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EP-3 Focus

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by MexicoMik, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    My first time on the forum..

    Well…I loved my EP3 for the first week but I have noticed that sometimes when it focus locks, the subject is actually not in focus. I use the center sensor and I have found that outside in good light, focusing on the same object at the same range, sometimes the subject it incredibly sharp and sometimes it is quite soft.

    I can’t come up with why this is happening. Yesterday I was outside and I was using the 45mm Oly F1.8 in aperture priority, each shot was at the same F1.8 setting, IS is off, shutter speed around 1/1000, etc. I shot some pics of a garden gnome (no, not a real one, a statue!) from about 5 feet distance. Some of the pics show every pore/crack in the concrete and are sharp enough to cut you; some of them look like they were intentionally shot with very soft focus.

    Can’t figure it out but I have gone from thinking the EP3 is really great to wondering if it should go on ebay and I’ll go back to my Nikon DSLR that I was glad to no longer be carrying around.

    Any thoughts? I really like the camera's size/feel/etc but I can't deal with focus inconsistencies that appear to be happening. I'm perfectly happy to find that it's somehow user error but I don't see that at the moment... :(
     
  2. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Try using the Magnifier button, hit INFO, and reduce the size of the AF box (greater magnification, like 14x). Try the AF with that new AF box active (don't exit the magnifier) and see if it's any better.

    It might be that your AF area is too large and you're picking up on something else within the area besides what you want.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  3. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    989
    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Our cameras use contrast detect autofocus, and they aren't prone to focus errors like your and my Nikon DSLRs. Spot-on focus is one of the large draws of this system. If you're having mis-focus, then either something is wrong with the camera or lens, or you're using it incorrectly. How large is the focus area? Could it be that perhaps you're letting the camera focus on something besides your intended subject?
     
  4. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    The focus area I am using is the standard single box in the center of the "array." I was not aware that there is a way to make the focus area itself smaller. Changing the metering pattern does not seem to make any difference - and I would not expect it to but I tried spot/center/matrix (or whatever Oly calls it) with no difference. I tried the magnifier but, unless I'm doing it wrong, it is very difficult to use, with the image jumping all over the place.

    I have to admit that after a week I still have not quite figured out how to access all the options in the menu. Some of the settings I want are in areas of the menu that I would never have suspected had I not done some internet searches. The manual seems - to me, at least - rather difficult to follow on some topics.

    I just tried a few more shots and the same thing...some are as sharp as I could want; others just...aren't. This is with the 45mm lens. I haven't really tried the 12mm for this purpose since I figured focussing for a 12 (24) isn't much of a challenge.

    The 14/42 lens at it's best looks like the 45 at its softest. I'm sure that, as noted, what's happening is that the lens is locking on something other than what's in the center of the focus box but I can't figure out why that's happening. HOWEVER, when I get the soft focus I can't find some other portion of the pic that's sharp. I would expect SOME part of the scene to be in focus if the camera is locking onto something other than what I thought it would.
     
  5. AZK9lover

    AZK9lover Mu-43 Regular

    70
    Dec 25, 2010
    AZ, USA
    Stan
    I was just researching the E-P3 the other day and came across this review, which seems to describe what you may be observing. I'm not sure how widespread this issue is, since the review and your post were the only times I read about the focus issue. But if it's more widespread that we think, perhaps a firmware update is in order or in the works?

    Olympus E-P3: Performance

    Stan
     
  6. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    Thanks Stan,

    Yep, I'd say that exactly fits the symptoms I've been experiencing.

    Wish I had seen that before I bought the camera. The quick/accurate focus per other reviews were a principle reason I bought it over cameras with more "current" sensors. Very disappointing. :(
     
  7. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Using the Magnify button as I described will allow you to change the size of the focus box. The default size by picking a point from the grid however, should be around 10x on the E-P3, which is fairly small (some of the old PENs were 7x default, which sucked). The next smaller size is 14x, which can be accessed by using the Magnify button to pick your AF area (you don't need to magnify anything, you just need to have the green magnification box active).
     
  8. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    What is your firmware version? There have been other initial production errors in these new PENs which have been fixed by updating your firmware. The IBIS problem on my E-PM1 was fixed that way.
     
  9. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I'd like to try that but maybe I'm not understanding...

    When I hit the magnifier once, I see the green rectangular focus rectangle constantly visible in the center of the screen. If I hit Info, nothing happens to that square. If I hit magnify again, then the square disappears and the screen zooms to 5X.

    If I go to my normal setup, I see a smaller green center square but only when I press the shutter half way. The green square pops up when focus is locked (even though I sometimes get out of focus shots).

    As I said in my previous post, it appears from that review that stan posted, that this may be a firmware issue since the description in the review is exactly what I'm seeing. My camera has version 1.1 of Firmware which, as I understand, is the current version.
     
  10. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    OOPS - just discovered that 1.2 is current; I'll download that and experiment further...
     
  11. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Yup, I was going to say you should be at v1.2. ;) Regarding the Magnifier, after you hit INFO you have to turn the dial to get it to change from 5x to 7x to 10x to 14x. If you were on 5x, that is a very large focus square and could easily be capturing too much. But of course, that shouldn't affect the focus when picking dfrom the grid.
     
  12. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I loaded the latest firmware and then put the camera on a table (don't have a tripod with me). It seemed to be improved to some extent - If I shot that same gnome from the same distance (10 shots) they all looked equally good - the head of the gnome filled the center focus square.

    But iI shot a small tree trunk, about 4" in diameter, with the trunk dead centered in the focus square, but occupying about 1/2 the square. Some of the shots had the trunk perfectly focused - as I would expect - and others had trunk very soft and the leaves behind the trunk in focus. Again, this was in aperture mode and no changes to any settings, using a single center focus square. So it seems as if there is considerable "slop" within the focus square as to what the camera actually locks on. Since the camera/subject did not move from shot to shot, it seems to me that something in the system randomly picked what to focus upon within the square.

    I'm traveling at the moment. When I get home I'll do more "scientific" testing with a tripod and see if I can figure out exactly what's happening. It could be a camera defect I guess... :(
     
  13. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    Sounds that way. You're using S-AF, not C-AF or C-AF + TR right?

    DH
     
  14. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    "Sounds that way. You're using S-AF, not C-AF or C-AF + TR right?"

    Yes - S-AF. But as I said earlier, there's enough stuff in the menus that makes it entirely possible the I'm missing something setting-wise. It was an Ebay-camera (packaging/camera looked brand new). So it had a previous users settings. But I did a reset and then went through the menus with the book (and internet searches) to try to ensure I had stuff set as I wanted.

    Maybe he put it on Ebay because it wasn't focusing properly! ;)
     
  15. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I did a test on a tripod with the 45mm lens. I shot 10 pics - same settings/same subject. Between each shot I put my hand in front of the lens and pressed the shutter button half way so it would re-focus on my hand. Then I moved my hand and refocused/shot the subject.

    Sure enough, there was considerable variation is sharpness from shot to shot and no consistency of any kind that I could discover. Of the 10, only 4 were extremely sharp. The rest were a bit soft.

    Frankly, I'm trying to decide whether to put JUST the camera/VF3 on Ebay or give up on the whole 4/3 thing and sell my 12 and 45 as well...

    I'm very disappointed. Fortunately, I didn't sell my DSLR/lenses...
     
  16. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    989
    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Did you buy the camera new? Really, 98% of errors are caused by misuse of the equipment, but there is always the chance that there is something genuinely wrong with your camera. PEN cameras have more accurate focus than SLRs for static subjects, because they use contrast detect AF and are therefore not subject to mis-calibrations that SLRs have. Without being there, it's hard to diagnose anything decisively. When you say that they were a bit soft, is it because the camera is front-focused or backfocused?
     
  17. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    MORE info...and the DISCOVERY!!!! :)

    In checking the metadata on the computer I found that the pics varied ISO. The camera was set to ISO AUTO and the light was good so why the camera would decide to change the ISO, I have no idea. The light didn't change and all the pics were shot within seconds of each other. The camera randomly chose 3 different ISO settings for no reason I could figure out - 200, 400, and 800. Again, there didn't seem to be any reason for the ISO to change...but it did. I didn't actually look at that in the viewfinder when making the shots.

    SO - I reshot the test with a fixed USO of 200 and this time all pics were equally sharp.

    My conclusion is that auto ISO is a bit flaky so I'll just leave it on 200 and let it go at that. If I need something faster, I'll manually set it.

    WHEW! I'm now a (fairly) happy guy!

    Thanks for the comments/suggestions.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. elj4176

    elj4176 Mu-43 Regular

    70
    Mar 23, 2012
    You may want to add the super control panel. I gives you a lot of control in one button press. I can't remember off-hand how to activate it but if you search here you will find it.

    I've been having trouble with my E-P3 locking in focus and pics being soft as well. What I found to help was switching to AF+MF focus. The AF seems to always be off a little bit.
     
  19. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    If you don't see the Sprockets menu in Setup, then first go to Setup => Wrench => Menu Display and turn the Sprockets ON.
    Then go to Setup => Sprockets => Disp/PC => Control Settings and for every mode turn Live Guide and Live Control to OFF, then turn SCP (Super Control Panel) to ON in every mode.
    When you return to shooting, you will then be able to press OK and get a one-screen quick menu of all your essential shooting options. If another menu pops up (ie, like Remote Commander, Art, or Scene menus) then just press INFO and it'll cycle you back to SCP.

    Another important thing to do on all new generation PENs is to go into Setup => Sprockets => Color/WB => Keep Warm Colors and turn that OFF. As long as you leave that off, then your camera can automatically adjust for indoor lighting and you won't need to resort to the incandescent or fluorescent presets.
     
  20. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I discovered to day that despite it's very quick AF, my EP3 didn't lock very well on a moving subject. I should say that it locks fine but it was extremely out of focus. I was shooting some pics of my wife on her new motorcycle with the 45mm 1.8 and only the stationary shots were sharp. All of the shots of her moving were out even though the camera locked/fired and the focus square when called up in "Aperture" shows the focus point exactly where I intended it but the focus point in the pic is totally out of focus.

    She was riding toward me down the block at maybe 25 MPH but all the shots of her in motion are badly out of focus.

    I'm back to wondering...my Nikon D doesn't miss those shots. :( Am I expecting too much - is this one of the downsides of having a much smaller/lighter camera?