Olympus E-PL1 and ISO 100

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm
All images - Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm kit lens ISO 100

The base ISO for all the Olympus Pen m4/3 cameras is apparently 200. However up to the E-PL2 all of the cameras provide an ISO 100 option. Apparently what happens when you take an image at ISO 100 is that it is taken at ISO 200 and "pulled" back to ISO 100. 

There seems to be a view that this narrows dynamic range and that using ISO 200 is the "better" option.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm

However I've always used ISO 100, and one of my reasons for getting an E-PL1 again rather than an E-PL2 was because of this.

Why?

For my uses I've always found ISO 100 gives better results. The seemingly small step from 100 to 200 adds, I believe, luminance noise. The pictures appear slightly more "grainy". Images at ISO 100, if correctly exposed (more later) are much smoother and cleaner to my eyes, producing a better looking image. I also don't see any significant reduction in dynamic range again if correctly exposed.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm

As part of a general ongoing moan, about how many people who claim to be photographers don't seem bothered about doing things properly, the expectation that the "right camera" will just do everything for you is both naive and ridiculous. It seems to me that too many people just accept what comes out their camera. They seem to have neither the inclination nor the ability to put some thought into what they are doing. 

Exposure is a case in point. I rarely accept what a cameras meter is telling me, and in the case of m4/3, virtually never. All the Olympus and Panasonic cameras tend to overexpose as far as I'm concerned. (Not confined to m4/3 incidentally, both my Nikons also do it) I suppose its got something to do with all those years I spent shooting transparencies. For landscape photography particularly, punchy rich deep colour is the order of the day and overexposure can reduce a landscape photograph to a bland nothing. Add in to this the "problem" that digital capture tends to produce less contrast than film and you have the potential for producing pictures that lack impact.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm
In real world terms what this means is that I generally shoot with either -0.3 or -0.7 dialled in as exposure compensation. This then gives me a basic raw image that has the range of tones that I like and can then be processed in firstly ACR and then Photoshop to produce an image that has "punch", good colour and yet doesn't have blown highlights. This may require adjusting levels on part of the image rather than the whole thing.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm

So with care and thinking about the end result when I shoot, I'm able to get very high quality images from these cameras at ISO 100. Virtually noiseless, with no dynamic range problems and capable of being reproduced at large sizes.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm
Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm

Olympus Pen E-PL1 14-42mm

Fortunately the E-P3 is retaining 100 ISO as a manual option, which is good to see.