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Nikon D810: Highlight-Weighed Metering Compatibility Issues, Especially with Zeiss ZF.2 Lenses

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Nikon D810

Side-note context: the Nikon D810 also has autofocus compatibility issues with Sigma autofocus lenses, reportedly the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and in my personal experience, the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro. It’s unclear why an incremental camera update (over the D800/D800E) should have such issues.

While 90% of the time I shoot on full manual, the new Nikon D810 Highlight-weighted metering option sounded promising for fast-changing lighting situations. But this new metering option is not straightforward for anyone using a mix of lenses.

The Nikon D810 downgrades to Center-weighted metering with certain lenses when Highlight-weighted metering is used, even CPU lenses, such as Zeiss ZF.2. Even if the lens supports Matrix metering.

The metering downgrade behavior seems an ill-considered choice on Nikon’s part: Center-weighted hardly ever gives me the right exposure for my shooting. At the least a custom camera setting ought to allow the preferred fallback option: I want the camera to fall back to Matrix metering if Highlight-weighted cannot be used. The last thing I want is for my Zeiss ZF.2 lenses to meter with Center-weighted metering if I happen to have the camera set to Highlight-weighted.

Planning to explore the new metering option, I had shot a variety of comparisons using Matrix metering vs Highlight-weighted metering using Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, which have a CPU chip. These A/B shots now turn out to be useless for that purpose.

Highlight-weighted metering compatibility matrix

It is unclear why the Nikon 45/2.8P and Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra should support Highlight-weighted metering, but Zeiss ZF.2 lenses do not (all have a CPU chip). It could be a licensing issue; an inquiry to Zeiss is open at this time.

It is also unclear why in the age of digital, metering can’t be done properly the right way, at least in Live View, where the camera is fully informed of exactly what is striking the sensor—innovative design lags available capabilities.

Lens type Supports Highlight-weighted metering?
Nikon AF-S YES
Nikon 45/2.8P (older Nikon chipped lens) YES
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 YES
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A YES
Zeiss ZF.2 lenses (all) NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Nikon AI-S NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Unchipped lens NO, reverts to Center-weighted

A compatible lens supports Matrix or Highlight-weighted metering:

Nikon 45mm f/2.8P: Matrix and Highlight-weighted metering both work on Nikon D810

A chipped (CPU) lens might not support Highlight-weighted metering even if it supports Matrix metering. All Zeiss ZF.2 and Zeiss Otus lenses revert to Center-weighted when Highlight-weighted is chosen.

Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Highlight-weighted metering unsupported on Nikon D810

The user manual

Page 114 of the Nikon D810 user manual is confusing in its vagueness, at least to me. All Zeiss ZF.2 lenses have a CPU chip that supports matrix metering. The description does not seem to cover the ZF.2 lenses (CPU-chipped manual focus lenses, just like the Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra noted above).

Highlight-weighted: Camera assigns greatest weight to highlights. Use to reduce loss of detail in highlights, for example when photographing spotlit performers on a stage.

Center-weighted metering will be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with non-CPU lenses or if matrix metering is selected with non-CPU lenses for which lens data have not been supplied.

Note that center-weighted metering may also be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with certain CPU lenses (AI-P NIKKOR lenses and AF lenses that are not of type G, E, or D).

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