Using Olympus Pen E-P3 camera

The Olympus E-P3 is highly impressive; here are tips on using it.

I’ve upgraded from my E-PL1, through buying an Olympus Pen E-P3 micro four thirds camera – which I find highly impressive.

So far, I’ve barely used the kit lens; instead favouring 9-18mm, 45mm and 75-300mm Olympus lenses, and sometimes also the Olympus 40-150mm zoom. With these, I can carry a highly versatile camera system in a small, lightweight bag: far less weight and volume than I was used to with 35mm film cameras. [Mind you, I use a Manfrotto 055CX tripod which weighs quite a bit: chose it through testing tripod stability in a store, with 75-300mm lens on camera zoomed to 300mm, and then using MF assist to magnify image and hence any shaking. But, don’t need this so much with smaller lenses; the 45mm, especially, can be handheld even in low light.]

Here are a few tips that may help you with using the camera.

Learn to Take Control

Though Olympus have made the camera “smart”, it’s extremely useful to know how to override many settings. And there are indeed many settings; hunting through the menus and figuring just what can be set and how takes time – but is well worthwhile.

Settings I Use

Among settings I favour are:

ISO 200. Important, I believe, to not permit the camera to select “film speed” as it was once known. ISO 200 is the best option; but in low light, especially if you require shutter speeds allowing hand holding, settings of up to around 1600 work fine. [Settings towards the maxiumum of 12,800 produce noisy results, which you may not find so good.]

Program mode. Instead of iAuto, I like the P mode (set with the top dial): the camera selects combinations of shutter speed and aperture that will give correct or almost correct exposure. Using this, I also have the small wheel set so can quickly alter the aperture with it.

Use over/under exposure. Readily chosen via top of the round dial above button on back of camera. Not needed too often, I find; but invaluable when the camera finds lighting situations tricky.

Live mode, with indications of over/under exposure. Completely exposed pixels [white] appear in red; completely under exposed [black] appear in blue. Then, can use over/under exposure compensation to correct these faults – such as by ensuring areas of sky have tones rather than being completely burned out.

Live mode with indications of camera orientation. There are bars you can choose to show if the camera is horizontal, and/or vertical: help to ensure that horizons, say, are level in your photos. You can set it so that pressing the Info button will lead to this screen, another press or two to the screen where under/over exposure are shown.

Rec View off: instead of having an image show immediately after taking a shot, I have this turned off. Allows for keeping on shooting without interruptions; I prefer to check photos a little later.

Single AF + MF: for all the camera has extremely fast autofocus capability, it can focus on the wrong subject. For instance, in trying to “shoot” a bird it may focus on the background instead. Using MF assist, can try autofocus, then turn focusing ring to ensure that the desired subject is in focus. Even with wider lenses, helps here too have the camera mounted on a tripod.

Touchscreen settings off. The touchscreen capability is great fun, such as touch screen where you want in focus and camera focuses and shoots straight away. But, when carrying camera, I find it can bump against me and shots taken by accident; the only way to turn off touchscreen is via menu settings.

Below are some photos I’ve taken with the Olympus E-P3.

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