What are matrix, centre-weighted and spot modes and when should you use them?
Learn the difference between matrix, centre-weighted and spot metering modes, how they help your Nikon judge the correct exposure, and how to meter for awkward subjects and lighting
The light metering systems on modern digital SLRs are complex and sophisticated, but they’re still not foolproof. That’s why your Nikon has a choice of metering patterns for use in different situations.
By default, Nikon D-SLRs use so-called ‘matrix’ metering. This splits the scene up into different zones which are measured individually. The camera then builds up a picture of the distribution of light in the scene and checks this against an internal ‘database’ to try to work out what kind of subject you’re shooting and the exposure that will give the best result.
It sounds really clever – and it is – but ultimately the camera can only guess at your intentions.
If you’re just starting out in photography, matrix metering will probably deliver better results than you could work out for yourself, but as you gain experience you will encounter more and more situations where you need to take control.
That’s why your Nikon camera also has centre-weighted and spot metering modes. These are less sophisticated than ‘matrix’ mode, but they make it much easier to interpret the light readings the camera is giving you.
All Nikon digital SLRs give you this choice of metering modes, and over the next four pages we explain how they work and when you might use them.
Nikon’s more advanced digital SLRs offer further customisation options, and these are explained in the diagrams opposite. You can also see what metering options your own Nikon provides in the table overleaf.
Do what works!
We can show you how your Nikon’s metering system works, but in the end there are no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to use your camera’s meter. The secret is to find a method that works well for you, one where you can easily understand and interpret the readings the camera is giving you and anticipate the situations where you need to take over.