I have a Nikon D5300. Yesterday, when I was fiddling with the camera, I noticed that the permissible range of exposure compensation is [-5.0,+5.0] while the exposure/light meter is calibrated from [-2.0,+2.0]. If I apply an EC beyond that limit, i.e. < -2.0 or > +2.0, is there any means to know the same from the meter without looking looking at the absolute EC reading?

If you are not sure what I mean, please have a look at the image below.

enter image description here

  • Is f/3.5 your lens' maximum aperture? – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 4:30
  • Yes, Michael. It's 18-55 kit lens. – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 4:37

You can see more than + or - 2.0 Exposure Compensation by pressing the Info button and setting Exp Comp that way.

enter image description here

  • I know that the absolute value can be read that way. That's why I asked, ...is there any means to know the same from the meter **without looking looking at the absolute EC reading**? – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 4:46
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    Sorry, I didn't understand "absolute EC reading". – Mike Sowsun Dec 27 '15 at 4:47

I think I have found out the answer to my question. How to Check the Exposure Meter on Your Nikon D5300 says,

If a triangle appears at the end of the meter, the amount of over- or underexposure exceeds the two-stop range of the meter. In other words, you have a serious exposure problem.

Effectively, if I apply a compensation beyond the limit of [-2.0,+2.0] on either side, a triangle appears at the end. Probably I wasn't meticulous enough to observe that or understand its significance.

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    The usefulness of your answer depends on selecting an exposure mode, user selectable settings, and an EC value that allows for the camera to automatically select the remaining exposure factors within the range of your camera's capabilities. For example: if ISO400, 1/60 second, and f/3.5 (your lens' maximum aperture at around 18mm) are more than four stops too slow for the scene for a proper exposure, then selecting -3 stops EV isn't going to get the results you are expecting. Your meter will look the same for any amount of light in the scene that is more than 2 stops too slow. – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 5:10
  • You nicely and succinctly rephrased the fact. Thanks :) – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 5:23
  • My comment above isn't entirely accurate. The exposure meter will not appear in the display in P, S, and A modes unless the camera can't comply with your selected parameters. Not having the exposure meter in Nikon viewfinders all of the time is just one more reason why I choose to shoot Canon. – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 5:52
  • Not to mention no ISO value displayed in the viewfinder during shooting! Not even in M mode? Yikes!! – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 6:03
  • If the camera can comply with selected parameters, is there really any point to make the EC gauge visible and set at zero? In D5300, the gauge becomes visible when (a) camera can't comply to the parameters or (b) any positive/negative EC is applied. Additionally, D5300 does display ISO in viewfinder, provided it is set to ON. kenrockwell.com/nikon/d5300/users-guide/menus-custom.htm (Check d3 - ISO display) – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 10:20

If by absolute EC reading you mean either the portion of the Info screen that displays the EC setting you have selected or the numerical exposure compensation value that appears in the viewfinder while you press and hold the Exposure Compensation button then the answer to your question is "No, there is not any means to know the same from the meter without looking at the absolute EC reading."

The exposure compensation setting is displayed in the viewfinder to the right of the meter when you press and hold the exposure compensation button directly. It is also displayed anytime the meter is displayed in the viewfinder, such as when the parameters you have entered make it impossible for the camera to perform the exposure you have requested. So you don't have to use the Info button to pull up the Information Display and remove your eye from the viewfinder to check it on your camera's LCD.

from page 92 of *D5300 Manual*

Remember, the exposure meter only appears in the viewfinder and Info screen in P, S, and A exposure modes if the camera can't expose according to your instructions. Although this isn't explicitly spelled out in the D5300 Reference Manual as perhaps it should be, if you look at the examples in the P, S, and A sections you see that there is no exposure meter displayed in the viewfinder or on the Info screen when proper exposure, within the parameters you have requested, can be achieved. Only the Shutter speed and Aperture Value are displayed.

From How to Check the Exposure Meter on Your Nikon D5300

However, if and when the meter appears depends on whether you shoot in the M, P, S, or A exposure mode:

M mode: The meter is always present in the Information and Live View displays and also appears in the viewfinder data display.

P, S, and A modes: The meter doesn't appear unless the camera anticipates an exposure problem — for example, if you're shooting in S (shutter-priority autoexposure) mode, and the camera can't select an f-stop that will properly expose the image at your chosen shutter speed and ISO.

In the example you included in your question the reason the meter is visible and showing two stops or more of underexposure is because while shooting in S exposure mode at your selected shutter speed of 1/60 second and ISO 400 there is not enough light in the scene to properly expose it even when your lens' aperture is wide open at f/3.5. You need to either increase the ISO setting or select a longer shutter time.

  • Hi Michael, I know that the absolute value can be read that way. That's why I asked, ...is there any means to know the same from the meter **without looking looking at the absolute EC reading**? And yes, since I was pointing the camera to a not-so-bright subject, the widest possible aperture at that shutter speed was inadequate for correct exposure. That's why it warns, Subject is too dark. Just wondering if I could get rid of the message by setting a -ve EC myself. Isn't it tantamount to instructing the camera that I am happy with underexposing the image? – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 4:52
  • It is pretty nebulous what absolute value means since it is not a term used or defined in Nikon nomenclature. Your question indicated you used it to indicate the setting as displayed on the Info screen, not in the viewfinder. – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 4:59
  • What do you mean by -ve? – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 5:00
  • I mean, negative – Holmes.Sherlock Dec 27 '15 at 5:02
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    It depends. If you select a -2.3 EC and there is enough light to in the scene to expose at that value with the selected shutter speed and ISO within the capability of the lens' maximum aperture then the message should go away. But if ISO400, 1/60 second, and f/3.5 is still not capable of exposing the scene at 2.3 stops less than the meter calculates the scene's brightness then your message will remain. – Michael C Dec 27 '15 at 5:14

In one of your comments, you say: ""Isn't it tantamount to instructing the camera that I am happy with underexposing the image?"

If I'm understanding this and your original question correctly, yes, that is exactly what EC is for.

Let's use manual mode for a bit -- if we happen to be four stops underexposed in manual mode (so the camera is looking at your settings and its light meter and thinks that the scene is four stops underexposed). Then the exposure meter would look as it does in your picture (with the dashed line going off to the left with an arrow at the end).

If you then set an EC of -3 (without changing anything else), then the meter display would shift and the end of the dashed line would be under the first whole stop mark, indicating 1 stop underexposed.

If you then set an EC of -4 (again, without changing anything else), then the meter would display a balanced exposure with a little mark under the 0 on the meter.

Now, if you took a picture at EC 0, EC -3 and EC -4 (again in manual mode without changing anything else in between shots) the images should all look the same in terms of exposure -- probably really dark, but maybe just the way you want it.

So what is the point of EC and the exposure meter?

EC is normally used (by me anyway) in one of the semi-automatic modes when I'm in a situation where I know the camera's light meter is going to be confused and pick the wrong exposure. I want to adjust the light meter so the camera uses settings as if they are correctly exposed, when it thinks it is really over or under exposed. For example, shooting outdoors in the snow on a sunny day, you might want to ask for an amount of over exposure. If you are shooting a black crow on a dark backdrop, you might want to ask for under exposure. In modern cameras the meters are often really good, they can still sometimes be confused and need some adjustment.

The exposure meter is used (by me anyway) when shooting in manual mode where I want to make small adjustments away from the camera's idea of the right exposure -- but I don't want to bother with the EC setting (either I'm changing my adjustments often or I don't want to forget that the EC is on).

In the non-manual modes, the camera is going to balance the exposure anyway (unless it is way to dark or light -- which is probably the case in your example) so the meter in those cases isn't as important.

The differences in how much you can adjust the EC or view the meter are based on how they are traditionally used, I'm guessing.

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