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Metering the light

The camera will try to give you a correct exposure automatically. However, some basic understanding of the light metering modes are needed. Two general modes of light metering are available on the 9000:

  • Center-weighted average metering
  • Spot metering

Those two modes are settable with the light metering selector, located at the far left of the camera. It has actually four modes: Average, Spot, H and S. Ignore the H and S modes for now; they are special spot meter settings, and we will look at them later in the section "Advanced concepts -- Metering the light part II".

Center-weighted average metering

This mode should be used for general photography. It looks at the whole scene through the lens and computes an average value for exposure, treating the center of the picture as the most important part. In most cases it will do an adequate job, but in some cases it will fail. Typical cases where it will underexpose the main subject are when the subject is backlit, or scenes where strong point light sources exists in the picture (e.g. the sun). Typical cases where it will where it will overexpose the main subject is when the main subject has a dark background. How to get around these cases?

Spot metering

Enter spot metering. Look through the viewfinder -- in the middle, there is one small rectangle and one larger circle surrounding it. The rectangle is the location of the autofocus sensor and does not concern exposure. Inside the circle (including the rectangle) is where the camera will take a reading when spot metering is set. You can now meter on the most important part in the scene! But what if the most important part of the scene isn't in the middle?

The AEL button

AEL means Auto Exposure Lock. With this handy little button, located right under your right thumb when you hold the camera normally, you can lock the exposure. Point the circle to the thing you want to have correctly exposed -- for example a face. Press the AEL button. While pressing, recompose and release the shutter. The camera will expose with regards to what is in the spot metering circle, and not care about anything else in the scene.

The AEL button can also be used with center-weighted average metering for locking exposure and recomposing in tricky situations.

  • If you release the AEL button, the exposure will no longer be locked, and you will have to lock it again.
  • If you forget to press the AEL button and lock the exposure on the main subject while in spot metering mode, the resulting exposure will be totally unpredictable, as spot metering just checks what is currently in the very center of the scene.
  • Spot metering does not work with flash. Flash exposure is center-weighted average regardless of the setting of the light metering mode switch.
  • The metering systems are calibrated to treat 18% gray as "normal exposure". You need to have this is mind especially when using spot metering; if you spot meter on a dark subject, the image will be overexposed, while metering a light subject will lead to underexposure. More information is in "Metering the light part II".

Click to see descriptions of the different parts.

Inside the center circle, including the rectangle, is where the camera will take a reading when spot metering is set. This allows for precise metering.

The type of metering is indicated to the right in the viewfinder data panel. A rectangle indicates that center-weighted average metering is set.

Spot metering is indicated with a dot inside the rectangle.

The metering selector set for spot metering.

Typical underexposure.

Normal exposure.

Typical overexposure.

Mounting index Bayonet mount Aperture stopdown pin Lens lock pin Lens release button Self timer LED Shutter speed up/down control DOF preview switch Lens contacts Aperture up/down control Focus mode switch Remote control terminal (covered) Matte screen Bottom contacts for accessories Battery compartment Rewind release Coupler for motorized film winding Coupler for motorized film rewind Handgrip PC socket Focus drive coupler Mirror Tripod socket Serial number Back release lock Lighting window Diopter adjustment dial Eyepiece shutter lever AEL button Accessory shoe Finder Film window Film advance lever On/off switch Multiple exposure button Strap eyelets Strap eyelets Strap eyelets Exposure mode selector Shutter release button Self timer switch Exposure adjustment button Frame counter Back release/ rewind crank / metering selector ISO adjustment button Film guide rails Film guide rails Back removal lever Take up spool Shutter curtains Film winding sprockets Accessory back contacts Back release latch Rewind prong DX contacts Back/top Front/bottom Film chamber Alphabetical