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Old December 9th, 2001, 06:48 PM   #1
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What does Spotlight Mode really do?

Is Spotlight Mode basically the opposite of the "Backlight" mode found on many consumer cameras? It seems to close the iris a stop or two from the settings obtained in Auto, Av or Tv mode, but does it do more than that?

I recently taped a singer at a local hotel bar and am less than satisfied with the results. The stage was fairly well lighted with two or three cieling mounted spots focused on the small stage. The camera was tripod mounted about 20 feet from the performer. I used manual mode, with a shutter speed of 1/60 and 12db gain. Iris was adjusted using zebra bars set at 90% giving a setting of F4.0.

Viewfinder image looked pretty good, but the recorded image was too grainy (or noisy) and a little over exposed. There was also a slight double image or halo around the face. I realize now I probably should have set zebra to 80% and could have used less gain and compensated with a wider iris setting, but am wondering if I should have just used the Spotlight mode.

Any advice you can give a rookie would be appreciated.

Ed Frazier
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Old December 11th, 2001, 08:01 AM   #2
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Spotlight Mode is pretty much the opposite of backlight, whereas backlight mode compensates for an overexposed background, spotlight compensates for an underexposed background.

Setting: a dark stage, with a dancer. Assume she is of pale, fair skin. Shoot this on auto and her facial details will be blown out (overexposed). Her face will look like a white blob with no detail. The auto mode exposes for the entire scene, properly setting for the predominating darkness and therefore overexposing anything bright, such as her face.

Now shoot the same scene in spotlight mode, which exposes for the center of the image and ignores how dark the surrounding areas are. Her face is now properly exposed, showing detail and features. Spotlight mode exposes only for the center of the frame.

In a well-lit setting, don't use spotlight mode! It's intended only for overly dark scenes with a lighted subject in the middle. However, when in doubt, experiment... after you set up for a shoot, use that extra half-hour you've budgeted before the gig starts to play around a little with the camera. Hope this helps,
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Old December 11th, 2001, 12:47 PM   #3
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the reply. I was beginning to think I had finally asked a question soooo dumb that nobody wanted to touch it.

If I understand your post, spotlight mode actually does do more than just change the exposure a fixed amount from an auto setting. It reduces the amount of frame area that is sampled by the light meter. Makes sense.

What causes the outline/halo effect (probably not a very good description)? I've seen it in other things I've recorded but when experimenting to find a cause and solution, I can't seem to duplicate the effect. The two instances that come to mind were both harshly lit stage settings with the camera zoomed in fairly tight on the performer.

Thanks,
Ed Frazier
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Old December 11th, 2001, 12:51 PM   #4
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??? Possible causes: image stabilization (turn it off), or a UV filter (take it off), or a reflection on the lens surface (use a sun shade). Sorry this isn't much help,
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Old December 11th, 2001, 05:40 PM   #5
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FWIW: normal XL1 metering is based on 49 zones (7x7) grid and is a lower center weighted average of those zones.
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Old December 12th, 2001, 02:43 AM   #6
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Now that you've mentioned it, What exactly does Lower Center Weighted mean?

And Ed - I think a lot of people don't reply to messages for fear of being shot down for asking, But please keep asking these "dumb" questions, I learn a lot here :)
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Old December 12th, 2001, 08:46 AM   #7
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There are no dumb questions here... the only dumb question is the one that doesn't get asked.

"Lower Center weighted" means the lower center portion of the frame contributes more determining the camera's automatic exposure settings than the upper right and left corners of the frame. Hope this helps,
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