Does the D800 rocognize snow?

Started Feb 11, 2014 | Discussions thread
soloryb Senior Member • Posts: 2,261
Snow can fool the meter

hzmeyer wrote:

I just took a few outdoor snow scenes with my D800 to see how it handled the mostly white landscape. Some were exposed using the Sunny 16 rule in Manual. Some were exposed using the in-camera meter and some were exposed using the reading from my Sekonic incident light meter. All were surprisingly similar exposures. I also took one with +1.7 exposure compensation which I usually have used for snow scenes. This was the only one that appeared lighter on the camera monitor. It appears that the D800 must recognize the abundance of snow and apply an adjustment to the exposure.

How many of you have taken snow scenes and not had to crank up the exposure compensation?

A camera light meter is designed to evaluate the reflected light from an 18% gray card (on some cameras this value may be 16% or so). When the light from bright white snow reaches the sensor, it treats it as if that 18% gray card is reflecting more light than is actually bouncing off the snow. The metering system then responds by reducing the exposure. That can lead to the snow being underexposed, which is the reason for adding ev compensation. This adjustment can vary somewhat depending on the camera so it's always a good idea to experiment a little and determine the amount of compensation to add for yourself. Add to this mix the variability of outdoor lighting conditions and the level of contrast between subject and bright white background snow, and you can see why there is no steadfast rule that will work for all scenes.

The D800 also is blessed with a rather large dynamic range. Together with the probability that a snowy outdoor scene will be shot at a low ISO (highest DR), this makes it likely that the image will not have clipped the highlights to the extent where you can't do something about it during post.

When in doubt - bracket.


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