Modern Classic SLRs Series :
AMP (Matrix), Spot and Center Weighted Metering compared


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Nikon certainly has a lot of pride in their Automatic Multi-Pattern Metering (AMP) metering and often referred it as "the most dramatic innovation in exposure measurement since the advent of automatic exposure control" when it was launched with the FA in 1983 and this is the FIRST generation of the Nikon Matrix Metering System. Update: Warren H. Hodson sent in him views on how AI and Non-AI Nikkors lenses would affect the AMP metering and Lars thought otherwise - some contradictory views over this subject.

The Flow Chart of how AMP Matrix Metering works.

I am sure many of you are very comfortable with the Matrix Metering System used in virtually all Nikon bodies now. Some may may not even notice or bother what and how their camera meters in certain automatic modes. In many ways, this unique system can effectively tackles what has so far been the biggest drawback of auto-exposure cameras: Ideal way of light measurement. With the conventional Nikon's center-weighted or the older averaging, the competitors' zone or spot exposure measurement systems currently available in many of the auto-exposure cameras, you have to make exposure compensations manually or filled in flash for back, harsh or otherwise difficult lighting in a great many picture-taking situations, totally relying on past experience or trial-and error basis. Nikon's AMP can provide an alternative solution to handle these problems assuring you of optimum exposure measurement over a wide range of unfavorable lighting situations (Provided if you trust it, because you have no guide for reference other than using the center-weighted style to 'evaluate' the metered reading provided by AMP and use your own experience to compared such readings before you trip the shutter release button). It divides the scene inside the frame into five segments, then individually reads each segment's brightness. A microcomputer then processes input data and executes the commands necessary for optimum exposure - not so-called "foolproof" or "correct" exposure. Nikon did published during the early days of the AMP and outlined their argument over the common and popular metering system used in many of the cameras, including their own models other than the FA. The Multi-Spots Metering used in Olympus's flagship models OM-3 and OM-4 was a year later in 1984. The multi-spots metering, based on a similar concept of zone system, results yield can be very precise and can be very personal but also at the expense of responsiveness. This system, along with the Nikon FA was another major breakthrough in the development of metering system during the '80.

AMP vs center-weighted metering

Center-weighted metering concentrates the meter's sensitivity on the center of the picture frame where the main subject is likely to be located in most picture-taking situations in a ratio varies depends on camera or models, the popular ratios are 60/40, 75/25 or 80/20. And that is both its strength and weakness. For instance, if any element in the picture other than the main subject is strongly lit, or if this element reflects a very bright light, an apparently "correctly" exposed picture (but actually underexposed main subject) will result unless you compensate for the exposure. With AMP, chances are lesser as the priciple of center weighted are still given priority but the remaining reading are extracted from various zones. The picture can be optimally exposed without your having to make manual exposure adjustments of any kind.

AMP vs averaging-type metering

I can't remember if any models are still provided with averaging metering. In averaging-type exposure metering systems, the meter averages the value of the different degrees of brightness of the scene. This system's demerit is that strong light within the picture frame can easily fool the meter. For example, if your main subject is light in color and positioned against a large, dark background, the meter blindly assigns the background an unduly large value. The averaged measurement then results in an overexposed picture of the main subject. With AMP, a micro computer individually processes the brightness level in each of the five AMP segments, assuring a more superior and precise measurement.

AMP vs spot metering

In spot metering, the exposure meter's sensitivity is concentrated on a tiny spot of the frame, occupying sometimes less than 3% of the whole picture area. Thus, if the photographer chooses the wrong spot, the result can be worse than with standard centerweighted metering. Worst of all, picking the right spot requires a lot of experience as well as time and may mean the loss of great pictures under quickly changing lighting conditions. Nikon bodies was not provided with either partial or spot metering until the spot metering used in Nikon F4 in 1988 (As wth F-801s and both were equiped with Matrix Metering). Of cause it would be ideal if multi spots are provided to those who thinks they have the time to manage. But Nikon felt their center-weighted, spot and Matrix are more than good enough to handle any imaginable photographic situations, I thought the same way too. Frankly, I am more comfortable with partial metering (Like 8 -12% partial) than the spot of 3%, which require a very good knowledge on the subject brightness matter.

AMP vs Zone Metering (Multi-Spots)

In zone metering, the meter's sensitivity is concentrated on a designated zone inside the image frame which senses the light. Although it is somewhat useful for skilled and seasoned photographers, a major drawback is, the zone meter can fool exposure measurement if spot metered wrongly and brought into calculation of exposure and requires time-consuming exposure adjustment if the main subject is positioned off-center or worst still, in action filled shots - in which no way a multi spots could work as swift as other metering system, unless you pre-metered and anticipate an possible action.

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Credit: Chuck Hester for some of his beautiful images used in this site; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input; Lars Holst Hansen, Danish 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion; Mr Poon from Poon photo for their input; Ms Miss Rissa (Sales Manager) & members of the Technical Service dept. of Shriro Malaysia, local distributor of Nikon cameras in Malaysia & Singapore, in providing so many useful input to make this site possible. Special thanks to Mr MC Lau, who has helped with his images of the MF-12 databack. Michael Tan, Pertama Photo (603-2926505) for lending his original Titanium Shutter Display Unit. Dave Hoyt who has prepared the introductory page and offer some images of his FE2 in this site.. Hiura Shinsaku, Nikomat ML, Japan for his contribution on all the various images; A contributing site to a long lost friend on the Net. Note: 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 to publish in this site based on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Made witha PowerMac.