Why do I feel that my camera (Z50) always underexposes a shot

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I'm suggesting that the problem isn't the camera. The camera doesn't measure the scene the way you want it to. You need to tell the camera what you want it to do. Raising the exposure doesn't mean the camera is getting it wrong. It means you are adjusting the exposure based on how the camera is measuring to better reflect what exposure you want - if that makes any sense.
Yes I understand that now. I think earlier I was thinking that if I put my cursor right at the center of the exposure meter then I should always get a "perfect" exposure. I guess that's wrong. we have to look at the histogram and decide for ourselves if that's the right exposure or not.
 
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When do you choose to bump up the exposure compensation vs just moving the shutter/apurture/iso up or down?
You asked that of Terri but it will likely be helpful for you to see responses from several of us. My response to your excellent quesiton is that it doesn't matter what method you use to increase or decrease the exposure; use the method that seems most intuitive to you.

The important thing is to make sure you know what your camera is doing when you change a particular setting. As an example, if you're shooting in Manual mode and change the aperture setting, both the exposure and depth of field will change. However, if you're shooting in Aperture priority mode and you change the aperture setting, only the depth of field will change, not the exposure.

To that point of knowing what your camera is doing when you change a particular setting, it's important that you learn what the camera automatically changes when you use the exposure compensation button. That's because the camera automatically changes different settings depending on the situation such as whether you're shooting in Aperture priority, Shutter priority, whether you're using Auto ISO, etc., etc.
 
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Thanks Terri. and one question. When do you choose to bump up the exposure compensation vs just moving the shutter/apurture/iso up or down?

sorry for asking .. I'm pretty sure that there is a manual, book and video out there explaining this but I guess it easy to talk to a human and leverage their experience.
It depends on whether or not I am shooting in manual mode. Normally I shoot in aperture priority with auto iso. If I am doing that I adjust the exposure compensation. But if I am shooting in manual I adjust the appropriate setting depending on the subject and conditions. I seldom move out of matrix metering. There are so many ways to accomplish the same thing that you have to find what works for you. I shoot in RAW and often make adjustments to the exposure in post processing as well.
 
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Attended a bunch of videos on histogram. I found this one very useful
I am leaving this here if some other newbie like me stumbles across this thread.
 
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Thanks Terri. and one question. When do you choose to bump up the exposure compensation vs just moving the shutter/apurture/iso up or down?

sorry for asking .. I'm pretty sure that there is a manual, book and video out there explaining this but I guess it easy to talk to a human and leverage their experience.
If you are in Auto-P-A or S mode, the meter is controlling the exposure.
You have to use use the EC adjustment.

If you are in M mode, then you can do whatever you want to do; aperture, shutter speed or ISO level.
What I do is one of those "it depends."
  • Example, if I am at f/4, I might be able to go up or down a bit.
  • Example, if I am at f/2.8 and wide open, and I need more exposure, I cannot adjust the aperture because I am already wide open, so my only options are shutter speed or ISO.
  • Example, if I am shooting sports at 1/1000 sec, and I need more exposure, I do NOT want to go to a slower shutter speed. I have to either open the aperture or raise the ISO.
Here is where experience helps a lot, in helping you figure out what to do.
Also in a given situation, I may choose to change ISO, and someone else may choose to change shutter speed. Both correct for different reasons or preferences.
 
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Yes I understand that now. I think earlier I was thinking that if I put my cursor right at the center of the exposure meter then I should always get a "perfect" exposure. I guess that's wrong. we have to look at the histogram and decide for ourselves if that's the right exposure or not.
Sorry but I have to torpedo that thought that there is such a thing as the ONE "perfect" exposure or that the histogram is the master tool.

The histogram is like an averaging meter, it shows you the exposure for the entire screen.
What if you don't care about the exposure for the entire screen, just part of it. Like the face of your figure, and you don't care about the background.

Ignore the histogram for a minute, for a different viewpoint.

One person may like the exposure that the camera gives. Someone else may like it 3 stops underexposed.
It is all about getting the image that your minds eye wants to see. This could be what your eye sees, or it could be brighter or darker than what your eye sees.
Example, I will often underexpose a sunset, to get the colors to be darker and richer. For me, that underexposed shot is better than the camera metered exposure, no matter what the histogram shows. Neither metered or underexposed is "perfect." It is a personal preference for one or the other. Even how much underexposure is a personal decision.

Simple exercise.
Go outside near sunset, and shoot the horizon, sky + ground.
Take a shot.
Then adjust the EC up one stop a time, till you get to +4 stops.
Then zero the EC adjustment.
Then do it again, but this time adjust the EC down one stop at a time, till you get to -4 stops.
Then look at the images in your computer and decide which image YOU like better.
There is a chance that you may like two different exposures, for different reasons.
 
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The histogram is like an averaging meter, it shows you the exposure for the entire screen.
What if you don't care about the exposure for the entire screen, just part of it. Like the face of your figure, and you don't care about the background.
If we don't care about the exposure for the entire scene, only just part of it, many cameras display the histogram for the part of the image being displayed (the histogram changes as the display is zoomed in on the image).
 
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If we don't care about the exposure for the entire scene, only just part of it, many cameras display the histogram for the part of the image being displayed (the histogram changes as the display is zoomed in on the image).
Oh this is super advice. Yes then we can get very good exposure if we can meter off just the main subject.
 
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My Nikon D7000 and Z6 display the histogram pertaining to the portion of the image being displayed on the rear LCD during playback. My D7000 doesn't display the histogram in the viewfinder. My Z6 displays the histogram in the viewfinder before releasing the shutter but only when the entire scene is being displayed. It displays the histogram in the viewfinder during playback that is pertinent to the part of the scene being displayed.
 
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Have to agree with Nick....Steve book on the Nikon exposure system really is very good and not dry at all. Normally I can't stand manual and much prefer video but Steve's books are really quite enjoyable , some really bad jokes, and packed with wonderful albeit nature photography. I downloaded them and put them in my ibooks so even when out in the field and if I need to look something up am able to do it with my phone.
 
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There is nothing like experience, and many of the people posting here have lots of experience to draw from. Fortunately, experience can be obtained quickly and somewhat painlessly with digital cameras.

Pick a scene, set your camera on manual, and take repeated images while varying just one thing, like shutter speed, aperture, or iso. Study your results carefully and note the effects. You'll soon know exactly what to expect from your camera.
 

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