Making the Most of 8 Megapixels: Portrait Shoot With the Olympus E-500

What matters more, gear or creativity? For this camera challenge, I set out to do a portrait shoot with an 8-megapixel camera that is almost 20 years old. Yes, I am talking about the Olympus E-500. 

My husband has had this Olympus E-500 since 2005, when it was first released, and it was once his pride and joy, but as the world got consumed by 50- and 100-megapixel powerhouses, the little Olympus E-500 sat forgotten. For years, the Olympus E-500 sat gathering dust, stashed away on the shelf. I stumbled upon it while I was cleaning out a closet, and curiosity got the best of me. What could I create with a camera this old? 

I was genuinely surprised when I first picked it up to see that the battery worked and the camera still functioned properly. I thought I’d have to do a little rehab to it before being about to shoot with it, but two decades later, and the Olympus E-500 still has it. I wanted to challenge myself and see what it could do, but I also wanted to see if I could produce some decent creative portraits using very outdated gear.

For this shoot, I headed to a rocky spot along the James River in Richmond, Virginia with my model, Sarah. I really wanted to push the Olympus E-500, so I intentionally planned this shoot to have less-than-perfect lighting conditions. It was midday in the middle of the summer, so the sun was incredibly bright and harsh. I decided to embrace the bright sun by having my model climb on some of the giant rocks and shoot up at her for most of the shoot. This pushed the camera with an intense lighting situation and allowed me to create some surreal portraits. 

Image courtesy of Jada and David Parrish |

I primarily shoot in the studio these days, taking off-beat surreal portraits. I wanted to see how I could translate that same vibe in an outdoor setting using minimal equipment. I ended up really loving the feel of the Olympus E-500. There's something oddly satisfying about the E-500's compactness. It’s small and lightweight, making it a great camera to adventure with to outdoor locations. It only has three focus points, which took me a minute to adjust to at first, but it challenged me to get more creative with my compositions. Something about this camera just felt so nostalgic, and I really began to love the simplicity of it. Because the camera itself was so simple, it really freed up my mind to focus on experimenting with posing and playing with perspective, allowing me to create some interesting images. 

I had my doubts about shooting with an almost 20-year-old, 8-megapixel digital camera. However, overall, I was really pleased with the Olympus E-500. It might be outdated, but the camera still holds up well. With only 8 megapixels, my biggest concern was how the image quality would hold up. I was pleasantly surprised by that and think that the images could easily be printed at 16 x 20 without any issues, making it a great, affordable camera option for most beginner photographers.

Watch the video to see the full behind the scenes of the shoot and more about shooting with the Olympus E-500. 

Jada Parrish's picture

Jada is a photographer and director specializing in conceptual portraits. Her work is known for its bold, colorful, and surreal style. Her creative style of portraiture lends itself nicely to work in both fashion and the music industry. She is one half of the creative duo Jada + David.

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I still have my Olympus E500 and use it occasionally for fun...I have a Canon 6Dmkii and a Fuji XS-10 that are my main cameras but love the colours, contrast ratios and detail rendering of the old Olympus with the Kodak CCD sits near my door and I often pick it up when going for a walk around the neighbourhood...even with the kit lenses it does a good job.

If my old E510 and not developed problems, I would still use it sometimes.