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Nikon F5 Series SLR models - Various Metering Systems - Index Page

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Another area where the Nikon system excels over its rivalries is their Metering systems. Probably the Company has learnt a lot from the experience during the Nikon F3 era in the eighties that what consumers wanted in a top notch system SLR camera. Technically, Nikon F3 has the weakest link in its metering capability as compared to other rivalries which have more options for photographers to choose the most appropriate metering system to ensure their shots will come out well exposed. The Nikon FA of 1983, with its revolutionary 5-segments metering system that formed the basis for early version of the so-called Matrix Metering termed now by all modern Nikon SLRs spearheaded Nikon position as the forerunner in this technical respect. The Nikon F4 of 1988 has combined virtually all the updated research in metering technologies as well as other operational features to make it easily one of the most adaptable Nikon professional SLR camera ever.

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Technically speaking, metering options in the Nikon F5 remains the same in form with its predecessor except for the first time in SLR camera development, Nikon F5's meter actually "reads" colors that present in any typical scene together with subject's distance information (when a AF-D Nikkor is used) into calculation to offer a suggested optimum exposure for photographer. The 3D Colour Matrix metering System, as Nikon called it, is actually one of the main technical highlight of Nikon F5. Naturally, as the colour meter was the first of its kind used in a SLR, Nikon ensures users are well equipped with other more traditional types of metering systems to assist those who prefers the conventional ways. So, other than the 3D Colour Matrix metering, F5 also provides two other metering systems in a traditional option of a Center-Weighted Metering System as well as Spot Metering. However, unlike conventional Nikon SLRs that embodied with conventional Center-Weighted Metering System which uses distribution ratio of 80:20 (Nikon F3) or 75:25 (Nikon F4 + others) for its 12mm reference circle with other remaining areas in the picture frame, Center-weighted Meter in the Nikon F5 can be regarded as very innovative because the distribution ratio can be "scaled" into various combinations as per user desired (alternation of the meter distribution patterns in the CW meter requires separate "Custom Setting" in order for user to manually set it). Even the Spot Meter has been improved with the selected area changes correspond with the manually selected focus area. A;; these pioneering metering technologies once again has made Nikon F5 to have possessed the most advance metering capability in any professional class SLR camera available during its entire product cycle of 8 years. So, all in all, Nikon F5 has three types of exposure metering systems: Color Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Metering and Spot Metering.


To select a preferred metering system, there is a metering system selector that locates at the side of the viewfinder DP-30. See below for a quick reference with different finders attached.

Location of the RGB sensor inside the DP-30 Multl-Meter Finder. As other finders does not have the built-in sensor, the AF sensor which doubled as the spot Meter will provide metering.

NOTE: If a non-D-type lens is used, Matrix Metering is performed. Although lens' Distance Information is not given, 1,005-pixel Matrix Sensor provides the correct exposure in most lighting situations. Please also note that Matrix Metering system can only be used with lenses having a built-in CPU (such as AF Nikkor and AI-P lenses)

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Rotate the metering system selector while pressing the metering system selector lock release to select your desired symbol -icon-matrixsml.gif for 3D Color Matrix Metering, icon-CW.gif for Center-Weighted Metering or icon-spot.gif for Spot Metering-In the viewfinder.

3D Colour Matrix Metering
* Now Red-Green-Blue (RGB) metering sensor with 1,005-pixel CCD reads not only brightness and contrast but also scene colour and using actual shooting data from more than 30,000 scenes stored in F5's database
* Integrates distance information when D-type AF Nikkor lens is used

Flexible Centre-Weighted Metering
* 75% of sensitivity concentrated within 12mm circle in the centre of the viewfinder
* Size of centre circle can be changed by Custom Setting #14

Spot Metering
* Reads 4mm-diameter area corresponding to the focus area selected

Note: If you are using a Non-CPU Nikkor lense, or accessories such as bellows or extension rings The 1,005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering automatically switches to Center-Weighted Metering and the icon-CW.gif symbol appears. (If Programmed Auto or Shutter-Priority Auto is set on the camera, the exposure mode also switches automatically to Aperture-Priority Auto with and blinking exposure mode indicator in the top LCD panel, and a "A" appears in the viewfinder) In this case, use Center-Weighted Metering or Spot Metering.

1) 3D Color Matrix Metering Easily this is one of the main highlight of the Nikon F5 as, for the first time found in a film-based SLR camera, it boasts a first generation metering sensor that consists of a 1,005 pixel RGB-CCD (charge coupled device) that can "read" colors in a scene to help in the calculation in order to achieve higher degree of accuracy in any exposure calculation. As each pixel of the sensor has one R (red), G (green), or B (blue) filter, so the sensor evaluates not only each scene's brightness and contrast as conventional meter does but also the scene's colors. Using the classic metering techniques which measure for 18% reflectance, factors such as brightness and contrast are primarily used to determine exposure. The F5's 3D Colour Matrix Meter evaluates scene brightness, contrast, selected focus area, distance information and colour. Then making use of its internal microcomputer and database together guide it to provide a technically more precise exposure control.

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How accurate is the exposure accuracy meters from the Colour Matrix Sensor ? Many users have presented positive opinion over the years and have expressed confidence in its accuracy. Well, at one point, Nikon claimed the Colour Matrix Meter can even distinguishes if tungsten or fluorescent lighting is present in the scene. Further, the data from more than 30,000 picture scenes from actual shooting experience which stored in the F5's database are used to "compared" with the initial metered value to provide a suggestive optimum exposure guide.

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The 1005 pixels RGB Metering Sensor carries the few characteristics:
* Designed exclusively for F5 exposure metering
* High sensitivity, high accuracy, low noise and wide dynamic range
* Accurate performance proven in complex lighting conditions
* RGB filters evaluate colour information
Extensive Metering range (at ISO 100 with f/1.4 lens) from EV 0 to 20 .

Benefits of 3D Colour Matrix Metering

1 ) Vertical compositions are covered by comparing vertical scene data stored in the database.
2) Detects poorly illuminated subjects.
3) Detects small subjects located in the periphery.
4) Backlit subjects evaluated accurately regardless of their position in the scene by overlapped small group reading.
5) Vivid colours are precisely evaluated resulting in natural exposures.

A. Brightness and colour data from 1,005 pixels
B. Galore data
C. Basic data (grouped into overlapped areas)
D. Parameters
e. Colour data
f. Average brightness data
g. Contrast data
h. Position of focus area selected
L Distance Information from D-type lenses)
J. Database

3D Colour Matrix Metering Process

I) Brightness data with colour information is read from each of the 1,005 pixels in the RGB sensor.
II) Colour information is extracted from the brightness information.
III) Brightness data is grouped into overlapped areas.
IV) From the colour information (see: II), the colour signal (average colour of the scene) is calculated.
V) From each group determined in (See: III), the brightness signal (average brightness) and contrast signals are calculated.

VI) These signals (colour, brightness and contrast) and focus area signal (selected focus area) are compared to the camera's built-in database of more than 30,000 scenes taken from actual shooting experience. The optimum exposure value is then obtained.
VII) Finally, distance information from the D-type Nikkor lens in use is integrated to further optimize the calculated exposure value.

When lighting gets a little tricky to handle, the 3rd generation Nikon Matrix system actually works reasonably well. The rest is just a matter of personal preferences.


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Examples of colour that can be detected by the Nikon F5:

a) Tungsten illumination
b) Fluorescent illumination
c) Yellow-coloured subject
d) Blue sky
e) Tender green
f) Normal green
g) Black/gray/white

The 3D Color Matrix has leapfrogged the metering technology for SLR photography to a new plateau. Obviously Nikon has prepared the Nikon F5 very well to answer to Canon's AIM system (first used on the Canon EOS10 (1990), perfected further on the Canon EOS1n (1994-2001) where from a marketing point of view, the pro-class Canon killer has out classed the aged,1988 Nikon F4 meter system because the Canon method permits to link exposure determination to the five autofocusing points to automatically obtain proper exposure based on the subject position, even if the subject is not in the center of the frame and permits the photographer to freely or quickly make manual adjustments to both the focus and exposure while the camera is still in auto mode. On the other hand, Nikon's system has only a single AF frame in the center of the image area, and exposure determination, too, is just based on a single point. Because of this, focus lock must be used to obtain proper focus and exposure with off-center subjects.

So, the revised AF system and exposure control method deployed in the Nikon F5 has patched the "marketing weakness" and in many ways, this innovative system by including element of color factor for a scene into exposure measurement has clearly shown its advantage over the competitions. However, for quite while, some users were still skeptical with this pioneering technology but as years gone by, this 1st generation 3D-Matrix metering system which factors in colors for exposure determination has proven to be extremely reliable and accurate. The wide acceptance by Nikon users has also lead to its further development. Incidentally, despite taking a clear lead in this segment, there wasn't many Nikon SLRs has the distinctive "honour" in having this exclusively-Nikon metering system deployed in them. From the marketing point of view, it does sounded little strange, huh ??

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Something to complaint ?

Oh..yeah ... not technicaly but - unlike the recently announced Nikon F6's enhanced 3D Matrix lens compatibility framework, the 3D Matrix system in the Nikon F5 only will work when a CPU lense that has a "distance" chip set. i.e. AF-D Nikkor lenses.

Probably Nikon is making good use of this, aim to remind poor guys like me - why are you stubborn people still sticking on to all those old optics ...come on guys, dropped your oldies, change to some of our new Nikkor, okay ? hehe.... anyway, joke aside, but a hard fact remains, in order to maximize true potential of this mighty imaging tool from Nikon, you ought to cough out a great deal to upgrade the many of the "new things" within the 35mm Nikon photographic system, which includes speedlights, data film back, a less extend is the standard metered prism DP30 and most painful among all, the AF-D Nikkor optic (just ask yourself a simple question, since the AF evolution started, just how many versions of AF-Nikkor 300mm has Nikon produced thus far ?).

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Basic Features | Focusing | Metering Systems | Exposure Control | Reliability Issues | Nikkor lens Compatibility
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Macro Photography - Related info on Micro-Nikkor lenses

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Index Page
  Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm

MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm

Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst


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W A R N I N G: The new G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have removed the conventional aperture ring on the lense barrel, they CANNOT adjust aperture(s) when operating in manual exposure control even with certain earlier MF/AF Nikon SLR camera models. But they are FULLY COMPATIBLE with the Nikon F5 featured here in all usable metering systems and/or exposure modes. Please refer to your local distributor for compatibility issue(s).

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A resource dedicated to my kids, Alvin Foo & Esther Foo- one day, BOTH might need to use all these information for his/her Nikon F5A camera.

Volunteered Maintainer(s) for the Nikon F5 Message Board: Tony Davies-Patrick, UK; Rick Oleson, US; Koh Kho King, Malaysia.

Credit: Mr. Chuck Hester, US for his text re-editing skill for this site; Our staff, HowKiat® who created the 3D-Nikon F5 logo. Mr. Lew Chee Wai of YL camera for lending his F5 for me to take some shots appeared in this site. All those nice folks who have contributed their images, in particular Mr. Mike Long, Edwin leong, Palmi Einarsson, Sergio Pessolano, Fred Kamphues, Harry Eggens, Curtis Forrester, Nick (Natures Moments), Sandra Bartocha; fellow countrymen, Vincent Thian, Koh Kho King, Philip Chong, CY Leow etc. and contributions from a few nice folks from Photo Malaysia Forum. Disclaimers & acknowledgments: Certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their own work for public publishing in this website, where majority of the extracted information are used basing on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from any possible dispute except rectifying them after verification from respective source. Neither Nikon or its associates has granted any permission(s) in using their public information nor has any interest in the creation of this site. "Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" "Silent Wave", "Focus Tracking Lock-on", "Nikkor" & other applicable technical/business terms are registered trade name(s) of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple G5 IMac.