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The Olympus EVOLT E-300, a true digital SLR with interchangeable "Digital Specific Lenses", is just the camera many amateur photographers have been waiting for. Made of polycarbonate with an aluminum chassis, it feels and shoots just like a film camera, yet it runs on several mini computers and each Olympus Zuiko Lens also has its own “Smart” mini computer built in. It uses a Full Frame Transfer "progressive scan" 8.0 megapixel CCD imager that is cleaner (noise in shadows is virtually non-existent), faster and more efficient than other types of CCD imagers.

(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 12" Translucent
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" White/Gold


In this lesson, we examine the basic features of the Olympus EVOLT E-300 digital camera, its removable Zuiko Digital "Smart Lenses", an additional Power Battery Holder and rechargeable Lithium Ion battery (larger than the included battery, and highly recommended), and some basic lighting tips for taking outdoor portraits.



The EVOLT E-300 comes with a rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (BLM-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


To install the Li-Ion Battery Pack to the EVOLT body, follow the steps illustrated below (figures 2-5).


The EVOLT E-300 is just like a traditional SLR in that it allows you to use interchangeable lenses. Yet, the EVOLT 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 and install the 14-45mm Zoom Lens included with the EVOLT package.

To remove a lens from the EVOLT E-300 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 & 8). Olympus recommends turning the camera off to remove and attach the lens.

Figure 8

The lens is now safe to remove and store (figure 8).


To re-attach the lens 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 (figures 9, 10 & 11). Olympus recommends turning the camera off to remove and attach the lens.


Figure 11

The lens is now installed and the camera is ready to shoot.


Once the lens is attached, use the Zoom ring to zoom in or out (figures 12 & 13).


Powering up the Camera

Now that we have installed the batteries, the media card, and a lens, we are ready to power up the camera. The power switch is found on the top of the camera to the right and just under the Mode Dial (figure 14).

Figure 14

There are four focus modes in the EVOLT E-300: Single Auto-Focus (S), Continuous Auto-Focus (C), Manual Focus (MF)and Single Auto-Focus (S)+ 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 15

To select Manual Focus mode, simply press the AF button and turn the main dial to the manual focus setting. To set the camera to any of the other focus modes, follow the same steps (figure 15).


Note: when the Focus mode is set to either of the Auto-Focus modes (S or C), the outer focus ring is disabled.


The EVOLT accommodates either CompactFlash cards or Microdrives up to and above 4GB to store and transfer images shot with 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 16-21).

We will use a 1GB Lexar Compact Flash card in this lesson. Using this size card allows you to store 42 images in the TIFF mode, 159 in the SHQ mode, 507 in the HQ mode, and 2860 in the SQ mode. The Compact Flash cards are presently offered in sizes up to 8GB.

In the next section of this lesson we will introduce you to the settings for the different recording modes of the EVOLT E-300.

Figure 18

Figure 21

Now that we have installed the media card, the camera is ready to start recording images.

The EVOLT E-300 offers a variety of Record mode settings that ascend in both image size and quality. They are:


SQ Standard Quality - a flexible JPEG setting ideal for web quality images at 640 x 480 pixels to 3200 x2400 pixel files for printing. This is the only quality mode in which the number of pixels and the level of compression can be adjusted. Offers the greatest number of shots in the burst mode.



HQ High Quality - a Full Quality Resolution JPEG with higher compression good for print quality images. This setting offers the maximum pixel count with high or medium compression.



SHQ Super High Quality - the least compressed JPEG format, great for 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, these files can be displayed with the Olympus "Master" or "Studio" software. Other optional software can also display the .orf files.



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 512 MB CompactFlash card at various Record modes.


Photos per Memory Card

Photos per Memory Card


If you prefer to shoot in either TIFF or RAW modes, we recommend purchasing larger CompactFlash cards (256MB+) or Microdrive. The largest CompactFlash card to date is 8GB.

The following figures show the steps to select the resolution settings for the EVOLT E-300, and the approximate number of images you can store on a 1GB Compact Flash card at the selected setting (figures 22-29).


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 tradeoff 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 or the digital equivalent to "grain".

The magnified images below (taken with a 4MP camera) illustrate the effects of different ISO settings. Note that the EVOLT E-300 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 30).

Figure 30


The shipping default ISO setting in the EVOLT E-300 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 press the ISO button and turn the Main dial until the desired ISO setting is displayed (figures 31 & 32).



Among the ISO settings are -A- (Auto: 100 to 400), 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. In the EVOLT E-300 Menus, the ISO Boost can expand to ISO 3200 for very low light conditions.


The EVOLT 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 at 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, 3600K, 4000K, 4500K, 5300K (Daylight), 6000K, 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.

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 EVOLT are 3000K and 3600K 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 5300K, or have the built-in flash activated (calibrated to 5300K) you can set the White Balance to 5300K to match it (figures 33 & 34).

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 35).

Figure 35


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 pressing the INFO button and turning Main Dial to select the desired aperture (figures 36 & 37).



You can adjust your shutter speed in the Manual mode by pressing the INFO button, then the +/- button to highlight the shutter speed setting. Then turn the Main Dial until the desired shutter speed appears in the control panel (figures 38 & 39).




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 40 & 41).



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 42 & 43).



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 44 & 45).



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.




In order to download your new images onto your computer to manipulate, email, or print them, you'll need to install the Olympus Master Editing software (included with the EVOLT E-300) 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 the USB 2.0 cable (included with the EVOLT E-300) (figure 46 - 49).


Figure 50

Another way is to use an USB CompactFlash Reader is to copy images onto your computer through a USB 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 50).


Once you've transferred the images from your camera to your computer, you can use the provided Olympus Master software or optional software like Adobe Photoshop Elements 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 12" Translucent
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" White/Gold

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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