Have you ever thought your camera's metering system
of choice was under or overexposing your images? If you are shooting
almost any Nikon from the D90 up, you have the ability to fine tune the
exposure, adding or subtracting up to one stop of exposure in 1/6 stop
This allows you to push your camera's exposure in
one direction or the other on a semi-permanent basis. I say semi
permanent because you can set it back to factory specs any time you
want. Fine tuning optimal exposure is like leaving the exposure
compensation settings on all the time, except that you don't have to
think about it with the fine-tuning system. You just test it (find best
exposure), set it, and forget it.
As I briefly mentioned before, the Fine tune
optimal exposure setting allows you to fine tune the Matrix metering,
Center-weighted area metering, and Spot metering systems by +1/-1 EV in
1/6 EV steps. Nikon has taken the stance that most major camera systems
should allow the user to fine tune them. The exposure system is no
You can force each of the three metering systems to
add or subtract exposure from what it normally would use to expose your
subject. This stays in effect until you set it back to zero. It is
indeed fine tuning, since the maximum 1 EV step up or down is divided
into six parts (1/6 EV). If you think your camera mildly underexposes
highlights and you want it to add 1/2 step of exposure, you simply add
3/6 EV to the metering system. (Remember basic fractions: 1/2 equals
As mentioned, Fine tune optimal exposure works like
the normal compensation system, but it allows only one EV of
compensation. As shown in figure 1, screen 3, an ominous-looking warning
appears when you use Fine tune optimal exposure. It lets you know that
your camera will not display a compensation icon, as it does with the
+/- Exposure compensation button, when you use the metering fine-tuning
system. This simply means that while you have fine tuning dialed in for
your light meter, the camera will not remind you that it is fine tuned
by showing you a compensation icon. If it did turn on the compensation
icon (+/- on the Control panel and in the Viewfinder), it couldn’t use
that same icon when you use normal compensation.
You use the Custom Setting Menu > b
Metering/exposure > Fine tune optimal exposure setting to adjust the
exposure. Here is the actual Custom Setting number on several common
Nikons. This feature is only available on advanced, semi-pro and pro
- Custom Setting b4 – Nikon D90
- Custom Setting b5 – Nikon D7000
- Custom Setting b6 – Nikon D300, D300S, D700, D3, D3S, D3X
- Custom Setting b7 – Nikon D200, D2X, D2XS
Here are the screens used to set the exposure fine
tuning in a Nikon D7000 (screens may vary slightly in other Nikons but
Figure 1 – Choosing Fine tune optimal exposure settings
Use the following steps to choose b5 Fine tune optimal exposure settings:
- Select b Metering/exposure from the Custom Setting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 1).
- Select b5 Fine tune optimal exposure and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 2).
- Select Yes from the warning screen and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 3).
- Select the metering system you want to adjust. In figure 1, image 4, I selected Matrix metering. Scroll to the right.
- Scroll up or down in 1/6 EV steps until you reach the fine-tuning value you would like to use (figure 1, image 5, red arrow).
- In figure 1, image 6, I selected +3/6 (1/2 step
EV). Press the OK button to lock in the fine-tuning value for the
metering system you selected in step 4.
That’s all there is to it! Remember that you have
Fine tune optimal exposure turned on because the camera will not remind
you. Watch your histogram to make sure you’re not regularly
underexposing or overexposing images when you have the fine-tuning
adjustment in place. If needed, adjust the fine tuning up or down, or
turn it off. You must fine tune each metering system separately.
Note for D7000 users: Fine tune optimal exposure
applies only to the user setting (U1, U2, or non-user setting) you are
currently working with. If you are working with U1, then U2 and non-user
settings are not changed. Be sure to save the user setting in the Setup
Menu if you change one of them.
My Recommendation: Fine tune optimal exposure is a
rather controversial setting. On my older Nikon D300, I found that I
took better pictures when I ran the Matrix meter 3/6 (1/2 EV step) over
the normal setting. The D300’s Matrix metering seemed a bit conservative
to me and it worked a little too hard to keep from blowing out the
highlights in my images. It seemed to underexpose them by about 1/3 EV
step most of the time. I could see this underexposure because on most of
my Matrix meter exposed images, the histogram didn’t quite make it to
the right edge (lighter values) of the histogram window, which I prefer.
I like to expose for the highlights, yet my older D300 seemed to
I do not need to change the default on my D7000. If
anything, it tends to expose a little on the bright side. If I were to
make an exposure adjustment on this camera, I would try –1/6 as a test.
However, I doubt that I will make this adjustment on the D7000.
Remember that adjusting an exposure is always an
experiment. If you choose to fine tune any of the three metering
systems, you should thorougly test it before you do an important shoot.
The way I fine tune my camera is based on my own photographic style, and
my results can’t guarantee that you would get the same results. It
certainly won’t hurt to play with these settings—as long as you remember
to set them back to 0 when you’re done—if they don’t perform the way
Keep on capturing time...
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