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Art Filters

Olympus was the first manufacturer to offer in-camera processing filters with the E-30 DSLR back in 2008. The idea of these is to offer a range of pre-baked 'artistic' effects which the users can apply directly to images as they shoot without having to mess around in Photoshop after the event. The company hasn't rested on its laurels and has steadily developed the concept, expanding the available options and improving the camera's processing speed. Overall this means that the E-P3 offers probably the most comprehensive offering on the market in this regard.

The E-P3 now offers ten basic filters, several of which have multiple variants. They can also be combined with a range of 'effects', including 'white edge' which is sort-of like the pinhole filter, but with white rather than black vignetting, and starlight which mimics the effect of a cross-screen filter. The rollover below shows how these look - click here to see the same image processed normally, using the default 'Natural' Picture Mode. In the bottom row we're illustrating the various Effects in combination with the Pop Art I filter. Needless to say, not every filter works well with every image.

Pop Art I Pop Art II Soft Focus Pale&Light Color I Pale&Light Color II
Grainy Film I Grainy Film II Pin Hole I Pin Hole II Pin Hole II
Light Tone Diorama Cross Process Gentle Sepia Dramatic Tone
PA I + Soft Focus PA I + Pin Hole PA I + White Edge PA I + Frame PA I + Star Light

Variants and Effects

The full range of available variants and effects is detailed in the table below. Overall there's a huge array of options (by our reckoning, 53 in total), so even the most sceptical of owners is likely to find something here that they find appealing.

Filter
Variants
Effects
Art 1 - Pop Art I ( Lighter)
II ( Darker)
 • Soft Focus
 • Pin-Hole
 • White Edge
 • Frame
 • Star Light
Art 2 - Soft Focus n/a  • White Edge
 • Star Light
Art 3 - Pale&Light Color I (Cooler)
II (Warmer)
 • Pin-Hole
 • Soft Focus
 • Frame
 • White Edge
Art 4 - Light Tone n/a n/a
Art 5 - Grainy Film I (Higher Contrast)
II (Lower Contrast)
 • Pin-Hole
 • Frame
 • White Edge
Art 6 - Pin Hole I (Greenish)
II (Blueish)
III (Reddish)
 • Frame
Art 7 - Diorama n/a n/a
Art 8 - Cross Process n/a  • Pin-Hole
 • Frame
 • White Edge
Art 9 - Gentle Sepia n/a  • Pin-Hole
 • Frame
 • White Edge
Art 10 - Dramatic Tone n/a  • Frame
 • Star Light
 • White Edge

Shooting with Art Filters

The EP-3 offers two ways of shooting with Art Filters. The simpler is to switch the mode dial to the ART position - you can then select the filter you wish to use by pressing the OK button, with the 'right' key of the 4-way controller providing access to the variants and effects. The filter is previewed live in real time; you can select from two preview modes in the Custom menu, one of which prioritizes preview accuracy over frame rate, and the other vice versa.

In the ART position the E-P3 essentially works in program exposure mode, allowing both exposure compensation and program shift via the control dials. You get full control over all of the camera's settings, and can record raw files if you choose (handy if you later decide that an image would look better with different processing).

Art Filters are also available in the PASM exposure modes, in this case under the guise of Picture Modes. They can be set very quickly using the Super Control Panel, but you can't tweak the settings from here - to change the effect you have to go through the menu system (Shooting Menu 1), which involves a lot more button pressing.

It's also possible to apply Art Filters to raw files, using either the in-camera raw processing, or the supplied Olympus Viewer 2 or [ib] software. With the former you can even apply multiple effects at the same time.

This image was originally shot in aperture priority mode. It has a certain interest, but needs a bit more work to add impact. Using Olympus Viewer 2, the raw file was reprocessed using Pop Art II in combination with the Pinhole and Frame effects. This accentuates its graphic qualities with just a couple of clicks.

Art Filters and Movie Mode

It's possible to record movies using art filters, but some limitations apply for those which require more extensive processing. Using the Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pinhole, Cross Process or Dramatic Tone filters, movies are recorded at a reduced frame rate, and then played-back in real time in what can be a visibly jerky fashion. The precise frame rate varies between filters, ranging from 15fps for Cross Process, through 6fps for Soft Focus, Grainy Film, and Dramatic Tone, to just 2fps for Pinhole.

In Diorama mode, the camera records at about 2fps but without sound, and then plays back the movie back sped-up to 15fps. This is surprisingly effective, giving something resembling a stop-motion animation. But it really does demand the use of a tripod for best results, as speeding up the playback really accentuates the inevitable movement you get between frames when shooting hand-held.

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