Olympus E-PL1 - My Own Preferred Settings
Instead of labelling this page as a "preferred settings" list, I would like to stress that it is my preferred settings, with explanations so you can pick and choose which parts you might use.
usual aim is to use jpegs for most of the time, makes storage needs
less and loses very little over RAW shooting if the lighting and
subject conditions are normal. In a situation where I judge that the
jpeg may have difficulties then I will shoot RAW plus jpeg.
with jpeg is always to produce an image that can easily be fine tuned
in post process to the look that I want, it most likely will be an
image that might not directly produce a good print or display, I might
choose to boost saturation a bit and alter the sharpening. In extreme
cases I may also work on noise reduction, but that is rarer now.
is based on what my E-PL1 does but the general settings are much the
same on all Pens and OM-D so the list can be used for decisions on them
up it is necessary to get the SCP working (the Super Control Panel). To
me it is verging on insane that Olympus defaults to no SCP display out
of the box, see how to turn it on here in my Comments page.
Olympus has some confusing terminology for noise control.....
is their name for dark frame subtraction, where another image of equal
exposure time is taken just after the real image but taken with the
shutter closed. Hopefully that generates the same or similar set of hot
pixels that can be subtracted from the first image to help make it
cleaner. Makes more sense for longer exposures. I set it to Auto
and that lets the dark frame subtraction cut in at 4 seconds and longer
shutter speeds. Be aware that taking say a 30 second shot the noise
reduction will add another 30 seconds for the dark frame, making 60
seconds in total.
is the usual processing effort made to try and reduce noise in the
image but it can cause smearing of detail and give faces and details a
painted look, particularly at higher ISO where the effect may be
automatically stronger. So I set it Off, to help stop that
smearing of detail.
- Tied in with noise control is the use of which ISO to use, the
lower the ISO the less the noise. The E-PL1 lowest ISO is 100, but the
base is truly 200. The manual warns that for lowest noise use 100 but
200 has better dynamic range. The trick is to do your own tests and see
which ISO is the maximum to use for general shooting. In my case I find
that the E-PL1 is good up to 1600 ISO, above that the noise is too
blotchy for me. It maybe would be OK at 3200 but only for B&W where
some noise adds character to some images. Later models will be
better at higher ISO settings.
So for my ISO setting I use Auto ISO
most of the time and have the upper limit at 1000 or 1250 for
everyday use, then if in dim and difficult conditions I may set the limit to
1600. In truth noise only
matters to pixel peepers, in printing it is not an issue, in fact
very large prints need noise to hide the fact that they may be
starting to lose detail.
- Default or high sharpness increases noise and adds edge halos that
are objectionable for very large prints or savage crops. With most
cameras I have Sharpness at minimum or very low (-1 for me at present) and then in post
process use unsharp mask sharpening to taste to suit the display or
I leave off most of the time as it does add a tiny amount of blur
to safe shutter speed shots, best to only turn it on when it is really
needed for slow shutter speeds only. The old film days rule does still
hold true for normal folks, that is the lowest likely safe shutter
speed for hand-holding is 1/(35mm equivalent focal length). Meaning
that at (for M4/3 cameras) 150mm it should be safe to use
hand-holding and no stabilisation at or above 1/300 second, for 14 mm
at or above 1/28 second.
The E-PL1 stabilisation I find to add
about 10x shutter time improvement so then at 150mm 1/30 second is
possible and at 14mm about 1/3 second works.
If a Panasonic lens
with an OIS switch is used then that will give about the same
improvement, but way better with video as the Pen line for video
turns off the usual sensor shift stabilisation and uses pixel shifting
"stabilisation" which often gives very bad results.
for me it's always S-AF or maybe S-AF + MF for fine tuning or if in
doubt. I use the centre focus box only and always half press to focus
and hold then re-frame the image and complete the press to
take the photograph. Setting up the camera in the Custom Menus allow me
to have the camera focus at half press and then meter at full press.
The Fn button is set to Exposure Lock that is sometimes used.
I use way way more than the VF-2 viewfinder. The VF-2 is kept safe and
only used for really tricky situations like where I need to shoot the
underside of a mushroom and need a viewfinder angled up, Also the VF-2
is used when I (rarely) play with my Nikon lenses, the VF-2 higher
resolution is needed for careful manual focus. The LCD works better for
me with the Brightness boosted to +7, the auto dim set to 8 seconds and
camera sleep set at 1 minute. The auto review after taking a shot is 2
seconds, that's enough to get a quick idea of if the shot worked. Plus
the auto review can be over-ridden by the shutter press anyway, so does
not get in the way.
= Off as for me it finds too many stray "faces" in scenery, I only may
turn it on when handing the camera to someone else to take my photo.
= On (the blinkies) so then can see what highlights might be sacrificed
if any at all. Tend to keep to 0 EV exposure compensation for most
shots and only a few insignificant highlights may then be sacrificed.
The setting for this is buried in the Custom Menu, it does pay to
thoroughly read the appropriate pages of the User Manual about
Customising the camera. I prefer to use the blinkies over using the
histogram, as the blinkies tell you exactly which areas of the image
will be affected.
Live View Boost
= Off, so then the preview blinkies do actually respond to exposure
compensation adjustments. The LCD/EVF is boosted briefly anyway at
half press while the camera is auto focusing. If you have Live
View Boost on then the preview image always looks the same no matter
what you do to Exposure Compensation, but when the shot is taken the
Exposure Compensation is obeyed so the resulting review may look
nothing like the boosted preview.
Auto for me, as it makes life easy and also is easy to fine tune the
jpeg in post process if needed. Lately as I start using a better IPS
type of monitor and properly calibrated, I do see the need to trim the
white balance offset and from experiments on my copy of the E-PL1 I
find that in the SCP I make G = +3 to get rid of the often hyper-active
Red that Olympus likes in its jpegs. More fiddles needed with that to see
if it suits all conditions, sunny vs overcast usually makes a
= Natural with Contrast and Saturation often lower (-1 and -1 for me) to get a more
realistic slightly flat looking jpeg that responds well to post process
fiddling to get the exact look I want. In difficult or extremely
important situations I will use RAW+jpeg and sort out later which to
use. This area is very much a personal taste issue and some like
bold colours and some like more realistic colours.
Gradation = Normal, otherwise it seems from others' comments that
shadow noise gets bad in some conditions, particularly if using Auto.
= sRGB as a bad Adobe RGB setup is worse than a properly set up sRGB
colour space to work in. Most of the world's computers and displays
understand and can display a fair amount of the sRGB colour gamut but very few can
display the Adobe RGB gamut.
Of course many of these items can
be sorted out at leisure in post process if shooting RAW. The camera
itself allows RAW to jpeg conversions in review mode obeying whatever
settings you have on the camera, so you can take one RAW shot and then
vary the camera settings and keep making more jpegs with each one
different and compare them later to see what works best. The same of course can be done using Olympus Viewer 2
software from here.
The Olympus Viewer 2 allows the use of Art Filters that may not be in
your camera if you feed it a RAW file, see the list here.
caution is that a good setup for sunlit photos may not suit low light
or overcast conditions, definitely experiment with all types of light
With RAW all you need to do is to get the exposure correct, all the rest can happen afterwards.
of these items change a bit from session to session but basically it's
a good starting point for me. More will be added or expanded as I think
of more things of importance.