"Just say NO to manual mode!"

Started Feb 2, 2012 | Discussions
daddyo
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What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to Graystar, Feb 3, 2012

No offense intended, but your premise has a huge hole in it -- one that I didn't see anyone else bring up. Also, I am reluctant to give much credence to anyone writing such a technical article who has no gallery links to allow someone to view his or her work, or any indication of photographic training.

Your entire article seems to be written as if the only photography a person does is ambient light exposure. As soon as flash is introduced (which you seem to have ignored) the entire exposure game changes. There are many circumstances where using Manual Exposure Mode is virtually essential, or at least much, much simpler than relying on an Auto Exposure Mode.

For example, you want to take a beautiful photo of your just married daughter in a dark reception hall, and you don't want the background to look like the inside of a coal mine. So in Manual Exposure Mode you simply turn on your flash with camera set to whatever aperture you want for proper DOF and drag the shutter to adjust the ambient exposure.

In an auto mode, the camera will choose what it determines is the correct flash exposure -- generally picking a very fast shutter speed, or a very wide aperture depending upon what mode you are in. Then adjusting the ambient exposure with your flash becomes a time consuming guessing game, playing with Exposure Compensation to adjust one of the exposure parameters.

Experienced photographers understand this issue, which is why most professional photographers shoot most of the time in Manual Mode when using flash -- and that includes studio shooting.

And I also would argue that there are ambient lighting situations where Manual Exposure Mode makes much more sense than shooting in an Auto Exposure Mode. One example that comes to mind is bird photography where the frontal subject lighting is consistent (e.g. front lit by sun), but a subject is moving from one area to another where the background luminance varies greatly -- for example moving from a branch with dark leaves in the background to a branch with bright sky in the background. A correct manual exposure for the subject lighting will give a consistent exposure where as an auto exposure will be all over the map.

I appreciate your desire to extol the usefulness of the auto modes, but that type of article seems to be aimed at inexperienced photographers -- an that is the last group of people who need to 'just say 'no' to Manual Exposure Mode' That is akin to telling a new driver, "just say no to manual shift cars" -- the problem is they may actually have to drive one some day.

God Bless,
Greg
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Horshack
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

daddyo wrote:

For example, you want to take a beautiful photo of your just married daughter in a dark reception hall, and you don't want the background to look like the inside of a coal mine. So in Manual Exposure Mode you simply turn on your flash with camera set to whatever aperture you want for proper DOF and drag the shutter to adjust the ambient exposure.

In an auto mode, the camera will choose what it determines is the correct flash exposure -- generally picking a very fast shutter speed, or a very wide aperture depending upon what mode you are in. Then adjusting the ambient exposure with your flash becomes a time consuming guessing game, playing with Exposure Compensation to adjust one of the exposure parameters.

I use manual mode for flash exposure myself but you can accomplish ambient-metered flash exposures in auto mode by using the camera's slow sync mode.

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Mako2011
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

daddyo wrote:

No offense intended, but your premise has a huge hole in it -- one that I didn't see anyone else bring up.

Could you point out the hole? I thought the premise was "Proper use of the auto functions allows your desired exposure to be achieved quickly and precisely, providing consistent exposure"

Also, I am reluctant to give much credence to anyone writing such a technical article who has no gallery links to allow someone to view his or her work, or any indication of photographic training.

He used to have a Blog at nikonexposed.wordpress.com but it's down now. Shame.

Your entire article seems to be written as if the only photography a person does is ambient light exposure. As soon as flash is introduced (which you seem to have ignored) the entire exposure game changes. There are many circumstances where using Manual Exposure Mode is virtually essential, or at least much, much simpler than relying on an Auto Exposure Mode.

He noted "just the tip of the iceberg..." so I think he was speaking in some general terms.

In an auto mode, the camera will choose what it determines is the correct flash exposure -- generally picking a very fast shutter speed, or a very wide aperture depending upon what mode you are in. Then adjusting the ambient exposure with your flash becomes a time consuming guessing game, playing with Exposure Compensation to adjust one of the exposure parameters.

Good reason for continued learning.

Experienced photographers understand this issue, which is why most professional photographers shoot most of the time in Manual Mode when using flash -- and that includes studio shooting.

I think the article was geared more towards the beginner like me.

And I also would argue that there are ambient lighting situations where Manual Exposure Mode makes much more sense than shooting in an Auto Exposure Mode. One example that comes to mind is bird photography where the frontal subject lighting is consistent (e.g. front lit by sun), but a subject is moving from one area to another where the background luminance varies greatly -- for example moving from a branch with dark leaves in the background to a branch with bright sky in the background. A correct manual exposure for the subject lighting will give a consistent exposure where as an auto exposure will be all over the map.

Unless you use AE-lock effectively. He had a great read on that but the blog is down....addressed your concern well I think.

I appreciate your desire to extol the usefulness of the auto modes, but that type of article seems to be aimed at inexperienced photographers -- an that is the last group of people who need to 'just say 'no' to Manual Exposure Mode' That is akin to telling a new driver, "just say no to manual shift cars" -- the problem is they may actually have to drive one some day.

I don't think so....Congress is mandating electric cars and they will all be automatic Actually, finding technical reads on exactly how the automatic modes operate is hard to find IMO. Your example of combining flash with them is just one example. Anything to simplify the understanding so that one can move forward technically is appreciated. Horshack has also been particularly helpful in this regard also.

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ZorSy
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Re: "Just say NO to manual mode!"
In reply to Graystar, Feb 3, 2012

Somehow "bombastic" title and does not match the content. But if you wanted to draw attention or cause some "controversy", that's fine in journalism terms (too much FOX news I reckon)...

You should have started your article with . "The hardest part is bringing yourself to reject the idea that using the auto exposure system is somehow inferior to manual mode. It isn't." instead using it as a conclusion.

Not arguing with any of the points you wrote (as said, they are very basic things). It used to work that way even before "variable/auto ISO" was invented. But, there is a flaw the way you dismissed full M mode - rather you reached for a EV compensation which requires great deal of understanding "basics" by itself. If we top it up with camera metering (and understanding of those) and its reliability, the more we question how any of auto modes (P/A/S) will provide camera user with "consistent and predictable results".

You mentioned Rebel - I will use D80 as an example. By a default (in full Auto mode), the camera uses Matrix Metering. It is supposed to analyze scenes, compare metered with some database and apply whatever rule to determine what's right. But, MM on that particular model is somewhat AF point dependent, resulting in metering being all over the place. The same applies to any of "semi" Auto modes - yes, you can override it using EC and get properly exposed shots. Or use CW, yet still apply great deal of compensation.

In the scenario where one wants to use this camera and the lighting conditions are more or less constant, "experimental metering" and full M mode (including setting fixed ISO and manual AWB) is still the best way to get consistent and guaranteed results. Even in this mode, depending on the skill and experience of the photographer, compensation is easily done changing one of two remaining parameters.

I guess this article of yours has beginner/early intermediate photographers as the target audience, perhaps setting some examples where full manual may be beneficial for them would hurt less than dismissing it altogether. Most of the people I know who ventured in advance camera models were having problems controlling their automated cameras in order to get results they wanted. Some of them were "soccer moms" or casual shooters spending day at the beach taking photos of their kids. Both were better off learning very basics and using their newly acquired cameras in full M, getting consistent exposure and colours. At least it looks "better" watching the slideshow and easier when printing the batch.

M mode is there and should not be avoided, at least until camera logic matches human intent what captured moment should look alike on the printed or displayed photograph.

cheers

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Mako2011
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to Horshack, Feb 3, 2012

Horshack wrote:

I use manual mode for flash exposure myself but you can accomplish ambient-metered flash exposures in auto mode by using the camera's slow sync mode.

Flash is critical and I am far from mastering it. I use an SB-700 and 2xSB-600 slaves. Can you point me to a site or a read to further improve my use/understanding. I'm simple minded so http://nikonclspracticalguide.blogspot.com is about my level...just looking for more. Thanks and feel free to ignore.

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Graystar
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

daddyo wrote:

I am reluctant to give much credence to anyone writing such a technical article who has no gallery links to allow someone to view his or her work, or any indication of photographic training.

Then don't.

Anyway, as for your flash example...

Suppose you're outdoors shooting someone in daylight. The sky is filled with small puffy distinct clouds rolling by, and you want to create a dramatic effect with a dark sky and dark background by underexposing ambient by two and a half stops. So first you set up a couple of flash units in AutoFP mode to illuminate your subject. Next, you set exposure for the background. Now there's a problem...the clouds keep blocking and unblocking the sun, and your background is constantly changing by up to three stops. Now what do you do?

On a Sony, Canon or a Nikon D4, you set aperture priority, set EC for -3, and you're good to go. As the cloud go by and the sun goes in and out, your exposure is automatically adjusted to give you the exposure you want (on other Nikons you also have to set FEC to +3, as EC affects FEC, but Nikon is now fixing that on new cameras.) With auto exposure handling the background, you can take shots at any time, even while the light is changing before your eyes, and you'll still get consistent exposure shot after shot.

With manual mode you'll either be constantly chasing the light, setting exposure and hoping it doesn't change before you press the shutter, or you set exposure for the high or low, and just wait on the shutter until you get the light you're set for. Then you'll correct the exposure differences later in post.

The big difference is that one method has you preoccupied with exposure on every shot, whereas the other method allows you concentrate fully on your subject and composition, secure in the knowledge that you've set your system to give you the exact exposure you want on every shot.

.

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daddyo
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to Horshack, Feb 3, 2012

Yes, I understand the slow sync mode, but the camera will simply read the ambient light and attempt to set a correct exposure for that lighting -- in most cases you don't want the background that bright. A good rule of thumb is to have the ambient exposure about 1 stop less than subject exposure. In many cases, such as my reception example, slow flash sync will result in such a slow shutter speed that subject movement becomes an issue.

The OP's main premise seems to be summed up in his closing statements:

"The hardest part is bringing yourself to reject the idea that using the auto exposure system is somehow inferior to manual mode. It isn't."

That is a nonsense statement, because the value of the exposure mode one selects is totally dependent upon the shooting situation. There are situations where using an auto exposure mode is the most expedient choice, and there are situations where manual exposure mode makes way more sense.

Anyway, I am sorry if my original post sounded condescending, and maybe I have misinterpreted his intended point. However, an article titled, "Just say 'no' to Manual Mode!" doesn't exactly come across as objective.

God Bless,
Greg
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Graystar
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Re: "Just say NO to manual mode!"
In reply to ZorSy, Feb 3, 2012

ZorSy wrote:

Not arguing with any of the points you wrote (as said, they are very basic things). It used to work that way even before "variable/auto ISO" was invented. But, there is a flaw the way you dismissed full M mode - rather you reached for a EV compensation which requires great deal of understanding "basics" by itself.

No more than that needed to use manual mode.

If we top it up with camera metering (and understanding of those) and its reliability, the more we question how any of auto modes (P/A/S) will provide camera user with "consistent and predictable results".

I don't see any question in it. consistency and predictability is at least as good as manual mode.

You mentioned Rebel - I will use D80 as an example. By a default (in full Auto mode), the camera uses Matrix Metering.

Just a note...I don't include scene or full auto modes under "auto modes". Those are P&S modes, which is how Nikon refers to them.

It is supposed to analyze scenes, compare metered with some database and apply whatever rule to determine what's right. But, MM on that particular model is somewhat AF point dependent, resulting in metering being all over the place. The same applies to any of "semi" Auto modes...

...and to manual mode...

...yes, you can override it using EC and get properly exposed shots. Or use CW, yet still apply great deal of compensation.

Exactly the same amount you'll be applying in manual mode.

In the scenario where one wants to use this camera and the lighting conditions are more or less constant, "experimental metering" and full M mode (including setting fixed ISO and manual AWB) is still the best way to get consistent and guaranteed results. Even in this mode, depending on the skill and experience of the photographer, compensation is easily done changing one of two remaining parameters.

I guess this article of yours has beginner/early intermediate photographers as the target audience, perhaps setting some examples where full manual may be beneficial for them would hurt less than dismissing it altogether. Most of the people I know who ventured in advance camera models were having problems controlling their automated cameras in order to get results they wanted. Some of them were "soccer moms" or casual shooters spending day at the beach taking photos of their kids. Both were better off learning very basics and using their newly acquired cameras in full M, getting consistent exposure and colours. At least it looks "better" watching the slideshow and easier when printing the batch.

There is no special M mode meter. There is only one meter in the camera, and all the shooting modes use it. You'll have the same exact difficulties with any metering mode in M mode that you would in the auto modes. Any compensation that you need to apply in an auto mode will need to be applied in M mode. The problem is that, for some strange and baffling reason, people consider the shifting of an indicator to the left or right by turning a dial, to be easier than the shifting of an indicator to the left or right by turning a dial. Call me silly, but it sounds exactly the same to me. I tried to explain that in my article, but it appears to be lost on people.

.

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daddyo
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P.S. Horshack...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

You've got some great stuff in your galleries! I especially like the Infrared gallery -- excellent.

The shot of the long hallway looks very much like a shot I did about 15 Years ago at the MGM Grand Hotel My wife and I were in Vegas for the annual WPPI Conference -- We'll be out there again next month for a Trade Conference I am shooting.

God Bless,
Greg
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Mako2011
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

daddyo wrote:

Anyway, I am sorry if my original post sounded condescending, and maybe I have misinterpreted his intended point. However, an article titled, "Just say 'no' to Manual Mode!" doesn't exactly come across as objective.

His title was kind of an attention grabber and may have detracted from intent...
In that same way though, your first lines

No offense intended, but your premise has a huge hole in it -- one that I didn't see anyone else bring up. Also, I am reluctant to give much credence to anyone writing such a technical article who has no gallery links to allow someone to view his or her work, or any indication of photographic training.

Seemed to have a similar affect and most likely detracted from your actual intent. One of the pitfalls of text only interaction I think. I do like that the OP takes the time too be instructional. Would be nice if folks could see it for that and proved additional positives to the community. BTW, any additional reads or sites to help instruct/learn the ends and outs of flash would be appreciated, thank you.

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Horshack
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to Graystar, Feb 3, 2012

Graystar wrote:

With manual mode you'll either be constantly chasing the light, setting exposure and hoping it doesn't change before you press the shutter, or you set exposure for the high or low, and just wait on the shutter until you get the light you're set for. Then you'll correct the exposure differences later in post.

The big difference is that one method has you preoccupied with exposure on every shot, whereas the other method allows you concentrate fully on your subject and composition, secure in the knowledge that you've set your system to give you the exact exposure you want on every shot.

You'll be chasing light and riding EC using AE modes as well. Your thesis implies you can expose once, dial in an EC and then just shoot nearly anything in the scene with acceptable results. The reality is that the camera will be changing its exposure decisions based not only what general direction of the scene you point the camera at but also what happens to be under the AF point, esp. for the evaluative modes which heavily bias the AF subject. This is great when the camera's metering decisions match your expectations for the scene across its varied light sources and subjects. It's not so great when invariably the camera makes wholesale changes to its evaluation of the scene, sometimes in response to an imperceptible change to how your AF point falls on the subject. This is the paradox of AE, esp. when using the camera's most advanced evaluative/matrix AE...under conditions where the subject, AF point, and lighting changes quickly it can many times be faster and certainly more accurate to rely on experience and use manual...and most useful to use the AE modes when the lighting/subjects in your scene are more static.

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Horshack
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Re: "Just say NO to manual mode!"
In reply to Graystar, Feb 3, 2012

Graystar wrote:

There is no special M mode meter. There is only one meter in the camera, and all the shooting modes use it. You'll have the same exact difficulties with any metering mode in M mode that you would in the auto modes. Any compensation that you need to apply in an auto mode will need to be applied in M mode. The problem is that, for some strange and baffling reason, people consider the shifting of an indicator to the left or right by turning a dial, to be easier than the shifting of an indicator to the left or right by turning a dial. Call me silly, but it sounds exactly the same to me. I tried to explain that in my article, but it appears to be lost on people.

I agree, in many situations it will be the same, and the decision between manual and AE can come down to simple preference. But there are also situations where it's not nearly the same, where the camera will be changing its AE decisions too quickly and too unpredictably for you to keep up with it via EC.

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Horshack
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Re: What's missing from this discussion...
In reply to Mako2011, Feb 3, 2012

Mako2011 wrote:

Horshack wrote:

I use manual mode for flash exposure myself but you can accomplish ambient-metered flash exposures in auto mode by using the camera's slow sync mode.

Flash is critical and I am far from mastering it. I use an SB-700 and 2xSB-600 slaves. Can you point me to a site or a read to further improve my use/understanding. I'm simple minded so http://nikonclspracticalguide.blogspot.com is about my level...just looking for more. Thanks and feel free to ignore.

hehe, I'm far from mastering it myself. Most of my flash shooting is with studio strobes so I'm even less well suited to provide advice for speed light use. A great site for the common aspects of flash photography though is http://strobist.blogspot.com/

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Mako2011
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In reply to Horshack, Feb 3, 2012

Horshack wrote:

But there are also situations where it's not nearly the same, where the camera will be changing its AE decisions too quickly and too unpredictably for you to keep up with it via EC.

But in those same situations, in manual exposure mode, wont you still be chasing the meter indicator and have the same problem keeping up? Sorry, just trying to visualize the difference or scenario for my own understanding.

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Mako2011
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In reply to Horshack, Feb 3, 2012

Horshack wrote:

Mako2011 wrote:

Horshack wrote:

I use manual mode for flash exposure myself but you can accomplish ambient-metered flash exposures in auto mode by using the camera's slow sync mode.

Flash is critical and I am far from mastering it. I use an SB-700 and 2xSB-600 slaves. Can you point me to a site or a read to further improve my use/understanding. I'm simple minded so http://nikonclspracticalguide.blogspot.com is about my level...just looking for more. Thanks and feel free to ignore.

hehe, I'm far from mastering it myself. Most of my flash shooting is with studio strobes so I'm even less well suited to provide advice for speed light use. A great site for the common aspects of flash photography though is http://strobist.blogspot.com/

Every little bit helps and I appreciate your link greatly, Thanks.

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Horshack
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Re: P.S. Horshack...
In reply to daddyo, Feb 3, 2012

daddyo wrote:

You've got some great stuff in your galleries! I especially like the Infrared gallery -- excellent.

The shot of the long hallway looks very much like a shot I did about 15 Years ago at the MGM Grand Hotel My wife and I were in Vegas for the annual WPPI Conference -- We'll be out there again next month for a Trade Conference I am shooting.

God Bless,
Greg
http://www.imagismphotos.com
http://www.mccroskery.zenfolio.com
http://www.pbase.com/daddyo

Thanks daddyo. I bought an infrared 5D specifically for shooting in Tahoe. It lets me isolate the majesty of the trees, which I consider the defining characteristic of the beauty of the sierras.

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Digirame
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"Just say NO to manual mode!" - some of the time...partly...maybe
In reply to Graystar, Feb 3, 2012

With my DSLR cameras I've been using Aperture priority most of the time. Recently I got one of those high ISO performance DSLR cameras, and I now think that auto-ISO might be a good idea, where I want to achieve a certain depth of field and shutter speed. Depending on the lighting conditions, the camera will set the ISO automatically for my F-stop/focal length and shutter speed requirements. So, with advancing technology, it's time to re-think what we might consider...so that some auto functions might be good.

Anyone's thoughts about this? This is just one idea I was contemplating.

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Erik Magnuson
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Re: Question?
In reply to Mako2011, Feb 3, 2012

Mako2011 wrote:

But in those same situations, in manual exposure mode, wont you still be chasing the meter indicator and have the same problem keeping up? Sorry, just trying to visualize the difference or scenario for my own understanding.

Sure - if you think the meter is always right, then there is no difference. But if you know the meter can be fooled but the light is really constant, then you don't chase the meter (or chase different EV adjustments.)

-- hide signature --

Erik

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Horshack
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Re: Question?
In reply to Mako2011, Feb 3, 2012

Mako2011 wrote:

Horshack wrote:

But there are also situations where it's not nearly the same, where the camera will be changing its AE decisions too quickly and too unpredictably for you to keep up with it via EC.

But in those same situations, in manual exposure mode, wont you still be chasing the meter indicator and have the same problem keeping up? Sorry, just trying to visualize the difference or scenario for my own understanding.

Sometimes, it depends on the situation. One day in Costa Rica I was photographing howler monkeys in the tree against an overcast sky (rain forest), at the same time I was tracking and photographing a sloth which had fallen onto the forest floor. AE for the monkeys was impossible because the camera would constantly adjust its metering between the monkey, the branches, and the sky, depending on the focal length I was zooming at and where the AF point fell. I could have used AE and locked in an exposure...except that I was also trying to photograph that sloth which was in darker lighting. So AE+AEL wouldn't work...and even without AEL it's a lot faster to spin a shutter speed dial to adjust quickly between two EVs than it is trying to dial in a drastic EV difference, esp. since you have to hold down a button for EC while coordinating with a dial.

An added benefit of manual is that you build more experience with metering and develop a better feel for exposure intuitions because you're looking at actual shutter speeds instead of shutter speeds w/EC values. It's a lot easier to remember that you used 1/100 for a scene than "1/160 +2/3 EC".

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Mako2011
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Re: Question?
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Feb 3, 2012

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Mako2011 wrote:

But in those same situations, in manual exposure mode, wont you still be chasing the meter indicator and have the same problem keeping up? Sorry, just trying to visualize the difference or scenario for my own understanding.

Sure - if you think the meter is always right, then there is no difference. But if you know the meter can be fooled but the light is really constant, then you don't chase the meter (or chase different EV adjustments.)

That was how I was imagining it and why simply setting AE lock to "hold" would accomplish the same thing. You could then simply re-meter and "hold" that when the light changed. I could see that at a sporting event in S priority as an alternative to manual. Just thinking it through, thank you for the input. It really does help me understand more working through a thread of this nature. Trying to see both side of the coin.

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