Until recently, cameras offered three metering modes: matrix, center-weighted, and spot. And it was very easy to choose the right metering mode as the differences between them were big. However, things have changed. Metering Mode Updates are something we wouldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago, but we have updates in the newest cameras. Advanced camera models provide more intelligent ways of evaluating available light and deciding the parameters that create the perfect exposure.
Evaluative Metering Mode
The evaluative metering mode is the new matrix metering mode. It looks at the entire scene and averages bright and dark points to find the best exposure for the entire frame. However, the old matrix metering mode gave equal weights to all points in the frame. The evaluative metering mode uses smart algorithms that give more weight to focusing points or compare the scene with a reference image database. It correlates its decision with the autofocus system and tries to determine what is essential in the frame.
Canon and Sony use the name “evaluative.” Nikon uses the name “matrix” although the algorithm is changed. Some camera modes offer the non-intelligent matrix metering mode under the name average metering mode.
Partial Metering Mode
Advanced Canon camera models offer a spot metering mode variant called partial metering mode. Like spot metering mode, partial metering mode looks at a circular area around the focus point and evaluates the amount of light available only in that particular area. However, while the spot metering mode considers only about 1%-5% of the frame, partial metering mode considers about 7%-15% of the frame.
It allows you to get the perfect exposure for large subjects and works better with a middle-range depth of field. So if you find the spot metering mode too precise and need a more versatile mode with the same benefits, the partial metering mode is your best choice.
Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode
Advanced Nikon camera models offer a metering mode that looks after the highlight points and ensures you don’t overexpose them. Highlight-weighted metering mode detects the highlight points from the entire frame, and however dark the scene may be, it decides on the aperture and shutter speed that keeps the highlights correctly exposed.
Nikon recommends this metering mode for photographing subtle accents of light, such as moving subjects or in the spotlight.
Whenever you use the Auto mode or one of the camera’s semi-automatic ones, set the metering mode before each shot. Metering modes can make or break a photograph. If you allow the camera to make decisions for you, ensure you share your intentions and give the camera all the information it needs. For practice, take the same shot using all the available metering modes and observe the differences.