Why a NEX camera will free you from metering issues once for all

I know, I could have written = “Why a *mirrorless* camera will free you from metering issues once for all”. All mirrorless are supposed to give more or less WYSIWYG represenations of the shot to come on the LCD or in the EVF. That’s what master portraitist and elegant blogger Kirk Tuck has called “pre-chimping”. Except the “more or less” part takes all its meaning when it makes the difference between an accurate and reliable preview of your shot (NEX), an approximative preview (GX-1, Samsung NX), and an inaccurate one (Fuji). Full time exposure preview is THE number one reason (over portability and just overall cool factor) that I now use mirrorless full time and have dropped DSLRs entirely, and I suspect for good.

The reason I insist that Sony is superior in this regard to other mirrorless cameras is that it gives you a 100% accurate and reliable view of the exposure the shot you’re about to take will have. Hence freeing you totally from semi automated modes. Just shoot in Manual, use one wheel (on the NEX 7 only, reason why I prefer it to any other NEX model, too !!) to set aperture, chose an ISO value (come on, you’re an adult, it can’t be that hard, start making your own choices), and spin the other wheel till you hit the shutter speed giving you the exposure that you want. Backlit situation ? You decide how much emphasis you want to put on your subject, and how much blown highlights you’re able to tolerate for that. High key ? Just ask. Low key ? Just bump shutter speed until the whole scene is darker. And so on…

I recently demonstrated this to an hobbyist who’s been struggling with exposure issues on her (Sony !) DLSR for a few years. She’s an amateur way less advanced that she likes to think she is (lots of photographic vocabulary dropping but very little understanding of it, lol), yet she was totally taken with the ease and “magic” of what I was showing her !! No more relying on a camera meter, that can be so easily fooled by a bright part of reflection in a scene ! More control over your creative process ! And yes, if you’re ready to put up with slightly less convenient controls and user interface, every single NEX model offers this.

Just an extra word about how other mirrorless cameras handle this. The Panasonics I had, had two display modes, one showing your settings affecting exposure (and white balance, etc) real time, the other, compensating for extreme light levels so you can still compose your image (the NEX offers this too, so you can use studio lights and flash with higher shutter speeds, and see what the heck you’re doing). On the Panny it’s not very well implemented, a bit fiddly, and not entirely accurate. On the Fujis prior to the XE-2 (which is supposed to fix this) the camera “levels” exposure so you do not actually get any reliable preview. That was a total deal breaker for me (not that I was very taken with the XE-1 to start with). I stand by my affirmation that NEX cameras will offer very accurate exposure preview *as long as you account for any DRO settings*. I have DRO set to 1 and so I always make my exposure a *hair* darker than needed, well knowing that the DRO engine will lift shadows to the expected level.

All in all this function is the one that truly revolutionized my practice of photography. Is it a clutch ? No more than AF or auto exposure is. It’s just a wonderful, very smart and amazingly useful feature that I would NOT want to be without anymore. Ever. I’m stunned that CaNikon hasn’t totally started to understand the value of this.

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About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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5 Responses to Why a NEX camera will free you from metering issues once for all

  1. I’m with you here. It is an very useful bit of technology indeed. One that I find the lack of troubling on DSLR’s, especially coming from Sony NEX and Alpha. The 7 is especially good in this regard, because of the tri navi, in semi-auto modes likes P,A and S the second wheel can be used for exposure comp, thereby giving you the same freedom.

  2. Dear Marla,
    You gave excellent hints and food for thoughts on how to improve photography techniques. I use a mirrorless camera “Nikon V1” but I never owned a traditional DSLR with optical viewfinder (OVF). The teachers/instructors in the photography courses/workshops I went to were all old-school photographers and, of course, I was taught to use the camera the OVF-way and not the mirrorless way, since the teachers had no clue what techniques to use on a mirrorless camera. In my classes/groups I was the only one owning a mirrorless camera, and first I did not understand why the others take away the camera from their eyes all the time and keep pressing the review button to watch the results of the shot. I did not understand, since with my V1 I saw (more-or-less) exactly the same picture while composing/taking the shot and after a photo has been taken. After some weeks when I got more experienced, I stopped reviewing the photos on the camera, at least not immediately after each shots. I am just a progressing beginner, and your notes, recommendations, hints about mirrorless photography (techniques) are terribly important. The other hints I learned from you is that if my camera had focus-peaking, I should start learning and experimenting with manual focusing. The Nikon V1 is an autofocus champion, but has no focus peaking, and even the “1 Nikkor” lenses have no focus ring. This is one of the reasons I’m thinking of going for the NEX. The other reason is that my daughter, who has started learning photography, smartly took over my nicely built mirrorless camera system (2 camera-bodies, 7 lenses, etc).
    All the Best and keep on posting your excellent messages,
    Miki

    • marla2008 says:

      Thank you Miki for your kind words, encouragement, and sustained conversations over at DPR. I would certainly enourage you to try a NEX camera (preferably the 7, or at least 6) that offer an EVF and better controls over other models. As I have stated MANY times before (heck, I sound like a broken record about this right now), the 6 delivers cleaning high ISO shots by a bout one stop, and no significant improvement in AF speed, at least in my experience, but the 7 has noticeably higher build quality, much better looks, and a vastly superior shooting controls thanks to the TriNavi interface, which is just genius once you wrap your brains around it. The flexbility and customability of the TriNavi system is a little mind boggling, but it makes for a camera that fits individual needs over controls and shooting styles perfectly. It’s a camera that forces one to make choices, to take responsability for them, and I believe it’s a great teaching tool for anyone genuinely interested in photography. Plus, it’s beautiful 😉
      The epiphany around this system came to me once I got the LA-AE2 AF adapter. When I did it dawned on me that I now had a perfectmy *modular* system, that cannot be faulted for 99% one anyone’s needs. Portability : body with a small prime (AF or manual, chose your flavor, my SEL35 or PEN38 have about the same girth, and both will fit in my purse when mounted), versatility and walkaround : native kit zoom (the 18-55 in my case, as I hate the 16-50, but a lot of people love it, so I may be wrong about it), performance : LA-EA2 adapter with any quality A mount lens (Sony/Minolta or otherwise), low light : any fast lens, native or adapted, the high ISO output is quite impressive for a high MP count sensor, fun factor : adapted lenses ! You can adapt just about *anything* on a NEX, from old Russian lenses to Leica optics that’ll cost you a kidney, to 20$ plastic CCTV chinese lenses, to high end Canon L and Nikkor glass, and much, much more. Now add to that the “focal reducers” and you get yet another world of fast aperture and crazy bokeh opening to you. The possibilities are endless !! Those who think NEX is limited really are wearing blinders and restricting themselves to a native configuration, with not to numerous or not so good lenses. But open up your mind to adapted A lenses with full AF support, or to any manual focus lens or your choice, and you will see the sky is the limit (or generally you, the photographer, are !).

  3. Bill McInerney says:

    I really enjoy your blog, which I found off of one of your postings at DPreview. As someone learning about photography, it is very helpful to both see your photos and “listen” to you talk about them, what you were trying to do, the problems you faced and the solutions you tried to implement. My F3 is my first interchangeable lens camera. The books I was reading told me I should shoot manual, but I thought I could never do that. Then I read your description of how to shoot manual with the NEX and I tried what you suggested. You were absolutely right! This is the single most useful bit of photography advice I’ve come across yet. Thanks!

    • marla2008 says:

      Bill, a testimonial like yours is the only reason I need to keep on doing what I do !! THANK you for that, you made my day. I am SO happy I was able to help you progress in your photography. I can’t for the life of me understand why I still see so many *long time enthusiasts* put up with the hurdles and limitations of semi automated modes, when full Manual is so seamless, efficient and easy with a mirrorless camera ??? Beats me !! At least you took the leap and you’re all the wiser for it now, congrats to you and please keep checking back !!

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