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Right to Left, or Left to Right: The Choice is Now Yours (Finally)

I wrote recently that Nikon exposure meters generally read right to left while Canon meters read left to right. True enough. But if you have one of the newer Nikon bodies such as the D3 or D300 you can change reverse the orientation if you want.

Since the earliest Nikon bodies with electronic meters things have been the same: look in the viewfinder and you are presented with a five-stop bar graph display that counts -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 from right to left. Most of us in the western world though count in ascending order from left to right, just as we read from left to right. And just as exposure meters in Canon and other manufacturers read. But after finally giving in to years and years of feedback from users, Nikon decided to give customers a choice on their newest cameras. If you want your meter to count from left to right like your Canon-shooting buddies do, you can do so.

Custom Setting f10 - Reverse indicatorsAmongst the seemingly endless list of Custom Settings, at the bottom of the "Controls" section, you will now find f10, "Reverse indicators." The default option is the one we've had since the N8008 (F-801) and F4 gave us electronic meters in the first place. It's listed here as "+ 0 –", with the only other choice being the reverse, "- 0 +".

If you do decide to reverse the indicators on the electronic meter, you'll probably also want to visit Custom Setting f7, "Customize command dials" and set "Reverse Rotation" to ON. This way, the direction you rotate the command dials will correspond to the direction the exposure meter graph moves.

The first thought for many Nikon users is probably "well it's about time." But if like me you grew up with the backwards orientation you may be a little less sold on the thought of switching. I confess that when I first got the D300 I didn't want to mess with changing since I was by now well accustomed to the way Nikon did things. At this point, my hands and my brain worked the way traditional Nikon meters worked. But I finally bit the bullet and switched. So far, so good. It did take me a little while to think in "double reverse" metering mode, but I got over it. If you're a long time Nikon shooter I urge you to give it a try.

Custom Setting f7 - Customize command dialsMany Nikon users have also long complained about the direction a lens rotates when attaching it to a camera body's bayonet mount. When looking down on the lens, you rotate it counter-clockwise to mount it and clockwise to un-mount it. Given that most things rotate clockwise to screw them on, this can seem just as backward as the way Nikon meters have traditionally worked. For comparison, Canon lenses rotate the opposite of Nikon lenses.

In this case though, I'd submit that Nikon got it right, if in a somewhat roundabout way. Yes, it seems backward if you look down on the lens while mounting it, but that's not how you should change lenses. Doing so with a digital body can promote dust falling into the camera when the lens is off. Instead, you should face the lens barrel towards the ground when changing lenses, with the camera back facing you. In this orientation, the lens does rotate clockwise to mount, counter-clockwise to un-mount. So what seemed backwards for many years with film has in fact turned out to be a good design choice after all.

It's now Canon lenses that can be considered to rotate backwards.

Date posted: August 3, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Related articles:
Getting De-Programmed: Learning About Manual Exposure
My Old D2x Versus my New D300
The Camera's Meter Compared to The Histogram
Nikon is Better Than Canon, or is it the Other Way Around?

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