Customizing the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Update – Using the Power Battery Holder

NOTE:  If you’ve upgraded to the E-M1, my post about its setup is here:

This is the 2nd update to this post, so I hope it doesn’t become too confusing.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/Power Battery Holder (HLD-6)

I love the OM-D … it’s an awesome little camera.  Now, with the Power Battery Holder (PBH) on it, it’s even awesomer!  Bigger, but better.  In a nutshell, the PBH gives a better way to grip the camera with both normal and portrait (vertical) handgrips.  Plus, it allows you to add an extra battery, thereby doubling your shooting time, and it gives you two more customizable Fn (Function) Buttons.

The PBH comes in two pieces, the hand grip and a separate battery compartment which also has the vertical grip and Fn buttons.  Above, you can see the OM-D with both of them mounted.  Below, I’ve shown the camera and the two parts separated.

First you add the hand grip to the camera and that is actually my favorite way to use the PBH.  Personally, with the battery holder added it just makes the camera a bit too big and heavy for normal use.  But, when you need the extra power, it’s great.  Below, is the camera with just the hand grip and you can see that it really doesn’t add much height to the camera – only about 7/16″.  But what it does do for you is give you a terrific hand grip wrapped around the right front that has it’s own shutter button and front control dial.  It’s a feel much like the Nex-6 or Nex-7 if you’ve ever held one of those cameras, and it makes the camera very easy to carry.

Now, when you need that extra battery, you just add the battery holder to the bottom of the hand grip (unfortunately, it can’t be added to the camera without the hand grip).  Then, in addition to the extra battery, you’ve just added the vertical grip (with shutter button and front/rear control dials) for doing portrait work, and  two more Fn buttons, B-Fn1 and B-Fn2.  These buttons can be programmed to do totally different things from the other buttons on the camera.  I have mine set so that B-Fn1 moves my AF point to the home position, and B-Fn2 turns on the Digital Tele-converter.

Below, you can see the various controls on the battery holder.

The one switch we haven’t discussed yet is the “Lock” switch.  When in the Lock position, it locks out the Shutter and Fn Buttons on the battery holder to prevent accidental actuation.  And I might add that the shutter button rests directly against the meaty part of my palm so I accidentally actuate it fairly often.  I really, really wish though that Olympus would make it so that it ONLY locked out the shutter button so we could still have access to the two Fn Buttons down here.

Just a couple of more things to know about this:

  1. When it is attached, you must remove it to change the battery that is in the camera.
  2. However, you do have the ability to tell the camera which battery to use first.  So I set it to use the PBH battery first and then I can just change that battery when it gets low, keeping the internal battery in reserve.
This thing is fairly expensive at USD $299, so you have to either really want it or need it.  Plus, it does make the camera considerably larger in bulk and heavier as well.  So while it adds a lot of functionality, it does come with  some costs … monetary and carry-ability.

Previously posted information is below.


I recently had breakfast with a friend who also has the Olympus OM-D E-M5. We had a good time talking about our experiences using this great camera and sharing some of our own personal settings. As I was talking about the way I had customized the various buttons, it occurred to me that I rarely used the “Video” button which I had set to engage AEL. Instead of pointing the camera in a different direction, engaging AEL, and then reframing to take the shot, I find it so much easier to just look through the EVF and adjust the exposure to where I want it using the “Sub Dial” (the front dial that surrounds the shutter button).

So, I “re-purposed” the video button to engage Manual Focus, a setting that comes in very handy at times. I had previously set my autofocus to the S-AF+MF setting which allowed Single Autofocus with a Manual Focus override if I turned the focus ring on the lens. The problem with this for me was that it is just too sensitive. If I just brushed the Focus Ring, then the display would instantly zoom in (another setting I like for manual focus), requiring me to wait a few seconds for it to return to normal so I could compose the shot.
So now, my normal Focus mode is S-AF (Single Autofocus). However, if I feel the need to use Manual Focus (macro for instance), I merely push the video button to engage MF and then as soon as I turn the focus ring, the camera digitally zooms in for me (I usually use the 5x setting) so I can fine tune the focus before shooting. Then, one more push of the Video button puts me back in my normal Autofocus mode of S-Af.
I rarely shoot video, so this works well for me. If you frequently shoot video, then it may not be the best setting for you. That’s a part of the beauty of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 … there is so much flexibility in the way it’s various buttons can be customized so that it “works your way”.
The menus of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 present a deep, but well organized hierarchy of all the functions and settings that can be changed on this camera, and there are many. Some have written that it is too complicated, but my feeling is that this complexity is what allows us the ability and freedom to customize this camera to our own personal taste. So while it may take a bit of study to figure out exactly how to set it up to your liking, the end result is well worth it.
I’m not going to delve into all of the available settings, just the ones that affect the various, customizable buttons and make our lives as photographers easier.  So, let’s start on top:

I’ve set the Fn2 button as the “Home” button and it moves the AF point back to center which is where I use it about 90% of the time. This way, on those rare occasions when I move the AF point around the screen, it only takes one quick push of Fn2 to get it back to center.
I almost never take movies, so I’ve rededicated the “Record” button as my AEL button, and further customized it to use Spot Metering when AEL is invoked this way. Plus, I’ve set it so that it takes one push to set AEL and another push to deactivate it.

On the back of the camera, I’ve set the “Arrow Function” keys to Direct Function. The default setting for these arrow keys is to move the AF point around, but they are “hot” all the time and I kept inadvertently moving them with my thumb. The Direct Function setting allows me to use the Right Arrow to bring up the ISO menu for quick changes, and the Down Arrow to change the Drive Settings, which I frequently use. Also in Direct Function, the Left Arrow will activate the AF point selector so you can move the point around to any of the 35 points or select All Points which allows the camera to automatically select a point based on what it perceives in the photo. Lastly, the Up Arrow activates the ability to set Exposure Compensation using the arrow keys … but this is a waste for me since I always use the Front Dial for this.

The other change I’ve made back here is to the Fn1 Key which I set to activate “Myset1”. The E-M5 allows us to memorize 4 different sets of camera settings for different situations. So far, I’ve only set Myset1 to be used for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing).
Here are the other major settings that are called up when I press Fn1, activating Myset1:
  • Aperture Mode
  • ISO 200
  • Sequential High Speed (9 fps)
  • AEB set to bracket 5 images with 1 EV spacing between each one
This way, any time I get the opportunity to shoot an HDR (high dynamic range) image, I can push (and hold) Fn1, and fire off 5 quick bracketed shots. Then, as soon as I release Fn1, I’m back to my original settings.
Of course, all of these settings are easy to change so don’t feel like you have to get it set exactly right the first time. Go ahead, make some changes and experiment a little. Soon, you’ll figure out what works best for you.
Note to Olympus: I sure wish you would make the Fn1 Button cycle through the 4 Myset settings so we could easily jump from one to another instead of having to use the menus to choose the one we want. I think it would be much more useful this way.

Photography … Possibility … Acceptance … Creativity … Reality

I started life as a mere child … no, really, I did.  Sometimes (okay, often) my wife claims that not much has changed in that regard … but she loves me anyway. ☺

Sometimes, though, I think that a child’s curiosity, that lack of fear of trying the unknown, and open-minded acceptance of possibilities can be very helpful to us as photographers. Approaching photography with that mindset can allow us to experiment and not be afraid that “it can’t be done”, because most likely … it CAN be done. Or, we think “they” might not like it, whoever “they” are. The point is we have to put aside those questions of possibility and acceptance and just do it. If it’s really not possible well then at least we tried. If they don’t like it, so what. If I like what I’ve done, then the most important criteria has been met.

Our equipment is getting better and more capable all the time and software advances are giving us the tools to be able to stretch the boundaries of creativity, even distort reality if we want to. But isn’t that what “art” has been through the centuries? Creative people bending reality to their will in paintings, and sculptures, and even drawings on the walls of caves.

Plus the walls of communication are gone so that virtually any photographer anywhere in the world can almost instantly share a new image with anyone who is watching. Not only are these millions of photographers sharing images but they are adding to our pool of knowledge and technique and all of this is literally at our finger tips.

So, let go of those inhibitions, grab your camera, and get out there and be an “artist”.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 … Yes, I Like it!

I’m still amazed at all that this camera can do and how well it does it. Sure, I have a few little annoyances … okay, maybe a couple … but overall I just like it – a lot! Going forward, I won’t be attempting to do a professional review or any technical tests and comparisons. Almost everything here will be very subjective according to my personal tastes.

Today, I’m just going to post a few of the initial images and maybe a few comments about various features I’ve discovered, so far. Most of these images have had some light processing in Lightroom 4 since they were RAW files and needed a bit of contrast and saturation added.

Just for fun, this first photo was taken using the Key Line filter found in the Art Mode. One really cool thing the Art Mode can do is bracket all of the art filters available. Even if you’re using only RAW, once you’ve selected this and take the photo, the camera does in camera processing to give you a JPG of each art filter, plus you’ll still have the original unedited RAW file. It does take a few seconds to accomplish this so there will be a short “time-out” before you can take another shot.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200; Key Line Art Filter

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

 Here, the ISO starts to bump up, 2500, but still very clean at web sizes.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 2500

This image was taken at ISO 25600 and at this size looks fairly good. When “pixel-peeping” the full sized image, there is a lot of noise and noticeable loss of detail and it is certainly unsuitable for any kind of commercial printing. However, it is still VERY usable and when that once in a lifetime chance comes for a moon light shot of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, this could make you famous! 🙂

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 25600

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 6400

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 1600

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 800

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 8000

Next, I’d like to address a couple of the complaints I’ve read here and there on the internet.

  • Noise: There have been lots of comments about the noise from the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization). It’s mostly what I would call whisper quiet, a bit like a laptop fan on its lowest setting. Sure, you can hear it, but the only time I “notice” it, is when it stops – i.e. when I turn the camera off or it goes to sleep.
  • I’ve read a couple of complaints about how the right strap post is in the way and very uncomfortable. Maybe I just have the right sized hands, but I’ve never even noticed it.
  • Too Slow to Wake Up: One blogger complained that he missed shots because his E-M5 took too long to wake up. Frankly, I can’t even imagine that happening. From Sleep, it took about a second, maybe 1.5 seconds, for the camera to wake up, focus, and get the shot.
A couple of my favorite things:
  • IBIS – So far I’ve taken sharp photos with the Leica 25mm lens (50mm equiv.) at shutter speeds as low as 1/5 second. I think it is as good a stabilization as I’ve ever experienced and I’ve owned some pretty high end equipment.
  • Autofocus Speed – Olympus claims it is the world’s fastest autofocus (contrast detect I think) and I have no reason to doubt that claim. It is very fast and very accurate even in dim light on dark subjects. I’ve only seen it hunt one time and that was shooting a dark object in low light. Of course, a good Phase Detection AF system like you find on DSLR’s can out do it, but not by much. It’s a huge improvement over what I saw with the NEX-7 and Fuji X100.
Finally, I do have a complaint. I love the size and I’m still amazed at how much they have packed in to this small package. However, that small size does cause one problem for me. With the arrow keys set to move the focus point around, I find that my thumb pad is often inadvertently changing the focus point. Maybe there’s an elegant solution I just haven’t found yet – I hope so.
So, as you can tell, I LOVE this camera. It’s small and fast, looks fantastic, takes excellent images, and is fun! Now, it’s time to get back to taking pictures! 🙂

Finally – Got the Olympus OM-D E-M5!

It’s Beautiful! I got the black one – obviously. Color is all personal taste, and the all black model just appealed to me more, plus I think it makes it just a bit less obtrusive when shooting out in public. Some lenses are black and some are silver, so either color you choose is going to have some contrast depending on which lens you have mounted.

So far, I’m loving just about everything about the camera … it’s fast and responsive, takes very nice images, is extremely customizable, it’s small and light, and is just a joy to use.

Since I’ve only had it four days, I won’t go into any details about using the camera or image quality, but will have more about all of that, soon, so please come back.

Full Review of Olympus OM-D E-M5 Posted at DPReview! has finally posted its full review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

They have lots of good things to say including, “…the E_M5 is one of the best looking cameras we’ve encountered in some time.” (I agree.)

They go on to give the camera an 80% rating and their prestigious Gold Award: “The E-M5 is without question, the most accomplished Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve yet seen, and given how well established the system has become, it vies for the title of most capable mirrorless option yet.” Here, I think they are talking about it as a “system” and the established large number of lenses and other accessories that are available.

As usual, DPReview presents a great, unbiased, and thorough look at every nuance of the E-M5, pointing out its many strengths, a few weaknesses, and an in depth look at the possibilities.

So, go take a look. If you’re already committed, then you’ll feel even better about your decision. If you’re still on the fence, it just might knock you off – in favor of the E-M5. And if you’re not interested … well, then it still makes for good comparative reading.

Now, the BIG question ……… is Amazon going to come through with tomorrow’s delivery (to me), or continue to keep me frustrated? I’ll let you know.

NEW "Web Brochure" for the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus just launched a new website highlighting their new Olympus OM-D E-M5. (First, when you go, be sure to view it full screen to get the full effect.)

The only way I can think to describe it is that it is an interactive web brochure, done like no other website I’ve ever seen. As you scroll through it, various images slide across in different layers – it is very well done!

So, go take a look but be careful … it might lead you to a new camera! 🙂

Don’t forget – go here for more links to Olympus E-M5 reviews and information.

New Images Posted at Four Thirds User

Are you, like me, trying to figure out which lenses you might want with your new Olympus OM-D E-M5?
Well, here’s a great place to start: Four Thirds User (By the way, their sample camera came with the battery grip … it looks pretty good!)
They have posted a large sample of full-sized images, RAW and JPG, taken with several different lenses and over the full range of ISO possibilities. All were taken using the Olympus E-M5.
I think the biggest surprise for me was the quality of the photos taken with the 75-300mm lens. Here’s a lens giving you the equivalent of 150-600mm, yet weighing less than a pound and a bit smaller than a coke can – amazing!  From their images, it looks like, even at 300mm, it still produces nice sharp images with good contrast.