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A few things about the Olympus E-PL1

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Robert Watcher, May 11, 2010.

  1. I have been having just a great time taking my miniscule E-PL1 everywhere with me. As expected, the HD Video function has ended up to be a primary fuction of that camera for me. I fully expect to be expanding my photography offerings into that area (not wedding video however) over the next amount of time - and have no quams using the E-PL1 for that purpose.

    While I haven't even touched the surface of what I can do and what customized menu settings I will ultimately prefer - I have found a ways that I like to use the camera, as well figured out a strange annomoly related to using Video in Manual Expsoure Mode.

    Firstly I have to show these 2 pictures that I shot late last night while sitting at my desk. I have much experience as to how effective the image stabilization is with my E-3 and E-510 cameras - but was curious about the abilites of the more compact IS built into the Digital Pen line of cameras.

    I was shooting from a very stable position sitting on my armed chair and bracing myself for the downward shooting angle. The zoom lens was extended to the full 42mm (which should require about 1/80'th second without IS) and shot wide open f5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/8th to 1/10'th second at a 2000 ISO sensitivity.

    Here is a shot without image stabilization:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    And a shot with image stabilization and the IS1 setting:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    The unstabilized image as expected showed multiple images from the camera movement - while the stabilized image was fairly sharp. The included 250 pixel by 250 pixel Inset, is showing at 100% view and is a very small piece of the overall image, but gives an idea of the IS effectiveness.



    Yes there is a setting in the Movie Menu, that allows IS to be engaged. My first clue that the normal optical stabilization was NOT being used for video, was when I noitced that the Live View image on my LCD screen did not match that of what I saw when shooting still images. It was cropped in significantly. This was a sure sign that digital stabilization was being used just as happens in video editing software where software attempts to line up the different frames at the cost of some resolution, by working on a crop of th video. That isn't necessarily a bad thing - - - but I have ended up just turning IS off for much of my video shooting, particularly when shooting on a tripod. It is just a little unnerving framing my video to what I want and then having it shift when I push the red Movie button to begin recording.
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    For some strange reason I presumed that the dedicated Video Setting on the top dial was an automated mode like the Scene settings are. I was almost positive that I had used that mode and the camera took over - - - and so just forgot about using it up until yesterday.

    What I ended up using for my Video shooting, are the Aperture and Manual Exposure settings on the control dial. For the most part I have been using Aperture Priority and my common use of Minus Exposure Compensation to get the look that I want. It all appeared to be working as I expected.

    However when I went out to shoot some dusk video where I wanted to use Full Manual Exposure to darken the video down to what I was seeing on my LCD screen, I was in for a very frustrating surprise when the image on the screen brightened up after engaging the red video button to begin shooting. It was obvious that even though I was shooting in Manual exposure mode, the Video Exposure was being overridden and Auto Exposure was kicking in.

    I seriously began to wonder whether the E-PL1 could really provide full manual control in video mode.

    Well I laid in my bed yesterday afternoon and for some reason changed the top dial to the Movie Camera symbol - and this time I became aware that it was in this mode that I had full control over my exposure settings. And it appears that it is in this Mode only. Going back to the Manual Exposure (M) setting on the dial, I found that there is no way to have anything other than Auto Expsoure when shooting video.


    That was great - I had finally figured it out . . .

    . . . HOWEVER everything was not so sweet with this new way of recording. I have been playing with several lenses that do not provide auto focus and in fact with many of the projects that I have begun working on, I am focusing the Olympus kit zoom lens Manually.

    WELL - one of the most impressive focusing features of the E-PL1 for me, is the way that after setting MF Assist to ON in the Menu I am able to have a zoomed in image of what I am shooting - with just the slightest turn of the focus ring. It is an incredible way to find accurate focus, and is heavily used and depended upon in low light rooms where the AF struggles.

    SO WHAT I HAD BEEN DOING - being that the MF Assist ON works with still images and does not provide that magnified view in Video mode - - - I have been focusing in stills mode and then when I know that the focus is correct, I can start shooting the video knowing that all is good.

    MY BIG ISSUE NOW IS THAT when the video mode is set using the movie camera icon on the top dial so that I am able to shoot in full manual expsore settings, there is no way to zoom in to accurately focus. My nice easy solution to my difficulty in focusing on the screen, is now moot. And so I guess that I will just have to turn the dial over to the A or M or P or S mode to zoom in for Manual focus - and then spin the dial back to the movie mode. What a pain - but doable.


    As for what shutter speed to use while shooting video:

    I know as a photographer that the idea of having both a shutter speed and a frame rate, has been a little confusing. To me they both are doing the same thing and I have had a hard time getting my head around the concept. And then the whole 24fps "film look" concept comes into play and messes with my mind - making me think that they have to be correlated. I quickly figured out that 30fps is the same as 1/30'th of a second and can understand that - - - but then that must mean that the rest of the frame is empty or black. And so what is filling that frame and why doesn't the video become really choppy from the parts of the frame without information on it? I was kind of relating the effect to flash sync and the way that if the flash is too fast for the shutter, we only end up with a partially lit area of the frame or none.

    OF COURSE THAT COULD NOT BE THE CASE - and I think that yesterday I was able to come up with a rational that would make it easier for me (and maybe you) to figure out. I just came to the realization that they (shutter speed and video frame rate) are 2 different controls that have little to do with each other - unless the bottom end slowest shutter speed/frame rate of 1/30'th second/30fps is reached. I now picture each video frame as a still image and the shutter speed and aperture are controlling the exposure for that full frame just as it would when taking a still image - and then the camera moves to the next frame to expose the full frame properly - and on and on. HOW COULD IT BE SO EASY AS THAT - AND YET SO DIFFICULT FOR ME TO FIGURE OUT? I guess it's a little like my first years in photography where I was constantly getting the apertures backwards (you know what I'm talking about).

    NOW A COOL THING HAPPENED BY ACCIDENT - because of my inability to shoot in Manual Mode (up until yesterday) even though sometimes I was presuming that I was - - - I inadvertantly ended up shooting much of my low light and extreme footage at the slowest 1/30'th second shutter speed. I wasn't really aware of what I was doing - but did notice that I loved the look of footage when viewed on my widescreen HD TV. It had a natural - shall I say "film look" to it - - - that soon became evident to me, was a result of the blurring that was happening when the subjects moved. It is a highly desirable look to me. I don't particularly like the clean, sharp and what I might describe as "stroboscopic" Video Look that is easy to acheive when shooting with video instead of film.

    So when I went hunting around the web to find out what shutter speeds work best for a more natural look (now that I know the difference between shutter speed and frame rate) - I learned that the "standard frame rate" for video cameras that shoot at 30 fps, is 1/60'th second. This will provide an amply sharp image without introducing any stroboscopic effect. However that being the standard does not mean that it is the shutter speed that should be used for that film look we all aspire to with the larger sensor cameras. Indeed the best shutter speed to achieve that is the 1/30'th second that I acccidentally came across. It was also interesting to find out that 1/30'th second using a 30fps video camera is more desirable for that purpose than hunting around for a camera that shoots 24fps. It turns out that the only real advantage of shooting at 24fps is if the final output is conversion to film and so matches the films 24fps playing speed.

    One feature that would have been nice - and one that is on video capable cameras like the Canon T2i - - - is the ability to monitor what is being recorded, by connecting the HDMI cable to a compatable TV for a high quality image. But it appears that HDMI in the E-PL1 is one way and so only allows for playback. At least the AV cable does work for video recording monitoring - but at a lower resolution on any TV set.
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  3. A couple of settings that I really like:

    First and foremost is having the FN button set (in the Menu) so that a hit on that button provides me with instant Manual Focus, and a second hit takes me back to my preferred Auto Focus setting. This feature I believe is in the other Olympus E cameras - but not very useful as it is almost impossible to focus manually with them through the viewfinder.

    I have found myself using MF far more than I ever would with my DSLR camera - as a result of the ease at which accurate focus can be attained by looking at the Live View image on the LCD screen. And also being that I shoot so much of what I do in extreme lighting conditions, this quick flick back and forth between focus modes is a cinch and instantaneous without having to even look at my camera.

    I also have MF ASSIST turned to ON. While I can't maintain my image composition while focusing, the second that I have reached perfect focus and stopped turning the ring I am again able to refine the framing. This was a little unnerving at first, but now I don't even think about it.

    I really like the ease of shooting in the different exposure modes and making the changes on the camera body. For Aperture Priority - which I use mostly - all it takes is a tap on the upper button of the 4 pad controller, to activate the AE and then tap either up or down to change the aperture setting. By tapping to the left and right, plus or minus expsoure compensation is set. IT IS THAT EASY. When in the Manual or Shutter Speed priority modes, it changes a little with up and down being the shutter speed and left and right being the aperture changes. Kind of can't figure out why they would not keep it consistent - but oh well!

    The Art Filters are really cool and I like using them. While they function in video mode, the result will not be as expected. Slow video frame rates are used when shooting video with the Black and White Filter and a favorite of mine - the Diorama filter. It is virtually impossible (at least for me) to use the LCD screen or even view it in these modes as the image jumps from side to side and all over with a blur and a jerk. Best to just aim once and fire - better yet to only use the filters with Video when on a tripod. ALSO - a lot of shooting has to be done to get just a few seconds of video at the slow frame rates (I think it is around 5fps). BUT IT DOES WORK.

    THE KIT LENS CAP is small and hard to take off and on with it not reaching the edges of the lens when retracted (generally the position that I was removing and replacing it for the longest time). Then I realized that it was very easy to remove and replace the lens cap when the lens was fully extended. Again just an adjustment in workflow that needs to be made, but once learned is automatic.

    When using the built in flash, I press my finger on the arm of the flash in the same way that I do with my right hand when pressing the shutter button. Doing that tips back the flash head and allows for bounce light for a more appealing look.

    Using my Olympus FL-50R in RC mode works just as well as I expect on my E-3 body - - - certainly a welcome feature for off camera TTL flash use.

    OH - and the in-camera JPEG Edit feature is really easy to use and a great way to get pictures that may be underexposed a little or have red eye or that need cropped, aspect ratio changed, down sized for web use, black and white or sepia - - - processed. A new file containg the processed image, is quickly created without harming the original - - - and so could be passed on to someone right away WITH ALL OF THE FIXINS. I can't quite remember - but believe that this fuction works more smoothly than it did with my Nikon D40. Display the image > hit the START/OK button and then select JPEG EDIT and go to town. Rotate an image from in there - and even add a 30 second audio recording to the jpeg for notation.

    Also it is pretty cool that I can make up a little slideshow with built-in Music to show people - that plays both the sills and videos at customizable settings. Add the HDMI cable and connect to a wide screen HD TV and the show carries on in stellar quality, with the music being transmitted by means of the HDMI.
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  4. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 26, 2010
    Wow that's a lot of text. I'm going to add a few comments but there's always a possibility I mis read one of the posts above :redface:

    With the E-P1 (not entirely sure about the e-pl) in movie mode, you get 2 modes, P and A. (well technically you get the "art" modes too but we won't talk about those). So technically no, it's not just "auto", it's missing manual, but it's not as bad as just "iAuto".

    As for the frame rate v.s. shutter speed. It would be good to see some evidence that the frame rate changes the shutter speed. My guess is that it would have just been a fixes shutter speed regardless of the frame rate.

    If you were allowed to set M or S, the shutter speed may conflict with the frame rate so for me it's understandable that they would only allow A and not M nor S modes.
  5. simonclivehughes

    simonclivehughes Mu-43 Regular

    May 9, 2010
    Good stuff Rob, thanks for all the hard work.

  6. With the E-PL1 I can shoot Video in ALL MODES - by pressing the Dedicated Red Video Record Button. That includes P, A, S, M, AUTO, Art SCN and Movie Modes

    If I led you to believe that I think that the frame rate changes the shutter speed - - - then that is not what I was intending. I stated "that they (shutter speed and video frame rate) are 2 different controls that have little to do with each other". The only time the frame rate would dictate the shutter speed is if it reached the lower bound of 1/30'th second which is the longest duration of one video frame at the E-PL1's 30fps frame rate. of course olympus won't allow for a slower shutter speed than 1/30'th second in video mode, so it doesn't matter. You may have just read my first rambling on as to what I initially thought. Sorry to confuse! :biggrin:
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  7. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Nice report Rob. Thank You...
  8. RELATED TO THE "in-camera JPEG Edit feature" I mentioned in a previous reply . . .

    It was really cool to find out in another thread on this forum - that if you are a RAW shooter you can create a JPEG from your RAW file, right in camera (I wasn't aware because I don't shoot in RAW). That way there isn't always a need to save as both RAW and JPEG if you don't feel the need to. AS WELL, you have the option of applying any of the custom settings only available to JPEG images - such as White Balance, Black and White or any of the Art filters. That way there is no need to open the RAW files in Olympus software.

    OR it could be that you don't use Olympus Software, but love the look of the Art Filters - now you can create that look in camera from a specific RAW file after the fact (so that the choice doesn't have to made when shooting both RAW and JPEG) - - - and then you will have access to the processed file in Lightroom, Photoshop or whatever image editing program you use. That is a really sweet solution as far as I am concerned.

    THE PROCESS - after shooting your images with the RAW setting, you would need to click on the MENU button and go down to the right facing arrow (PLAY) icon which is the third one on the left side - then select "EDIT" and then "SEL. IMAGE". Find the RAW image that you want converted to a JPEG file and click the START/OK button on the cameras control pad. After a few seconds of processing, you will have both a RAW file and a processed JPEG file available in your camera. The method for applying say an ART FILTER to the processed file, is to make the camera settings as if you were going to shoot a JPEG image, and then go through the steps above. The new Jpeg file will have the filter applied. THAT IS PRETTY COOL.


    I TRIED IT - and it is very convenient as I ended up with several images on my camera, produced from the same RAW file. I have a straight Jpeg conversion, a Black and White file (from setting black and white in the MENU), a Diorama Art Filter file, a tungsten white balance setting for a cold blue look, and a 16x9 and also 6x6 aspect ratio file. If I were shooting something in RAW and wanted to give a friend a JPEG copy - and one with a different look to it - - - I could do it in camera and transfer the file to their computer or email it to them or print it for them.

    Some might view these features as unnessary amateur features, but I think that it makes my camera very versatile and helps eliminate my need to spend time in image editing programs just for every file. If I want to rip a web sized image off by email, in many cases it may be so much easier to just create the size I want in camera, transfer to my laptop and email it - - - than to have to find a program to resize that one image.

    Also when I am traveling to other countries and keeping up on my journals, websites and forums - the same process would allow sticking the memory card in the slot at a kiosk and uploading it, without having to figure out what editing software is available on the computer (if any). GOOD STUFF OLYMPUS !

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  9. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    Very nice work and good hints. You can read it in the manual but reading it here makes it much easier and usefull.

    Thank you.:thumbup:
  10. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    the "how to" for the E-PL1

    Robert this is a very, very helpful and detailed review! I think your thread's title doesn't quite do it justice. I'm going to subscribe to this so I can find my way back quickly.

    Thanks so much and you really should write a review, albeit a shorter version, for the Reviews section on the board - see that little Reviews tab up on the top right of the site? Click there and you'll see how it works.

    I really appreciate your taking the time to write all this!:bravo-009:
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