The Sleeping Giant's Sea Lion

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When I'm shooting with the onboard flash in low light conditions, I observe the exposure preview settings between no flash and the flash popped up - there appears to be little or no difference between the two. This is causing me to conclude that the camera is unaware the flash will be firing.

If this is the case, how can the camera possibly expose the shot correctly? For reference, I am getting quite a bit of overexposure currently whenever I use the flash.

I really dread using the flash and I'm experimenting with different flash settings etc at the moment to try and get a nicer exposure. I think that I may end up buying an external flash for the hot shoe and bouncing light off the ceiling etc.

First and foremost though I'm keen to understand the relationship between the on-board flash and exposure settings on my camera. Any help much appreciated!

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1  
I don't know the details of how this particular camera works with the pop-up flash, but you're on the right track with bounce flash instead. Even at its best the pop-up flash will never give great results. –  mattdm Oct 15 '12 at 12:21
    
Have you looked at your Flash Compensation settings at all? It could be up? –  BBking Oct 18 '12 at 1:48

2 Answers 2

That is completely normal. The camera has no idea what the effect of the flash will be and cannot preview it. The effect of flash is extremely variable based on distance and reflectance. For example if you have an object 1m away and one 2m away, the one 2m away gets 4 times less light than the one 1m. Plus, how much it reflects back depends on the object's material and color.

There is no way the camera and similar this without firing the flash which is what modern cameras do before the exposure. This is called TTL Flash which stands for Through The Lens. The camera fires the flash at a low power, measures the results and then adjusts the levels accordingly for the actual shot that follows a fraction of a second later. If you have redeye reduction turned on, the camera will fire 3 times: once to meter, once to contract pupils and once for the exposure.

On some cameras you can fire the pre-flash early and lock in the measured results but I have never seen it update the preview, although technically but if anything in the scene moves, it would no longer be correct. This is called FV-Lock.

For the between the on-board flash and exposure, it depends on the flash mode:

  • In Fill mode, the exposure is NOT changed due to flash.
  • In Auto Flash mode, exposure is adjusted in consideration based on some measurements of the scene.
  • There are other modes (Forced, On, Slow-Sync, Rear-Sync, etc) and how they behave differs between cameras, so read the manual and conduct a few experiments with a static scene.
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This could be because the camera is adjusting the other settings to give the technically correct exposure. By this I mean that if you are in aperture priority, it's adjusting the shutter speed and if you are in shutter priority it's changing the aperture. However, the colors should look different with flash. In general, the image quality will be better without flash. However, minimal flash will sometimes give the boost needed to keep a picture sharp. I would highly recommend getting a hot shoe flash, as the give much better image quality than pop-ups. I hope that this helped.

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