Hidden Functions in the Olympus E-M1

I’m finding that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has so many functions and features, and a few of them are not that easy to get to.  The critically important ones that most photographers use are very easy to find and change (when the camera is setup properly), things like ISO, Drive Mode, Metering, etc.  However, there are a few of the more esoteric, rarely used functions, that can be downright difficult to find and setup for use, so let’s take a look at some of these and how best to access them.

Most frequently used settings can be reached either directly with one of the buttons on the camera, in the Menu system, or by assigning it to one of the customizable buttons.  And the beauty of the E-M1 is that most of the customizable buttons are available for the same settings … it’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for you.  Be aware though, that a few of the functions are not directly available in the menus, and/or can only be assigned to specific buttons.

First, let’s consider the AF Stop mode.  It’s not something that many of us will use and , quite frankly, is almost duplicated by the S-AF+MF function where the camera slips into manual focus mode after acquiring focus, just as long as you keep the shutter half pressed.  AF Stop can only be assigned to one button, the Lens Fn Button, and few lenses have one.  The only two that I have experience with are the 12-50mm and the new 12-40mm Pro lenses.  Essentially, as long as this button is held down (if assigned to AF Stop), AF doesn’t function.

Here are a few more:
Electric Zoom can only be assigned to the Right or Down Buttons and only when the Arrow Pad is set to “Direct Function”.  When set and then pressed, it allows you to use the Up/Down Buttons to zoom a lens that has electric zoom like the 12-50mm lens does.

Mysets are setup in Shooting Menu 1, but then can only be used if assigned to one of the customizable Buttons (or a spot on the Mode Dial).

Multi Function is another one that can only be found when assigned to a Button, but is worthwhile because of its flexibility.  It gives you access to Highlight and Shadow Control, Color Creator, Magnify, and Aspect Ratio.  Highlight and Shadow control can only be found here and gives what is much like a tone curve graph to set the contrast of the image prior to the shot.  Color Creator is not only available here, but can be found in the Super Control Panel, and allows almost infinite control over the color tone and saturation in your photo.

Test Picture can only be used when assigned to a Button and basically does what it says.  It lets you take a “test” photo and view the result on the LCD, but does not save it your SD card.

DOF (depth of field) Preview:  We all know what it does and need to know that the only place to get it is when assigned to one of the camera’s buttons.

Underwater Photography isn’t something that a lot of us will use this camera for, but it’s a very nice feature for those who do.  And, of course, it must be assigned to a Button in order to be used.  First, it tries to optimize the camera settings for shooting underwater, plus it allows the kit flash (the FL-LM2) to fire while in the down position, and also lets you zoom a lens with electric zoom (12-50mm), with a button push … nice things to be able to do when your camera is locked inside a waterproof housing.

This has been a very basic introduction to these features, and if you’d like more information feel free to send me an email.  So I hope this helps a little bit in finding some of the “other” features that help make the E-M1 such an awesome camera.  If any of you have found other ones, be sure and leave a comment so the rest of us can figure it out, too.  🙂

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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:
http://thrumikesviewfinder.blogspot.com/2014/02/setting-up-olympus-om-d-e-m1-my-way.html

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.

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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”.
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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.