At least for me, the concept of “real photography” was something I became interested in a couple years ago. I started to wonder what made the difference between snapshots and photos people would want to hang on their wall. So I asked around through my 3D graphics forums and someone recommended I start with a Olympus E-PL1. It is rather inexpensive, and the basic lens it comes with, (they call them “kit lenses”) was actually quite sufficient. The best deal I found for this camera was at a store in New York called Cameta Camera. They worked with me to make sure everything was to my satisfaction. If they are sold out just give them a call to see when they expect their next shipment. There may be better cameras out there for beginners, but this is the one I started with, so I thought I would share my thoughts on it.
I was rather impressed by the Olympus E-PL1’s ability to capture skin tones among other things. It is great for closeups of non-fast-moving subjects, but because it is a bit slow to focus I didn’t have much luck shooting birds with it.
Here is one exception. I used a rather large lens on my tiny Olympus to get this shot. Feels a little awkward when the lens is bigger/heavier than the camera so I wouldn’t generally recommend such a setup unless you really don’t care about the imbalance.
To get started taking shots with no knowledge, you can set the knob on top to iAuto (full automatic), but I don’t like that setting because it triggers the flash (if the flash has been extended) when it feels necessary. On Canon models full auto will even forcibly pop up the flash (at least is does on mine). Luckily that won’t happen on the Olympus. Next, there is P mode. I like to think of P mode as “semi-automatic” since it works almost the same way as iAuto but does not trigger the flash unless you manually told the camera to use flash. It also does not change the “ISO” which iAuto does. “ISO” comes from the film days where different film responded to light with different speeds. A high ISO of let’s say 1600 would be good for nighttime shots, whereas a low ISO like 200 would be good for daylight. One problem with high ISO is a sort of noisy/grainy look. This comes about because the camera is trying to “fill in the blanks” or “see in the dark” and has to guess what is there based on what it can see. So for me, I don’t like to raise the ISO more than I have to, but setting ISO is beyond the scope of this article. Also note that some photographers can use that grainy look to their advantage to give their images a certain atmosphere.
As a beginner if you want to use flash and don’t want to learn all the details yet, you can start by simply switching to iAuto (with the flash physically extended) and switch to P mode when you don’t feel like flash.
Thanks for reading!