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The Olympus E-1, a true digital SLR with interchangeable "Smart Lenses", is just the camera many professional and amateur photographers have been waiting for. Made of magnesium alloy, it feels and shoots just like a film camera, yet it runs on several mini computers and each "Smart Lens" also has its own mini computer built in. It uses a new technology Full Frame Transfer "progressive scan" 5MP CCD imager that is cleaner (noise in shadows is virtually non-existent), faster and more efficient than other types of CCD imagers, making the quality equivalent to or better than most 6.3MP cameras.

(Click on any image below for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Powering up the camera
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Setting the focus mode
  • Choosing a media card
  • Using Record mode to determine resolution
  • How digital ISO works
  • Using White Balance to color balance your photos
  • Lighting tips for outdoor portraits
  • Downloading images to your computer

Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex LiteDisc

Computer Equipment:

  • USB enabled computer


In this lesson, we examine the basic features of the Olympus E-1 digital camera, its removable Zuiko Digital "Smart Lenses", an additional Power Battery Holder and rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery (larger than the included battery, and highly recommended), and some basic lighting tips for taking outdoor portraits.


The E-1 comes with a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery designed specifically for the E-1. Although you can expect to capture and play back many images for each charging, we recommend that you invest in at least one more Lithium-Ion battery so that when you run out of power, you won't have to suspend shooting until your only battery fully charges (figure 1).

Figure 1


Another alternative is to purchase the optional Lithium-Polymer battery pack (Power Battery Holder), which can last several days without having to recharge it. We can't recommend this accessory enough. It's a must-have when you are on location away from electricity, and even in the studio, it's worth it not to have to spend your time changing and charging batteries.

To attach the Lithium-Polymer battery to the E-1 body, first remove the battery cover by sliding the spring-loaded metal pin away from the lens. Then position the battery cover over the groove in the base of the Lithium-Polymer battery pack and lock it in. Finally, insert the Lithium-Polymer battery into the base of the camera body and use the tightening screw to attach the battery securely to the body (figures 2 through 5).


The E-1 is just like a traditional SLR in that it allows you to use interchangeable lenses. Yet, the E-1 is unique in that it utilizes Olympus Zuiko Digital "Smart Lenses" to create a fully integrated digital system that produces amazingly high quality images. Here, we demonstrate how to remove a 50mm Macro Lens and attach a 14-54mm Zoom Lens.

To remove a lens from the E-1 body, first press the Lens release button with one hand and turn the lens counter-clockwise as far as it will go (figures 6 & 7).

Figure 8

Next, pull the lens away from the camera body and set it down (figure 8).

Take the next lens you wish to attach and remove the lens caps. Then align the red dot on the side of the lens with the red dot on the lens opening of the camera body and connect the lens to the body. When the lens feels evenly connected, turn the lens clockwise until you hear the lens lock into place (figure 9).

Figure 9


Once the lens is attached, use the Zoom ring to zoom in or out (figures 10 & 11).


There are three focus modes in the E-1: Single Auto-Focus (S), Continuous Auto-Focus (C) and Manual Focus (MF). While either of the Auto-Focusing modes allows you to lock down your focus quickly, Manual Focusing enables you to be very precise with your point of focus.

Figure 12

To select Manual Focus mode, simply turn the Focus switch on the side of the camera to MF (Manual Focus) (figure 12).

Figure 13

Once the Focus mode is set to MF, you can focus in on your subject by turning outer focus ring of the lens (figure 13).

The E-1 accommodates either CompactFlash cards or IBM Microdrives to store and transfer images shot from the camera, and can be used over and over again. No more film and processing costs! Each type of media cards needs to be inserted a particular way, so refer to the manual to make sure it is oriented correctly (figures 14 & 15).


One of these cards will hold a lot of images! Here, we used a 512 MB CompactFlash card that, though smaller than the available 8GB cards, can hold many high-resolution images on it.

The E-1 offers a variety of Record mode settings that ascend in both image size and quality. They are:

SQ Standard Quality - a JPEG setting ideal for web quality images, the only mode in which the number of pixels and the level of compression can be adjusted.

HQ High Quality - a JPEG setting good for web and some print quality images. This setting offers the maximum pixel count with medium compression.

SHQ Super High Quality - the least compressed JPEG format, great for both web and print, write time to card is faster than in TIFF or RAW formats. This setting offers the maximum pixel count with a minimum of compression.

TIFF Tagged Image File Format - this format is designed expressly for print, applies no compression, but images take more time to write to card and file sizes can be quite large.

RAW Olympus Raw Format (.orf) - because there is no compression applied to an image in this format, Image Quality is optimal and sometimes noticeably better than with the TIFF format, the write time to the card is slightly faster and file size is somewhat smaller than with the TIFF format, but files can only be displayed as images with the Olympus "Viewer" or "Studio" software.

NOTE: There is also a mode that allows you to shoot in both JPEG and RAW quality settings as well.

The chart below illustrates the approximate number of images you can expect to record to either a 256MB or 512MB CompactFlash card at various Record modes.


Resolution Chart

Resolution Chart


If you prefer to shoot in either TIFF or RAW modes, we recommend purchasing larger CompactFlash cards (256MB+), as you will only be able to record 2-4 images on an empty 32MB card. The largest CompactFlash card to date is 8GB, but the E-1 will also accommodate the IBM Micrcodrives.


Figure 16

To select a Record mode, press the Resolution button on top of the camera and spin the Main dial until you see the Resolution setting you want appear in the control panel (figure 16).


To adjust the SQ setting, first press the Menu button to display the internal menu (figure 17 & 18).



Once the main menu appears, scroll down to the 3rd tab (symbol of a wrench +1) and choose the SQ tab. Scroll right and enter the desired Pixel Count and Compression Rate (figures 19 & 20).


The term ISO (what used to be known as ASA) is used to measure the speed of photographic film. The higher the ISO rating the faster the film is, and fast film affords better exposures in low light situations. The offshoot is that the faster the film gets, the more the grain size increases. We have found that higher ISO numbers in digital cameras result in increased noise rather than larger "grain".

The magnified images below (taken with a 4MP camera) illustrate the effects of different ISO settings. Note that the E-1 will outperform these examples for quality and low noise. In this example, notice the noise that appears in the shadow of this remote control unit as the ISO is increased (figure 21).

Figure 21


The shipping default ISO setting in the E-1 is set to -A- (Auto), which will allow the camera to make an interpreted setting, depending on the availability of light, from ISO 100 to 400. We recommend setting the ISO to 100 (its lowest) for most situations, as this renders the best image quality. To adjust this setting, simply hold down the ISO button and turn the Main dial until the desired ISO setting is displayed (figures 22 and 23).



Among the ISO settings are -A- (Auto: 100 to 400), 100, 200, 400 and 800. In the E-1 Menus, the ISO can be expanded to ISO 1600 and 3200 for very low light conditions.

The E-1 offers a variety of White Balance (WB) settings so that you can render natural-looking colors in your photographs.

You can leave it on AUTO and let the camera interpret the correct color temperature for any given situation. The camera is quite adept as determining the appropriate color temperature in most situations. However, there will be times when you will want to either choose a Preset WB setting or create a Custom WB setting.

There are many different Preset White Balance settings from which you can choose that will Color Balance such situations as sunny days, cloudy days, shade in daylight and many different artificial lighting conditions. You can experiment with different color tones by selecting different Preset WB settings. The color temperatures (measured in degrees Kelvin) available for Preset WB are as follows: 3000K, 3300K, 3600K, 3900K, 4000K, 4300K, 4500K, 4800K, 5500K, 6500K, 6600K and 7500K. It is even possible to make fine tunings to the Presets in the WB Compensation menu, where you can adjust the color temperature in 50K increments.

NOTE: There are times when the Presets do not quite match the color temperature of a given light source. For example, a Photoflex Starlite Lamp is a photographic light source that is designed to have the color temperature of a true Tungsten light: 3200 degrees Kelvin. Yet the closest Presets in the E-1 are 3000K and 3300K degrees Kelvin. While 100 or 200 degrees may not seem like a lot, it can noticeably throw off your Color Balance. In situations like these, it's better to create Custom WB setting.

If you are shooting outside where the color temperature is about 5500K, or have the built-in flash activated (calibrated to 5500K) you can set the White Balance to 5500K to match it.


Figure 24

In order to select this White Balance preset, first press and hold down the small WB button on the top of the camera and then jog the Main Dial until 5500 appears in the control panel (figure 24).


Now your camera is calibrated for daylight or flash conditions to capture perfectly color-balanced pictures.



In order to control your depth of field and your exposure, you need to manually adjust your aperture and shutter speeds. To be able to manually adjust your aperture and shutter speed settings, first turn the Mode Dial to M (figure 25).

Figure 25


You will notice two sets of numbers displayed next to each other in the control panel. The first indicates your shutter speed and the second indicates your aperture setting.


The most important thing to remember is that your aperture setting controls your depth of field. The smaller your aperture number, or "f/stop", the shorter your depth of field will be. You can adjust the aperture number by turning the Sub dial until the desired aperture appears in the control panel (figures 26 & 27).




The first group of numbers displays your current shutter speed. Once the aperture is set, the shutter speed can be adjusted to accommodate the proper exposure. You can adjust your shutter speed by turning the Main dial until the desired shutter speed appears in the control panel (figure 27).

One of the nice things about digital cameras is that if you take a shot and it's either too light or too dark, you can immediately make adjustments to the shutter speed until you render the proper exposure. Likewise, if you want to maintain a certain shutter speed, you can make adjustments to the aperture to render the proper exposure.


One of the nice things about shooting digitally is having the ability to delete images from the media card. You can either delete individual images on the spot to clear up card space or delete the entire contents of card at once after you've copied them to your computer. You can also lock images you want to save to prevent accidental deletion.

To delete a single image, first pull it up on the LCD by pressing the Playback button and use the arrow keys to locate the image you want to delete. When the image is displayed, press the Delete button (figure 28). When the Delete dialog box appears, select YES and press the OK button (figure 29).


To prevent an image from being deleted from the media card, press the Lock button located next to the Delete button. To unlock the image, simply press the Lock button again (figure 30).

Figure 30

Figure 31

To erase the entire contents of the card, press the Menu button and choose the Card Setup tab. Scroll right, choose ALL ERASE and press OK. This will pull up another dialog box confirming your decision to erase the entire card. Select YES and press OK (figures 31, 32 & 33).

Taking good portraits outdoors can be easy if you have some basic light modifiers on hand. A bright sunny day can render beautiful, vibrant colors but can also present a high degree of contrast: a primary concern when shooting portraits. To illustrate more effectively, we set up a typical backyard portrait set-up with our model. Once the camera was dialed in, we took a shot of her in a vertical crop (figures 34 & 35).


Here's the contrast we talked about. Notice how bright the model's forehead is compared to the sharp shadows cast from her nose and chin in this result shot. And since she had the sun in her eyes, she couldn't help but squint into the lens.

To reduce the contrast (and squinting), our assistant held a Photoflex 12" Translucent LiteDisc up to diffuse the sunlight falling on the model's head and shoulders. This eliminated the harsh shadows, but also decreased the overall light level by about 1 f/stop. To adjust for exposure, we simply opened the aperture a full stop from its original setting and took another shot (figures 36 & 37).



In the result shot, notice how much more we can see the model's eyes, and that the shadows have diminished drastically.

For a final touch, we had the model hold a 22" White LiteDisc just under her face to bounce sunlight up into the shadow areas. We took another shot and then viewed it on the playback mode of the camera (figures 38 & 39).


Figure 40

The shadows under the eyes and nose have been eliminated, and the bottom LiteDisc has created a nice "sparkle" in the model's eyes. For a full body shot using this technique, you would simply use larger LiteDiscs.

To confirm that your image is in sharp focus, press the Playback button on the back of the camera and spin the Sub dial to enlarge the image (figure 40).

In order to download your new images onto your computer to manipulate, email, or print them, you'll need to install the E-1 software and Adobe Photoshop Elements2 (included with the E-1) onto your computer. Afterward, you can import the images to your computer.

When you want to transfer the images you've captured from your camera to your computer, you can do so in a couple of different ways. You can connect the camera directly to your computer using either a FireWire cable or USB cable (USB1 or USB2) (figure 41).

Figure 41

Figure 42

Another way is to use an Olympus USB Dual Slot SmartMedia/CompactFlash Reader is to copy images onto your computer through a USB card reader connection to your computer. This unit can be connected to any USB port (PC or Mac) even while the computer is on. On a Mac, you can even plug the Reader into the keyboard of the computer (figure 42).


Once you've transferred the images from your camera to your computer, you can use the E-1 software and Adobe Photoshop Elements2 to prepare them for print, email, or web posting.


Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex LiteDisc

Recommended Links

  • To learn more about Photoflex equipment, go to www.photoflex.com
  • For more tips and techniques on lighting and cameras, visit www.webphotoschool.com and sign
    up for access to the Member Lessons.

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