If shooting a RAW file in manual mode (on Nikon), whereby aperture, ISO, and exposure time are all manually configured, how would adjusting exposure compensation affect my RAW file? It seems as if exposure compensation really is just a software-based setting that adjusts the big three mentioned above. Is this a correct way to think about it?

  • I am a Canon guy, so this is a guess (and something I wish my camera had), exposure compensation in Manual mode might still have an effect on Auto ISO. Jul 12 '13 at 17:46
  • @PatrickHurley Your Canon camera does have it somewhat: with an E-TTL II flash in manual mode the flash EC will adjust flash power. Later models have true Auto ISO in M mode.
    – Michael C
    Jul 12 '13 at 19:53
  • @MichaelClark I know and love this feature, but when shooting sports, I would like to go into Manual mode f/2.8 1/400 and let the camera meter deal with ISO -- all of which works now. But a like to shoot ~1/3 stop bright in a bad lighting, and would like to be able to set EC +1/3 and have auto ISO deal with it. Jul 12 '13 at 20:05
  • The 1D X is capable of shooting that way. So is the 5DIII.
    – Michael C
    Jul 12 '13 at 20:50

If you are referring to in-camera Exposure Compensation (EC), if your particular model will even let you set a value at all when in Manual mode, then EC will only affect the reading of the meter you see in the viewfinder, but will not affect the ISO, Tv, or Av.

There are exceptions to this if you are either shooting with Auto ISO selected while in manual mode or if you are using i-TTL flash while in manual mode. In these cases using exposure compensation will affect either the ISO or the flash power automatically selected by the camera, respectively.

  • EC should affect the metering needle, thus by "fooling" the photographer it actually has an effect of a kind. Jul 15 '13 at 5:37
  • @EsaPaulasto Only if the photographer manually changes Tv, Av, or ISO.
    – Michael C
    Jul 15 '13 at 12:03
  • Well, ain't that what we use the metering needle for? But I know, I'm pullin my leg a bit here, sorry about that ;) Jul 15 '13 at 13:25

Are you talking about adjusting Exposure after the shot is taken while working from the DNG? If so, the exposure adjusts the conversion from higher bit depth to lower. The dynamic range of modern DSLRs are higher than that of 8 bit jpegs, so there is headroom to work with where information would normally be too bright or too dark to fit within the 8 bit scale. Exposure slides that scale so that the exposure brightens or darkens by moving the section of the higher bit color space.

Generally EC isn't available in camera when shooting full manual since it can't adjust any parameters. It shouldn't impact the RAW file since exposure is governed by the parameters you have selected for ISO, shutter and aperture.

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