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Bewi Light Meter
Bewi Light Meter  
Mr. Silver - I have an old Bewi light meter on which all the text is in German.  I have attached a photo.  It does appear to work, as you can see through it, it focuses, and you can see the numbers in the viewfinder, although it is very dark.  I was wondering what the history of this was and if it has any collectible value.  Thanks so much.



Your Bewi light meter from Germany is a classic example of what are known as "extinction" meters.  The concept originated in the 1880's, and continued as an inexpensive light metering alternative well into the 20th century, even after electronic meters became available around World War II.  An extinction meter has a graduated wedge of dark tinted glass with a series of numbers or letters scattered across it.  You aim the meter at your subject, look into the eyepiece, let your eye adjust for a few moments to the darkness you see, then note the last or dimmest number or letter you can make out.  Then compare that number to the speed rating of the film you're using on the scale on the outside of the meter, and you get a recommendation from the scale for the best lens aperture and shutter speed to use on your camera for that picture.  The tubular form of extinction meter, such as your Bewi, is probably the most common, and was especially popular around the 1920's.  However, extinction meters came in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are occasionally found built-in on cameras of the 1920's-1940's.  Drem is by far the greatest manufacturer of tubular extinction meters.  Your Bewi is a common early example, probably from the 1910's, and has fairly little market value, perhaps $25 today, but remains an interesting artifact of a quieter and slower age of photography.

Best wishes,

David F. Silver - President
International Photographic Historical Organization  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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David Silver


I'm an expert on all types of antique and classic CAMERAS, vintage PHOTOGRAPHS, and the HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY. Everything from ancient box cameras to modern single-lens-reflex; from simple Kodaks to sophisticated Leica and Nikon; from glass plates and roll film to movie and 35mm; from daguerreotypes and tintypes to the black & white images by the 20th century masters. I can identify and appraise, explain techniques and processes, offer insights on restoration and preservation, and provide guidelines for buying and selling.


I've been a professional photographer and a student of the history of photography for over 30 years. During that time my collection of vintage cameras and photographic paraphernalia has grown beyond 2000 significant pieces. I've published nearly 70 articles in the field, including 16 in the popular "Buying Classic Cameras" series for PHOTO SHOPPER MAGAZINE from 1995 to 1997, I'm currently a contributing editor for CAMERA SHOPPER MAGAZINE and McKEOWN'S PRICE GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AND CLASSIC CAMERAS, and I've written numerous entries for WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA. Portions of my collection have been displayed in museums and special exhibits in the past two decades, and many of the items were photographed as illustrations for books. In 1985 I founded the International Photographic Historical Organization (InPHO), which eventually evolved into its intended purpose as the best first resource for information on the history of photography. I'm also a founding member of several e-mail forums dedicated to specialized areas of photography, and I'm the moderator of the Internet Directory of Camera Collectors (IDCC), which remains the largest and most successful such group in the world. For more information about the International Photographic Historical Organization and its many services, please visit its web pages at:

BA and MA in anthropology

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