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Understanding Nikon’s Three Light Metering Systems

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: nikon, camera, bodies

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The basis for a Nikon DSLR’s exposure meter is an RGB sensor that meters a wide area of the frame. When used with a G or D Nikkor CPU lens, the camera can set exposure based on the distribution of brightness, color, distance, and composition. Most people leave their cameras set to Matrix metering and enjoy excellent results. Others use the Center-weighted meter, or the Spot meter. Let's look more closely at each of the Nikon exposure meters.


(22 Votes )
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Originally written on May 29, 2013

Last updated on August 24, 2016


Sudheer Dattatray Dharmadhikari (ESSDEEDEE) on May 31, 2016

Great well explained .my doubts cleared Thanks Darrel

User on May 19, 2015

This Article nailed it! Thanks...The point where it mentioned that moving the AF point in Spot Metering, acquires metering reading based on the point, threw up an interesting qn - "In a situation, where im using BBF, and am lets say Single Point AF, and I'm trying to keep an object in Focus, but dont want to use the Metering from that Point" How do i achieve it? It might sound illogical in a practical scenario, but I'm just being curious! Or if I can RE Frame my question - Which button the AF ON or the Shutter activates Metering?

Adam Lumia (Ada3m) on January 22, 2015

Thank you, I have been "playing" with the metering modes and somewhat struggling to find the differences and how to use them creatively.

Ian Ross (Dadorian) on June 15, 2013

Thank you for this, it never occurred to me that I could meter by moving the AF point, simple thing but so useful, great article thanks

Rachel Garafola (rachelg2013) on June 12, 2013

Thank you Darrell, very helpful!

Mike Bell (mickeyb48) on June 9, 2013

Thanks Darrell, I sure do enjoy how you explain these topics

Gerry Gingell (Gerry Gingell) on June 8, 2013

Thank you so much for demystifying this. Much appreciated. Gerry

Robert de Jonge (RobertS46) on June 5, 2013

Thank you, Darrel, it's a very useful tutorial. I use Centre-weighted metering most of the time with a very long lens when I shoot birds. That gives me always good results.

User on June 1, 2013

Keep up the tutorials. I use the Quantum trio flash for weddings and Quantum recommends using matrix metering for their best flash results.

Robert Kim Holwick (hillsidekim) on May 31, 2013

Thanks Darrell, Once again an excellent explanation that everyone should be able to understand.

Kaya Corabatir (fotokaya) on May 31, 2013

Clear, concise explanation. I like to add that selection of metering is critical in flash photography. When using i-TTL balanced fill flash during daylight for backlit subjects, matrix metering should be used. However, if the background is very dark and the emphasis is on the foreground subjects, spot metering should be selected. Using matrix metering under such circumstances will result in underexposed shots.

Richard Luse (DaddySS) on May 30, 2013

Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for  his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous contribution to the 2019 Fundraising campaign

Thanks Darrell, good write up and very helpful as usual!

Tom Ferguson (tekneektom) on May 30, 2013

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Winner in the Annual Nikonians Best Images Contest 2015

Clear, concise explanation of metering. Thanks.

Chuck Szuberla (Chuckster902) on May 30, 2013

Like your clear concise explanation. Very helpful. Always good to go back to the basics.

Gary Wigle (wiglegb) on May 30, 2013

Spot metering is also a must in stage theater shots when flash is usually not used. I always put the spot on the face of the primary subject so the lighting is best where the focus will be.

Larry S (larsch01) on May 29, 2013

I tried spot metering on a difficult composition and as you pointed out, I gave up someting --intentionally blew out the background in order to capture the detail in the head of a bison. I remembered this section of your D800 book, which guided me to make that decision. Excelent advice!

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