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Thread: Canon 6D metering problems

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    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    Canon 6D metering problems

    Late last year I bought myself a Canon 6D to use as my travel camera. Overall I am very pleased with the size, weight and IQ of this body, but I have always struggled to get the exposure correct in the camera. So much so I have been using a small canon flash (270EX) as a fill flash, but I feel this produces very washed out and flat lighting shots.

    The other night whilst pondering this dilemma it suddenly dawned on me I have been spoilt by using the 1D series bodies over the last couple of years.

    Although I do some studio shots under controlled lighting (and therefore set my exposure manually), the majority of my shots are environmental settings. This presents itself with challenges. One moment I could be at the front of a cathedral, and the next inside photographing the ceiling. Ten minutes later I may be photographing my wife against the back drop of a dimly / brightly lit canal.
    My camera is normally set to AV mode, back button focussing, with a small flash on top which I switch on and off as needed. I normally move the focus point to rest on the eyes of the person I am photographing. The problem with all digital canons (except the 1D series) is they only meter off the centre focus point. In most cases when I am photographing people I rarely use the centre focus point.

    The dilemma I am facing now is the outer focus point is on the face, and this is where I need to meter, but the centre focus point is not on subject, and instead is taking a meter reading of some brighter / darker background. To compensate the other day I did the old centre point focus and move method but because I enjoy shooting wide open, I ended up with a large number of OOF shots – not the ideal answer. I have also tried locking exposure with the centre point focus and then moving the focus point but this is just awkward and time consuming. In the end I just set my camera to manual and chimped away until I got what I wanted.

    How have other people got over this hurdle with canon bodies?

    By the way the Canon 1D series meter from the active focus point – hence no need to worry too much.
    www.kjbphotography.com.au

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    My main working cameras are 5D Series, although I do use some older APS-C bodies (20D; 30D and 400D). I also use pool EOS 1 Series DSLRs. I believe that I fully and comprehensively understand your question and that I am ‘hands on’ familiar with the several shooting protocols which you have outlined.

    With my 5D’s (and APS-C) I always use back button focus and centre point AF. I mainly make Portraits of some sort and I mostly use Spot Metering and I make the initial TTL meter reading OFF SKIN TONES (and then make subsequent exposure adjustments).

    I don’t use the Histogram all that much but I do use the Highlight Blikies occasionally. I capture raw + JPEG (L) and I have Picture Styles set such that I understand the finer nuance of the Blinkies (and the histogram), but I really do not CHIMP, much at all: but rather, if I am unsure of the Metering, the particular Shooting Scenario or my ability to compute exposure I will tend to shoot an EXPOSURE BRACKET, typically ±⅔Stop – (for photography of ‘scenes’ not Portraiture).

    For complex (lighting) scenes (for example a Church Interior in Available Light) I might make a couple, of meter readings and compute manually – I tend to still use SPOT metering in this case and I typically and generally understand the relationships between key objects (colours) which are typical in a scene and their relationship to Photographic Grey: for example - Dark Wood (Altar or Lecture); Gold (Chalices etc); Purple & Green (stoles, etc) and also other items in outdoor scenes, such as: Concrete, Green grass, Red Fire Engine . . . etc.

    For typical “Scenery” I find Evaluative Metering has been very accurate returning at least a 90% hit rate, even though I tend to shoot an exposure bracket in most situations when making travel (‘scenery’) images on the fly. For this type of 'scenery' shooting, I will sometimes not use the TTL meter at all, because, if the scene is EV15, then the scene is EV15 . . .

    *

    Getting to the meat of the matter and your issue . . .

    With my 5D’s (and other DSLR’s) I have never had any major problem with: Focus / Lock Focus / Recompose –and when the procedure did stuff up it was my fault.

    I do use fast glass and at large apertures and I do sometimes shoot very tight Portraiture.

    I think that knowing the limits about Focus and Recompose is important - in fact this is the critical point: knowing the limits and refining the techniques to suit each situation.

    For example (two extremes)
    - For a Full Length Shot there is not going to be any problem making focus on the chest and recomposing (by SWIVELLING the camera) to re-frame that Subject at the edge of the frame.
    -However, for a Tight Head Shot when recomposing I move the camera viewpoint along the line of the Plane of Sharp Focus. This technique is not as difficult as it might initially appear, as it only requires mastering some practice and achieving muscle memory to squat or move from the hips sideways a short distance.

    Linked to the techniques for Recomposing, I think that it is also important to understand that (for any given aperture) Depth of Field is dependant upon the FRAMING of THE SHOT.

    *

    In summary I think that you’ll have success using only the centre point AF and F&R if you work through a F&R protocol based upon HOW you employ the RECOMPOSE action appropriate for the particular shot and then just practice getting perfect at the procedure, for the tight shots, shooting wide open, especially.

    WW

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    Thank you for you post William - I always enjoy and respect every word in your response.

    On the weekend I started using a 50 f1.4 @ around 2.0 - 2.8. In this case it was hand held and I felt comfortable with the lock and recompose method. Later in the afternoon we moved to a shaded forest area not far from where I live in Waterloo, Belgium. I changed my lens to a Canon 200 f1.8 and shot at f1.8. I had to mount the lens on a monopod, and I was on uneven ground, so the lock and recompose method did not work reliably in this situation. I pride myself on rarely missing a shot due to out of focus, but on the weekend I experienced around 20% I deleted, and another 20% that did not do justice to the lens I was using (they just were not sharp around the eyes).

    I am heading out again this weekend to a similar area but this time I will use my 1DIV and make a comparison. It might be a while before I post any results as I am on the road again for a month or so.

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    Thanks for the quick reply.
    You mentioning a monopod caused two other considerations to spring to my mind. . .

    I had a similar problem when I was using a Monopod and I found that I was making the mistake of recomposing by ALWAYS swivelling the camera about the foot of the monopod or leaning back and forwards (rocking on) the monopod. (as one would normally do for panning or following sports action). What I mean is, when I was hand holding I was much more aware of recomposing by moving the camera in the same plane as the Subject

    The other point is consider that the time taken to recompose (even though it is short) the Subject can move. For a Tight Shot, the head of the subject only needs to lean forward or back ½ inch for the eyes to be soft at F/1.8

    "Uneven ground" makes me think that both the above points might be at play in the shooting scenario you outlined.

    Good luck with it. I have an email alert on this thread and I look forward to reading more on your findings.

    WW

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian500au View Post
    .....

    How have other people got over this hurdle with canon bodies?

    .....
    As most Nikon folks know(or will learn) the focus point acts as the spot meter point at all times with a typical(ie modern CPU type) lens as used by most people.

    What can happen tho, is that if you mount a non CPU lens to a Nikon body, you get the same behaviour as your 6D shows .. where the central focus area is the only point used for spot metering.


    I have quite a few non CPU lenses and have tried a few methods to get consistent spot metering.

    One has been to set the AF point to where I think I want the subject(typically their face) and quickly take a spot meter reading from the centre point lock in exposure with AE-L button and then return to my original composition.
    It's sort of a reverse focus and recompose method where I'm not focusing and then recomposing .. I'm metering and then recomposing to acquire focus.
    I guess you'd call it a meter and refocus method or whatever you like.
    of course focusing with these lenses is manual only but having the focus point set to the subject, you at least get some indication of it being in the vicinity.

    I'm assuming that the 6D has an AE-L button as well as a AF-On button .. and if so it could work if you were to test it out ... and the only obstacle to it being sucessful is how well you can adapt to the multiple thumb pushing operations .. and hence getting them in the right order.

    A little while ago tho, I got myself a more accurate focusing matte which makes it a bit more accurate to focus(manually) without the need to set the focus point onto the subject. That is the focus point indicator has become totally irrelevant when using non CPU lenses.

    One thing with the use of the exposure lock button, is the dependency on how it's set to operate.
    (I'm assuming the 6D works in a similar way) Some AE-L buttons can be configured to stay locked to that exposure level indefinitely(at least until the camera is switched off) where the exposure value you have locked it too stays like that for each release after the first.
    This can be important if you shoot multiple exposures after pressing the AE-L button.
    Most cameras are set to AE-L only for the first image in any burst set. So any exposures after the first will revert to the cameras usual method of metering.

    So if you shoot in burst mode, and the AE-L button can be configured to stay locked until pressed again, all your shots will be exposed in the same way(theoretically).


    FWIW(and not relevant to your situation) but for now with my manual lenses because of the reduced reliance on the focusing aid, I just tend to use manual mode more often if I'm using a manual lens and 'guess' the exposure required based on the brightness of the area in the centre of the frame if the subject is off axis.
    Not always spot on, but close enough in most situations. As long as ISO is at a manageable level, a bit of recovery isn't too hard to manage.

    Hopefully my explanation is made clear(which is sometimes hard to describe properly) but the difference between your attempt and what I've described is that you don't need to move the focus point!
    Where you (seem to) have your focus point at the centre and then moving it to suit where you want it to be, my method is setting the focus point to where I want the subject to be in the frame .. taking the exposure .. locking it and then re composing again to where I have already set it up to focus.
    Now I have to make it clear that I don't have any Canon gear, let alone a 6D, but I assume it works in the same way as my Nikon does with non CPU lenses.
    And that is that no matter where the focus point is set, the spot meter reading is not affected by it's location in the frame.


    hope this helps.
    Last edited by arthurking83; 25-06-2014 at 9:14pm.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Thank you for taking the time to respond Arthur.

    I have been seriously looking at bracketing (don't normally do as I shoot in raw) but after reading up on it I can see how important it is to nail the exposure correctly even in raw.

    I am going to shoot with my 6D and my 1DIV side by side this weekend in much the same conditions as last weekend. I felt last weekend I was tired and out of practice, and this contributed to my poor technique. In reality it was not the fault of the equipment I was using that caused the above mentioned problems.

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    Didn't get a chance this weekend to get out and about - weather let me down in Belgium here.

    I am heading for the beach in Malaysia tomorrow for a couple of weeks - will take my 6D with me and try shoot bracketed shots. Unfortunately I will not be taking my 200 1.8 (just too heavy).

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    Member TeamGlenny's Avatar
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    I hesitate to chuck in here cause I'm pretty new, but I have a 6D that I love though I have only had it a few months. I read in your posts that when you went to a shaded forest you were getting a number of OOF shots. Without being familiar with your lenses but could it be a case of camera shake as opposed to focus depth causing you the issues? So along with the AE lock already mentioned I'll say the 6D is a steller low light performer and maybe next time try upping the iso a bit for a faster shutter speed.

    If all of that you've tried and I'm just telling you to suck eggs I apologise.

    Glenn

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    Thank you for the input Glenn. I was using a 200mm lens and although I was using a monopod I think the shutter speeds were still too slow. I am going to spend a bit more time with this body over the coming month, so hopefully this problem is human error due to lack of practice.

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