Nikon Metering Methods

So that the camera can determine the necessary settings for shooting, first of all, it needs to know how bright or dim the lighting of the space that needs to be photographed is. The exposure meter in the camera is responsible for such a determination. Necessary Exposition for a picture - this is one of the key tasks of any camera automation.

Nikon Metering Methods

Measurement Methods exposure Nikon

All Nikon Central Control Units use metering exposure by reflected light, the so-called TTL mode. TTL means 'Through The Lens'- through the lens (objective), that is, froze exposure calculated with the help of light, which was reflected from the object being shot, passed through the lens (lens) and hit the exposure meter sensor.

For example, in the photo below, light from the sun reflected off the flower, passed through the lens, reflected in the mirror, and hit the exposure meter. How the work of a modern digital-mirror camera works here, and where is the metering sensor itself you can see here.

Matrix metering

Matrix metering exposure. Automation normally copes with measurement exposure.

Measuring sensor exposure - This is a rather complex device, basically, it is made up of a CCD or CMOS type photosensitive matrix, which is divided evenly or unevenly into a large number of cells. Each cell receives light from the lens and calculates its strength in each separate area of ​​the image. In fact, these cells calculate not only the brightness itself, but also the saturation of individual colors, the color shift. Further information about each section of the future image is transferred for processing to the camera processor. The camera processor receives additional information from the focus sensors to find out the focusing distance to the subject being shot. After that, according to complex algorithms that depend on the selected shooting mode, the processor calculates the parameters for the desired exposure - shutter speed, aperture, sometimes ISO.

Now the algorithms are so advanced that many cameras simply compare the information received from the sensors with a measurement base for several hundred thousand images, find a similar one and immediately determine the optimal settings just 'from memory'. For instance, Nikon D70s takes into account the base of 30.000 pictures, Nikon D700 base for 300.000.

Sensor Camera
180.000 pixel meter sensor D5, D6, D500, D850D780, D7500
91.000 pixel meter sensor D4, D4s, D800, D800E, D810, D810a, D750
2.016-pixel RGB sensor D600, D610, Df, D7000, D7100, D7200, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600
1.005-pixel CCD RGB D1, D1h, D1X, D2h, D2hs, D2x, D2xs, D70, D70s, D200, D3, D3s, D3x, D700, D300, D300s, Fujifilm FinePix S5 ProIS Pro
420-segment RGB sensor D50, D40, D40x, D60, D80, D3000, D90, D5000, D3100, D5100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D3500
10 segment SPD sensor D100, Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro, S3 ProS3 Pro UVIR, Kodak Professional DCS Pro 14n (and its modifications), Kodak Professional DCS Pro SLR / n (and its modifications)
6 segment sensor Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro
5 segment sensor quasi full-format digital SLR cameras Nikon E2, E2S, E2N, E2NS, E3, E3S, Fujifilm Fujix DS-505, DS-515, DS-505A, DS-515A, DS-560, DS-565

After I made such a tablet, I was surprised that Nikon uses only 5 exposure sensors in the CZK. All Nikon cameras (except D100) use color RGB sensors for metering, which allows you to fine-tune exposure settings. The table includes Fujifilm FinePix digital SLR cameras, which were built on the basis of Nikon cameras with Nikon F mount and have many insides from Nikon cameras, including exposure meters.

Unlike RBG sensors, the monochrome sensors of many other cameras can make a metering error due to different sensitivity to the components of the spectrum, for example, they are more sensitive to red color.

Type of metering sensor

Type of metering sensors. 1005 pixel above, 420 segment below

Nikon digital SLR cameras automatically measure exposure in 3 main ways:

  1. Matrix metering - Matrix Meter, Multi-Segment or 3D RGB Color Matrix Meter
  2. Center-Weighted Meter (only works in P, A, S, M)
  3. Spot - Spot

Matrix metering has a number of modifications, for example, 3D Color Matrix Metering II, III but the meaning remains the same everywhere. The camera tries to determine the correct exposure, evaluating the parameters of almost the entire future picture. That is, in this mode, the brightness of almost all the parts across the entire field of view is estimated. The mode is very convenient when there is a composition with uniform illumination in the frame, but even with complex scenes, matrix metering copes quite well.

Center Weighted also takes into account data from almost the entire image, but the main information that most affects the calculations is taken from the center of the frame. The diameter of the central part of the frame, which is most responsible for metering, can be changed in the camera settings. The default is 8mm diameter. Personally, I have never adjusted this parameter. Since the main part of the composition of interest to the photographer is usually located in the center of the frame, center-weighted metering can be used for scenes in which there are strong differences in lighting on the sides of the frame.

Spot metering measures exposure at only one point; the point size is approximately 2.5% of the total frame. In this mode, we accurately get the correctly exposed element in the picture where the metering point is located, the rest of the frame can be underexposed or overexposed, as shown in the example with the clock. In different operating modes auto focus:

  • The exposure metering point is the same as the focus point if single-point focusing is used. Moving the focus point in this mode, you can see how the exposure meter changes.
  • The spot metering point for spot metering is always in the center of the frame, if used auto focus (rectangle icon) or any other method except focusing on a single point.
  • In point mode, the function does not work TTL + BL with Nikon SB flashes.

Centrally weighted exposure metering.

In Live View, exposure metering works in exactly the same way, only information about brightness and color distribution is taken directly from the camera’s matrix.

Changing exposure when choosing different metering methods

Changing exposure when choosing different metering methods. Spot metering made the watch correctly exposed, but the total exposure was in '+'

Personal experience:

Roughly speaking, accurate metering algorithms each chamber is different, since each camera uses its own exposure metering module and its own matrix, which has different DD and ISO values ​​and a number of additional settings by type ADL. Each individual camera has a light meter get used to. If the on-camera exposure meter for reflected light does not suit you, you can always buy a light meter for exposure. Personally, I just roughly know how the camera behaves in different conditions.

Auto metering

Auto metering

I take almost all the pictures in matrix mode with desired exposure compensation, when the conditions are very difficult, then I use spot metering, and when the operation of the automation does not suit me, I simply use the manual mode of camera control, in which I set the exposure parameters by eye or by the histogram. In automatic modes, it is very useful to apply exposure compensation. Even if I didn’t keep track of the desired exposure on the camera’s display, I can always adjust the levels when processing a RAW file. Particular difficulties with metering arise when shooting with multiple flashes in i-ttl mode, in which case I still use matrix metering, but manual flash control with Nikon CLS.

In general, the same thing can be said not only about Nikon, but also about other systems.

Auto metering

Auto metering does a good job


Understanding metering is the foundation to properly exposed photography. If learn to be managed With different metering modes, you can easily shoot in any situation with complex lighting. I advise you to carry out your own experiments on their Central Control Commission.

Help to the project. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 61, on the topic: Nikon metering methods

  • Nina

    The last photo is bright! The article is useful !!! I didn’t know that spot metering works not only in the center

  • Vasil

    Garna i douje korisna stattya yak zdzhdi (:

  • Alexey

    informative article .. but it seemed that I already know everything in this matter .. :) thanks, Arkady!

  • Nicholas

    Yes, I’m just waiting and I hope to see an article on storing lenses and photo cameras

  • Gene jb

    I do not trust the camera’s metering and always take a couple of shots to understand what the camera wants, and then adjust it to my needs. In general, it’s strange that my 400D always underexposes to stop, and always costs AV + 1, because photos do not work. And in difficult conditions, I always try to shoot on M or AV, and in spite of the readings of the built-in exposure meter, because it usually lies in difficult conditions. Well, with enough light, everything is just fine.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You need to get used to everything.

  • Michael

    Good afternoon, Arkady! Thanks again for your articles.
    I would like to note that this is not the first time you have made an annoying typo in decrypting TTL mode.
    The correct spelling is “Through the lens” and not “Thru”.
    A couple more questions:
    Did I understand correctly that when centered-weighted, metering always occurs in the center of the frame, regardless of the choice of focus point?
    And last ... Can you expect reviews of Nikcor macro lenses on 60mm, D and G versions on your site? It would be very interesting.
    Thank you in advance.)

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, basic data is always taken from the central area. The size of the area can usually be set from 8 to 10 mm.
      You can expect, but when - I don't know.

      • Alexey

        Is it possible to set the size of the area on the D5100? If so, where?

  • peace

    Camera Nikon D7000. For a well-exposed photo of a black chow-chow, what type of metering should you choose so that BLACK is natural and the coat is well developed in the picture? After reading your article, I tend to point measurement if the dog takes half the picture or less in the frame.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      If half of the picture is taken, then you can also use a matrix one, in any case, depending on the situation, it is advisable to use exposure compensation to achieve the best result.

      • peace

        It is clear, I have a matrix one. The camera is like 3 weeks, I'm learning from you here. I understood about the exposition. And the numbers ... + how much? Or experimenting in practice? Thanks for your work!

  • Vladimir

    On one of the sites I read that some cameras with spot exposure metering allow reading light data at the autofocus point. Can you please tell me - can my d5100 do this with spot metering, if the focus point is not central? Didn't find it in the instructions? ...

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes maybe. Instructions page 68.

  • Volod

    Thank you so much for the article, you are just great!

  • Eugene

    I use center-weighted metering for portraits. However, I always believed that it, like the spot metering, also coincided with the focus point that I chose, with the only difference being that the measurement area itself was larger. It turns out that he was wrong?

    • Roma

      Center-weighted metering always measures in the center, regardless of the focus point. Spot measures at the focus point.

  • Victor

    For me, on Nikon D7000, the metering strange works. On matrix metering and an open aperture, it overexposes, on a center-weighted one, more or less, and spot metering slightly darkens. I indicated the lens parameters in the camera, I don’t understand what it is connected with. I shoot in aperture priority.

  • Paul

    What do the last two words mean in the expression “if using auto focus (green rectangle)”?

  • andre agassi

    Hello, I cannot change the problem with an external flash, I can’t figure out how to use it correctly

  • Bob

    The idea of ​​using a watch in tests clearly appealed to

  • Tatyana

    Good afternoon, Arkady. Please help me figure it out: white balance adjustment in Nikon D3000 takes place only on the finished picture. There is no way to adjust the white balance before the picture - the white balance command is inactive. The exposure meter is also not active, although the technical parameters indicate that there are all three types . How to use it? And another question about manual focus. Sometimes the result of this manual focus is not visible on the photo, the focus point does not appear on the camera’s display even when you enlarge the picture and it’s also impossible to check the focus in ViewNX, as practice is yours the article shows that “ViewNX only shows focus points on a computer when the picture was taken in AF-A, AF-S, AF-C modes with focus priority.” And here is the MF mode. What to do with all of these. Is there any way to take good photos on a budget DSLR?

  • Andrei

    Good afternoon, but interestingly do not tell me what is the base for measuring images (number) in the D200?

  • Skvosh_vitaly

    I am reading your articles with interest. Very instructive, concise, and accessible.
    I live in a taiga town far away from civilization. I have been sick with photography since 10 years. I'm trying to master my own studio photography.
    There is no light meter. Nikon D80 camera, I bought D800 a couple of days ago ...
    I have absolutely no idea how to use the built-in exposure meter of the camera when using the studio's pulsed light, I do everything by eye, by trial and error. Please advise where to read ...

  • Alexander

    Thank you for your article Arkady and the table. I was interested in the question why the Nikon d5100 camera (I use it) so often misses in the dark and the lenses in the dark can not focus? It turns out due to the lack of RGB sensors?

  • Vic

    Guys, Arkady's articles are great, but do not forget to work out the instructions for the device, many questions will disappear))

    • Maksim

      + 100!

  • Igor K

    Arkady, thank you so much for your articles! I bought a nikon, began to understand ... read ... and now apparently I will not stop until I read everything that is here :)

  • Vitaly

    Arkady, I have a question, maybe for you, or maybe someone else will help. Recently, I took Canon for myself to broaden my horizons, and that's where I encountered an unusual (from Nikon) metering of exposure. I put up “Evaluative metering”, hoping to get a result similar to “Matrix metering” in Nikon, but in reality it turned out to be a kind of our (Nikon's) “Center-weighted metering”. I experimented and realized that the analogue of “Matrix metering” in Canon is “Center-weighted average metering”. So this is the actual question, maybe I'm making the wrong conclusions and who has any experience with exposure modes? Please share.

  • olesia

    Spasibo bolshoje, do menja hotj shto to doshlo, ocenj horosho objasnili! Ja chajnik, toljko uchusj ...

  • Alexander

    But I don’t understand. Now on the D90 I took 3 pictures, on the matrix, weighted and point, the result is one. I always shoot on M, in other modes I can not. Why? Should there be any difference?

  • Alexander

    OH! Thanks!

  • anonym

    Tell me why the metering does not work when the flash is off ???? Nikon d5100

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