Thoughts on Nikon's Matrix Metering?

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BradleyK

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Despite owning an F4(e), a couple of F5s and an F6, I have yet to ever use the "matrix" metering function on any of these cameras. Why not? Mostly because I prefer using manual focus lenses when shooting with my SLRs. Since the F5 does not allow use of matrix metering with manual focus lenses, and I often shoot with several bodies, I almost always have the cameras set to the same center-weighted setting. So, a couple of questions for owners of Nikons with matrix capabilities, and more narrowly, to those who shoot transparency films. 1. What is your overall assessment of matrix metering? 2. Are their particular shooting situations where you would avoid using the setting? 3. Are their any particular transparency films that do not lend themselves to matrix metering?
 

blockend

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I have a few Nikons with matrix metering, and they've always proved accurate with slide film. In high contrast situations where you need to read for the highlights and crush the blacks, I prefer spot metering but for everything else I use matrix and tweak the compensation wheel.
 

Vilk

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frame a vertical--say, one third on one side significantly darker, like a tree trunk or an edge of the window shooting from inside. now flip the camera 180 and frame the exact same vertical. do this on all three cameras. meter reading the same? wasn't for me :cool:
 

Lamar

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I agree with blockend. I've used matix some but I prefer CW or spot depending on the conditions and how I'm shooting. I shoot manual exposure almost exclusively so CW and spot tend to suit me better. If I were shooting in an automatic mode I would probably be more inclined to use matrix. I would say if you are not familiar with compensating or you don't have time in an action situation matrix would probably give you a higher percentage of good exposures. However, as blockend said, it's not good at high contrast scenes.
 

Salem

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I have used matrix metering when I first got an F100 and shot slides and negatives but then switched to CW and sometimes spot metering. I felt that the matrix metering was calibrated for slides as it tends to underexpose, and the slides that I shot with matrix metering was much better than the negatives (mono and color). And since the matrix mode has a mind of its own, literally, I found it hard to compensate so I just stayed clear of it.
 

Lamar

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Same experience here with my F100. After many incorrectly exposed frames, and a lot of studying to understand how it worked, I went back to CW. Matrix was just too unpredictable. The F4 doesn't seem as bad though.

I have used matrix metering when I first got an F100 and shot slides and negatives but then switched to CW and sometimes spot metering. I felt that the matrix metering was calibrated for slides as it tends to underexpose, and the slides that I shot with matrix metering was much better than the negatives (mono and color). And since the matrix mode has a mind of its own, literally, I found it hard to compensate so I just stayed clear of it.
 

ted_smith

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I've owned an F5 for a few years and use centre-weighted\spot for portraiture but often use matrix for landscape scenes unless there a great range of contrast across the scene. Overall, for most landscapes, I find matrix to be really good.

I might be wrong but I'm fairly sure I read once that the technology behind the matrix metering of the F5 was incorporated (and perhaps further improved a little) into the digital Nikon D3.

It's very good. And I've used it a lot with Fuji Velvia.

That said, nothing beats manual if you know what you're doing and given your experience there seems little point to use Matrix.
 

Sirius Glass

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It works extremely well with the N-75 and f-100.
 

LiamG

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I pretty much always use the matrix meter on my F5- both for transparencies (I stick to velvia 100) and B&W negatives. It's almost always perfect- the problem with it in my opinion is that it's a very complicated matrix meter and I find it a little hard to predict when it is going to be wrong. I am always using my F5 to photograph action, so I count on the meter to deal with constant light changes, but if it starts giving readings that annoy me, I'll switch it off.

I don't use the F4 too much anymore, but I found the matrix meter both more fallible and more predictable when I did.
 

Chan Tran

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I have an F5 and matrix metering works well for transparency. It worked very well although sometimes to my surprise. For color negative film which I use often it does a very poor job because it pays too much attention to the highlight at the expense of the shadow which is critical for color negative film.
 

wiltw

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Nikon matrix metering is like Canon's Evaluative metering...it is an attempt to second guess the shot exposure, in a manner in which is never explained to the end user, thereby causing it to be unpredictable in results, so that one also cannot well predict what Exposure Compensation factor to dial in! At least Nikon tries to make it somewhat understandable, in mentioning a 'database of shots' in the programming; Canon doesn't even try to tie theirs to reality!

It is the Point-and-Shoot metering for the user of the SLR/dSLR...not much thinking expected from the user. And the users who want to second guess it are prevented from doing so with consistency.
 

L Gebhardt

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I think Matrix metering is great for slides and digital. It also works well for normal contrast scenes with negative film. If the scene is high contrast it tends to underexpose negative film (which keeps the highlights from blowing out on positive film). When I shot slides (and on my digital) I used matrix metering almost exclusively. For negatives I still use it 90% of the time, but I look at the scene and if I think the metering will mess up I use the spot meter to check, or just bracket by adding a stop.
 

Alex Muir

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I agree that the Nikon matrix is more suited to transparencies. I tend to use spot or c/w for negatives. I'm pretty sure the Nikon instructions advise against trying to use exposure compensation with matrix metering.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2
 

LJSLATER

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I too avoid using matrix metering. It's not unpredictable if one understands how the meter works, however; consider investing in Thom Hogan's guides if you'd like to learn how the matrix meters in various Nikons are programmed and how they "see".

Personally, for my type of photography (which mainly features static objects) I find it less trouble to use center-weighted metering and manual exposure. If one wants to be ready to shoot at a moment's notice (for street photography, for instance), matrix metering begins to make sense, but so does the old-school method of constantly "pre-metering".

Some of the earlier matrix-capable Nikons don't have mercury switches that inform the meter if and when the camera is being held sideways. I used to know which models had this feature, but I've forgotten. Check MIR.
 

Chris Livsey

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The F4 has a mercury switch and was the first?
The query is the FA which I think did not have a switch but then actually had AMP (Automatic Multi Pattern) metering not matrix. That is splitting hairs as AMP was matrix before they thought up the name :smile:
I suspect all matrix models had the switch as it would be too inconsistent without.
 
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I'll be one to put my hand up and say I used it, like it and trusted it. I used 2 F4s and my partner used 2 F4s, with both AF and MF Nikkors for about 5 of the busiest years of wedding photography in the late 90's to mid-00's. We put hundreds of rolls thru them monthly, and after a few months of trials on weddings we used Matrix pretty much exclusively, mostly manual but a good chunk was on Aperture preferred Auto. Fast changing light for outdoor ceremonies I preferred it. Matrix Metering made very consistent and very CONSISTENTLY good negatives both color and Black and White. Very seldom it would blow an exposure; even the bad exposures were savable with a bit to darkroom work (what a concept! LOL).

During my days as a news shooter I saw a staffer at a new service show me what an F4 could do at a football game. He shot a play of a running back going from full sun full background illumination to full sun on the running back with the background shifting from full sun to full shade to the running back ending the play in full shadow; one long sequence of perhaps 13-15 frames. I saw the actual color neg film and each frame was *perfect* exposure, he shot with a Nikkor 500mm f/4P in of course Manual Focus, the F4s was in Program High! with Matrix Metering. He was a very good sports shooter and said that was what the Matrix Metering is for; changing light and backgrounds in moving fluid situations, exactly the type of situations where the shooter either didn't have time to handle a complex metering calculation OR learned to Trust it. I learned to trust it, even if 40-50% I was in Manual exposure. When my shooting got very fast the quick shifting of the mode lever on the F4 was a huge help; one flick of the lever from M went right to A, not like the F5 (which I use as well).

So that's my thoughts: I started with Olympus OM-2 Spot, OM-3 and OM-4t with their version of averaging multi-spot so when I switched to Nikon I wasn't thrilled to move to what I thought was inferior and simpler Center Spot of the F3 and the 60/40 of the FM-2, so had a solid set of exposure skills before I got to using the F4. I like Matrix and have used it enough over a long period of time to trust where its most useful. I still use my F4's although not as much, 2 have the aperture lever issues but the other 2 run like champs. I'm not saying Its For You but it works well for me.
 

wiltw

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I suspect all matrix models had the switch as it would be too inconsistent without.

Ability to sense Portrait vs. Landscape is typical. But not necessarily the ability to sense Portrait (right up) vs. Portrait (left up), or Landscape (prism up) vs. Landscape (bottom up)
 

dynachrome

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My N90S and F90X cameras have matrix metering but I think I can only use it with AF lenses. The Nikon FA has a rudimentary matrix metering system. When people shot more slide film, making slight underexposure more desirable than slight overexposure, matrix metering made more sense. I prefer narrow angle or spot metering and I can usually find a mid tone to meter off of. For someone who doesn't want to bother looking for mid tones, matrix metering can provide a high success rate in getting good exposures.
 

Chris Livsey

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According to the owners manual the F4 automaticaly switches to CW when a AI or AIS manual lens is used

You are not reading the manual correctly I'm afraid. I don't want to be pedantic :whistling: but this will be found on searches and is, I'm sorry, wrong.

On page 86 a table clearly shows Matrix metering is Compatible with Ai and Ai-S lenses, the limitation is with lenses modified to Ai by the Nikon or other kit. This is because original AI / Ai-S lenses have lugs built into the back of them to give the meter extra information. These lugs were not added with Nikon's AI conversion and are necessary for the matrix metering of the F4 or FA.

The table appears in the F4/ F4s Manual referenced as Printed in Japan 9&141-804 (S155)

Are you getting confused with the Programmed Auto Exposure Modes (PH, P) these require a CPU enabled lens and if selected without such a lens will show A (Aperture Priority) and turn off matrix metering, showing CW enabled, in that mode?

I cannot see anywhere in the manual which states, as you say, a switch to CW just by mounting an AI/AIs lens, if I am wrong please quote the entry.
 

LiamG

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According to the owners manual the F4 automaticaly switches to CW when a AI or AIS manual lens is used
Maybe you're confusing it with the F5 which does operate exactly this way. Matrix metering with AI lenses my primary reason for keeping an F4 around- if only I could learn to track focus at CH like the photographer RidingWaves mentioned...
 

Sirius Glass

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I have been know to use my F-100 as a spot meter for my Hasselblads.
 

Sirius Glass

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I have been know to use my F-100 with a zoom telephoto lens at 300mm as a spot meter for my Hasselblads.
 
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