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Vintage Kalimar exposure meter

Occasionally when I purchase a vintage camera for my collection there are other bits-n-pieces which accompany it and this post features one of those accessories – the Kalimar Exposure meter.

In the age of early film photography, when cameras weren’t equipped with built in means of measuring the amount of light available to take a picture, most serious photographers would have carried a small exposure meter with them. In fact it was probably the most important part of their kit after the camera itself. The unit I’m describing here is a small, but quite well featured unit which would have been an asset to nearly any photographer.

Kalimar Exposure meter Pictures

My Kalimar Exposure meter

To be honest this exposure meter almost didn’t make it into my vintage camera collection. I was clearing out the garage to make space for some new kitchen units which are going to be delivered soon prior to installation, when I found it in a small brown leather case laying on the back of a shelf.

It must have been included in a camera I’ve bought in the past, but to be honest at the time I found it I didn’t  know which one. However, next to the Kalimar on the shelf was an Agfalux flash unit and an Baldamatic Proximeta II add on lens and viewfinder so I worked out it was the Baldamatic I.

The unit itself is in good condition and from my initial tests seems to be working well. It’s very odd but almost every vintage exposure meter you find is still working well; almost every vintage camera which includes an exposure meter however, the light meter is not working.

Kalimar description and operation

The unit is a small hand held device, only about two inches long, one inch wide and about an inch thick. There are no batteries involved in making it work – it just uses the light to generate a voltage which drives the meter needle.

Close up of scale and dial
Close up of scale and dial

There is a leather case and a chain which allows the meter to be worn round the photographers neck making it conveniently available at any time to take a reading.

The only real setting which needs to be made is the film speed, which is made on a small dial in the centre of the unit. This is turned until a pointer is aligned with the correct film speed (in either DIN, ASA or Light Value) and the meter is set.

To operate the exposure meter it is pointed towards the subject (to measure the reflected light) and the dial is turned until a mark lines up with the meter needle position. From the dial it is then possible to read a combination of shutter speed / aperture values which will give the correct exposure.

In order to work with different light levels, the Kalimar has a flap on the front and a light filter which can be removed to give progressively more sensitivity. Each of these different settings has it’s own mark which you line up with the meter needle.

Operation leaflet

Since I had an instruction leaflet with the unit, I’ve taken a scan of it and included it in this post.

Kalimar Exposure meter manual


I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. Bob Walzer says:

    I have “old” Kalimar My daughter wants it. It’s a model 80. What is battery that belongs in it?

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