Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Friday, July 09, 2010

I learned my Olympus E620 – using the Manual!

This doesn't apply specifically to the Triangle region of NC, but I had no other of my blogs to put it, so, here's to reading the manual!

There's a tired old expression, "When in doubt, read the manual." I was of the type who would say," Well let me try this first …" before opening the manual. However, I knew that the Olympus Instruction Manual would be of great value in order to master this "newfangled contraption" of DSLR. Here's how I learned my Olympus E-620 - using the manual!

As did many others, I too came to DSLR from the OM film camera days. I didn't need to learn the dynamics of shutter speed priority, F-stops or backlighting, - I needed information specific to my DSLR.

When my new Olympus E-620 arrived, and while the battery was charging, I started familiarizing myself with the overall layout of the manual so I would know how to get to the correct section when I would need it.

While holding the manual in one hand and the camera in the other, I located and identified the various external controls. I had no idea what many of them did, ("I wonder what IS is,") but I practiced "pushing the buttons and turning the wheels" anyway.

Once the fresh battery was installed, I did all the preliminary tasks, (loaded the card, set the time/date, etc,) shot and viewed the first few photos, deleted them - you know, the basic stuff.

Then I casually perused the manual to find out what individual controls did. I'd look at a button on the camera, oh, let's say the 'flash' button, flip to the page cross-referenced from the parts and functions chart, and briefly scan to get a "look and feel" of the chapter when time came for me to study it more closely. I wasn't there to learn yet, just to walk the hallways and peek into the classrooms.

I'd select another button, say ISO. I remember using ISO, (I believe they called it ASA,) for the film camera, so I jumped to the ISO section, skimmed over it, and said to myself, "I think I'm going to enjoy DSLR."

Upon browsing the instructions for the AEL/AFL button, I said, "Uhhh … I think its time to move on to the viewfinder." Basically I performed the same steps for all the major areas of the camera: locate - scan the manual - move on, with the viewfinder, the Super Control Panel, the menu structure, etc, just to see what I was in for.

Once my high-level overview was completed and a bunch of test shots were taken, I was ready to dig down and deep into the manual to get a more comprehensive understanding of the controls. As I became more comfortable using the camera for common tasks, I studied the manual on some of the less familiar functions.

Eventually it was time to attempt/practice some of those features that were new to me to see if I understood how they worked. I must have taken about 68 pictures of my stocking feet and the back of a chair while learning things like white balance, live view, navigating, setting and testing menu options, etc.

Outdoors, when I saw incidents that would make good practice for certain camera settings, let's say C-AF or maybe sequential shooting, I'd see how rapidly I could setup and take the shots. I might end up with a bunch of photos of the neighbor's dog coming to lick my face or the passing of a stranger's SUV, but at least I was practicing.

Today, I'm surprised at the agility with which I can navigate the controls on this camera - it's starting to feel like an extension of my hand. I still make mistakes though, like pressing the 'drive' button instead of 'flash' and missing the baby kissing the dog, but you can't get them all. And as can be expected, I still return to the manual many times to better my understanding of certain functions.

Of course, the Olympus Owner's Manual isn't the epitome of perfection and clarity. When certain topics just didn't make sense, I located and began asking questions on Olympus forums. Also from the forums came pointers to a bunch of sites that had reviews and/or further explanations of the camera. Sometimes the aggregation of three or four different references helped me grasp concepts I just wasn't getting. (So THAT'S how to use that button!)

I've had the camera for only a few months, but the manual already looks tattered. In my opinion, (having formerly been a technical writer,) the Olympus E-620 manual was very well written, illustrated, cross-referenced and organized for as complex a product (for me) as is this DSLR. Anyway the point of all this, as mentioned by several forum members, is that "it's all in the manual!" I can only add, "And while you're studying the manual, practice, practice, practice!!

That's how I learned how to use my Olympus DSLR - by using the manual!



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