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04-03-2014, 06:31 PM   #1
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SO...Let's Talk About Meters!

I admit to being somewhat of a gearhead. I like taking pictures and I like using 'new' equipment and trying new things. So I end up fiddling with some new-to-me cameras. It only takes once or twice of having a roll come back poorly exposed or looking at the digital pictures taken with camera whatever and yeah, I could 'fix' that exposure problem in post but...that's not the point. (I try to do it right when I take the photo, not have the attitude I can be sloppy and fix problems later. So, when I get a new camera I 9first) learn the controls so I don't screw up and two, I check the thing to make sure its working.

With meters I compare what the camera says to my trusted Gossen. Some cameras are spot on reading the same scene. Others are 'off' maybe a stop (according to the meter) over or under. So I do a 'test'. With film, the exposure has quite a bit of latitude depending on the scene and the film. So does digital! I really didn't pay attention to this until recently. Lesson learned! So, what would y'all consider 'off' when talking about the meter. Half a stop, a stop, stop & 1/2 two? Obviously there are variables with each scene AND how that particular camera's metering system is set up. For instance, my D50 meters scenes differently than my Pentax K100DS. And the D90 does it differently still...but the same. So, how far off is...off?

04-03-2014, 06:42 PM   #2
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IMO, one stop to one and a half stop is fine. It's easy to fix in post without loosing to much details or being too blown out. But depending on the picture it may be more or less.
04-03-2014, 07:09 PM   #3
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I usually only try to nail it exactly when shooting at high ISO, at low ISO there is usually plenty of room to work with a stop over or under when shooting RAW. I'm post processing anyway so it is no big deal to fix the exposure.
04-03-2014, 08:18 PM   #4
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It's natural, and expected, for meters to differ. As long as the difference is *consistent* at all stops, you're good.

04-03-2014, 09:22 PM   #5
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Allrighty then! It's much easier (and cheaper) to 'experiment' with such things in digital; I did some fiddling and by golly, a stop 1/2 or even two stops depending on the scene wasn't that big a deal. It does appear to me that with a DSLR the forgiveness factor for under/over exposures at that range is similar to film. What do you guys think?
04-03-2014, 09:54 PM   #6
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You have to define what your talking about


Is it digital or film


digital has less dynamic range than film but and the camera can be set up for a range of metering options.


film, is it slide or print, slide has little latitude so metering has to be precise, print film has much greater latitude.


All cameras will be fooled by the subject and meter badly under some lighting, set manual and meter the palm of your hand this will make your metering very close to correct whatever the subject and lighting, - assuming the meter is accurate, old cameras may have inaccurate meters.


On an old film camera to use compensation, set ISO/ASA 200 instead of 100 if you wish to underexpose 1 stop, the other way round to overexpose. All your doing is fooling the meter to make it work right.


Remember this, The "correct" meter reading is balony, its intended to make nce looking holiday snaps.


Take control and overexpose or underexpose the film for high key and low key effects, dress a blonde girl in white costume and take a high key image, or dress a dark haired girl in dark clothes and underexpose for low moody key.


This is control of lighting/exposure


The same technique must not be adopted with digital, the correct technique for digital is to expose normal, then to create the high key - low key in post processing. Digital images can degrade quickly that's the reason for getting the best image out of the camera and applying the effect later. you get smaller grain and truer more saturated colours


Its not cheating to do this in post, in film days we could do the same in the enlarger so its simply handling the image like film would be.
04-04-2014, 03:21 AM   #7
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I found that my K30 under exposes in most light (bright sun being the exception) by 2/3rd's of a stop. I validated this using a Sekonic 308S light meter.

It isn't really a problem especially now that it's confirmed. I just over expose by that amount and the photo turns out properly exposed.
04-04-2014, 07:39 AM   #8
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When metering a real life scene, any matrix or evaluative mode is subject to the manufacturers ideals for a given camera. Do they try to preserve highlights or give some shadow detail? Or something in between? Different results should be expected.

Any meter reading should always be viewed as a suggestion only. It's up to the photographer to interpret the reading and adjust accordingly for the scene and effect they're after. And with this in mind, all that matters to me is that a given meter is consistent- that is for the same scene, same framing, same lighting, the same meter had better give the same result each time you have it take a reading so I can adjust reliably based on past experience (or at least within 1/10 stop or so).

04-04-2014, 08:25 AM   #9
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The main question; meters, how much off is 'off'?
Having more cameras than I need (LOL) I generally have a DSLR and a film camera in my bag. Cameras meter differently depending on how that manufacturer does things AND...how the metering is selected by the user. I have a Mamiya 500DTL and there's only one type of meter. It however, beautifully exposes almost any scene I choose. Must be some kind of voodoo. My Pentax generally perfectly exposes anything its pointed at; my D50 is almost as good but in cloudy light or scenes with a lot of dark it underexposes a bit. The Pentax also renders colors better given the same settings but...

As I said, I like playing with cameras. Film, digital. Print film, as has been mentioned is more forgiving if you will on exposure. I have found that depending on the camera, my small selection of DSLRS respond almost the same way to under/over exposures. My main question was how far can a meter be 'off' and still be considered accurate and the answer seems to be quite a bit! I just find it interesting that camera A, which I know perfectly exposes when compared to meter B or camera C can differ so much in readings, within a stop either way, and still be right!

It is funny how little things like this lead one in a circle; while I've been tinkering with this subject I came to two revelations (that aren't really new) one, the meter, whatever it is is only a guide. Two, the photographer is the one who reads the scene and makes adjustments to get the exposure he or she wants. That's the harder part I'm learning!
04-04-2014, 09:08 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dubiousone Quote
...It is funny how little things like this lead one in a circle; while I've been tinkering with this subject I came to two revelations (that aren't really new) one, the meter, whatever it is is only a guide. Two, the photographer is the one who reads the scene and makes adjustments to get the exposure he or she wants. That's the harder part I'm learning!
The digital stuff enhances the illusion that a meter's results fundamentally represent everything about the photo. The numbers look so precise. How could they be wrong? One clue is that all Pentax DSLRs have three different settings for the meters. I think I could come up with a scene where each setting produced a different exposure. Those three settings don't even cover all the ways to measure light. Then try to turn the exposure into the image you think you're seeing. Those exact numbers can again be wrong - OK, not "creatively correct" to use Brian Peterson's term.

In practice, you have to look at the scene. See the bright red flowers surrounded by dark green foliage. See the small bright highlights away from your main subject. See all the stuff and you can turn the meter's suggestion into the real exposure.
04-04-2014, 09:51 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by dubiousone Quote
I admit to being somewhat of a gearhead. I like taking pictures and I like using 'new' equipment and trying new things. So I end up fiddling with some new-to-me cameras. It only takes once or twice of having a roll come back poorly exposed or looking at the digital pictures taken with camera whatever and yeah, I could 'fix' that exposure problem in post but...that's not the point. (I try to do it right when I take the photo, not have the attitude I can be sloppy and fix problems later. So, when I get a new camera I 9first) learn the controls so I don't screw up and two, I check the thing to make sure its working.

With meters I compare what the camera says to my trusted Gossen. Some cameras are spot on reading the same scene. Others are 'off' maybe a stop (according to the meter) over or under. So I do a 'test'. With film, the exposure has quite a bit of latitude depending on the scene and the film. So does digital! I really didn't pay attention to this until recently. Lesson learned! So, what would y'all consider 'off' when talking about the meter. Half a stop, a stop, stop & 1/2 two? Obviously there are variables with each scene AND how that particular camera's metering system is set up. For instance, my D50 meters scenes differently than my Pentax K100DS. And the D90 does it differently still...but the same. So, how far off is...off?
The problem with doing test films is that most labs adjust, in a frame by frame basis the print, so you really do not know where you are relative to metering. Also, some lenses can have as much as a 1 stop error or perhaps more importantly different light transmissions, and this can really fool you even with your trusted light meter.

Lastly, some lenses have errors in aperture control. My tamron 28-75/2.8 is one such lens. Exposure is perfect when shooting wide open. By this, I mean, if I shoot a uniformly lit block wall I get a 120 greyscale value wide open. As I stop down, and remember, metering is wide open and aperture is camera controlled the lens tends to overexposed linearly and progressively such that at F32 it over exposes by a full stop.

The real story is test your lenses and know how each behaves on each camera
04-04-2014, 10:25 AM   #12
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Yes, you need to define things more. Take shot of a random scene that the camera meters and what are you calling a good exposure? For example, does the scene have more light than the film/sensor can capture and where was the middle grey placed? In that scenario you either favor the low values or the high values and you don't get both.

Another example would be if a scene has a person in it. What if you like your caucasian skin values placed one stop above the middle grey exposure. Does a "properly" exposed scene place the skin tone there? There is a lot of hand waving and assumed reference conditions to judge proper exposure.
04-04-2014, 01:08 PM   #13
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Not to derail anything here... but have you ever looked at the meter apps for iOS and Android phones? Some of them are remarkably intricate and powerful. I have played around with a few free ones that spew ads along the border of the phone. You can touch the portion of the screen you want to meter. Many claim their exposures come out really well when using these apps.
04-04-2014, 11:41 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
Not to derail anything here... but have you ever looked at the meter apps for iOS and Android phones? Some of them are remarkably intricate and powerful. I have played around with a few free ones that spew ads along the border of the phone. You can touch the portion of the screen you want to meter. Many claim their exposures come out really well when using these apps.
Yes I have! While the ones I tried worked (mostly, sort of) my Luna Pro, heck even an old Weston III I resurrected meter better than them. I do keep PDF's of my manuals on my phone, leaves more space in the camera bag for lenses and cameras, LOL.

---------- Post added 04-05-14 at 12:19 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
The problem with doing test films is that most labs adjust, in a frame by frame basis the print, so you really do not know where you are relative to metering. Also, some lenses can have as much as a 1 stop error or perhaps more importantly different light transmissions, and this can really fool you even with your trusted light meter.

Lastly, some lenses have errors in aperture control. My tamron 28-75/2.8 is one such lens. Exposure is perfect when shooting wide open. By this, I mean, if I shoot a uniformly lit block wall I get a 120 greyscale value wide open. As I stop down, and remember, metering is wide open and aperture is camera controlled the lens tends to overexposed linearly and progressively such that at F32 it over exposes by a full stop.

The real story is test your lenses and know how each behaves on each camera
Yup. I've already discovered that! It's not only lenses, labs but cameras too. My K100DS meters differently than my D50. My D90 does lots better than the 50. I have an old Mamiya that seems to be possessed, it takes beautifully exposed images if I do my part and my old spotmatic well, I wasn't going to let that poor thing go to the junk pile just because of a non-working meter. I know the Luna Pro tends to overexpose with this camera (I have a notebook!) so I won't make that mistake again, and this is my favorite B&W camera because if I do my part, it produces some really nice images! Using the luna with my D50 the exposures are almost stupidly perfect, better than the camera meters and with my Pentax, it tends to underexpose but not everything.

I happen to be a fan of the Tamron adaptalls; my favorite by far is a 90mm which exposes and is stupid sharp on my Spottie and my favorite Mamiya doesn't seem to like another Nikon I have. (maybe that's it, doesn't like them N cameras)

QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Yes, you need to define things more. Take shot of a random scene that the camera meters and what are you calling a good exposure? For example, does the scene have more light than the film/sensor can capture and where was the middle grey placed? In that scenario you either favor the low values or the high values and you don't get both.

Another example would be if a scene has a person in it. What if you like your caucasian skin values placed one stop above the middle grey exposure. Does a "properly" exposed scene place the skin tone there? There is a lot of hand waving and assumed reference conditions to judge proper exposure.
And bingo! Take HDR images, something I've explored but haven't even begun to fool with. Take a landscape that has bright sky, dark ground, details in the middle range and throw in a few clouds. I suppose you could say you have three distinct metering areas. Cameras with the ability to matrix, spot, average collate, lol. If you meter one area the other one or two aren't going to look right. Maybe. If you use matrix the camera will average and for most purposes this might be the 'best'. With HDR you can 'make it look like the picture you saw' but I'm not even going to tackle that until I get better at reading exposures.

For example, I liked my first Nikon N90 so much I bought another one when the opportunity for a good deal came my way. (apologies for saying the N word) The first roll I put through that first one was beautifully exposed! #2 camera not so much. I did take some tough shots; some in early morning light with deep shadows and some inside with a flash that I knew wouldn't cover the distance. I also had some that I took that once I discovered I had the meter set on spot and not matrix, explained why some shots were a little off. Not blurry blobs, just...off. Others that I thought should have been better exposed weren't and I suspected those might be the lens. I used a Sigma 28-80 which is a D lens I think but I'm not sure (but it crops the corners at 28) LOL. I ran another roll through and used a lens I knew was proper, a Nikon 50/1.8 (there's that word again, sorry) This roll was perfectly exposed. I took a shot of a couple of F-16's landing at a local airbase, it was a cloudy/sunny day with lots of deep blue sky, bright sky and poofy white/grey clouds. Other than I wished I'd popped on a zoom, that photo actually came out very beautifully exposed with the jets very detailed and the clouds with the right color to white/grey against the right color sky. Bet I couldn't do that again if I tried! Moral to that story, operator error. (check the camera settings, use a proper lens and I know its not the camera!) The same for film. I happen to prefer Fuji. I probably use more 400 but I also can't stay away from 200 because that just has great color.

Of course the thing is, all cameras will meter a bit differently and then toss in that different lenses, even the same type will be different from one another. And on top of all that, trying to learn how to 'read' a scene and instead of letting the camera do it, do your own work. I normally run A priority but there are times that other modes are preferred especially manual. I even run my digitals like that and I hate to bracket. Anyoldbody can rap off five frames and get lucky once; I figure I won't learn anything by doing that so...one at a time.
04-05-2014, 10:33 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by dubiousone Quote
And bingo! Take HDR images...
With BW film no need. You can compress the highlights during development and capture about anything nature can dish out. I have examples.
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