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Light metering strategies


geesbert

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As much as I like the M11, its light meter system is crap. It's alright at low contrast situations, but mostly fails at strong highlights or at backlight. Why ist that? I thought with the M11 constantly having the sensor exposed it would do much better in this regard. 

Usually when I need Auto Exposure I leave LV on and take a glimpse at the screen when I anticipate problems. Most of the time I don't even have to move the camera too much away from my head to check the situation. I'd much prefer to have a more reliable 

 

What is your strategy for using auto exposure in high contrast situation?

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1 hour ago, geesbert said:

As much as I like the M11, its light meter system is crap. It's alright at low contrast situations, but mostly fails at strong highlights or at backlight. ...

What is your strategy for using auto exposure in high contrast situation?

Average metering has been like that since the dawn of electronics 🙂

Metering on the grass or pavement was the old school advice, and use that to lock in manual exposure ; or leave everything to flap around in auto, but dial in a safety compensation margin. Chimp-ing, reviewing the rear LCD also works.

Does the the M11's multi-field metering work in practice - allowing less safety back-off ?

Live histogram in viewfinder is the greatest thing in camera evolution that is still to come to the M-series rangefinder view. Projecting LCD derived frame lines and a histogram should not be beyond Leica's technical abilities ; maybe that is one for the M12; until then the EVF equipped camera wins out.

Edited by FrozenInTime
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Exposure simulation and highlight clipping with an EVF is the best solution I’ve found so far - it obviates the need for the camera to decide or make any recommendations about exposure (except for using flash, as @FlashGordonPhotography has observed), assuming that what is shown in the EVF is what is captured by the sensor.

Exposure would be less of an issue for digital if sensors had more dynamic range - more critical than pointless increased MP, pixel binning or in camera cropping.

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I pick the aperture and shutter, leave the ISO auto then take a test shot. Look at the ISO the camera picks for me and look at the picture exposure to see if I like it or not.

Then adjust the ISO to whatever I like according the test shot, and stay manual and happy

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Exactly what jaapv said. 

If you want to know what's going on with the light in your scene you need to have some idea of its brightness range. Then, you can consider how to deal with that brightness range in relation to the dynamic range your sensor is capable of. A spotmeter is a great tool to get a sense of the brightness range of your subject scene. A one degree handheld meter is ideal, but the camera's spotmeter is certainly usable for this. It's not instant, and *you* have to provide the algorithm, that is, you have to apply your own thinking and intent. 

You can decide what brightness area in the scene to place into a particular area of your available dynamic range, considering, as you do, where the the other brightness features in the scene will fall as a result of your placement.

Bring a severe highlight down into high-but-not-blown-out range? Well, then some middle-light values will fall toward dark or near-black, and some low values will fall into blackness. You can slide the scene's range up and down in the available dynamic range, considering where scene values will fall as a result. 

A multi-zone setting is intended to attempt to do this for you, acting as a kind of governor to keep the extremes in the scene from over-revving, if you will. Dialing in exposure compensation lets you influence the application of the algorithm. 

Many folks, understandably, might not want to have to take the time to think about such things while trying to grab a fleeting shot, hence these available exposure modes to assist in the process. 

But when you have the time, if you have the time, it can be illuminating (if you'll pardon the expression) to check out the scene's brightness range with your spot meter and then think about how to fit that into the dynamic range available from your sensor. 

Note: I never used the word "Zone" in the above set of suggestions, but if you're interested or curious, what I've described above is *part* of the techniques collectively referred to as the Zone System. Another part of that System entails taking direct control of the gray scale of your medium through adaptive techniques in film development (in the case of analog chemical process photography), or through digital image processing techniques in the case of digital photography. You can build up a technique combining both a kind of pre-emphasis at exposure time and a post-emphasis during image processing.  

Taken hand in hand, how you handle the exposure combined with how you handle the image brightness scale in processing can enable you to take the film, or sensor-produced-image, in directions that might not be readily achievable, or certainly repeatable, if you simply let the automated systems take over and permit things to fall where they will. 

Edited by DadDadDaddyo
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I usually use highlight priority adjusted to -1EV. Given that this sensor is ISO invariant, a correction of 1 EV is sufficient for any scene in daylight. I turned off permanent exposure simulation to be able to use an external screen if necessary and it was bright enough to build a composition. The actual exposure is shown only when the shutter button is half-pressed. If picture turns out to be too dark, then I use the exposure slider in the lightroom 

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3 hours ago, Smogg said:

I usually use highlight priority adjusted to -1EV. Given that this sensor is ISO invariant, a correction of 1 EV is sufficient for any scene in daylight. I turned off permanent exposure simulation to be able to use an external screen if necessary and it was bright enough to build a composition. The actual exposure is shown only when the shutter button is half-pressed. If picture turns out to be too dark, then I use the exposure slider in the lightroom 

Same, although I usually set the adjustment to -1/2 EV but adjust as necessary based on the light of the day. I don’t adjust shot to shot, just leave it as is all day

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The M11 is fine. After using it for over a year I have zero issues in aperture priority. As someone who did decades with film (especially transparancies) it's trivial to know how much exposure compensation to dial in. We learned our exposure comp swatches (green grass +0, caucasian palm +1.5, etc) and I still use those with any M.

Besides, the latitude of the M11 sensor is as good as it gets in 24x36 and as long as one protects the highlights everything is fixable with a slider in LR anyway. Sure EVF's are fantastic for judging exposure but the M11 is no problem as with any M, one practices and learns how the meter works.

Gordon

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  • 3 months later...

Pulling this thread out once again as I was wondering how everyone is feeling about the metering (multi-field especially) lately (also with the recently release 2.0.1 firmware upgrade). I have the perception that most of the time I have to set the exposure compensation to at least of -2/3 as the M11 generally overexposes quite significantly...

And it seems that if I compare the same shot via Live View and Range Finder mode side by side the resulting picture looks different. Are the settings for the two modes different? Thought live view will always use multi-field metering and white balance as it is set globally in the camera (auto for my case). 

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Here's a tip. You know what an 18% gray card looks like? (if not, Google it) Think about the following...

The following is subject to all kinds of variables, but......

If you use a spot meter, and place the spot anywhere in a field of view, and then expose for that spot, you're basically telling the system to place that spot at the brightness of 18% gray. 

Place it on an 18% gray card, that gray card will be rendered at 18% gray. Ok?

Or, place it on black and expose for *that* spot (*red* dot in the finder, not above or below), the black will come out at the brightness of 18% gray. Whites will be totally blown out. 

Place it on white, expose for that, and that white will come out at the brightness of 18% gray. Black tones will be completely buried.

So, again, basically, with a spot meter, when you expose for a particular spot, you're telling the system to place that spot at the brightness of 18% gray. Kind of middle gray, in terms of brightness. 

Another way to say it is this: as you check out the relative brightness of different parts of the scene with the spot meter, you're deciding which spot in the scene to expose for (and thereby place at the brightness of) 18% gray, and you're thinking about where the other parts of the scene, brighter or darker, will fall (will end up), as a result of the spot you pick to expose for 18% gray. 

Multi-zone mode looks at the brightness of different parts of the scene and attempts to do what I've described above, based on a kind of grading curve, in turn, based on statistical averages. I kind of feel it's a good way to get a decently exposed, statistically average shot. 

I'm not telling anyone what to do. The demands of a given shooting situation must dictate what you do. My own approach, admittedly a little old fashioned, is to use the meter to gain an understanding, for myself, when time permits, of what's going on with the values within the scene, and then to decide, myself, how to treat those values. 

Sometimes I'm off the mark, mildly or wildly, but when when it's right, that is, when it's correct in terms of what I'm intending and trying for, the results can be absolute magic. The picture you get is based upon your decisions. It's really your picture. 

But if you don't want to worry about any of that, just put it into multi-zone, frame the picture the way you want, and *then* set the exposure at that framing. This should largely prevent highlights from being blown out, yet also result in plenty of detail in the middle brightness zones.

Don't worry, enjoy, and shoot pictures!

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3 hours ago, Jewl said:

The M11 generally overexposes quite significantly...

That is the essence of the problem, using Center Weighted Metering or Multi-Field.

You can meter off a Grey Card from Kodak or Delta and see the actual differences.
If correct exposure time is 1/500 measured with an incident light meter, these are the Leica M11 measurements:

1/250 on Center-Weighted Metering (one stop too bright)
1/250 on Multi-Field Metering (one stop too bright)
1/320 on Spot Metering (1/2 - 2/3 stop too bright)
1/250 on Highlight-weighted (one stop too bright)

 

Further to add to the uncertainty:

If you use BWnat preview, the contrast of the preview is so hard, you cannot judge exposure from it (and red tones are too dark converted). A grey card is shown in BWnat preview as bright grey rather than middle grey. 

The EVF and screen of the Leica M11 are too bright in default. Both EVF and screen should be set to -4 in brightness in the menu for the screen and EVF image fo the Leica M11 to match with what the photo will look like on the computer and in print.

 

Fundamental of light metering:

Any light meter and camera it adjusting exposure to make what is measured, middle grey (as in the illustration below). If you photograph a normal cityscape with the sun behind you, the mix of elements is very likely to make up a mix of tones and colors that match middle grey. So photographing is easy then. If you photograph a dark alley, the light meter will lengthen exposure so as to capture more light and make the scene overall middle grey. If you photograph snow in the mountains, the light meter will reduce the exposure so as to let in less light so the scene (the snow) is middle grey. 

Having a camera that cannot measure the light correctly of course does not make it less challenging. 

 

Middle grey Grey Card tone.

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Edited by Overgaard
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I totally get what @geesbert is trying to say. Latest digital Leica Ms DO have some of the weakest computational processes for metering without pre-programmed predictions for certain scene scenarios like the competition has.
That is a FACT.

BUT!

Here's where knowledge comes in. Same knowledge you need to apply when using RF vs. AF, same knowledge you need to apply when composing without through the lens DOF preview. And this knowledge on how to use and abuse your meter properly is obviously based on mileage and experience.

I can look at anybody's face or at any scene and never be more than 1 f-stop off when I dial my settings in.

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Am 20.7.2023 um 10:59 schrieb DadDadDaddyo:

Exactly what jaapv said. 

If you want to know what's going on with the light in your scene you need to have some idea of its brightness range. Then, you can consider how to deal with that brightness range in relation to the dynamic range your sensor is capable of. A spotmeter is a great tool to get a sense of the brightness range of your subject scene. A one degree handheld meter is ideal, but the camera's spotmeter is certainly usable for this. It's not instant, and *you* have to provide the algorithm, that is, you have to apply your own thinking and intent. 

You can decide what brightness area in the scene to place into a particular area of your available dynamic range, considering, as you do, where the the other brightness features in the scene will fall as a result of your placement.

Bring a severe highlight down into high-but-not-blown-out range? Well, then some middle-light values will fall toward dark or near-black, and some low values will fall into blackness. You can slide the scene's range up and down in the available dynamic range, considering where scene values will fall as a result. 

A multi-zone setting is intended to attempt to do this for you, acting as a kind of governor to keep the extremes in the scene from over-revving, if you will. Dialing in exposure compensation lets you influence the application of the algorithm. 

Many folks, understandably, might not want to have to take the time to think about such things while trying to grab a fleeting shot, hence these available exposure modes to assist in the process. 

But when you have the time, if you have the time, it can be illuminating (if you'll pardon the expression) to check out the scene's brightness range with your spot meter and then think about how to fit that into the dynamic range available from your sensor. 

Note: I never used the word "Zone" in the above set of suggestions, but if you're interested or curious, what I've described above is *part* of the techniques collectively referred to as the Zone System. Another part of that System entails taking direct control of the gray scale of your medium through adaptive techniques in film development (in the case of analog chemical process photography), or through digital image processing techniques in the case of digital photography. You can build up a technique combining both a kind of pre-emphasis at exposure time and a post-emphasis during image processing.  

Taken hand in hand, how you handle the exposure combined with how you handle the image brightness scale in processing can enable you to take the film, or sensor-produced-image, in directions that might not be readily achievable, or certainly repeatable, if you simply let the automated systems take over and permit things to fall where they will. 

jaapv, you remind me of my old Olympus OM-4 Ti i owned some >35y ago : zone system, multi-spot metering, you name it !

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The multifield metering of the M11 is good, but not particularly sophisticated. If you spend some time with it, you realize that it prefers the center of the image even with highlight weighted metering and is not able to intelligently take into account larger (!) bright areas in the upper part of the image or in the corners. This means that although it reliably prevents overexposure of the entire image, it does not prevent larger bright areas at the edges from being blown out. This is particularly relevant for larger areas of the sky.

Otherwise, DNGs tend to be slightly underexposed. According to my observations, this has been Leica's strategy since the M9. The JPGs, on the other hand, are adjusted so that they get contrast and are slightly brightened. So the JPG engine does what you have to do with many DNGs in the RAW converter.

Overall, I think the multi-segment metering is good, but it could be a little more intelligent by taking better account of larger bright areas and also controlling the exposure according to the available overall brightness. Then night shots or shots at dusk would no longer be so bright.

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Thanks everyone for the detailed answers and information!

Overall I get it and that's how I treat/work with the M anyway as I need to get used to it in order to get a proper result. And of course, I know that I could go fully manual. But that is not what I am asking for.

If a feature is provided that should help to simplify the way of shooting (in this case to focus on composition instead of fiddling around with the exposure, iso and aperture triangle manually) then I'd expect it to work as it should as otherwise I cannot rely on it and have more headaches later on in post. If I need to slip in experience to properly rely on the auto metering, then I could also argue that in an auto pilot car situation, in special cases you need to take care of the steering wheel yourself as it might crash due to xyz. which is also nothing someone would accept (of course I know, this is more life-threatening blabla, the multi-metering is of course not)...

Anyways, I still do think that other cameras (if I think back to my V1 Leica Q) do this way better and more reliable. But your input helped at least to close this chapter for me and live with it. Not ideal but fine eventually 😉

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I've given up.

I'm forcing myself to guess exposure and use M manual exposure more and more. Either that or Centre Weighted metering. 

My results with Multi-field and Highlight Weighted Metering has been less than adequate. For something that appears as intelligent metering, it pretty much sets the bar for dumb these days imho. I haven't experienced this much inconsistent or unpredictable multi-field metering since the days of the Nikon D80.

I guess it's all good in some way; I was pretty decent with guessing light levels shooting Rolleiflex cameras some 10+ years ago, and this good training again.
Nikon matrix metering in DSLRs over the last 10+ years has made me very lazy.

Edited by hmzimelka
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