Friday, November 6, 2015

ETTR is Dumb

Here's another amusing use case.

You've got your new camera with ETTR mode set up to shoot that way, because some pundit says it's the best way to expose.

You're at the beach, the sun is setting. You've got the 70-200/2.8 mounted, because that's the lens the pundit told you to buy. You're shooting, it's great, you're zooming, you're zooming.. and the camera stops working. WTF.

What just happened? Is the customer happy with their new camera?


The point here is that there is a world of difference between shooting ETTR by hand, and in programming a camera to do it. There are issues that are gonna turn up, which are not trivial to solve, and all the talk about "blah blah blinkies EVF" won't make them go away. This is probably why Internet Pundits are not system architects, and I am. Well, have been, but that's another story.


  1. Y'know, I still don't get why this is even up for discussion.

    I mean, everyone has their camera, right? So, go, set up your ettr thing on some scene, then fiddle with the iso to get the same exposure, but with standard matrix metering, pull up the exposure in post and just Look. Can you see the difference? Is it important? If so, ok! If not, which is most assuredly the case with today's cameras, stop worrying about it.

  2. I'm puzzled. The camera just stopped working? Why? Does that really happen? Is it "because of " ETTR, or is something else afoot?

    1. The usual proposed idea for an ETTR exposure mode is to program the camera to expose so that no more than such and such many pixels blow out.

      What happens when the sun is in frame, and you zoom to a longer focal length?

    2. A message comes up in the viewfinder that says "We told you ETTR was a dumb idea, but you wouldn't listen."

  3. Doesn't ETTR just mean that one should try not to blow out the highlights in digital images? And isn't that what everyone does, or should attempt to do with correct exposure, anyway?

  4. "What happens when the sun is in frame, and you zoom to a longer focal length?"

    I don't know, and now I'm afraid to try.

  5. Nothing happens NOW. With a mythical ETTR exposure mode, the sun gets larger and larger in frame until it takes up so many pixels that it alone exceeds the set 'don't blow more than so many pixels' threshold.

    The camera is abruptly unable to find a working exposure per the defined exposure mode, and refuses to take a picture.

    Or takes a black frame with a white sun, maybe, as it's best guess.