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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > New to photography/DSLRs - should I force myself to learn manual metering?

New to photography/DSLRs - should I force myself to learn manual metering?
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rozwado1
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Mar 29, 2008, 03:32 PM
 
I read ICE's thread about the D40 and picked one up for cheap (body only). I also read about the fixed 50mm f/1.8 nikkor, but I have a question. I can grab an old Nikon AIS 50mm f/1.8 for about $30 on eBay, but it won't auto-meter like the new AF ones (~$120). I'm wondering if this is a skill I should force myself into as a learning experience.

FYI: I'm just doing architecture shots and personal stuff - no sports or fast action shots.
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Railroader
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Mar 29, 2008, 04:11 PM
 
You won't be doing architecture shots with a 50mm. You'll need a 22mm or less for that.

Isn't metering done in the body?

Do you mean focusing? Manual focusing is very hard with a modern AF camera as there usually isn't anything in the view finder to let you know you are in focus. The Canon XTi has a small indicator in the lower right of the view finder, but it is very difficult to watch and focus at the same time.
     
design219
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by Railroader View Post
Isn't metering done in the body?
He's referring to the newer CPU lenses that transmits lens specific info to the camera body. This allows the camera to make adjustment based on specific lens factors in some of the more complex matrix and strobe mixing metering.

I'm not following you on the "Manual focusing is very hard with a modern AF camera". They focus just like older 35mm's, except they usually don't have the circle split that older cameras had. (I always replaced those with matte screen right away on my 35mm's.) All modern Nikons I'm aware of have a "in focus" indicator light in the viewfinder, like the Canons.

Architectural photography would be best served with a PC shift (perspective control) lens. This allows you to photograph buildings from ground level without having to aim up, resulting in a building that looks like is leaning back (architects tend to hate that look). You can make such corrections in Photoshop, but you are always better off fixing things earlier in the process than later. Of course, the best tool for architectural photography is a true view camera, but you're talking about a serious investment.

If speed is not an issue, and learning photography as a craft is not an issue, don't worry about the metering issue. That said, I think you will wish you had spent a few extra bucks for a cpu lens at some point.
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:02 PM
 
Yeah, 50mm won't work well at all for that. I don't know what you mean when you say auto-meter. Like RR said, metering is done in the body, not the lens.
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:03 PM
 
Ahh, I see what he meant -- I saw metering and didn't think about what you said, d219.
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keekeeree
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:08 PM
 
Learn manual metering.

Auto-metering gets better with each newer generation of SLR, and if you shoot in RAW mode, there's even more leniency in getting the proper exposure, but in the end, if you use any of the camera's auto-exposure modes, it's just a piece of hardware trying its best to guess the proper exposure. RAW can't save everything

Even with a basic understanding of how to properly expose various scenes, you'll know when to trust what the camera is telling you, and when to make the necessary settings to get the exposure you need.
     
Railroader
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by design219 View Post
I'm not following you on the "Manual focusing is very hard with a modern AF camera". They focus just like older 35mm's, except they usually don't have the circle split that older cameras had. (I always replaced those with matte screen right away on my 35mm's.)
That is what I am talking about. Most SLRs are too dark and the image too small to focus properly unless you have some sort of aid.

PS: What you said about metering.
     
rozwado1  (op)
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Mar 29, 2008, 06:40 PM
 
thanks guys. I should have said that I'm a poor student who's looking for the cheapest entry level option. I'll get the old school 50mm AIS to learn exposure the old way and hopefully it will help me in the future. I'm going ot pick up a cheap wide angle for interior shots. Once I start working I'll bump up to the D300 level and get better glass. Basics for now.
     
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Mar 29, 2008, 09:47 PM
 
I am not sure of the exact specs of the D40 (I think it is the same as my D70), but I believe that it will not allow you to have much if any metering with an AIS lens. That would essentially make it harder to use than any standard 35mm. I think the only meeting you will "learn" is via a external handheld meter or a histogram. I also have a D200 and it WILL meter with my older manual focus lenses. I believe that is the least expensive DSLR by Nikon that does this. Either way I do not get much use of of them because the focus is very hard to get precise compared to my old Nikon F3. You can use the display, but I found that only helpful with a tripod and a macro lens (and even then the focus is hard to nail).

Instead of the 50mm AIS lens look at the current auto 50 f1.8 that Nikon offers. That lens is cheaper than most kit lenses and sharper than a lot of "pro" lenses. The advice for a wide angle lens is spot on for Architecture. Unfortunately sharp wide angle lenses are expensive.

I also believe that the D40 only has one wheel to change speed or exposures. The more expensive bodies have two (one on the back and one on the front). To shoot in full manual mode you really need quick access to both. The single wheel is fine for shooting in Aperture or Shutter priority modes.

Ultimately I do not spend that much time in the manual modes anymore (Aperture or Shutter). The change in meeting from spot and center weighted of the old days to the matrix metering of today make that process less than intuitive. Instead I would learn what a histogram is telling you. With that tool a quick test shot can quickly reveal what changes need to be made to the exposure. The simplest way to do this is by dialing in an exposure compensation for the next shot. Practice also helps. I know without even looking that snow on a sunny day typically means at least one if not more stops of compensation.

The other components to master are the balance of aperture and shutter speeds. I would suggest to start; put the camera in Aperture priory mode and use the wheel to select the aperture of each shot you take. Get to know what depth of field means. You will also find that each lens has a sweet spot where it is sharpest. That is rarely wide open.

What ever you do try and stay away from program modes. With a little time and practice most people can learn to outperform that mode.
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tie
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Mar 29, 2008, 11:54 PM
 
The AIS lens won't meter on your camera, so it is probably well worth the extra $40-50 for a lens that will meter.
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rozwado1  (op)
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Mar 29, 2008, 11:57 PM
 
I got my lens info from here.

The new 50mm f/1.8 AF will give me P,S,A, and M modes with no autofocus. (yes metering?)
The old AIS 50mm f/1.8 will give me only M mode without metering. (no autofocus, of course.)

So the new AF will cost me a little bit more, but will allow me more wiggle room if I get fed up with screwing around in full Manual mode.

@climber: thanks for the write up.
     
zro
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Mar 30, 2008, 12:45 AM
 
You know, I learned to meter by eye using an old Nikkormat with a busted needle. I actually got pretty damn good at it. That was years ago and I had steeped myself in how to read which colors, and photography was always only a little hobby to me so I know I wouldn't like to go back to taking pictures that way. But I am to this day very glad I learned that I could.

In short, developing a skill you can be proud of is in no way "screwing around."
     
legacyb4
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Mar 30, 2008, 01:07 AM
 
No doubt. It will make photography far more enjoyable and useful if you take the time to learn the basic concepts and techniques. You'll quickly learn and understand why your camera is reacting to a particular situation and be able to adjust your shooting technique and improve your overall skills.
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Mar 30, 2008, 01:38 PM
 
Sunny Sixteen Rule.

That's all you need to know for now.
     
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Mar 30, 2008, 01:42 PM
 
what?
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design219
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Mar 30, 2008, 02:04 PM
 
Haven't heard that in a while.

On a bright sunny day, take the ASA (ISO for you youngsters) and make that your shutter speed and set your f-stop to 16.
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design219
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Mar 30, 2008, 02:13 PM
 
I had a variation on the sunny sixteen rule years ago I called the full moon rule of 4.

400 ISO, f4, 4 minutes... If I'm remembering correctly (it's been many years since I've shoot in moonlight).

Of course, you would use reciprocals to use the aperture you really need. That formula was also factoring in the reciprocity failure (the needed increase in exposure on certain kinds of film during exposure over 1/2 second) of Ektachrome. Another reason I don't miss film.
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Eug
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Mar 30, 2008, 09:22 PM
 
Is there a spot meter in the D40?
     
peeb
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Mar 30, 2008, 09:54 PM
 
I think you can set the D40 to do spot metering if you want to, but its matrix metering is pretty damn good. Check out Ken Rockwell's D40 manual, which is pretty good.
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tie
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Mar 30, 2008, 10:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by rozwado1 View Post
The new 50mm f/1.8 AF will give me P,S,A, and M modes with no autofocus. (yes metering?)
The old AIS 50mm f/1.8 will give me only M mode without metering. (no autofocus, of course.)
I'd forgotten that you won't have autofocus with either lens.

Do you have any other lens? I think you might find 50mm (x1.5=75mm) with no metering and no autofocus somewhat limiting on your awesome new DSLR. If you pick up a kit lens, you'll get much wider angle (good for architecture), plus autofocus and metering. Shoot on a tripod stopped down and the image quality will be the same. Correct the distortion in post.
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peeb
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Mar 30, 2008, 10:28 PM
 
Pick up the lens that the D40 should have come with - you can get them pretty cheap because a lot of people sell them when they upgrade to a better lens. You'll be very happy with it.
     
Goldfinger
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Mar 31, 2008, 04:31 AM
 
Keep in mind that manual focussing on a D40 is pure hell. You're going to miss a lot of shots. It always looks focussed in the viewfinder when it isn't. For that reason alone I'd only get AF-S lenses on a D40. Maybe the new 16-85 VR ?

As for the metering, meh Nikon's matrix metering pretty much owns. Use the built in spot meter and make an average yourself (or whatever you want) if you don't trust it. You can do the manual thing if you really want to or if you need to do incident light metering.

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zro
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Mar 31, 2008, 10:09 AM
 
You can't change prisms in a DSLR?
     
Goldfinger
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Mar 31, 2008, 10:28 AM
 
No. And I don't think you can change the focussing glass (for a Katz Eye or similarà on a D40.

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rozwado1  (op)
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Mar 31, 2008, 11:35 AM
 
Originally Posted by Goldfinger View Post
Keep in mind that manual focussing on a D40 is pure hell. You're going to miss a lot of shots. It always looks focussed in the viewfinder when it isn't. For that reason alone I'd only get AF-S lenses on a D40. Maybe the new 16-85 VR ?
i think there's an "in focus" dot in the viewfinder. Mind you, I'm not planning on action shots, so I'm not too worried about AF as of yet.

And that 16-85 VR is like $700. I'm on low budget for now. I played with the stock 18-55 on a friends d40 and wasn't impressed, that's why I chose a body-only kit. I need to get my hands on a sub-35mm wideangle/fisheye before I get concerned with the AF-S lenses.
     
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Mar 31, 2008, 11:45 AM
 
You've played with the kit lens and didn't like it? What is your lens budget? I think you're making a big mistake giving up most of the technology gains of the last 5 years. The D40 especially is a budget camera that makes body compromises that are made up for when it is paired with lenses that cooperate.
What didn't you like about the kit lens? In your price bracket I think its really unlikely you will find an all round lens that is better. Having said that, if you have very specific needs you might find a fixed lens like a 50 that suits you. Honestly though, the speed, versatility and all round friendliness of the kit lens is fantastic for a beginner.
     
mydog8mymac
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Mar 31, 2008, 12:39 PM
 
The most important thing with metering and digital is to understand the white balance of an image and how your camera interprets the light.
Using a grey card or something like the WhiBal will really help.
     
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Mar 31, 2008, 12:44 PM
 
We use the ExpoDisc. It's a bit expensive, but worth every penny. It's makes color balance simple, quick, easy and accurate.
     
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Apr 1, 2008, 03:47 AM
 
I have learned how to meter manually on my dad's now almost 50-year old Zeiss Ikon. It has a meter, but a meter with a temper. After a while I got used to it and got an intuition on what the meter will say and how I shall correct the meters educated guess

In any case, understanding what happens will definitely help you understand how to work with your camera.
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Apr 1, 2008, 08:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by mydog8mymac View Post
The most important thing with metering and digital is to understand the white balance of an image and how your camera interprets the light.
Using a grey card or something like the WhiBal will really help.
If you shoot in RAW mode It gives more flexibility for any errors in exposure. Also white balance becomes the LEAST important thing to consider when shooting the photo.

A faster alternative to a grey card is the built in histogram.
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legacyb4
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Apr 1, 2008, 09:29 AM
 
Wow, haven't heard that in a long time!

Originally Posted by design219 View Post
Haven't heard that in a while.

On a bright sunny day, take the ASA (ISO for you youngsters) and make that your shutter speed and set your f-stop to 16.
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