63. My first reaction was looking at the date...
    I think I made a correct decision...
  64. I wouldn't take this too lightly. Remember, this seemingly pointless device later became the inspiration for the invention of the refribulator transformer.
  65. Awesome - truly one of the best ever!
  66. 2012 April Fools… Go figure...

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