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I just recently started toying with the manual mode on my Canon 70D. Everything was working fine for a few shots, then all of a sudden my newer shots all appear darker under the same settings. The exposure level indicator is now literally off the index and greater than -3 EV. I was shooting in daylight at f/8, 1/80, ISO 100 using the standard 18-55mm starter lens that comes with the kit. I thought it might have something to do with the lens but I switched it out and cleaned the contacts. Yet, the pictures are still dark. I am not sure if it's a setting I may have changed by accident or if it's something to do with the light sensors.

Do I need to take my camera in for repair?

Note that when I shoot in AV mode with auto ISO I get the correct exposure at f/8, 1/13, ISO 6400 (seems like a rather slow shutter speed and extremely high ISO for broad daylight pics).

Here's a few shot I took indoors using a 50mm lens in a well lit room right underneath a florescent floor lamp:

M mode, f/1.8, 1/200, ISO 100

M mode, f/1.8, 1/200, ISO 100

Av mode, f/1.8, 1/60, ISO 400 (auto ISO mode)

Av mode, f/1.8, 1/60, ISO 400(auto)

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    Could you post a couple of the pictures with their Exif data? Without seeing what you're shooting, it's hard to say why it might have changed. – user1118321 Jan 20 '16 at 4:59
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    Does the image look dark through the viewfinder? – James Jan 20 '16 at 13:26
  • @James The images look fine through the viewfinder – JayCee Jan 23 '16 at 18:13
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    The exposure settings for your second shot don't seem that strange for an indoor shot. If there is an issue then it's more likely to be with your 18-55 lens since the camera's metering and exposure are independent unless you are using live view. Are you sure you haven't attached a filter or something to that lens? The picture you shot in AV mode with that lens would be more useful for someone to check. – James Jan 23 '16 at 19:34
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    "Well lit room" and "fluorescent floor lamp" are not exactly the same thing. And neither is as bright as "in daylight". – Michael C Jan 23 '16 at 20:00
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Not sure if its a setting I may have changed by accident or something to do with the light sensors?

It's very likely that you changed a setting accidentally, or that the light changed and you didn't change any settings to compensate. A passing cloud can make a big difference in the amount of available light. Also, if you were shooting in the late afternoon, the light can fade very quickly.

Also, the metering mode you use can have a large effect on what the light meter tells you about the "right" exposure. The part of the scene that's used for metering is determined by the metering mode. For example, Spot mode looks only at a tiny part of the scene, while Evaluative mode looks at nearly the entire scene. So, if you had the camera set to Spot mode and you pointed it at a bright object, like a light colored shirt, the meter would read a lot of light and you, in response, would adjust the exposure accordingly. But if the rest of the scene is significantly darker than that shirt you'll get an image where the shirt is exposed right but the rest of the scene might be too dark. If you want an overall reading for the scene, use the Evaluative mode.

Do I need take my camera for repair?

Probably not. Try setting it back to an automatic mode, like P, Tv, or Av, and see if photos taken when the camera is adjusting the exposure are better. If that solves the problem, you just need to pay more attention to the light meter and metering mode.

Note that when I shoot in AV mode and auto ISO I get the correct exposure at f/8, 1/13, ISO 6400. (Seems like a rather slow shutter speed and extremely high ISO for broad daylight pics!)

It sounds like you might have the ISO set to A or automatic, and that may be part of what's causing problems for you. Auto ISO can be handy, but while you're trying to get the hang of manual shooting you don't need the camera second guessing your exposure choices. Pick an ISO setting that gives you a reasonable range of shutter speeds and aperture settings and stick with it for now. If you're shooting outside, 100 or 200 should be fine.

As I'm sure you know, Av is "aperture priority" mode. That is, you set the aperture and the camera will then adjust shutter speed and ISO to produce a good exposure. So, if you're shooting at f/8, 1/80s, and ISO 100, but the camera thinks you need 1/13s and ISO 6400 at f/8, then your manual settings provide about 8 stops less light than the camera's choice. That's a huge disparity, and it's no surprise that your shots are underexposed. Each stop represents a doubling or halving in the amount of light, so a difference of 8 stops is about 28 = 256 times as much light.

Read up on the various metering modes that your camera provides (the owners manual is a good place to start). The key to getting the hang of shooting in manual mode is to keep at it: shoot more, experiment, and keep looking at how your exposure choices affect the final images.

Update: Given your sample images, your camera is fine. You've got one properly exposed shot in Av mode, and one dark one where you've chosen settings that give you 4 stops less light than the other. It's no surprise, then, that your image in manual mode is a lot darker.

  • If he were shooting under artificial lighting this would be a good answer. But in any kind of daylight setting, one should not need to use ISO 6400 and 1/13 second at f/8 to get proper exposure. That is eight stops below the sunny 16 rule! Something else is going on here. – Michael C Jan 20 '16 at 23:03
  • @Caleb I thought it was the settings at first. I mainly use Evaluative metering mode. I reset the camera to the factory defaults just in case, but the issue is still the same. – JayCee Jan 23 '16 at 18:25
  • @MichaelClark Agreed, if I'm taking a shot at Auto ISO on a clear sunny day, it shouldn't require ISO 6400 at 1/13 second to get the proper exposure. – JayCee Jan 23 '16 at 18:26
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    Unless you are indoors?!?! – Michael C Jan 23 '16 at 20:01
  • @JayCee Do you perhaps have a filter on the lens marked ND8? – Caleb Jan 23 '16 at 20:08
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You were shooting in full Manual mode. Full Manual mode lets you shoot yourself in the foot all you want. Overexposed, underexposed, out of focus, etc. You can do all that in Manual mode.

All the other modes on the dial are automated in such a way that you may be able to lock one setting down (aperture, shutter speed, iso, whatever), but the camera will automatically take the meter readings, and then, adjusts the other settings to make sure you have what the camera's AE system considers to be a good exposure.

It's usually good enough for jazz, but may not be precisely what you want. And in some situations metering can be fooled, so we like Manual mode so we can override those settings, and lock everything down. This is also great for consistency, shot-to-shot.

But. You have to set the exposure. In the Av/Tv/P/Auto/scene modes, the camera always automatically adjusts things so that your meter's "needle" is always on 0 on what you probably think of as an exposure compensation scale. But in M mode, that needle is your meter, and it's up to you to get it to 0 (or wherever you want it) by adjusting the settings yourself. In your underexposed image, you essentially set the camera to shoot at more than -3EV, so you got an image that was more than -3EV.

If you want to remain in Manual mode, just fool around with the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings to see how the needle moves around, and (at least at first), just try to get it to 0. Eventually, you'll want to learn about how predominantly dark (night time) or light (snow) scenes, or scenes with a lot of reflected light (snow, beach) can fool the meter, and which way you'll want to compensate.

Just remember that getting that needle to 0 is what the automated modes do really well and really fast, so if you're only using Manual to get that needle to 0, maybe you don't need to be in Manual...

  • If he were shooting under artificial lighting this would be a good answer. But in any kind of daylight setting, one should not need to use ISO 6400 and 1/13 second at f/8 to get proper exposure. That is eight stops below the sunny 16 rule! Something else is going on here. – Michael C Jan 23 '16 at 19:53
  • Of course the updated examples are neither shot in daylight nor with the same lens! Doh! – Michael C Jan 23 '16 at 19:56

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