HDR – Nikon D7000

By Gavin  Jan, 13, 2011   Posted in HDR Camera Review

The Nikon D7000 HDR inquiry comes to me weekly so I’m going to address it right here and a work around to get past its limitations.

The D7000 only does 3aeb in camera with a max jump of 2EV between each frame.  For creating commercial quality work, that is insufficient for many scenes.  Many landscapes benefit greatly by capturing from -4 thru +4, preferably with only 1 EV jumps.  The D200/D300/D300s/D2x/D3/D3s/D3x all bracket this much in camera using the 9aeb and maxing out the EV jumps to 1EV per step.  The options are 1/3rd, 2/3rds or 1 full EV jump between each of those frames.  Also, you don’t have to do a 9aeb, the cameras (which vary slightly) can do 2, 3, 5, 7 or 9 AEB (aeb= Automatic Exposure Bracketing).

A 9aeb using those cameras and using the full 1EV jumps between each frame will result in (-4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4).  When toning your HDR which was captured with that many shots, you’ll get less noise, less banding, reduced color saturation issues, and fewer hue shifts.

3aeb is only useful in about 20-30% of scenes I’ve encountered when shooting non-cloudy day landscapes.  For shooting real estate and architectural interiors, 3aeb is completely insufficient… maybe 10% of interior scenes can be captured properly (hi quality toning) using 3aeb.

About 5-10% of landscapes need even more range captured such as a bracket covering -5 to +5 and for real estate interiors shot on sunny days, about 5-10% of scenes need even more than that range bracketed to fully capture all the highlights and some decent shadow data. These scenes are the ones where the sun is either in frame partially/fully in frame or reflections off of water/glass/metal in important parts of the frame with deep shadows in frame as well.

There has been some confusion about the Nikon D7000 -5 to +5 exposure compensation.  That feature has nothing to do with automatic bracketing (directly), but it can be used in conjunction with AEB.  For example…  you can set exposure compensation to -1 and then when you setup AEB using Aperture Priority, then a 3aeb sequence with +/-2EV will shift by -1 (negative 1EV) for each shot taken.  So instead of taking lets say a 3aeb at -2, 0, +2…. the AEB will be shifted by -1 EV per shot (off the base of how the camera metered the scene) and the resulting 3aeb would be taken at -3, -1, +1 (again, those numbers revolve around the way the camera metered THAT scene).

Exposure compensation is ignored in Manual mode.  That should tell you everything about how it has nothing to do with AEB.  AEB works in manual mode because instead of the camera’s metering system deciding the starting point, you determine it in manual mode.  You are the metering system in M mode.

Now all that said, you can use exposure compensation in aperture priority mode to work your way through capturing more frames for a wide bracket.  But it requires you to touch the camera a few times and it means you might risk moving the camera slightly and won’t be able to align the frames in post.  Also, if lighting changes in the time it takes you to change exposure compensation then your frames in post might not all be exactly 1EV step apart.  So this works best for sunny days where the sun is not shifting behind clouds.

This is what you could do to get a 9 frame bracket…

  1. Set up the AEB for 3aeb with 1EV steps.
  2. Set the shooting mode to continuous (use a wired/wireless shutter release if possible)
  3. Then start out by setting the exposure compensation to -3
  4. Fire off a bracket (the AEB will give you -4, -3, -2)
  5. Move exposure compensation to 0 (zero)
  6. Fire off a bracket (the AEB will give you -1, 0, +1)
  7. Move exposure compensation to +3
  8. Fire off a bracket (the AEB will give you +2, +3, +4)

Its a hack. Some cameras like Canon have C1, C2, C3 dial settings that allow you to do this with one little turn of the dial, I’ve not looked at the D7000 custom functions so there may be an easier way to program it.

In the end Nikon decided NOT to give the D7000 the 9aeb its more expensive cameras enjoy. Canon does the same thing. 3aeb is better than no-AEB, but 3aeb just …. well…. sucks.

By Michael James

2 responses to “HDR – Nikon D7000”

  1. Antimidas says:

    There are a couple of other ways to do it. You can set each 3 EV configuration in different modes. Use the manual mode for the most used, store settings in U1 and U2. Then you just have to turn the dial to select each differing range to get your 9 photos. Much less touching of the camera.

    Another way to accomplish this would be to use the Promote Control if you are willing to shell out about $300 at B&H. It puts all of the controls on the wired remote, but needs two cables to get the full functionality. Great for time lapse as well because it has more control than the camera itself. (no I don’t work for them) 🙂

  2. Nick Matley says:

    Great tutorial! Just bought the Nikon D7000. I look foreward to trying it out the way you have outlined. Cheers. Keep up the good work.

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