Exposure meter 'off?'


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Feb 8, 2012
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I have been noticing more and more recently that my D300s seems to be slightly off on its exposure. I shoot completely in manual and if I am going to be shooting in drastic light changes then I switch to Aperture mode. But I notice that when I put the the exposture center on the exposure meter then the photo tends to be on the overexposed side. Am I missing something? I have to typically shoot anywhere from 1/2 - 1 stop underexposed to get the proper exposure. It has done this since I got it a year ago. Also with me wearing glasses is there a technique that I can use to adjust my viewfinder so I can properly manual focus and get off the autofocus feature because more times than not the photo is a bit soft and I would like to get that corrected and feel only way would be is if I do the focus myself. But what looks sharp to me in viewfinder is not sharp when I ultimately take the photo. Is there a trick to this? is there a foolproof test that I could do to correct this issue?
Your viewfinder has a Diopter adjustment on the side of it, or it should have. Take your lens off and using either the focus points or the Meter scale at the bottom, adjust that wheel till those points or meter are as in perfect focus/sharpness that you can see. Your viewfinder should now be good to go. However depending on your eyesight, there may not be enough adjustment in the diopter. Most manufactures also offer replacement diopters in different strengths to compensate for people who wear glasses

Amazon.com: Nikon DK-20C Diopter +0.5 for many Nikon Digital SLR's Cameras: Camera & Photo
It's possible that your camera needs servicing, however we are going to be a little skeptical of it being the meter and probably being user error...
Double check all of your settings: Did your metering mode get changed? Do you accidentally have a + exposure compensation dialed in? Do you have a complete understanding of your meter and how to use the different metering modes-we see that one often as the seasons change and someone who isn't extremely experienced with the meter starts having some problems with the change in light and tones.

Focus-is this with every lens or just one? Have you done a back focus test? Has this deteriorated over time? Have you ever had the camera serviced at all? how many actuations are on it? I have mine all serviced annually-I shoot heavily because of sports. Have you adjusted the diopter of your camera for you? the little dial next to the viewfinder. Manual focus is definitely difficult and it's NOT something I can master for anything other than maybe macro. Not to say you can't, because you can and some do... It's just rare, hard and vision issues can make it even harder. Obviously if you can use live view to make that image larger and easier to see you can focus a bit better, but that's got it's own issues too. Are you shooting with your lenses wide open? What aperture are you trying to shoot at? Lenses are not at their sharpest when wide open and some can be really noticeable. A lens is usually at it's best about two stops down from wide open.
Also to check your meter, on a nice sunny day. Go outside and face away from the sun and meter. Your meter reading should be @f/16 1/200 ISO 200. If not then maybe something is wrong
Since the focus issue was addressed by previous replies, on to exposure

Sure it could be the camera, althought we cant assume what metering mode the OP is using and what his idea of over/under exposed is.

It is possible that he is using spot metering on a target and then when viewing the overall image, to him - the overall image is overexposed
I am new,, here,, but just thought I would throw this in on the difficulty of using manual focus well. It does make it easier if it was all you had for,, 40+ years.
The new focusing screens as opposed to what was in camera years ago when there was only manual focus are very different. You can get other focusing screens, split prisms etc from some aftermarket companies if you plan on doing a lot of manual focus

Nikon D300 Focusing Screen - KatzEye Optics
The camera has 3 metering modes that sample from about 2% to 100% of the light in the scene.

The OP doesn't mention metering mode at all.

Plus - proper exposure is to some degree subjective.
I typically shoot on matrix. Unless I am going for something very specific then I shoot on spot mode. And when I mean overexposed it is VERY bright. I will post an example later today.
Is your exposure compensation inadvertently set?

I find it perplexing that Nikon allows a user to set exposure compensation while being in manual mode.
Also to check your meter, on a nice sunny day. Go outside and face away from the sun and meter. Your meter reading should be @f/16 1/200 ISO 200. If not then maybe something is wrong

I cannot think of any reason why this might be true....

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