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Thread started 19 Feb 2015 (Thursday) 12:20
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Underexposing 5D3 - Is this normal behavior?

 
mannetti21
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Post edited over 4 years ago by mannetti21. (4 edits in all)
     
Feb 19, 2015 12:20 |  #1

So I've had my 5d3 for a couple years now and I'm becoming more and more convinced that the metering is off. My first clue was that almost every image was needing +2/3 to +1 1/3 exposure in post. I don't believe that this post-adjustment is subjective as the histograms confirm the underexposure. This has been occurring for quite some time, eventually forcing me to keep the camera dialed in for +1 EC. Of course, this limits the ability to effectively use Manual Mode by setting aperture and shutter, while letting the camera decide the ISO. This is a major negative IMO. I've skimmed through the sticky on Light Leak, but it seems the consensus is that its a non-issue under normal shooting conditions.

The next thing I tried was placing the camera on a tripod with a large window about 5ft away to the right of the camera. I switched to Manual, evaluative metering, fixed ISO to 100, and fixed aperture to f/2.8. Half shutter-press and the camera selects a shutter of 1/400. Then, by simply using my hand to shade the viewfinder, the camera drops the shutter down to 1/250. Same exact results when using the rubber viewfinder cover instead of my hand. Simply putting my eye up to the viewfinder also changes the metered shutter speed, but it varies anywhere between 1/3 to 1-stop. Same results when using center-weighted and spot metering as well.

Is this the cause of my constant underexposing or is it normal behavior? This certainly seems consistent with the fact that I'm having to push exposure by a full stop in post. I'm thinking about contacting Canon but I really want to get my facts straight and a clear understanding of what is going on before raising the issue.



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Feb 19, 2015 12:32 |  #2

Yes, it is normal. All Canon cameras (and many from other makers) tend towards a little underexposure in their metering. A lot of users find they are typically using a little positive EC all the time. This is probably a safety factor to avoid users in "point and shoot mode" from blowing out detail in light subjects in the sun.

As for the light leak "problem", that is a non-issue and certainly not what was causing what you saw. It only occurred when shooting in near total darkness (or more commonly with the lens cap on) and even then only by a tiny amount that wouldn't affect the images significantly. Light through the viewfinder is normal, that is why they give you the cover for when your eye is not blocking the light. Light has to be able to travel through the lens and viewfinder for you to be able to see what you are shooting, naturally without your eye blocking the hole some light will enter through the viewfinder and go out of the lens, it isn't a one way system. The meter is in the middle and will read the light passing in both directions.

The cause of your underexposing and pushing in post is simply that you have set too little exposure. You can simply set some +ve EC if you want to stick with the meter all the time, or learn to understand what the meter is telling you and expose accordingly. Whilst I am more often shooting at around +2/3 of a stop or so exposure, my settings vary between about -2 and +3 difference to the meter, dependent on the subject and background tones, lighting etc. The meter is just a tool, understand it, and how to use the histogram, and your exposures will be fine.




  
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davinci953
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Feb 19, 2015 12:52 |  #3

mannetti21 wrote in post #17439303 (external link)
So I've had my 5d3 for a couple years now and I'm becoming more and more convinced that the metering is off. My first clue was that almost every image was needing +2/3 to +1 1/3 exposure in post. I don't believe that this post-adjustment is subjective as the histograms confirm the underexposure. This has been occurring for quite some time, eventually forcing me to keep the camera dialed in for +1 EC. Of course, this limits the ability to effectively use Manual Mode by setting aperture and shutter, while letting the camera decide the ISO. This is a major negative IMO. I've skimmed through the sticky on Light Leak, but it seems the consensus is that its a non-issue under normal shooting conditions.
<snip>

There have been a couple of threads on other forums recently asking this. I recently checked the metering using a grey card by taking an incident reading of the card, and then using the 5D Mark III to take a spot meter reading off the card (as well as evaluative and center-weighted readings). The camera metering was consistently 2/3 stop under the incident reading. Use the histogram and expose to the right without blowing the highlights. In outdoor shooting, I find it's not unusual to shoot with EC +2/3-1. For flash metering, I generally use a light meter when not using ETTL.




  
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mannetti21
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Feb 19, 2015 13:03 |  #4

sandpiper wrote in post #17439316 (external link)
Yes, it is normal. All Canon cameras (and many from other makers) tend towards a little underexposure in their metering. A lot of users find they are typically using a little positive EC all the time. This is probably a safety factor to avoid users in "point and shoot mode" from blowing out detail in light subjects in the sun.

As for the light leak "problem", that is a non-issue and certainly not what was causing what you saw. It only occurred when shooting in near total darkness (or more commonly with the lens cap on) and even then only by a tiny amount that wouldn't affect the images significantly. Light through the viewfinder is normal, that is why they give you the cover for when your eye is not blocking the light. Light has to be able to travel through the lens and viewfinder for you to be able to see what you are shooting, naturally without your eye blocking the hole some light will enter through the viewfinder and go out of the lens, it isn't a one way system. The meter is in the middle and will read the light passing in both directions.

The cause of your underexposing and pushing in post is simply that you have set too little exposure. You can simply set some +ve EC if you want to stick with the meter all the time, or learn to understand what the meter is telling you and expose accordingly. Whilst I am more often shooting at around +2/3 of a stop or so exposure, my settings vary between about -2 and +3 difference to the meter, dependent on the subject and background tones, lighting etc. The meter is just a tool, understand it, and how to use the histogram, and your exposures will be fine.

davinci953 wrote in post #17439336 (external link)
There have been a couple of threads on other forums recently asking this. I recently checked the metering using a grey card by taking an incident reading of the card, and then using the 5D Mark III to take a spot meter reading off the card (as well as evaluative and center-weighted readings). The camera metering was consistently 2/3 stop under the incident reading. Use the histogram and expose to the right without blowing the highlights. In outdoor shooting, I find it's not unusual to shoot with EC +2/3-1. For flash metering, I generally use a light meter when not using ETTL.

So if this is indeed normal (which is extremely disappointing), then what is the solution? Having to manipulate EC on a regular basis isn't exactly a solution, it's more of a poor compromise for the reason I mentioned in my OP.



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Feb 19, 2015 13:38 |  #5

mannetti21 wrote in post #17439350 (external link)
So if this is indeed normal (which is extremely disappointing), then what is the solution? Having to manipulate EC on a regular basis isn't exactly a solution, it's more of a poor compromise for the reason I mentioned in my OP.

I don't see why this would involve manipulating the EC "on a regular basis"? If you want to stick to the meter reading and your meter consistently reads 2/3 stop under, you can just set +2/3 EC to adjust it to the correct exposure level and leave it there permanently. The only reason to manipulate EC on a regular basis is to adjust exposure to make allowances for bright or dark subjects and/or backgrounds, in other words to control exposure according to the scene and not the meter. In that case, yes you will be regularly manipulating the EC (or adjusting the setting in manual away from the centre of the meter bar) but no more than if the meter was spot on, all that will differ is the exact value set, they will still be as variable. I generally shoot in manual when in consistent light, or have plenty of time to play with it, but shoot in Av or Tv when in variable lighting and set exposure by adjusting EC. I don't have to make any more adjustments because my meter is 2/3 stop out than if it was spot on, I am adjusting because the scene has changed, not the meter.

I do agree that it would be handy for some people, yourself included it would seem, if EC was available when shooting in "M with auto ISO" mode. For me, despite shooting a very wide range of genres and subjects, I have found very little use for that mode and have used it on just two occasions in the two and a half years I have had my 5D III. In almost everything i shoot I find Av, Tv or Manual a far better choice. I understand that others may shoot in conditions which require it more often than I do, and that is why I agree that EC should be an option, but the conditions where I can see it being useful are not the norm for most peoples shooting.

I have shot at least 100,000 images with my 5DIII taking in theatre performances, weddings, sport, portraits, landscapes, night photography, birds and wildlife and much more and have never felt that there is an exposure problem with my camera. It was only after reading several threads on the subject that I thought about it and realised mine "suffers" from the same issue. My exposures are all good, I don't have a problem with underexposure, but that is because I set my exposure for the image I am shooting, rather than leaving it up to the camera to set an average exposure to create an average midtone which should be about right most of the time. In short, I don't slavishly use the meter reading, I assess and set the exposure I want myself.




  
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Feb 19, 2015 13:39 |  #6

Every canon body I've used needs +2/3-+1 most of the time.


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Feb 19, 2015 14:43 |  #7

mannetti21 wrote in post #17439350 (external link)
So if this is indeed normal (which is extremely disappointing), then what is the solution? Having to manipulate EC on a regular basis isn't exactly a solution, it's more of a poor compromise for the reason I mentioned in my OP.

Keep in mind that the camera's meter is a reflective meter and meters for approximately 18% grey. Consequently, there is going to be variation in the metering depending on whether my subject is light or dark. Colors, skin tones, and so on affect the camera's metering. If you're not using an incident meter to measure the light falling on the subject (independent of what your subject is wearing), that's where your expertise as a photographer comes in to determine the correct exposure using the camera's metering.




  
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Feb 20, 2015 08:50 |  #8
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Frodge wrote in post #17439399 (external link)
Every canon body I've used needs +2/3-+1 most of the time.

+2/3 is my default setting on my 60D. +1/3 on the 6D. I also use +2/3 FEC on both of them, most of the time. For daytime fill, which I rarely use, I'll cut back to 0 EC.


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Feb 20, 2015 08:59 |  #9

yeah mine usually underexposes too.

so usually when i enter a new lighting situation, or where overall tones change from black/white, i check the histogram of my first few pics to calibrate how much + adjustment i need. it's usually +1/3 for me. if you start going to +1 or so it will start cutting highlights significantly, even though the overall brightness is what you would like. so, it's probably better to underexpose a bit then boost in post if you want to preserve highlights.


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Feb 20, 2015 09:19 |  #10
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Xyclopx wrote in post #17440599 (external link)
yeah mine usually underexposes too.

so usually when i enter a new lighting situation, or where overall tones change from black/white, i check the histogram of my first few pics to calibrate how much + adjustment i need. it's usually +1/3 for me. if you start going to +1 or so it will start cutting highlights significantly, even though the overall brightness is what you would like. so, it's probably better to underexpose a bit then boost in post if you want to preserve highlights.

Another different strokes approach, I suppose. I blow some highlights intentionally, depending on the subject matter, of course. If they are less than one stop out, they are completely recoverable. I have no qualms about shooting my 60D at 3200, or the 6D at 12,800. They are both quite useable still, one stop higher.


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Feb 20, 2015 09:22 |  #11

Both of my 5D Mark III are underexposed compared to the meter reading of my Sekonic L358 Meter, but at different amounts, which is odd.
5D Mark III #1, Christmas 2013. Underexposed 2/3
5D Mark III #2, January 2015. Underexposed 1/3

Adding the different amounts of + Exposure Compensation to each allows me to achieve balance between both bodies.


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Feb 20, 2015 09:56 as a reply to  @ Nick5's post |  #12

I suppose the answer to "is this normal?" would be, Yes.

Still, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that this is Canon's intended behavior. I know Manual Mode with Auto ISO is only a small piece of the pie, but nevertheless, it renders that piece essentially useless. Typically I stay in Av mode and use the menu to set a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 or faster (depending on what I'm shooting), and like Sandpiper mentioned, this works well most of the time. But there are still situations where it would be nice to be able to control aperture and shutter without also having to constantly adjust the ISO to achieve a proper exposure.

Maybe this is a case of the more you know, the worse off you can be. The simplest solution is to boost in post, but at the expense of increasing noise in blacks and shadows. There is also a big part of me that is just urked by the fact that a large percentage of the 2000+ images currently in my Lightroom catalog have exposure edited to +.7 to +1. I certainly don't frown upon post-processing, but I have this desire to get the images correct (as much as possible) in-camera.

Is this also common phenomenon with other manufacturers?



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Feb 20, 2015 10:03 |  #13

mannetti21 wrote in post #17440698 (external link)
Still, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that this is Canon's intended behavior. I know Manual Mode with Auto ISO is only a small piece of the pie, but nevertheless, it renders that piece essentially useless. Typically I stay in Av mode and use the menu to set a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 or faster (depending on what I'm shooting), and like Sandpiper mentioned, this works well most of the time. But there are still situations where it would be nice to be able to control aperture and shutter without also having to constantly adjust the ISO to achieve a proper exposure.

Maybe this is a case of the more you know, the worse off you can be. The simplest solution is to boost in post, but at the expense of increasing noise in blacks and shadows. There is also a big part of me that is just urked by the fact that a large percentage of the 2000+ images currently in my Lightroom catalog have exposure edited to +.7 to +1. I certainly don't frown upon post-processing, but I have this desire to get the images correct (as much as possible) in-camera.

i'm not quite getting what the problem is. as long as the camera underexposes by a consistent amount, then just set the compensation and forget about it. if you're complaining that the exposure changes all the time, it's supposed to--that's cause as you move around colors change and lighting changes. that's the whole point about auto exposure. let's say you're taking portraits of white faces vs black faces, even with the same amount of light--yeah, you will have to change exposure amounts. if you don't want the camera guessing the exposure all the time, then set in M mode and do it yourself.


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Feb 20, 2015 10:06 |  #14

Xyclopx wrote in post #17440707 (external link)
i'm not quite getting what the problem is. as long as the camera underexposes by a consistent amount, then just set the compensation and forget about it. if you're complaining that the exposure changes all the time, it's supposed to--that's cause as you move around colors change and lighting changes. that's the whole point about auto exposure. let's say you're taking portraits of white faces vs black faces, even with the same amount of light--yeah, you will have to change exposure amounts. if you don't want the camera guessing the exposure all the time, then set in M mode and do it yourself.

The problem is that you can not dial in EC in Manual mode while using Auto ISO. Other than that, you are correct that it is as simple as setting a EC and leaving it alone.



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Feb 20, 2015 11:09 |  #15
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mannetti21 wrote in post #17440713 (external link)
The problem is that you can not dial in EC in Manual mode while using Auto ISO. Other than that, you are correct that it is as simple as setting a EC and leaving it alone.

I agree with those who feel this is a problem. I don't use M much, but I always use EC. M without it is a bit restrictive. How did they overlook that? All this in regard to auto-ISO, btw.


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