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Spot Meter and AF Area

Palisades Dave

Pacific Palisades, US
127 posts

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Palisades Dave Gold Member Nikonian since 08th Jul 2007
Mon 20-May-13 06:08 AM

All:

I apologize profusely if this is a stupid question, but it is driving me CRAZY and I do not see an obvious answer in either the manual or Darrell's excellent book.

Allow me to set the scene a little. Both of my kids (13 & 9) are musicians and they play in some famous rock venues in Los Angeles. The lighting is typically very dark, with spot lights, colored lighting and yes, even smoke. Before I had the D800, I had a D700 and used it with great success. After getting the D800, I continued to produce pleasing shots with the D800 and 3 lenses, the 24-70, the 70-200 and the 50 f/1.4.

I could shoot up to ISO 6400 and get good shots. I developed a fondness for using spot metering and metering on faces, guitars and other bright portions of the frame, allowing excellent portraits of the musicians. Shafts of light, beautiful colors, etc. I was getting usable shutter speeds and the shots were not over-exposed as they would be with matrix metering.

In December, my car was rear-ended with my camera in the trunk while I was stopped at a traffic light. Nikon repaired it, along with my trusty 24-70 lens and I used it to shoot several shows at one if my usual venues with the same success as before.

Here's the problem. The last two weekends in a row, I shot at the same venues and the shots came out terrible. They are all blown out, with the colors from the lights look almost like IR shots, or like ink from a comic book. Cartoonish, really.

I did have another photographer examining my camera in an effort to replicate my settings on his own camera. So I have now been scouring all the settings to see what is amiss and I found only one thing. I was still on spot metering, and my exposure correction was still at EV 0.0, but I just noticed that my AF Area was set to d51 instead of S, which is where I think I may have had it set before. Could using spot metering in AF-C d51 have thrown off my spot metering and resulted in the overexposure of the shots?

My theory is that if the focal point was dragged off of the brighter spot that I intended, the camera may have been exposing for a darker area and blowing out the lights.

If anyone can help with this, even if you think I'm a spaz, I would be so grateful. Absent finding the answer, I think I need to bring it in to Nikon and have them test the spot metering in case there is residual damage from the car accident. .

One side note, the camera seems to function normally in regular daylight settings, where the lighting conditions are not as complex.

Thanks all,

Dave

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briantilley

Paignton, UK
30235 posts

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#1. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 0

briantilley Gold Member Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003
Mon 20-May-13 06:20 AM

You are correct that, in Dynamic-area AF (51 points), the camera can end up using any of the AF points, and the one it chooses will determine where Spot Metering meters. I would tend to use Single-point AF in the sort of situation you're shooting, so that you are sure where you are focusing and metering.

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

jamesvoortman

Durban, ZA
1479 posts

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#2. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 1

jamesvoortman Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Sep 2004
Mon 20-May-13 04:17 PM | edited Tue 21-May-13 02:23 AM by jamesvoortman

I agree with your advice about AF-S single point Brian, but I am not observing the behaviour you decribed for spot metering in AF-C with 51 point dynamic AF. My D800 seems to keep the spot metering at the initially selected AF point, even if the subject moves away and is tracked by other surrounding AF points

Here are some cut-and-pastes from the manual (Thank-you Nikon)

Click on image to view larger version


In AF-S your only choices are :
a) single point AF, in which the camera will spot meter on a 4mm circle around the selected AF point
b) Auto area AF, in which the camera will spot meter off the centre point of the viewfinder regardless of what the camera decides to focus on.

In AF-C you have more choices from single through 9, 21 or 51 point dynamic Area AF, 3D tracking, and Auto Area AF. The manual is not clear on the interaction of metering with the various AF modes so I got my camera out and tested its responses in spot metering with AF-C mode to clarify :
a) in AF-C Single, spot metering stays with the selected point.
b) in 9, 21 or 51 point modes, spot metering stays with the initially selected focus point, even if the subject moves and is tracked by other surrounding AF points. This was a surprise to me because I expected the spot metering to move with the subject as it is tracked, but it doesn't.
c) in AF-C 3D tracking, the AF system will focus on the initially selected AF point and then track it as it moves across the frame. Spot metering also follows the subject.
d) in AF-C Auto, the system selects a subject automatically (you have no control) and once the AF system has "locked" onto a subject, it will track the subject if it moves but the spot metering is based on the viewfinder centre point and exposure settings will vary with the brightness at that point, regardless of where the subject is in the frame.


For photographing musicians in a low light venue I'd suggest that the two most useful AF settings for use with subject based spot metering will be AF-S single point for relatively static subjects and AF-C 3D Tracking if significant subject motion occurs.

The dynamic area modes (only available in AF-C) fix the spot meter at the originally selected AF point, regardless where the subject moves, so these modes will sometimes work and sometimes not, depending how far the subject moves between activating AF (and metering) and releasing the shutter.

The Auto Area AF mode is probably the least useful for this particular purpose because it always locks the spot meter on the centre of the viewfinder, regardless of where it finds a subject.
Attachment#1 (jpg file)

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Palisades Dave

Pacific Palisades, US
127 posts

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#3. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 2

Palisades Dave Gold Member Nikonian since 08th Jul 2007
Tue 21-May-13 01:36 AM

This is what perplexes me about this. I was using the spot meter with the focus tracking set on S. The pictures I took using those settings rendered good metering, because I could meter for the brightest spot, say a performer standing under a spot light, or whatever, and it seemed to work well.

This weekend, for some reason, the pictures were funky. I remembered that I had allowed a fellow photographer to look at my settings so he could set his own and that is when I discovered that I was set to spot meter, but at d51. If that is not the reason for my problem, I'm lost. Either there is some other setting that is a problem, or the camera is broken and is metering incorrectly.

I'm going to attach two photos, one from the weekend a few months ago when it was working to my liking (the first image), and one from last weekend (the second image). Maybe someone will spot something I have missed.

Thanks to both of you for your help. Maybe these images will help.



Click on image to view larger version



Click on image to view larger version


Attachment#1 (jpg file)
Attachment#2 (jpg file)

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jamesvoortman

Durban, ZA
1479 posts

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#4. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 3

jamesvoortman Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Sep 2004
Tue 21-May-13 02:40 AM

Change your settings back to AF-S single point or AF-C single point with spot metering. If the action is too fast and you find yourself constantly pushing the selected AF point around then go to AF-C with 3D tracking. Once you have acquired focus on the subject you can then recompose the shot. The AF system will track the subject you selected and spot meter on it. In d51 AF the spot metering stays with the initially selected AF point, even if the subject moves and is tracked by the AF system

In the shots you posted, the very strongly coloured light and the high contrast between the dark T shirt and brightly lit face of the singer could be foxing the meter. I presume the AF point would have been on the singer's face? If it was initially focused on that dark T shirt then in d51 mode the spot metering would have stayed on that dark area, consequently overexposing brighter parts of the image.

At least two others have fiddled with your camera (that you know of); the technician who repaired it and the other photographer. Who knows what they did? I would do a two-button reset to factory defaults and re-adjust all my custom settings from there. will only take about 30 mins or so.

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Palisades Dave

Pacific Palisades, US
127 posts

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#5. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 4

Palisades Dave Gold Member Nikonian since 08th Jul 2007
Tue 21-May-13 02:43 AM

Good advice. Thanks for looking at the shots!
Painful as it is, the reset may be the way to go.

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phlpyro

Harrow, UK
62 posts

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#6. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 3

phlpyro Gold Member Nikonian since 18th Dec 2007
Tue 21-May-13 01:22 PM

Hi
From my experience the second shot is being spoilt by the lighting guys. A colleague of mine and I cover a lot of these type of shoots and invariably some shots are spoilt by over use of haze. The problem these days is that these haze machines can be set to produce a constant flow rate and are therefore left running un attended. Our lighting guys are only ever interested in being able to see the beam definition of their lamps and are not really concerned whether we can only just see the kids faces clearly. Also I note Conga blue a colour that plays around with normal vision let alone cameras.
Having had look at the properties of these images the other recommendation I would give is turn "auto white balance" of. I tend to use tungsten as most follow spots are near this colour temperature and is usually used to light the main artist. Or if you are friendly with the lighting guys get them to give you an open white on as many fixtures as they can and set a manual colour balance using an 18% grey card. The important thing is to maintain a constant white balance and any deviation will only therefore be the lighting effect. Hope this helps.

Best wishes
Paul (UK)

Phlpyro
Paul H Lunnon

Bulgakov

Winter Springs, US
97 posts

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#7. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 2

Bulgakov Registered since 31st Oct 2006
Tue 21-May-13 08:24 PM

Great work, a great explanation of something I surely didn't understand. Thanks for your time and sharing it with us.

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ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9070 posts

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#8. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 0

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Tue 21-May-13 09:59 PM

I would make note of where the focus point was in each picture. That's where the spot metering should be. When I shoot something like this, I lock the center focus point and meter with it and lock the exposure.

If your focus point is moving about, so goes the spot metering.

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

Palisades Dave

Pacific Palisades, US
127 posts

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#9. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 6

Palisades Dave Gold Member Nikonian since 08th Jul 2007
Wed 22-May-13 04:45 AM

The strange thing is that both shots are at the same venue. I did notice that there was quite a bit of smoke the second day. Maybe the lighting guys were different. I could kick myself for not checking the review screen more carefully when I was shooting. Ugh.

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Palisades Dave

Pacific Palisades, US
127 posts

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#10. "RE: Spot Meter and AF Area" | In response to Reply # 8

Palisades Dave Gold Member Nikonian since 08th Jul 2007
Wed 22-May-13 04:47 AM

Thanks Scott. Also a great point

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G