The only way to manually adjust exposure compensation is to use either P,A,S or modes, however then of course something else is automated. In full manual mode you can not change exposure compensation ?

Am I mistaken, why is this ? Are other advanced cameras like this ?

  • EC in manual mode has an effect on the exposure metering needle only. In Canon cameras it doesn't do even that. See more about EC in "What is Exposure compensation?" – Esa Paulasto Jan 19 '14 at 22:28
  • @EsaPaulasto Not necessarily w/regard to all Canon bodies. If using E-TTL flash or Auto ISO, the top Canon models do allow use of EC in M mode. – Michael C Jan 19 '14 at 23:35
  • @MichaelClark - Even if the mode selector is rotated to point at M, I would not call it Manual mode if ISO is going on Auto. Good to know about E-TTL flash operation though. – Esa Paulasto Jan 20 '14 at 5:24
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    It is Manual exposure mode. The whole point is that even in M mode not everything (e.g. focus) is necessarily "Manual". But it is named Manual Exposure Mode. – Michael C Jan 20 '14 at 5:34
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    But in Nikon we can change EC in M mode – Aliti May 9 '15 at 5:14

This question tells me you should start by understanding exposure first. Start with reading about the Exposure-Triangle. If you understand that, you would not be asking this :)

Briefly, exposure is determined by 3 parameters: ISO, Shutter-Speed and Aperture. When you are in manual mode and set all these, that is it. No further adjust is possible or needed.

When you are in an automatic mode, you adjust 0, 1 or 2 of these three and the camera determines the rest. The point is that there is at least one left. Exposure-Compensation shifts how the camera sets the parameters it controls. If it cannot control anything as in manual mode, there is nothing to shift.

Most mid-range cameras with manual-controls and a single control-dial use this to their advantage where the EC button switches between controlling aperture and shutter-speed in Manual mode. If your camera has dual control-dials, EC either does nothing or shifts the Exposure-Meter which can be used as a guide to set Manual exposure. It does not affect exposure in this case either.

  • What about automatic exposure bracketing when in manual mode? – alex.forencich Jan 20 '14 at 2:19
  • @alex.forencich - Not sure where your question comes from but AEB occurs around the set exposure in Manual mode. Different cameras behave slightly differently in that they will vary aperture, shutter-speed, ISO or a combination. – Itai Jan 20 '14 at 2:57
  • Well, if adjusting exposure compensation in manual mode is pointless as both the aperture and shutter speed are fixed, how come many cameras allow you to enable AEB while in manual mode? I know on my 7D it ends up adjusting the shutter speed just as it would in Av mode, which is not particularly intuitive. – alex.forencich Jan 20 '14 at 3:07
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    Almost all cameras that allow AEB in M mode do so by adjusting the Tv. It makes the most sense since neither DoF nor ISO is affected by changes in Tv. For images meant to be blended together in some way changing the DoF or ISO can significantly complicate matters on post-production. – Michael C Jan 20 '14 at 5:37
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    But in Nikon we can change EC in M mode – Aliti May 9 '15 at 5:16

In a general sense, Manual means manual. You do all of the work.

There are a few cameras that feature an "automatic manual" mode, in which you set the aperture and the shutter speed and the camera varies the ISO to suit. That's a new thing, and not quite the same thing as "full manual mode".

When you vary the exposure compensation on most cameras in manual mode, the only thing that changes is the meter indication. You have to change one of either the aperture, shutter speed or ISO yourself. You're in control, and you get to (or have to, if you find it a chore) decide which of the three elements controlling the exposure you want to adjust. Putting the camera in manual mode is telling it that you know what you're doing (which may or may not correspond at all to what the meter is reading). If you are using the camera's meter, then you can use the difference in reading between "normal" and "exposure compensated" readings to inform your decision.

But if the camera went ahead and overrode any of your settings without explicit permission, it wouldn't be manual mode, would it? How would it know which to adjust? If you were in aperture priority mode (A or Av), it knows that it's allowed to jigger with the shutter speed (until it hits any limit you may have set). If you're in shutter priority (S or Tv), it's allowed to vary the aperture (until it runs out of aperture). In "automatic manual" (each implementation has its own branded name), it's free to play with only the ISO. But in manual, what is it supposed to do?

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    I don;t understand, there is shutter speed, aperture, iso, and exposure compnesation (a little +/- my menu), I can manully adjust the first three (in manual mode) but not exposure compensation. Whereas in P,A or S mode I can also adjust the exposure comp (+/- around 0). Are you saying the exposure compensation is determined by the other 3 settings ? (I am noob if you hadn't guessed). Some of my photos are turning out a bit dark, so I am playing/fine tuning settings. – NimChimpsky Jan 19 '14 at 19:09
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    @NimChimpsky What are you expecting to change when you change exposure compensation? Exposure is determined by the combination of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and the available light. In auto modes, including aperture and shutter priority, the camera adjusts these to match the meter reading. Exposure compensation tells the camera to actually expose brighter or darker than the meter says. So, in all manual mode, it is meaningless. However, as Stan says, many cameras allow you to change it and use that to bias the visual exposure meter indicator. – mattdm Jan 19 '14 at 19:24
  • Actually if you don't disable Auto-ISO, the camera can still control the ISO even in M mode. Don't know if it takes exposure compensation into account however. – Marco Mp Jan 19 '14 at 22:57
  • Most Canon models also allow EC or FEC to affect the flash power level when using E-TTL flash mode in M exposure mode. Of course the flash is in an Auto mode while Tv, Av, and possibly ISO are manually controlled. – Michael C Jan 19 '14 at 23:39
  • @MarcoMp Depends on the camera model. On Pentax, M stays fullly manual and auto-ISO with shutter and aperture manually controlled is called TAv. – mattdm Jan 20 '14 at 0:06

If you're using manual mode with a Nikon DSLR (and assuming that ISO is set to a fixed value) then it is still possible, oddly, to use EC in Manual Mode. Doing so biases the lightmeter by +/- N stops, and changes the recommended shutter and aperture speeds that are displayed in the viewfinder. It biases the exposure meter as a way for you to readjust that to the "desired" setting, according to the EC you "set". But being in manual mode you have to change the aperture or shutter speeds manually anyway. It's better just to "bias" the exposure by changing the aperture and/or the shutter speed in the normal way, since using EC has the inconvenience that you might forget you set it.


In Full Manual Mode.... exposure compensation (EC) is compensating for a cameras AUTO setting. S, A, P all have SOMETHING the camera is auto compensating for such as Shutter, Aperture. BUT if you are in manual mode and your camera has an auto ISO option like on a Nikon D500, then the camera is auto compensating for the ISO and you can use EC. Since the camera is controlling the ISO your EC will adjust the ISO.


On my friend's Nikon D5600 he showed me that the EC needle/pointer can move without changing ISO, Exposure time or Aperture. I explained that on my Canon this is not possible, further more, this may be an oversight from Nikon as without the Aperture/ISO/Exposure time changing the resultant exposure cannot be altered.

He took 3 pictures using the same exposure parameters (aperture, exposure time and ISO). Exposure 1 at 0eV Exposure 2 at -3 eV Exposure 3 at +3 eV

The image review showed Exposure 1 as properly exposed Exposure 2 as under exposed Exposure 3 as over exposed

The Aperture/ISO and exposure time were identical in all 3 shots.

It is as if the camera performs exposure compensation after the image is recorded....sort of post processing in camera.

  • I don't think it's an oversight. It's just doing what you told it to do — changing the meter reading by the given amount. Then, if you adjust exposure parameters to match manually, the newly-adjusted "center" will be in line with the EC amount. – mattdm Aug 1 '19 at 17:44
  • The point you are missing is that changing ec changed the exposure.....I sid not change aperture shutter or iso....as if it exposure adjustment in post processing – Debashis Ghosh Aug 2 '19 at 18:08

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