Nikon Matrix Metering and Exposure Compensation Query

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Steve Smith, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Before I get to my question, a bit of background as to the reasoning behind it:

    My wife is going on a Himalayan base camp trek in April and wants to take a camera. Initially it was going to be my Nikon FG. She mastered the art of manual focussing but the possible difficulties with the manual loading of the film in the cold, probably with gloves on, made us think that my Nikon F601 might be a better option so long as she takes a few spare batteries.

    I was planning to give her a chart of amount of white (snow) in the scene to amount of exposure compensation. Something along the lines of 'for every 25% of snow in the scene, add a third of a stop'. I know this is a simplification but that's what it needs to be as I don't think she has the time or inclination to learn how to take a spot meter reading from something mid toned or use a hand held ambient meter and set the camera manually.

    A feature of the F601 is that it can be reset to default mode by pressing two of the function keys for a couple of seconds. This is ideal for someone who may not be sure what the camera is doing. i.e. accidental pressing of switches etc. so it can be quickly reset to 'normal'.

    This reset function defaults to matrix metering. The user manual and information I have been able to find suggests that matrix metering takes into account the contrast of a scene and can compensate for bright subjects e.g. sand and snow better than normal centre weighted metering.

    Whilst this may be true, I'm sure that it will not completely compensate and some user input will still be needed.

    I would appreciate any input anyone has on this. She will probably be using ISO200 transparency film and all shots will be hand held, sometimes using a polariser.

    Thanks,

    Steve.
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,073
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've had almost uniformly excellent results with matrix metering on an F100 but... shooting snow slides is a challenge, I'd definitely be inclined to try it out in advance and decide whether to bracket if necessary. As a more rigorous alternative, you could get a scene contrast reading in spot mode and then decide how to expose it. But that would provide for more creative opportunities e.g. silhouettes.

    If it were me I believe I would take some superia reala!
     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That's certainly an option we may end up taking but I was thinking it would be nice to have some decent projectable slides.

    Steve.
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,073
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Why not let her take both bodies, and routinely have slide film in one and superia in the other. Having two bodies on a trek like this can prevent heartbreak!

    I've always thought that if I go into the mountains I'll definitely take something like an FM3a as a backup.
     
  5. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

    Messages:
    2,297
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2003
    Location:
    Floriduh
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think the old rule of thumb was meter your hand and open up a stop. Second, there's really no reason that a small incident meter can't be taken and their dumb simple to use. Third, a clear north sky is considered zone 5 or a mid tone. Fourth, use the centerweighted metering and split the ground glass between the darkest tone and the lightest; Hopefully their adjacent. Fifth meter the snow and place the exposure a stop or two up.

    I would probably be more worried about the camera not being reset as you mention and the camera going thru batteries (I think they were known for that?) or the batteries just eating it in the cold. A manual camera would be best with perhaps a gray card; They don't have to be large and really don't take up any room. An hour of instruction should do it and you have plenty of time till Aprial to go out shooting with her and checking her metering judgement.
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    A good two stops, I'd say. Very roughly, clean fresh snow is 90% reflective. Halve that (first stop): 45%. Halve that (second stop) 22.5%. Grey card: 18%. 'Average' scene reflectance: 12-14%.

    Everything else you say, I would praise as a model of concise and useful advice.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  7. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For me, these first two suggestions are all anyone should need, and far simpler than trying to remember "percentages of the scene" concepts that the OP mentions. Really, an incident meter is a wonderful device.
    Oh; and if she's going to shoot tranparency film, don't forget to bracket!
     
  8. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks for your responses. Most of what has been suggested is what I would personally do. I would probably get an all manual body such as an FM or FM2 and take a light meter and use a grey card or ambient measurement or meter from the snow and add a couple of stops.

    The problem is that it's my wife going, not me!

    Having talked her out of taking her digital compact, mainly due to the problems of battery life in the cold, I need to give her an alternative which is almost as convenient. This is a trek for which she will be taking a camera along rather than a photographic trip with a lot of walking involved (which is how I would regard it!).

    What I am really asking is if anyone has any experience of how well the Nikon matrix system compensates for bright snow scenes and if any manual compensation is needed as well. Nikon's data claims that it can compensate without manual intervention but I'm not sure if I believe it fully.

    I suppose I could set up a large sheet of white card outside on a bright day and see what the differences are between metering in matrix and centre weighted for a variety of simulated scenes such as full white then adding various areas of midtone to it.

    Thanks again,

    Steve.
     
  9. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,247
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Perhaps not quite as quick, but lighter and smaller than an incident meter would be an Expodisc or Expocap. It can take the place of a lens cap and provide incident metering using the camera's TTL metering. It can also provide a gray card frame on the film for setting color balance and density when printing. The only difficulties I can see are the concept of metering in the direction of the camera and perhaps finding a place in the mountains to stand in the same light as that falling on the subject.

    http://www.expodisc.com/products/product_detail.php?prodid=5&productname=ExpoCap

    Sorry I can't help from experience. I wondered when Nikon first introduced this kind of system (I recall ads saying the first generation chose from among 250,000 lighting samples from pro shooters, and later generations from greater numbers) how a photographer would know what kind of adjustments to make when setting the exposure manually. The point seemed to be that you don't do that anymore.

    Which base camp? Glad things have settled down in Nepal before her trip.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2007
  10. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,386
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I don't have much luck with matrix metering and I am using an F5.
     
  11. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think it was first used on the FA then the F601, F801, etc.

    Everest. I think it's this one: http://www.mountainmadness.com/trekking/asia_base.cfm


    Steve.
     
  12. Helen B

    Helen B Member

    Messages:
    1,557
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hell's Kitch
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The simpler, quicker and lighter the better, I suspect. I've never been on a trek in the Himalayas, but I have climbed there. On the stroll up to base camp I only carried what was necessary for being wholly autonomous during the day, along with basic emergency equipment - the sturdy porters carried the rest. I guess that organised treks are similar.

    I acclimatise to altitude slowly, tend to overexert at the beginning of a trip, and I'm usually more than a little apprehensive before a climb. This usually means that I don't want to mess around with anything other than a simple, readily available camera. It's got to be on my waistbelt. Using the camera musn't cause any delay, or break my absorption with the journey. Using it has to be part of the journey, the movement through the changing landscape, not a distraction from it.

    I use a combination of simple reflective metering when there are plenty of midtones or I'm metering against the light (very common) or the palm of my hand and open up half a stop. I never bracket, because I don't carry sufficient film (always reversal for my snaps of the hills, for talks) and hitting the right moment is often more important than hitting the exact exposure.

    My companions always seemed to produce fine photographs even though they generally trust the metering to the camera. They don't even know what 'bracket' means. It's often a lot simpler than some suggest, especially when you are going for dramatic slides.

    Oh, and glacier ice isn't white like snow, but I suspect that that isn't news.

    If you follow the first link in my signature below, and look in the 'Hills' portfolio, you'll see a few from my collection of Himalayan photos.

    Best,
    Helen
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2007
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,247
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It was the FA IIRC. Near the end of the time I paid any attention to new camera introductions. But I wasn't really wondering about that. I'll rephrase sans parenthetical remarks: "When matrix metering was first introduced, I wondered how a photographer would know what kind of adjustments to make when setting the exposure manually." Poor writing and editing on my part.

    Helen gives good advice. One thing I've done in the past is meter off an 18% gray sweater or know the reflectance of something else I'm carrying. I've seen 18% microfiber lens cleaning cloths around. If you have the gloves or parka she'll be wearing, you could test meter those. However, those now tend to be saturated bright colors for safety, and may not be entirely suitable for metering due to spectral response/mismatch among the target, light, and meter, e.g. a bright red parka in sun vs. deep blue high altitude shade.

    My son (with less experience and confidence in metering) likes to use a Lastolite EZBalance, a 12" collapsible 18% gray fabric on frame that goes down to about 5", white on the opposite side. Still it's extra stuff to carry and deal with.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2007
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks Lee and Helen.

    I think I will let her use matrix metering for just about everything except maybe add one stop for fully white scenes.

    If I give her a 50-50 mix of negative and transparency films, I think we should be o.k.

    If I can train her in manual metering in the next few months, so much the better!

    Steve.
     
  16. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

    Messages:
    504
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Location:
    Madison, WI
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I never use the Matrix meter but I would say it would be sufficient for general snapshooting, if not quite precise placement of tonal values etc. But the meters "intelligence" at guessing scene type is dependant on the number of pre-programmed scenes in the chip and so it might be useful to pick up an used N80 if you have AF lenses of even an F100 if you have MF. These might be at a slight advantage to the F601 at the guessing game. The N80 is very light as well and just enough camera not to limit you too much if you want to take charge, but also happy enough on auto everything. I believe they are very cheap on Ebay now. Remember that you won't have any metering with manual lenses, short of the F100 of course (which is also cheap for the camera it is.)

    -A
     
  17. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

    Messages:
    2,223
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    Regina, SK,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Snow fools all meters (although I've only owned my F5 for one day so give me some time to play with it first). With my other Nikon bodies, I typically find that +1 2/3 stops is appropriate when the subject is predominantly snowy.

    When the subject is, say, a building, and dominates the scene, matrix metering handles it fine. Centre-weighted will need a nudge more exposure because the snow will still bias the result.
     
  18. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hmmm..... New camera..... Legitimate reason to buy it....!!

    Steve.
     
  19. randyB

    randyB Member

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2005
    Location:
    SE Mid-TN
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Way back in the 90's when I purchased my 1st 8008s I tried using the Matrix metering plus exposure comp. Needless to say it did not work very well, when I exposed at +1 or +1 1/2 stops the slides were washed out, I soon realized after reading the manual carefully that the program for Matrix metering would automatically compensate for scene brightness/darkness, my adding +1, 1 1/2 stops compounded the exposure change greatly. Since then I compensate only 1/3 maybe 2/3 stops for most scenes that I think need comp. I have found that Matrix works very well for 80-90% of the time. Only in extreme cases (solid light tones or solid dark tones) will I comp more than 2/3 stops. You might try testing your camera in Matrix, photograph a very light colored wall in direct even sunlight, at 0 comp, +1/3, +2/3, +1, +1.5, then find a dark colored wall in even shade and do the same but minus comp, 0, -1/3, -2/3, -1, -1.5 stops. Use shade so that there won't be any specular glints of wall. Be sure to use slide film so that you can easily see the exposure change from slide to slide. Hope this helps. RandyB.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,656
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The advice that you have been given is good and correlates well with my experience shooting photos while skiing.

    But take the long view of the situation [Pun intended]: After spending all the money of the airfare, equipment, guides, ... just take more film than your wife thinks she needs and bracket any questionable exposures.

    Film is cheap considering the rest of the cost of the trip and the likelihood that she will be able to repeat the trip.​
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,656
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If you take a camera out in the cold weather of Yellowstone, do you keep it in a backpack so that it won't fog but the batteries will be stressed OR do you keep it inside your clothes so the batteries are warm but the lens fogs??

    Interested photographers want to know.

    Stever
     
  22. dslater

    dslater Member

    Messages:
    732
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Location:
    Hollis, NH
    Shooter:
    35mm

    That is not the entire story. While it is true that part of the matrix metering process involves matching against a pre-programmed set of scenes, the other part of matrix metering is that Nikon lenses with a CPU chip tell the meter what the aperture of the lens is. With this information, the meter now knows what the actual luminance of the scene is. Since the luminance is known, thing like snow and bright sand can be detected and the meter can place them on zone 6 or 7.
    Having said this, I agree that you might want to pick up an N80. The F601 is a previous generation camera, so it's meter may not be as sophisticated. The N80 and F100 both have 5 segment matrix metering - I'm not sure what the F601 has.
    Just last week I was photographing my son's first skiing lesson using an F100 and Ektachrome 100 GX. I shot all my exposures with no exposure compensation and got perfectly fine results.
     
  23. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,092
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The F601 also has five zones but getting an F80 sounds like a good idea. Especially, as I mentioned earlier, as I now have a legitimate reason!

    Steve.
     
  24. dslater

    dslater Member

    Messages:
    732
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Location:
    Hollis, NH
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The F80 is an excellent camera. I have both the F80 and F100. You might want to consider spending a little more for an F100. The advantages over the F80 are:

    1) It's a much tougher camera - heavier too.
    2) Better viewfinder - brighter and shows nearly 100% of the frame
    3) You can use MF lenses on it and still have metering
    4) It can record exposure information that you can then download to a computer
    5) It uses standard AA batteries
    6) The MB-15 grip that you can get for it has a vertical shutter release and command dial - very useful for portrait mode shots.

    Whichever one you get, you'll be happy.

    Dan
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2007
  25. Karl K

    Karl K Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,609
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2006
    Location:
    NJ
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I shoot with the Nikon F100 and it doesn't like snow exposures with matrix metering. In my limited experience it tends to underexpose by about one stop. I would forget the slide film and shoot Reala. Why worry your wife about these things on such a once-in-a-lifetime trip?
     
  26. dslater

    dslater Member

    Messages:
    732
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Location:
    Hollis, NH
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Well that was definitely not my experience. I have a whole roll of Ektachrome 100GX shot of snow scenes with matrix that is very well exposed - nice bright white snow and detailed shadows. Indeed, while I was shooting, I briefly switched to spot metering, metered some snow, placed it on zone 7 and came up with the same exposure as the matrix metering.
    On the other hand, when shooting sunsets, I have had many exposures that seemed to be a stop underexposed. However, I suspect the real problem was that the subject brightness range was too large for a high-contrast film like Velvia. The reason for this is that if I used exposure compensation to bring up the shadows, then the sky was washed out.
    Unless your dead set on slides for projection, I would second the idea to use Color negative film - it has much greater latitude than slide film. If you are set on slide film, then pick a low contrast film.

    Dan