Sony a7iii Metering Modes (Explained!)

Since you’re reading this right now, I can only assume that you’ve found the metering mode setting on your camera and are wondering what the heck it’s used for.

Metering is the term that is used for when a camera determines the correct exposure settings automatically.

Although the names and functionalities vary across different cameras, the Sony a7iii has five different metering modes that are quite simple to understand.

In this quick and concise guide, I’ll go over every different method of metering to explain what they are along with how (and when) to use them.

Let’s jump in!

man with camera

The Basics

Where to find the metering mode setting?

Finding the location of the metering mode setting is quite easy.

  1. Hit the FN button on the back of the camera
  2. Go to the 2nd column of the bottom row
  3. Push in the dial to open the metering modes
  4. Refer to the image if needed
visual showing location of metering mode on sony a7iii camera

Mostly for Auto

One thing I want to set straight right away is that metering modes only really matter in automatic/semi-auto modes.

Meaning, the camera will only meter scenes and automatically change settings in P, A, S, and Auto modes as they are, well, automatic.

Manual Exposure Compensation

If you shoot fully manual (adjusting the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO yourself), then the purpose the camera’s metering system serves is to show you the “exposure level” of your images (-0.3EV if it’s a bit dark, for example).

Since the Sony a7iii has an exposure dial on the top, you can use this information to quickly tell if an image is under or overexposed (and easily be able to tweak it).

woman overlooking mountain near charlotte, nc
Even when using full manual, the camera will still meter. You can see the EV level (and histogram) thanks to this.

The Modes

Multi Metering (Multi-Pattern)

What is it?

First up on the list, we’ve got the “multi” metering mode, also known as “multi-pattern”.

This mode will look at the scene and attempt to get an even exposure for the entire frame.

When to use it?

This is the mode that pretty much every modern digital camera (and cellphone) uses by default.

At this point, the tech is so powerful that this is pretty much the best metering mode for your Sony a7iii.

Although it does fall short sometimes, I’ve found it to generally be the best if you want consistency.

However, the other modes have many potential niche uses that are important to learn.

Center Metering

What is it?

Next up, we have the “center” metering mode.

This mode will, once again, attempt to get an even exposure across the frame except this time it’ll provide slightly more priority towards the center.

While it’s typically reliable, you’ll find that it will often under or overexpose the corners of the frame due the higher emphasis on the center of the scene.

When to use it?

Although center metering is rather niche, it can be used in certain situations where the subject is centered (highlight mode may be better though in certain situations, we’ll talk about that later).

It can work well for portraiture and other subject-centered images, but I’ve found that, in practice, it’s not much different than multi metering.

Center can have some niche uses such as for portraiture. Generally though, multi mode will do the job better.

Spot Metering

What is it?

Spot metering is somewhat similar in the sense that it exposes for a very small portion of the frame.

Generally, it’ll exposure for the dead center of the image, but there’s actually a setting where you can have it expose for the focus point.

To find that function, we’ll have to dig into the (complicated) menus.

  1. Open the menu by hitting the menu button
  2. Navigate to the first section (Exposure1)
  3. Go to page 10, then down to “spot metering point”
  4. Select “focus link point”

With this setting enabled, the camera will expose for the focus point instead.

When to use it?

Although I consider this mode to be rather niche, I can see it being used in certain situations such as backlit images or dramatic shots.

For example, placing an object on a table surrounded by a dark background. Focusing on the object would create a dramatic effect.

It could be useful for product photos and anything else where you’d want heavy subject-emphasis.

Portraits in backlit situations are where it really shines however. The camera is able to meter for the darker subject and avoid extremely blown out highlights.

Entire Screen Average

What is it?

Entire screen average looks at the entire screen (frame, technically) and exposes as evenly as possible.

It differs from multi-metering as it gives zero priority to any one part of the screen.

Multi-metering analyzes the frame by “segments”, entire screen average looks at it all equally.

street in charlotte
Entire screen average usually accomplishes similar results to multi-metering.

When to use it?

To be frank, this is quite similar to multi metering mode.

The niche situation this would be useful in is if you’re doing a lot of small compositional changes (like, a model moving around, for example).

I would highly suggest just sticking to multi mode instead.

Highlight Metering

What is it?

Highlight metering will look at the highlights (bright parts) of the image and expose for those.

Using highlight metering is a sure-fire way of avoiding blown out (pure white) highlights.

woman sitting on rock in ocean
Highlight mode will protect the brightest parts of an image, thus blowing out skies or other highlights.

When to use it?

This metering mode can cover a lot of different situations.

The most obvious would be any scene where the highlights are bright and you want to protect them.

For example, shooting a portrait against a sunny sky. The camera would darken the subject but protect the sky.

Shadows (dark parts of an image) are always much easier to recover in post-processing than highlights.

Conclusion

In the end, metering modes aren’t particularly complicated. They all have their niche uses.

That being said, if you’re looking for the “best” metering mode for your Sony a7iii, I’d highly recommend just sticking with multi-metering mode.

It’s a great catch-all that will rarely let you down.

Better yet, learning how to master full manual control is even better, as you won’t even have to rely on computational magic to expose scenes perfectly.

To learn more about the exposure triangle and manual exposure, go check out my a7iii guides on shutter speed and aperture.

Thanks for reading!