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18. External flash options
Right this very moment, the E-System provides three external flash options namely the FL-20, FL-36 and FL-50. In time the latter two will be replaced by the FL-36R and FL-50R where the ‘R’ refers to ‘remote’ to mean wireless operability. There are also the more specialised front lens mounted RF-11 ring flash and TF-22 twin flash units, which require the supplementary use of the FC-1 macro flash controller. These two are a good reminder of Olympus’ lead in macrophotography but you’re hardly ever going to want any of these unless you’re really into close-up shadowless flash photography.
More about the E-System macro flash systems
The Olympus E-System Flashphoto group comprises two key setup kits, namely the STF-22 and SRF-11 and both basically do not require you to hunt down the right parts to make the whole system work on your E-510.
The STF-22 is kit code for Olympus’ Twin Flash Set consisting of the TF-22 twin-flash unit, SR-1 shoe ring and the FC-1 macro flash controller. The SRF-11 on the other hand refers to a suite that is made up of the RF-11 ring-flash unit and the same FC-1 controller.
Other than the kit, you could need to get the FR-1 flash adaptor ring depending on the filter diameter size of the lens you wish to use the macro flash unit on. To power the FC-1 macro flash controller, Olympus offers the HV-1 high-voltage pack, which is also available as a setup kit called SHV-1. With SHV-1, you also get – apart from the HV-1 – the BN-1 nickel-metal hydride battery pack and the AC-2 AC adaptor as well as a shoulder-strapped carry case.
The FL-20 is a pocketable fix-head flash unit that many tend to dismiss but is actually an invaluable option for those who travel very lightly and need supplementary cover every now and then. The key advantage of the FL-20 is only appreciated by photojournalists who work in hostile environments and need to carry as little as possible. Rated at GN20, the FL-20 is both nifty and usable and should never be discounted.
The FL-36 and FL-50 are both bounce-head flash units that pack enough power for very versatile flash photography. With a tiltable swivel motorised zoom head, either unit has a very well controlled output with soft indirect quality that make them far more ideal for specialised applications like weddings. Although they can hardly replace proper professional studio lighting equipment, both of these units work extraordinarily well that it’s hard to understand how you cannot get your subjects looking good.
The forthcoming R-type units – the FL-36R and FL-50R – are originally developed to coincide with the release of the E-3 and they will supplant the non-R versions. While you will not be able to take advantage of their wireless capabilities just yet, it is possible that Olympus will in the future provide a firmware release in the future where the E-510 will be able to exploit. This is entirely viable because the E-510’s popup flash has the right sensor built-in that could be used to operate the FL-36R or FL-50R wirelessly.
Using the FL-50 with the E-510 as a hammerhead flash
The E-510 allows you to use the FL-50 off-camera as a remote hammerhead flash setup. To do this, you will need to get the FP-1 flash power grip. The FP-1 offers a 360o-adjustable hotshoe head where the FL-50 is mounted on, a right-handgrip and a support base that screws into the E-510’s tripod bush.
To interface the FP-1 to the E-510 via the latter’s hotshoe you will require the FL-CB02 off-camera bracket cable.
Using any FL-series flash unit off the camera
Olympus provides the FL-CB05 off-camera flash cable that can be used to position any of the available FL-series flash units remotely. In other words, you need not confine yourself to using the flash attached to the E-510’s hotshoe. Instead the cable attaches to the E-510’s hotshoe on one end and the flash unit’s shoe on the other.
Note: All mention of FL-series flash units for use with the E-510 does not include the Olympus FL-40, which is not part of the E-System.
The E-510’s maximum sync speed is 1/180 sec, which is nothing to get excited about especially when compared to the E-3’s 1/250 sec. However it is interesting to note that when you use it with Olympus’ older legacy T-series units such as the T-20 or T-32 the sync speed actually changes to 1/320 sec. Of course you lose all manner of automation with these older flash units but if you are adept at manual functionality, this might just be what you’re looking for.
Technical Data (external flash):
Activation and design type: External dedicated hotshoe; Distance coverage: GN20 (with FL-20), GN36 (with FL-36 or FL-36R) and GN50 (with FL-50 or FL-50R), measured in metres; Flash meter reading: TTL Auto FP, TTL Auto or TTL Manual depending on which FL-series unit used; Flash operation modes: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Slow Sync (Curtain #1), Slow Sync (Curtain #2), Slow Sync with red-eye reduction, Daylight Fill-in, Full Manual and Stepped Manual; Flash output adjustability: Up to ±2 EV adjustable in 1, ½ or â…“ steps; Flash sync speed: 1/180 sec when used with Olympus E-System FL-series unit, 1/320 sec when used with Olympus OM-System T-series, 1/4000 sec when used in Super-FP mode; Slave operability: Available
Just in case you’re not aware, your E-510 is yet another computer in disguise. There are processors and memory sub-systems built in that are just as vital for the camera’s operation as its bus architecture. And with this comes its ability to communicate with other external output devices such as a computer, LCD projector, television, storage device, printer, tripod, external flash unit and the Internet.
The E-510 basically comes with only three forms of externally-oriented connections namely the dedicated hotshoe, tripod bush and a multi-function USB port.
The hotshoe has the centred power contact and three sub-contacts that provide dedicated communications between the E-510 and supported flash units from the E-System’s FL-series. If you use a non-dedicated flash unit, you might want to be extra cautious because digital-SLRs like the E-510 now use trigger voltages that might not cope. If there’s a mismatch, you could cook the camera.
With the industry-standard tripod bush, you should have no problems fitting most tripods except those whose head designs are meant for larger format cameras. In fact if you intend to use Ownuser’s accessory battery grip with the E-510, this is the same bush that the former’s screw mount attaches to. Click here if you’re interested to read more about the non-Olympus battery grip.
By far the most interesting is the USB port because with the E-510’s I/O processor is intelligent enough to identify the external device and provide the right directions for you to follow via the LCD panel. Courtesy of the imager-based firmware, the E-510 offers four options that hint at what the USB connection is capable of bridging to namely Storage, MTP, Control and Easy Print.
In most cases, this is the option you’ll be familiarising yourself with as it allows your computer to define the E-510 as a storage device. This is also the mode to use if you wish to utilise the Olympus Master software program to communicate with the camera.
If your computer runs on Windows Vista, MTP – rather than Storage – will enable you to upload the images in the memory card without needing the Olympus Master program.
Rather than the Master version, the higher-end Olympus Studio software uses this mode to control the E-510 directly.
For direct-to-printer interfacing without the computer, the E-510 will print directly so long as the printer is PictBridge-compatible.
If the E-510 is connected to a PictBridge-compatible printer, ‘Custom’ offers user-configurable settings so you may print in the exact fashion you want.
Diagram 17: Brief explanation of the Olympus E-510’s USB detection modes
* Note: ‘Custom’ is also referred to as ‘Custom Print’
External flash: Dedicated on-camera non-removable hotshoe; Direct print output: PictBridge (DPOF) compliant USB 2.0; Image transfer: USB 2.0 High-Speed; Software remote operation: USB 2.0 High-Speed with Olympus Studio software; Direct display view output: PAL and NTSC auto-sensing certified Video Out via USB Multi-Connector; Wireless control: Optional RM-1 remote control; Firmware update: USB 2.0 High-Speed with supplied Olympus software program
20. System expandability
One’s ambitiousness to scale the E-510 to the heights of what the E-1 or E-3 can do best stops here. The E-510 was not designed as a pro-grade camera. Although you are quite able to get outstanding results with it, the expandability of the E-510’s design falls short in terms of how much you can accessorise it in the ways of pro-grade DSLRs like the E-1 and E-3.
The E-510 does not support the use of an auxiliary battery grip
Olympus does not provide heavy-duty power backup other than the option to use CR123A apart from the standard-issue BLM-1 lithium-ion battery
The E-510 does not provide the means to support FireWire connectivity for faster image transfer functions
The E-510’s focusing screen is fixed and no upgrades are available
The E-510 does not feature an FP/X/PC socket
None of these omissions should detract you from the fact that the E-510 does offer a system of accessories and options that you can still be party to. Other than all the Four-Thirds compatible lenses that Olympus, Sigma and Panasonic/Leica offer as well as the growing FL-series of flash units and accessories, there are a few upgrades you can consider.
BLM-1 lithium-ion battery
CR123A lithium-ion battery
LBH-1 lithium battery holder
BCM-1 lithium battery charger
BCM-2 lithium battery charger
HV-1 high-voltage pack
BN-1 NiMH battery pack for HV-1
AC-2 AC adaptor for HV-1
RM-1 cordless remote controller
RM-UC1 cord remote controller
Olympus Studio/Viewer advanced digital workflow application software
Olympus Master digital photo management application software
CS-3H semi-hard case type #1*
CS-5SH semi-hard case type #2*
Olympus camera bags
Olympus assorted shoulder straps*
Zuiko Digital Group
ED 7-14mm f4.0
ED 8mm f3.5 Fisheye
ED 11-22mm f2.8-3.5
ED 12-60mm f2.8-3.5 SWD
ED 14-35mm f2.0 SWD
ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6
ED 14-45mm f3.5-5.6**
ED 14-54mm f2.8-3.5
ED 17.5-45mm f3.5-5.6
ED 18-180mm f3.5-6.3
ED 35mm f3.5 Macro
ED 35-100mm f2.0
ED 40-150mm f4-5.6
ED 50mm f2.0 Macro
ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5
ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD
ED 90-250mm f2.8
ED 150mm f2.0
ED 300mm f2.8
FL-20 electronic fixed-head flash
FL-36 electronic bounce-head flash
FL-50 electronic bounce-head flash
FL-36R electronic wireless flash
FL-50R electronic wireless flash
RF-11 macro ring flash
TF-22 macro twin-flash
FR-1 flash adaptor ring
FC-1 macro flash controller
FP-1 power flash grip
FL-CB02 grip bracket cable
FL-CB05 off-camera flash cable
SR-1 shoe ring for TF-22
HV-1 high-voltage power pack
BN-1 NiMH battery pack for HV-1
AC-2 AC adaptor for HV-1
EP-5 standard rubberised eyecup
EP-6 optional rubberised eyecup
ME-1 magnifier-based eyecup
Diagram 18: The E-System accessories compatible for use with the Olympus E-510
Information accurate as at December 2007
21. Other interesting bits
From the day I took delivery of the E-510, I wasn’t entirely sure I would actually enjoy using it. The fact that I went for the E-510 merely underpins my understanding of Olympus camera design, their market-leading optical performance, tendency to produce accurate natural colours and as a long-serving user, it wasn’t a difficult choice to make.
It goes without saying that many would ask me why I did not go for the E-1 or wait for the E-3. The timing of my assignments, for one, prevented me from waiting as far as the E-3 was concerned. Being an outgoing model, I had long decided to forego the E-1 although it’s always tempting once I had it in my hands. And so the E-3 will have to wait till 2008.
There are things with the E-510 that could be better and I can say this with some authority now that I have pretty much tortured it beyond what most would expect any normal person to do. And I’m fairly sure that you won’t find many people who would have put it wrung it the way I have and I will continue to. By the same token, a closer study of the E-510, its market positioning and the ‘hidden’ potential points to some interesting observations:
Removable battery cover lid
Knowing it’s hinged is a blessing as you can actually have it removed but that’s the odd one you might want to spend some time musing over. When the lid is removable, it can only mean one thing – Olympus could well release a battery grip for the E-510 now that the E-3 is released. So hold your breath and see what 2008 brings.
On the odd occasion, the battery cover lid did fall off, which is a sign that the construction of the hinge is less than ideal. Granted that the E-510 is not designed to be as ‘heavy-duty’ as either the E-1 or E-3, Olympus could actually do better than that. This is one area where you can expect a running change to take place at some point along its production run.
Future flash options…
It’s always an interesting thing to speculate but here’s one that just won’t go away. Now that the E-3 has heralded the arrival of multi-channel wireless flash applications, the compact prosumer SP-560UZ has just received a firmware update that renders it wireless capable also.
And if that can happen, there is no reason why the E-510 cannot. Rather the question is whether or not Olympus feels comfortable enough to provide a similar firmware update for it. Time will tell.
No display sometimes
Sometimes when I wasn’t looking, a change of lens – dismounting one and mounting another – can render blank out the LCD display. As odd as this may sound it can be due to the mis-registration of the electrical contacts between the E-510 and those that belong to the lens.
By and large when you change lenses quickly enough, the seating between the lens and the camera body might not be optimised and this will happen. A simple thing to do if that occurs is to switch the E-510 off and back on again. When you’re on assignment, you might find that you don’t have the time to sit around and analyse what went wrong. The quicker and more painless approach was what I went for.
Using the built-in flash
On the rare occasion that I decided to use the built-in flash, I discovered to my horror that it’s not as straightforward to use as I’d thought. Set to Aperture-Priority with the built-in flash on Auto, the resulting exposures were nothing like what I’d expected compared to how much simpler and effortless it had always been with the OM-4 and T-32 TTL flash.
As humbling as it turned out for me, setting the E-510 to Program solved the problem. The exposures were spot on and I could breathe again.
Opting for the BLM-1 helps Olympus to position the E-510 as a somewhat system camera within the higher rung of its E-series DSLR range; something that the E-410 isn’t quite so. That gives you some idea as to how Olympus perceives the camera.
Therefore in the scheme of things, the E-510 makes a good secondary or backup working camera just behind the E-3. And even more interestingly, I strongly believe, with reason, that the E-510 will start a line of semi-serious DSLR models that will act in the same fashion, offering a very high level of performance but not beyond the budget of aspiring photographers who might find the E-x line-up a bit steep for them to climb to just yet.
Impressive battery life
According to CIPA, the BLM-1 lithium-ion battery can provide about 650 frames with the E-510 but beware because that figure does not take into account a mixed-use environment where you do have features like the LiveView, built-in flash and Image Stabilisation that are power hungry.
It’s prudent therefore to take ‘650 frames’ as a broad guideline and use it to plan before you head off to your assignments. Of the three features mentioned, the first two will easily lop off anything from 35% to 50% of the battery’s total capacity especially if you use either of them – or worse, both – relentlessly. Image Stabilisation isn’t far behind also as it will also chew through the battery power faster than you believe.
Battery type: Lithium-ion rechargeable in dedicated form factor; Battery name: Olympus BLM-1; Rated nominal voltage and capacity: 7.2 volts DC at 1,500mAH; Maximum frame capacity: Approximately 650 without use of LiveView, I.S. and/or built-in flash; Maximum discharge times: Approximately 500 times (vary with usage conditions); Battery size: About 39mm x 55mm x 21.5mm (1.5” x 2.2” x 0.8”); Battery weight: About 75g (0.2lb) without protective cover; Battery operating temperatures: 0oC to 40oC (32oF to 104oF) for charging, -10oC to 60oC (14oF to 140oF) for operation and -20oC to 35oC (-4oF to 95oF) for storage; Recommended battery charger: Olympus BCM-2 supplied with camera; Rated input: AC 100V to 240V (50/60Hz); Rated output: DC 8.35V at 400mA; Charging time: Approximately 5 hours at room temperature; Charger operating temperatures: 0oC to 40oC (32oF to 104oF) for operation and -20oC to 60oC (-4oF to 140oF) for storage; Charger size: Approximately 62mm x 83mm x 26mm (2.4” x 3.3” x 1.0”); Charger weight: Approximately 72g (0.2lb) without AC cable; Other power options: Olympus LBH-1 battery holder for CR123-type lithium-ion batteries
Calculating power requirements
If I have a three-hour assignment to cover, I begin my planning by understanding what the event is about. Therefore asking the client beforehand about the event makes a lot of sense. With that in mind, you should know roughly how many shots you are likely going to go through. For me I go through about 500 to 600 shots in a three-hour event.
Of these, my ratio of viewfinder-to-LiveView use is approximately 80:20 or 4:1. In other words, for every four shots, one might be LiveView. What you then do is to reduce 650 by 25% to get a more realistic shooting capacity for the BLM-1 battery. Fortunately I am not a user of flash and so I am relieved that I don’t have to factor that in.
On the other hand, I do have the E-510 permanently set to IS.1 mode, which I put to a further 10% power consumption. So all in all, I’m looking at a 35% hit on the battery performance. From a guide of 650, the resulting drop is 422. Since I’m expecting to shoot up to 600 frames in a three-hour assignment, I’ll obviously need to carry a spare BLM-1 with me.
The figures I’ve given here are estimates and by and large, they will vary between where I am and where you are. Environmental factors like working temperatures and humidity as well as atmospheric pressure will affect the final count.
22. Kit bundling
Regardless of where you’re located – well, almost everywhere – the E-510 will be available as a camera body or with a single or dual lens kit. Certain regions may well see the emergence of the earlier 17.5-45mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. This lens first saw light with the E-300 but largely went out of commission by the time the E-500 appeared. In these countries, the E-510 can be had with this lens. The value of having the 40-150mm as the second lens is without a doubt especially considering the marginal difference in the price between the single and dual-lens kits. On that basis alone, the latter kit makes so much more sense.
Other than the camera body, the E-510’s standard bundle includes the following:
E-510 camera body
Body cap; mounted
EP-5 rubberised eyecup
BCM-2 battery charger
Power cord for battery charger
BLM-1 lithium-ion battery pack
Olympus monogrammed broad camera shoulder strap
Plastic eyepiece cover; mounted
Hotshoe cover; mounted
No memory card provided
Body kit implementation
Olympus Master 2 software CD including installation guide
International Warranty Card for E-510 camera body
Proprietary USB 2.0 High-Speed connection cable
E-System Chart guide for E-510
Olympus Authorised Distributors List
E-510 Instruction Manual
Single/Dual Lens Kit
Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 ED
LC-58C front lens cap; mounted
LR-1 rear lens cap; mounted
LH-61C lens hood
International Warranty Card
Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f4-5.6 ED
LC-85C front lens cap; mounted
LR-1 rear lens cap; mounted
LH-61D lens hood
International Warranty Card
Diagram 19: Bundled items packaged with the Olympus E-510 in conjunction with its single or dual-lens kit
Information current as at December 2007 and may only apply to selected countries
Olympus Master 2: Not surprisingly Olympus does not mention support for operating systems other than Windows 2000 Professional, XP Home Edition, XP Professional, Vista as well as Mac OS-X (ver 10.3). Therefore if you use any flavour of Linux, UNIX and/or BeOS or even earlier Windows versions, you might be in a bit of a fix; International Warranty Cards: I recommend that when you are at the store, check the serial number stamped on the warranty card with the camera body and/or the lenses. Make sure they match before you pay and walk away; BLM-1 battery pack: The battery pack should have a plastic cover attached to its flat side; Eyepiece cover: This one is extraordinarily easy to lose and you’d struggle to find a replacement even if you intend to buy one. So keep it in a safe place; USB cable: If you misplace this cable, you might struggle to find a replacement because the one end of the cable that connects to the E-510 is not a common fit that you can easily track down; Hotshoe cover: I suggest that you keep this one in a safe place if you commonly use external flash units with the E-510 because it is very easy to lose.
Firmware update: Via Olympus Master 2 software with your computer connected to the Internet; Warranty: One-year international parts and labour, return to depot – for camera and lenses; Compliances: EXIF 2.2, PIM III (Print Image Matching), DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), DCF (Design rule for Camera File system), PictBridge; Working conditions: 0o to 40o C (32oF to 104oF) and 30% to 90% humidity; Storage Conditions: -20o to 60oC (-4oF to 140oF) and 10% to 90% humidity; Menu language support: Dependent on regional shipment