Customizing Your E-500
My other articles related to the Olympus |
This article describes adjustments which can be applied to your E-500 camera just once, customizing it to your needs and preferences. There are also a few you may want to change for a particular shooting session — but not more often. While some other settings are also mentioned, that is only in the context of setting them to reasonable, or "safe", defaults; they are discussed more deeply in Using your E-500.
The French translation PDF file (by J-Marc Guillemaut) does not incorporate the recent editorial changes, but for all practical purposes, technically it should be identical to the English version you are reading now.
The E-500 is a very customizable camera; it can be in many ways adapted to user's preferences, liking, and shooting habits. There are about fifty (!) various preference settings which you may tweak to your heart's desire — and I'm not counting the actual shooting parameters and modes (exposure, WB, drive, etc.)
This degree of control comes at a price: customizing your camera may seem, at the first glance at least, a little overwhelming; especially, but not only, for a film photographer who decided to take a plunge into digital. To make things worse, the manual is not always helpful enough in explaining what exactly this or that setting means.
What I'm talking about are, mostly at least, not the settings you are likely to change often, from one frame to another. Most of these are the "user preferences", customizing the camera to your liking only to be forgotten about, and rarely, if ever, changed in the field. Even if your preferences will turn out to be different than mine, at least I hope to help you to make an educated decision.
I'm also describing in detail how your setup can be stored for a quick recall later, so that if any parameters are modified, they do not have to be restored one by one.
NOTE: Upgrading the firmware will revert all your camera settings to factory defaults. You will have to repeat the customization process every time you perform an upgrade.
Almost every user has his/her own idea what make a camera easier and more pleasurable in use. De gustibus non est disputandum; while I'm showing my choices, I am also discussing other options, which you may find more to your liking.
In either case, once you customize the camera to your taste and working habits, you will most probably leave these settings alone. All of them are accessible from the two Settings menus (denoted with wrench icons: and ).
I'll be going through these settings in the order in which they are listed in the menu system. In a few cases this order could not be preserved, as it might have changed, or a setting has been moved from one menu to another; this will be noted for a camera which does not follow the rule. The same is true for a few settings which are no longer accessible from the menu system in the E-510, but which still deserve to be pre-set to be stored in a custom reset slot.
One thing to remember: in order to have all these settings available, the camera must be set to one of the non-all-auto modes, i.e., the mode dial should be in P, A, S, or M position.
The assignment of items to both Settings menus seems to follow no clear logic, although related ones are sometimes grouped together. Here are the settings available via the first monkey wrench in the menu system.
This is the step with which you will be able to adjust the ISO (sensor sensitivity to light) setting. It can be chosen as 1/3 EV (ISO 100, 120, 160, 200...) or 1 EV (ISO 100, 200, 400...). The finer, 1/3 EV step has no real advantage: I find that the usual 1 EV is good enough for any purpose, and it requires fewer steps when actually changing the ISO. Therefore 1 EV is my recommendation. (Feel free to disregard it.)
EV stands for Exposure Value, or a product of scene brightness and exposure time; it is often used to describe differences in the amount of light or in response to it. The scale is logarithmic: 1 EV more corresponds to twice the amount of light; 1/3 EV — to about 26% more (note: 1.26×1.26×1.26 = 2). The values in the 1/3 EV ISO sequence are approximate, but this accuracy is more than good enough for any purpose.
When set to On, this makes the ISO settings above 400 accessible, and On+NF activates dynamic noise filtering at these values.
The only advantage of keeping this at Off is that ISO selection process, with fewer options to choose from, becomes slightly faster. But if you change your mind and still want to use higher ISO, then your would have first to change the ISO Boost preference, and only then the actual ISO setting — a bit too cumbersome for my taste.
The bottom line: set this to On+NF, especially if you are not using a noise reduction application in postprocessing.
Frankly speaking, a few comparison frames I shot with and without noise filtering do not show a significant difference.
This is similar to the above, but it imposes an upper limit on the ISO adjustment which is automatically done by the camera in the Auto ISO shooting setting.
The Auto ISO setting affects only pictures taken with a flash. The limit can be set to ISO 100, 200, 400, 800 or Off.
For me this setting is largely irrelevant, as I prefer to set ISO manually, but even then I would rather set this limit to ISO 400.
This is the step with which you will be able to adjust the exposure compensation, shutter speed, and aperture values. You can choose 1/3, 1/2, or 1 EV here, with 1 EV being equivalent to doubling (or halving) the exposure; somewhat too coarse, as the sensor has a narrow tolerance similar to that of a slide film. There is no real difference between 1/3 and 1/2 EV; I keep this at 1/3 EV, as this is the step I'm used to from my film times, but you may prefer 1/2 EV.
I would prefer to have two separate settings here: one for the step of exposure compensation, and another for the shutter/aperture adjustment. While the accuracy of 1/3 EV is, I believe, most useful for the compensation, for shutter or aperture 1 EV is sufficient, while being faster in use (less scrolling).
Here you can define common color corrections (both in Red/Blue and Green/Magenta plane) which will be shared by all WB settings, including Auto and Reference ().
Note that these corrections will override those, if any, previously defined for the individual WB settings. Therefore if you would like to use a specific correction for some WB choices and a "global" one for all others, define the later first as described below, and then override it for the specific settings from the Camera 1 menu.
The adjustment is done in "steps" of some arbitrary (and undocumented) size, separately for two color dimensions: red/blue and green/magenta. Use a positive correction to get your colors shifter towards red or green; negative — towards blue or magenta, respectively. (Switching between dimensions is done with left- and right-arrow keys; changing the correction — with the up- or down-arrow.)
I find this function redundant: to check the correction currently applied, I have to go to the individual setting anyway; once I'm there, I can as well change it. This is why I leave this function alone.
This option allows you to set the compression which will be used if and when you choose to save your images in the HQ (High Quality) mode. Mind it: it does not switch you into that mode (that choice is done from the Camera 1 menu or, better, from the Control Panel); it only defines the compression used when you actually switch.
There are three compression ratios to choose from: 1:4, 1:8, and 1:12 (the 1:2.7 ratio is hardwired to SHQ). My choice is 1:4, and with that I save 95% of my images as HQ, switching to SHQ only when I'm getting paranoid about compression quality losses (usually Tuesday afternoons).
Another reasonable solution here is to set HQ to 1:8, good enough for most purposes, and switch to SHQ (1:2.7) in more critical applications. 1:12 seems a bit excessive.
Again, this is the setup only, not activation of the SQ (Standard Quality) preset. Here the camera gives you an option to preset both the compression ratio and the pixel dimensions of the saved image:
Note that the full, native format is, for reasons unknown, missing from the latter list.
If you chose 1:4 as the HQ compression (see the previous item), then I would recommend to set the SQ size to 3200×2400 pixels and compression to 1:8 — next logical step, allowing to double the number of images you can store on your memory card. If you chose 1:8, then setting SQ to 2560×1920 at 1:8 (or 1:12, although I'm a bit squeamish here) might provide you with an "economy" SQ setting to which you may switch when running out of card space.
In any case, I would think twice before deciding to use a smaller size for SQ. A friend of mine, who happens to make the best high-end, reference audio speakers in the world, spent a whole day taking pictures of his studio, only to discover that all were saved as 1024×768 JPEGs; this was the setting he had been using a day before. If you need smaller images for the Internet, reduce the size in postprocessing; this also gives you more freedom if you decide to use just a part of the frame.
If this option is activated, then the choice of flash settings will, in addition to the normal choices (on, off, red-eye, etc.) contain manual setting at full power, 1/4, 1/16, and 1/64 of the full power.
If you are an experienced flash user, especially if you like to use the built-in flash as a fill-in outdoors, then you may want to activate this option. Otherwise set it to Off (default), so that switching between settings you actually use will be faster and less error-prone.
This option allows you to choose how the + dialed flash exposure compensation is applied.
Some previous Olympus cameras used the first (On) scheme; on the other hand, some users may find the second one (Off) more intuitive. Your pick. Personally, I find the On option more to my liking. Whichever you choose, stick to it.
In this option you set the fastest shutter speed which will be used when the camera is taking pictures with flash. While the default is 1/180 s, you may set the that limit to any value down to
Slower speeds increase the input of the ambient light to the final result, softening the harsh flash light a bit, but this may cause problems with the white balance indoors, as usual with mixed light sources, e.g., a flash used in a brightly-lit room.
The manual is wrong on this option, with the whole (!) description being "You can set the shutter speed that will be used when the built-in flash fires [...] in 1/3 EV increments.". Not true: the setting only defines the maximum speed.
In the program mode, the camera (with built-in or external flash) will be setting the shutter as it pleases, close to the 1/2F (one over double focal length) rule, to maximize the ambient light input. It will do the same in the aperture priority mode. In the shutter priority mode it will limit the speeds you can select manually to the value entered in this option.
I would recommend to leave this setting at the highest value, i.e., 1/180 s, for a number of reasons, including those mentioned in my remark above. If longer shutter speeds are needed, use shutter priority.
This setting affects the behavior of the built-in flash — but only when the main dial is set to the Auto exposure mode, or one of the dedicated scene modes.
If set to On, when the camera's autoexposure system determines a need for flash, it will pop the built-in unit up. This feature benefits mostly three categories of people, not necessarily mutually exclusive: legally blind, photography illiterates, and some camera reviewers.
A semi-intelligent and/or semi-aspiring photographer should be able to decide if the flash is needed and then raise it manually. The camera also displays the shutter speed it is going to use; if this speed is too slow for safe handholding, it should be up to the photographer to decide whether to secure some additional support or to use flash. If you cannot make this decision, you should not be buying an SLR: take it back to the store and get an all-auto point-and-shoot. You really will be better off.
Pictures taken without flash usually look much better than with one (especially the built-in unit). Also, if the camera raises the flash head when you are already pressing the shutter release, it will take some time to recharge the flash capacitor: it would be not economical, battery-wise, to keep it constantly charged; this delay may cost you a picture opportunity.
I often read camera reviews (sometimes, but not only, in Popular Photography), with non-popping flash listed as one of the major complaints about the camera in question. I consider this a major misunderstanding or worse.
Anyway, the setting remains largely irrelevant, as it does not apply the Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual exposure modes. Still, as you may use the Auto mode for a quick return to some reasonable defaults ("panic button"), I would recommend disabling the auto pop-up, unless you count yourself in one of the categories listed above.
This setting allows you to re-assign the function of the camera's control dial, the one fitting right under your thumb at the far right. Actually, there are two choices to make here, as the dial function can be re-assigned separately for the Program and Manual mode. Here are all options:
A remainder: in the shutter and aperture priority exposure modes the dial, when used alone, changes the controlled variable (shutter or aperture, respectively), while with the button it adjusts the exposure compensation. This assignment cannot be changed; just fine with me.
This stands for Auto Exposure Lock and Auto Focus Lock, and adjusting this option, or a family of options, may look like opening a Pandora's box of confusion. From this sub-menu you can define how the camera's AE and AF functions will behave when the [AEL/AFL] button (just right of the finder eyepiece) and the shutter release are pressed.
The choice is made independently for each of the focusing modes (single, continuous, and manual), and in each case you select a pre-packaged preset for that mode.
Switching between SAF, CAF, and MF is not done from here; you can do it either from the Control Panel or with use of the focusing mode button (right arrow).
The good news is that the presets chosen as defaults by Olympus make good sense; only if you are really unhappy with those, and you really know what you want, they may be worth changing. Or, if you really trust my taste, you may skip the details and jump straight to recommendations.
Just to let you get an idea of what options are available in your camera (keeping in mind the remark above), here is the complete listing. I hope it may be at least a bit less confusing than the description and the table in the Advanced Manual, but I cannot guarantee this.
Ok, lots of confusing detail, but making these choices is something you will be doing just once.
My recommendation: You will be just fine keeping the defaults, shown in the menu at as
When set to Off, the lock button works like described in the previous section: you have to keep it down in order to keep the setting frozen (or, for continuous AF, being updated). When you set this to On, the button will act as a toggle: the first press will turn the lock on, the second — off. The lock remains on even after the picture has been taken.
While this may be useful when we want to keep the exposure identical for a number of frames (like when shooting panoramas), it may also be quite dangerous: it is too easy to forget that the AE or AF lock is active.
This is why I would recommend keeping this at Off, unless working in the toggle mode is already your second nature.
This setting allows you to choose what metering pattern will be used when the exposure is locked with use of the lock button (not by half-pressing the shutter release!).
The spot setting is a natural choice here: very much like pointing at something with a handheld light meter (some of the Readers may even remember what this is) and saying "I want this to be at the standard gray level".
While the factory default is Auto, my choice allows a spot reading at just a press of the Lock button, without changing the pattern setting permanently (i.e., until it is changed back to whatever I'm using as a point-and-shoot default).
You may keep this on Auto only if you feel uneasy about spot-metering, but then, most probably, you will be not using exposure lock often, either.
Activating this option allows you to delete the currently viewed image with a single press on the red trash can button, without any confirmation.
I would suggest keeping this at Off, and setting Priority Set (the Yes/No option in Settings 2, see below) to Yes; deleting a file would then require a confirmation with just a single button press.
This is relevant only if you save images, at least from time to time, in two versions: raw ORF and JPEG. If you are viewing such an image and press the Delete (trash can) button, the camera may delete just one or both versions, depending how this preference has been set. Because I never save dual files of the same image, I have no preference here.
While we will refer to this button as [Fn] or Function Button, it is marked with the Reference WB symbol, . It actually gained the re-definable functionality only in firmware Version 1.2; before that it was dedicated solely to Reference WB.
The Function Button can be pre-assigned from the Settings 1 menu to perform one specific operation. The available choices are:
This may look like a tough choice, but it really isn't. Unless you really need the capability of quick switch to a custom My Mode, Reference WB remains my clear choice. DoF preview in the optical finder is of rather problematic value, and live DoF preview is not really faster than just taking a picture and checking it out; the same is true about the test picture option. Still, your taste may differ.
The same menu contains another, related option, allowing to swap the functionality of the Function button (as defined above) with that of the AEL/AFL Lock.
This sub-menu allows you (in a somewhat confusing manner, similar to Custom Reset, described later) to choose between two different My Mode presets or to define (or undefine) them. I would recommend reading this while actually handling the camera.
Note: If you have assigned the Function button (see above) to anything but My Mode, then My Mode Setup becomes irrelevant and you may save yourself the effort of reading the rest of this item: you will not need it.
Reminder: To access this setup option, the main dial must be moved away from the AUTO mode!
As a My Mode slot stores all shooting parameters including the current exposure mode, that mode will be used when the My Mode is applied by pressing the [Fn] button (this means that you may temporarily switch, say, from program to aperture priority without using the mode dial!).
This may sound convoluted, but really is not — after you realize that the same menu items are used for both choosing the modes and defining them. Anyway, as I said, if you have not assigned the Function button to My Mode, you do not have to bother with these settings.
This allows you to choose in which direction you will have to turn the manual focusing ring in order to change the focus towards infinity.
Once again, I find this feature to be of tertiary importance, as it works, obviously, only with the Four Thirds lenses, which have electronic coupling between the ring and lens cams. I resort to manual focusing only with legacy lenses, which have mechanical coupling, making this choice not applicable.
Unless you insist on manual focusing with dedicated Olympus lenses and also have a direction preference inherited from your film SLR system, just ignore this choice .
This setting allows you to enable or disable the autofocus aid light, used when the available light is not bright enough for reliable autofocus. Depending on the flash you are using, this AF light can be generated in two different ways.
In either case, the setting allows to turn the AF aid off. It is irrelevant if the flash is not raised or if the external flash is turned off.
I prefer to have the AF assist turned On. You may want to disable it when using the built-in flash to trigger slave units, when it may release them prematurely.
If this is set to On, turning off the camera will reset the lens to infinity. At a negligible expense of battery use, this usually saves you a fraction of a second in the first picture taken when you turn the camera on again. Why not? — set this to On.
This option defines the camera's behavior in the S (single-focus) mode. Activating it will make the camera take a picture whenever you press the shutter release button regardless of whether it was able to focus properly. The default setting here is Off, and this is, indeed, preferred in most shooting situations for which the single-focus regimen is preferred (see also the next item); that's why I would leave it at Off.
Similar to the above, but for the C (continuous AF) mode. That mode is recommended for fast-moving objects, and the camera uses the predictive AF then anyway (extrapolating the subject movement and "outguessing" its future position). Because of the predictive AF and because in such situations it is better to risk an out-of-focus frame than no frame at all, the default On setting here makes perfect sense.
This allows you to swap the functionality of the AF/AE Lock with that of the Function button, marked as (E-500) or [Fn] (E-510), which, as you remember, be additionally customized. If you choose to do that, pressing one of these buttons will perform the function assigned to the other one, and vice versa.
After some initial reluctance (actually, only after I've got the E-510), I decided to activate the swap in both cameras: this makes locking the exposure and/or autofocus more convenient, without your right thumb having to reach all the way towards the eyepiece — a difference when you are doing it with your eye at the viewfinder. Then, after another month I restored the original setting.
I wouldn't recommend doing the swap if you have the AEL/AFL Memo option enabled: the button can be pressed by accident when carrying the camera, and then the exposure will remain locked until you notice that your images are way off.
This option is available only if you have the firmware Version 1.2 installed.
If you think this was quite a many options, wait; the Settings 2 menu adds more. Do not feel confused or intimidated; remember, you have to set these just once, unless you want something to play with during long winter nights.
This is not actually a preference setting; a properly set clock allows your pictures to be correctly time-tagged. Set this once to your home time zone and leave it there, adjusting once a year if ever.
Note that the camera's computer does not know anything about switching to the daylight savings time (the "summer time"), therefore if you want to account for that, you will have to move the clock twice a year by one hour. My preference is not to do it, and keep the "winter" time, as this is more closely related to how high the Sun is over the horizon.
I would also advise against moving the camera's clock every time you travel to a different time zone (unless you are permanently relocating). Sooner or later you'll forget to do it, and then things may get quite messy. It is not really worth the trouble.
This choice between Compact Flash and xD-Picture card is not really a preference setting, and it should be rather in one of the Camera menus, not here. Anyway, set it to the card you use more often, and in need you can always change it from the Control Panel, without diving into the menu system. Keep in mind that CF cards usually are faster, and this is my default. (The new "H" xD cards still do not match the speed of current CF ones; see my memory card article.)
The Olympus file naming system uses a simple convention, combining the date picture was taken with a serial number. A file name format is
Pmddnnnn.JPG or _mddnnnn.JPG
where the name elements mean the following:
For example, PB260832.ORF means a picture taken on November 26, with a serial number of 832, saved in the Olympus Raw Format; with color space set to sRGB.
The File Name option defines how serial numbers are assigned when an empty memory card is detected. There are two choices here:
It seems difficult to come up with any advantages of the Reset scheme. It can be potentially dangerous, allowing you to have two different pictures from the same day identically named; Auto also gives me a quick count how many pictures I took with the camera from day one. Keep this at Auto and forget about the issue.
"Edit" is too big a word here ("File Naming" would be more proper); this option allows you to define the first two characters in file names generated by the camera. While the default (shown in the examples above) are 'P' for the first character and the '1'..'C' month code for the second, either can be hardwired to any letter or digit (or the second can still denote the month, which the default). Confusingly, defaults are shown in the menu as Off, as if P or MONTH were more difficult to understand).
Note: For Adobe RGB you can change only the second character; the first one will be always an underscore. To change the setting you must actually set the camera to the given color space.
You can just leave the default settings here, with one possible exception. When using two or more cameras applying the same naming scheme (read: made by Olympus) it may be nice to have the first character different for each camera; this is handy in avoiding name clashes between pictures taken on the same day, and in seeing at a glance which camera was used.
Still, the first thing I do after downloading my images to a computer is renaming them; Total Commander, my favorite Windows file manager software for the last 14 years, has a nice and flexible batch renaming capability. I use it to change names like P8292040.JPG into 070829-2040.jpg.
Olympus has one of the better file naming systems among camera brands not because it is so good, but because others are worse. Why do they stick to the 8.3 naming convention, which became obsolete in 1995, and which does not allow for file names longer than eight characters (before the dot, that is)?
Adjust it to your heart's desire; I'm fine with what came in the box.
Once again, your choice.
Languages available may depend on where you bought the camera. For example, my E-510 (North American market) came with English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. You can install another language from the Olympus Master, using the same Web-based mechanism as for regular firmware upgrades. The installed language is then added to the language menu.
This defines the standard used when the camera's monitor signal is sent to a TV set, usually for viewing pictures (not a good idea anyway; almost any computer screen gives you a better viewing experience). You may choose between NTSC and PAL, depending on where you are.
From here you can enable or disable the beep the camera makes when autofocus is achieved, at least in the single AF mode. I prefer to keep this On, as quite often I am too focused on other things in order to watch the AF confirmation light in the viewfinder. At rare occasions, when the beep may be found disturbing, I just break my rules and go to the Settings 2 menu to disable it.
You can define if (and for how long) the camera will display the picture which just has been taken, even while it is being saved to the memory card. This can be set to any value between 0 and 20 seconds, with 3..7 seconds being, I would think, reasonable for a quick check.
If you expect to do lots of shooting in situations when battery life is critical, you may also set the value to zero (i.e., turn the preview off). You can always press the Play (green arrow) button to see the last picture taken.
This defines the period of inactivity after which the camera will enter the low-power sleep mode, disabling the LCD monitor and all controls but the shutter release: when that is half-pressed, your E-500 will almost instantly (with about one second of dust-cleanup delay) spring to life. This can be set to Off (never go to sleep), 1, 3, 5, and 10 minutes. Entirely a matter of taste; I prefer 3 minutes.
Note: the infrared remote receptor is disabled in the sleep state; for occasions when you are using the RM-1 or RM-2 remote control (for example: table-top photography), you may want to disable the sleep feature at all.
With this option activated, when the camera is not used for four hours after entering the sleep mode, it will turn itself entirely off, requiring you to flip the main power switch to start it up again. This is a battery-saving feature, and I would keep it at On.
The E-500 and E-510 follow the "push a button and turn the wheel" metaphor for adjustment of the most frequently used parameters. Some previous Olympus models required you to hold the button down while turning the wheel, not too convenient for all buttons. This is why now Olympus offers a short "grace period" within which the setting's screen is shown and the wheel can be turned without the button being depressed. A small difference, but it makes the camera easier to use.
The Button Timer setting allows you to set the length of this time to 3, 5, and 8 seconds, or to Hold, which means that you have to press [OK] again to exit the process. My preference is three seconds; yours may differ.
Setting this to Off will disable the Olympus logo and a short animation which usually show on the monitor when the camera is turned on (even if the monitor is off, it will be activated to show you that; how very special!). This is the first setting I change in every camera I buy.
There are two color schemes which can be used for the Control Panel display. Both are quite readable and good-looking, but I find the first one, denoted as Color 1, more to my liking. Suit yourself.
A minor firmware modification could make this choice more than a matter of just looks and readability: if the CP color setting were stored in each of the custom resets (as things are, it is not), you could see at a glance to which of these was the camera last reset. A small, but nice, touch. Oh, well.
This, confusingly named, option defines which answer (Yes or No) will be highlighted as default in file deleting operations. The default is No: pressing the trash can button while viewing an image shows a query with No highlighted; you have to use an arrow key to move to Yes, and then press [OK].
This double protection seems too much to me; I prefer the Yes setting, where I need to press just [OK] after the Delete button to confirm the operation.
This choice does not affect other confirmation screens; for example resetting the camera to one of the custom presets.
This sets the mode in which the USB interface turn itself on when the camera detects the proper cable plugged in: Auto, Storage or Control, and also two printer-specific setting: Easy Print and Custom Print.
Storage makes the camera's currently used memory card visible as an external disk drive from the host computer; Control allows the camera to be operated remotely from a computer program (Like Olympus Studio or Cam2Com, and in the Auto setting you will be asked to make a choice every time.
The default Auto option is safe choice, although if you never operate the camera remotely, Storage will be OK. (I never print my pictures directly from the camera, therefore I will not comment on the Print settings.)
A choice between sRGB (used on practically all computer displays) and Adobe RGB, supposedly providing a wider color gamut. Only if you are an imaging professional, you may think of the second option; otherwise stick to sRGB which does not require any special steps or special software to be displayed on a computer monitor.
Many lenses, especially wide-angle ones, produce images with some light fall-off towards the corners. The E-500 can compensate for this, using the information passed from the "smart" lens to the camera circuits. Here you can turn this function on or off (except for images stored in the Olympus Raw Format, ORF, as for these the compensation is applied during the conversion to RGB on a computer). I see no reason not to have this set to On.
The last three positions in the Settings 2 menu are not really settings; they rather serve to invoke rarely used camera functions:
To be used occasionally (every six months or so, or as needed) to map out the few bad pixels which may show on your sensor.
When you select this and press [OK], the camera enters the cleaning mode: the mirror goes up and the shutter opens, so that the dust barrier in front of the image sensor becomes accessible for cleaning — if you remove the lens, of course.
Display the installed firmware version for the camera body, lens, and external flash (if an Olympus dedicated flash is mounted and turned on).
Settings in this class do not customize the camera to your liking; they are rather working parameters, and may end up being more or less frequently changed before (or even during) a shooting session. More on this subject can be found in my article un using the E-500; here is just a list of reasonable default settings.
Assigning these parameters some reasonable defaults and storing the whole set (together with preferences discussed above) in one of the two available Reset slots will allow you to restore the whole package quickly, without a need to change each one individually. This is why I'm discussing them in this article.
Some shooting settings are accessible via their dedicated external buttons; most can be accessed from the Control Panel, and all — in the least convenient manner, from the menu system. In this description I'll be following the order in the menus, as this is the best way not to miss anything.
There are two menus dedicated to these settings: Camera 1 and Camera 2, accessible via small camera icons with numerals 1 and 2. Mercifully, these are rather short menus, containing only eight or nine items each, and even these are not all needed in daily operation, as most are duplicated in direct button or Control Panel functionality.
The division of available adjustments between Camera 1 and Camera 2 does not follow some clear pattern. Don't blame me if you find the ordering of options not too logical.
This not a setting, but an operation (or rather a choice of two): erasing all images from the currently selected card, or formatting it. While the erase operation is faster, formatting may sometimes be necessary if a card is corrupted or has been formatted in a different device.
This also seems to be rather misplaced: from this sub-menu you can set, reset, or recall a complete camera setup. This function will be discussed in a separate section.
From here you can not only choose from three color and two monochrome modes, but also to set the profiles of all those.
It may be a good idea to set all color and monochrome Picture Modes to your liking before the whole camera setup is saved to one of the Reset Settings slots. My settings are shown in the table below.
To complicate things, the values you set are not absolute settings, all in the same reference frame. They are applied on top of whatever the camera designers decided to use as defaults for the given Picture Mode, which means that even with all three settings at zero (which is the factory default), various modes will differ in contrast, sharpness, and/or saturation.
The table below shows the base values (hidden from the photographer) in the first column, and then my recommended adjustments (the Adjust column), followed by the resulting absolute settings (shown as Total).
Olympus software (Master and Studio) do a poor job extracting the metadata from Olympus' own image files. If you want to see the information I'm talking about, you have to use a good application; the best one I know (by far!) is the EXIF Tool by Phil Harvey. To use it in a more convenient way, you will additionally need a GUI front-end application, like Exif Tool GUI by Bogdan Hrastnik; perhaps also my inifile to show only the relevant data in the Custom tab of the program. Just put all three into the same folder and run the GUI application.
The Sepia mode is actually a tinted monochrome and I never bothered with it. Its offset values for sharpness and contrast are zero.
The exact choice of your adjustments here is largely a matter of taste; treat my personal preferences as such. Most probably, however, you will never need to raise any of the parameters above zero from their mode-imposed defaults.
Now, after setting all "films" to your liking (or mine) you may want to choose the one to be used as default. Naturally, Natural would be my choice here.
You can choose between Normal, Low Key, and High Key. For a general use Normal is, no doubt, the choice as a default, which can be changed for individual pictures, if needed, from the Control Panel when shooting.
The manuals do not specify what these settings actually do. I suspect that they just move the central part of the tonal curve up or down, therefore affecting the midtones with smaller impact on the ends of the tonal scale. Frankly, I never bothered to check, as I usually do the same in postprocessing, where I can adjust the degree to my liking.
Shown as a sideways shower head icon: the choice is between ORF (Olympus Raw Format, the original, unprocessed information from the sensor), TIFF (uncompressed 8-bit, E-500 only!), and compressed JPEG in three combinations of compression and pixel size: SHQ (Super High Quality), HQ (High Quality), and SQ (Standard Quality).
While SHQ is hardwired to a full-size, 1:2.7 compression, in the HQ format you can set the compression level (inversely proportional to image quality), and in SQ — both compression and pixel size. This is done from the Settings 1 menu. In the option I'm discussing here (i.e., the one in Camera 1) you can only switch between the five named formats listed above.
For general, although not just casual, use I stay with my HQ preset (as defined in Settings 1, with a 1:4 compression), occasionally switching to SHQ.
This, obviously, is the setting most likely to be changed, if not for every frame. After shooting, however, I like to put it back at -0.3 EV. This is a relatively safe value, at least for sunny weather outdoors situations, and it helps to protect the highlights from washing out.
Even if you get a grab shot with this compensation while it was not really needed, you can stretch the image tonality to get the highs right (at some expense in noise); if, however, your highlights burn out, you will not be able to restore them.
This option turns on the low-light, static noise reduction which is done by subtracting a "dark frame" from a taken picture.
The method is effective only for exposures longer than two seconds or so, therefore it will be actually activated only in such cases. Still, I prefer to have it disabled as a default, as it makes sequential shooting inaccessible. After all, how often do you take two-second exposures?
Many photographers, even advanced ones, leave the WB at Auto all the time. Manual setting works usually better, as long as you remember to change it when shooting under different conditions. Most of the time (outdoors) I keep it at Sunny (5300°K).
The E-500 also allows you to define one custom white balance (CWB) setting. I've put 2500°K in that slot, as this is useful when shooting under lower-wattage bulbs, for which the incandescent (3000°K) setting is too warm.
You can define your own CWB setting, in two ways:
In either case the adjustment step is 100°K steps above 2700°K and in 50°K steps below, all the way down to 2000°K. Remember that lower values will result in images being less red; you may want to do some experimentation to choose one setting you will be using most often.
In the same menu item as above you will find a way to enter an individual correction for each of the presets; this correction will then be applied every time that preset is used. You are free to tweak each preset to your liking, but I really never felt a prevailing need to do this, so I leave this alone.
If you want to tweak one or more of the presets to your liking, you may, again, use the menu system: Camera 1 > WB > ..., or the Control Panel — a faster and easier way. The adjustment is done independently in the red/blue and green/magenta dimensions as described in the All WB Adjustment section. Note that the compensation applied here will override that defined previously on the global level; see that section again.
If you really care about tweaking the color balance precisely, you will be probably saving images in the raw format anyway, and in such a case all this becomes irrelevant, as the WB compensation happens only at the stage of converting the raw image to RGB.
This sets the image sensor gain (sensitivity to light). I prefer to set ISO manually, with the default at ISO 100, moving to higher values as needed in lower light, when shutter speeds become too long for safe handholding.
The Auto setting is really a misnomer: without a flash, the camera will be applying ISO 100 regardless of scene illumination and other exposure parameters (even in total darkness). Only when the flash is activated, the used ISO value will be raised, if needed (at larger subject distances).
The choice is between (ESP matrix) and (center-weighted);
The ESP setting has two flavors: one "plain" and one denoted as "ASP+AF". The latter assigns higher weights to the matrix area over the currently used AF sensor. The choice is made from a sub-menu into which the ESP branches, and the chosen flavor will be then used always when you switch to the ESP metering mode using the control panel (or the direct button, i.e., left arrow) .
The highlight and shadow variants of the spot mode are just gimmicks: the same effect (and more) can be achieved with the regular spot mode and exposure compensation ("I want this to be at +2 EV", not unlike in the Zone System).
With all that said, the matrix pattern, with its 49 metering zones, should provide better protection from burned-out highlights. I set the metering mode to ESP+AF, and never change it (having spot mode easily accessible through AEL button).
Remember again, I'm not recommending that you use these Camera settings all the time, but that you set them as your personal defaults to be restored when the custom reset option is used.
I prefer keeping this at (always On). It actually means that the flash will fire every time, but only if I raise it before, as I have the Auto Pop Up option disabled. (On with red eye reduction is another reasonable default).
Start from zero (remember that my preferred way is to apply the flash compensation on top of the "regular" one, not instead). You may want it adjusted if your flash tends to under- or over-expose on a regular basis, i.e., if your default exposure compensation with flash is different than without.
Obviously, this should default to single frame, to be changed as a need arises.
Again, single AF makes a good default.
Most users will set this to Auto, although a single (center) point is a viable option if you like to lock the focus by half-pressing the shutter release. (That's how I finally settled down; no, I don't need 47 AF points, not now.)
There are actually four menu items here, to set bracketing in white balance, autoexposure, flash exposure, and focus.
Of these, AE bracketing is most commonly used, and focus bracketing (described in detail here) remains a function, I believe, unique to the E-500 (it is certainly not available in the E-510 or E-3). WB bracketing is, from where I stand, quite useless (multiple conversions of the same raw frame, something you can easily do in postprocessing from a raw file).
As far as presets go, set all these to Off, activating only when needed.
This is listed as Anti-Shock (creative English again!) — keep it at Off, activating when needed only in critical tripod work.
The E-500 has two "reset slots", which can be used to store almost all your settings, or to reset your camera to those stored before. It may be somewhat confusing that these are not accessed from one of the Settings menus. To confuse things a bit more, at least in the beginning, the same menu option is used to store and to recall the setup.
This is the option named Custom Reset Setting in Camera 1, and using it is not quite obvious, so here is the whole procedure.
Reminder again: This option is accessible only if the camera is not in the AUTO mode!
As with the My Mode setting, the procedure can be less than obvious until you get used to it. This is due to two circumstances. First, the same screen is used to set up (store, cancel) the settings and to recall them. Second, in English two forms of the word "set" are identical: the past participle (something has been set), and the imperative (please set something). Maybe the UI designers should have chosen another word here, with both forms different; like defined and define or stored and store?
Once your chosen settings have been stored, at any moment later you can quickly restore the whole package as described in point (3) above. A very useful feature; I only wish Olympus allowed us a choice what settings does the camera use when it is powered up: last used, factory reset, custom reset 1, or 2. Some previous Olympus models allowed for this, and it was very handy.
A few of the preferences or settings I am discussing above are not stored in custom reset slots, for a number of reasons. These are: (1) Choice of storage card, (2) file numbering and naming, (3) the Yes/No default, (4) USB mode, (5) color space (Adobe vs. sRGB), (6) Control Panel color scheme, and (7) startup screen.
I think these exclusions either make sense or remain irrelevant, so why not.
I have set up my Reset 1 as described above, finding this quite useful. Whenever I modify the settings extensively, it is easier to do a custom reset, even through the menu system, than to undo all changes one by one.
I'm not quite sure, though, what to do with the second reset slot. Maybe some setup for a more specialized use, like available light, infrared, or table-top photography? I haven't made my mind yet, but you certainly may have some ideas here. (Maybe using separate reset slots for different users of the camera?)
In any case, the recommended reading, if you are still interested, is my companion article on using the E-500, in which I'm discussing the camera settings which you are adjusting on the fly, i.e., when actually taking pictures.
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|Posted 2006/02/25; last updated 2009/02/14||Copyright © 2006-2009 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak|