Foolproof Way to Never Clip Important Highlights on a Sony Camera

One of the advantages to mirrorless cameras is the ability to see an exposure preview of the final photo while composing through the viewfinder or rear LCD screen. Tools like the histogram, focus peaking, and others can also be updated in real time and overlaid on the screen to make more informed decisions. This video, however, unwraps my favorite in-camera tool for Sony cameras.

Is this guy talking about Zebras? Why yes, I am. There’s a very important distinction here though from the way I see most photographers use this setting. In order to get the most out of Zebras for stills shooting, you need to dive into the custom setting options. In this new video from my YouTube channel, I show you how I set up my Sony cameras to present me the exact point in which my raw photo will be too overexposed and unrecoverable in post-processing. For me, this is far more useful than a vague warning that my image is somewhere near having clipped highlights (but who knows how far off still?).

Try it out and let me know what you think. Where it’s really helpful for my shooting is when I’m photographing animals with white features. I can raise up the exposure until I see the Zebra appear on the white — granted I’m working with enough light — then back off one third-stop click. It’s that simple and completely mindless so I can focus on other things in my scene knowing I have the exposure nailed perfectly.

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10 Comments

Tom HM's picture

Great tip, thanks for sharing. I've been using zebras at 100+ since I first got the camera but I hadn't realised that was still a bit of room beyond that. I'm not sure if my A7ii has the custom limits option though. I'll have to check it out later. It would be good if this information could be used for the camera's light metering. I.e. to have an automatic ETTR-no-clipping option.

Tom HM's picture

For anyone interested, or anyone else with an A7ii... nope, the custom option appears to be a later addition. Oh well, perhaps I'll experiment with seeing what it's like going 1/3 of a stop into the zebra warning.

Daniel van Duinkerken's picture

Great tip, thanks Ryan!

Great tip! Did you do any testing at different iso settings?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Hmmm...very nice. I'll have to try that on my shoot tomorrow.

On my window lit dirty dishes test, and a7III + Capture One, the max 109 seems to be the best setting for me. Though, I still would rely on the histogram and viewfinder, but, I can see the zebras as good confirmation.

Jerome Brill's picture

Very useful, thanks. I've been wanting to do this test. I had mine set to custom 99+ and kept moving it up over time. At 99+ I was still under exposing my images for highlights. Good to know I can take it even further. I'll see what it can do on the a7RIII.

Jeremy Lusk's picture

Super helpful, thanks for putting in the work!

Ziggy Stardust's picture

Neat. Thanks.

Arun Hegden's picture

Thank you for this. :)