Advantages of manual exposure?

Started Feb 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Graystar Veteran Member • Posts: 8,373
A Description of Auto Mode Techniques - Part I

petermc45 wrote:

Thank you for the post. Can you recommend a good source that would explain or elaborate on your views.

The techniques are simple but they require understanding the different functions of the camera, as well as understanding that the default configuration of some cameras (Nikons, at least) aren't configured optimally for auto mode techniques. The reason is that the configuration may conflict with the desire to have other options enabled.

For example...consider the Easy EC function. When you're in A, S, or P mode, the "other" dial is unused. Seems like a waste. Enter the "Easy" functions. There's Easy EC, which places Exposure Compensation on the "other" dial full-time, and Easy ISO, which does the same for ISO. Nikon has had an Exposure Compensation button right by the shutter ever since the F5 film camera (and an EC dial on both the film F4 and F3, btw.) So you don't really need to have EC full-time on the dial. Also, the Auto-ISO function is far better for controlling ISO than having ISO on a dial. So...Nikon leaves the "other" dial unassigned (personally, I say they should have put EC on it.) So that's one change you need to make to optimize your camera for auto techniques...enable Easy EC.

The second change you need to make is to set your AE-L/AF-L button to "AE Lock (hold)." The default setting is to lock exposure and focus, and only while the button is pressed. This is done to support the "Focus & Recompose" process, and again is due to people either not understanding the benefits of moving your focus point, or people simply thinking that moving the focus point is "more work". So it's easy to just point at the subject, press AEL/AF-L, and then recompose and shoot. However, F&R can cause out of focus shots at the 35-50mm range with wide apertures. It also throws off Matrix Metering, which might have made a better metering decision (that is, decision made for Matrix is the "P&S" metering mode.) Matrix metering examines the scene several ways, and then tries to find a match in its database of over 30,000 scenes. If it finds a match it will apply the Exposure Compensation that some Nikon photographer thought was a good EC for that type of scene. The best focus and metering comes from moving the focus point...but it seems like few people do that. Anyways..."AE Lock (hold)" will lock only exposure, and will act as a toggle (press to lock, press to unlock.)

The last change you need to make to fully take advantage of auto techniques is to extend the "Auto Meter-off Delay." The default is 6 seconds. I change that to at least 30 minutes, but even 5 minutes gets you the benefit. This change will keep your meter on for 5 minutes (if that's what you selected). The benefit is that you can lock your exposure using AE Lock, and the camera will hold that exposure until the meter turns off (AE Lock really should just hold the lock indefinitely, like it does on a Sony DSLR, but alas...) What's interesting is that pushing just about any button on the camera will restart the countdown. So if you take a picture every few minutes, you can keep the same AE Lock all day. The better Nikons have an option of "No limit" which will keep an AE Lock all day. But that does drain the battery. If you keep the meter on continuously, a battery will be drained in about 8-10 hours. Personally, I find 30 minutes to be fine. If I don't take a picture within 30 minutes, I might as well turn the camera off!

As a side benefit of extending the meter, you now have more time to set a custom white balance. So you can kick off the custom WB process by holding the WB button for two secs (in Preset mode, of course) and then take your time positioning your WB reference in front of the lens. Press your shutter when you're happy with the position, and you're done.

(Continued on Part II. Link below...)


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