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Accurate metering is critical to getting good results from your camera. Fortunately, metering technology is now so good that your camera should yield correct exposure 80 to 90% of the time. To help ensure that your metering results are good, your camera offers several different metering modes. Your Mark III shows the current metering mode right here. This icon will change as you change metering modes. The default, and the mode that's currently being shown by this icon, is evaluative metering. In evaluative metering, your image is divided into a grid. Each cell of the grid is metered, and a bunch of complex calculations are performed based on all of those different bits of information to come up with a good overall metering for your scene.
Evaluative metering is probably where you'll stay most of the time, but you do have three other metering modes. To change them, press the metering/white balance button, and it's pretty easy to remember this, because this icon corresponds to your meter down here. Press this, and then turn the main dial. Your next mode is partial metering. This meters just an area in the middle of the frame. It's an area that comprises 6.2% of the viewfinder, according to the Canon manual, and your metering is simply derived from the brightness of that circle in the middle of the frame.
Next comes spot metering, which is shown by this icon. This is a lot like partial metering, except it's a much smaller circle that it's metering; it's only 1.5% out of the center of the viewfinder. Finally there is one more metering mode, and that is center-weight average metering, which looks like this. This is similar to spot metering, and partial metering, but it's a wider area out of the center, and Canon doesn't say how wide it is. Personally, I have never found a use for center-weight average metering.
In theory, what it's good for is heavily backlit situation, but spot and partial are also good for those, so I tend to think of this as the extra, kind of useless metering mode on the camera. You'll probably find that spot metering and partial metering are going to be the alternate meters that you use the most. I've been shooting with Canon cameras for years, through lots of different models, that have all used the same icons, and I tell you, I never can remember what they are; I always get confused, because they're really just variations on the same thing.
This, to me, doesn't look anything like a matrix metering situation like the camera defaults to. So, a couple of recommendations for that. You can pull a PDF of the Mark III manual off the Canon Web site. Do that, and print out page 167. There's a very simple, tiny little chart that shows all of your different metering options, and their icons. Cut that out, and tape it to the inside of one of your lens caps. Then you'll always have it with you. Or just take the PDF, and stick it on your smart phone if you have one. That's another way of getting access to this information, because I very often get confused about what these are, so it's nice to have a key with me.
For most of the scenes you'll ever shoot, evaluative metering will work fine. In fact, you may find that you never change metering from evaluative. Partial, spot, and center-weight give you options for handling higher dynamic range situations, such as shooting someone in front of the window, or any place where you've got more dynamic range than your camera can handle, and you want to be sure that a particular thing in your scene is properly exposed. This is another thing that's covered in detail in my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course.
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