Setting Up the Olympus OM-D E-M1 – My Way

This is a rewrite of an earlier post I did months ago about setting up the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

I’ve updated the section on the Arrow Pad settings to reflect how I’ve changed the Lever settings.

The menus of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 provide a deep, but fairly well organized hierarchy of almost all of the functions and settings that can be changed on this camera, and there are many. Some of you may feel that it is too complicated, but I think this complexity is what allows us the ability and freedom to customize this camera to our own personal taste, and that is where much of its power derives.  So while it may take a while to figure out exactly how to set it up to your liking, it’s worth the effort.

I won’t go into all of the available settings, but will cover mainly just the ones that affect the various, customizable buttons that make using the E-M1 a bit easier and faster.  So here are the buttons with my settings and reasoning for it.  It’s been said many times that “opinions are like noses” and everybody has one, so I’d be amazed if any of you set your camera exactly like I set mine … these are just a few of the possibilities.  (Speaking of which, how about one of you math whizzes telling us how many permutations/possibilities there are with six buttons and about 22 available settings for each one.  🙂  Okay, while we wait for the answer to my pop math quiz, let’s get started.

Fn1 Button = [—]HP.  I generally keep my focus set for single target AF since I prefer to choose what I want to focus on instead of letting the camera do it.  Of course, sometimes I need to move this AF point around and this setting gives me an easy way to get it back to center.  (Assuming that Custom Menu A -> [—] Set Home, is set to Single Target AF.)  If I mount an adapted lens that has only MF, then I repurpose this button to Peaking.

Fn2 Button = RAW.  Most of the time, I shoot in RAW.  However, there are some camera settings that require a JPG setting, like Monochrome for instance.  So with this button setting, I can quickly switch from RAW to RAW+JPG and back.

Movie Button = Myset 3.  Okay, this could be any of the Mysets, but #3 just happens to be my HDR preset.  A few of the other HDR settings this will bring up for me are Aperture priority, ISO 200,  RAW, and Continuous H.  I know, it’s so easy to get HDR settings from the front of the dial over the On/Off switch, but it doesn’t automatically change your shooting mode, quality, or ISO from whatever they may be set on.  One very nice thing that you E-M5 shooters will appreciate is that this is a toggle switch so you don’t have to hold it down while taking the shots.

AEL/AFL Button = AEL/AFL.  Imagine that … a button that actually does what it says it will do!  🙂  I like this because in an AF mode, it acts as an AEL button and locks the exposure.  If you’re in MF, pressing it will temporarily turn on S-AF and then revert right back to MF as soon as you release it.  This is commonly known as “Back Button Focus” and can be a very nice way to shoot, even better than S-AF+MF IMHO.

Front Buttons on the right side of the lens:
Top Button = Multi Function.  By pressing and holding this button while turning either the Rear Dial or the Front Dial, you can cycle through four different settings:  Highlight and Shadow Control, Color Creator, Magnify, and Image Aspect.  I like this setting for a couple of reasons.  First, the Highlight and Shadow Control can’t be found anywhere else.  Second, when I mount an adapted MF only lens, this gives me easy access to Magnify as a focusing aid.  The other two settings are nice but are also available on the Super Control Panel.

Bottom Button = Digital Tele-converter.  This setting gives you a 2X magnification of the actual image as long as you have JPG or RAW+JPG set.  With just RAW, you will see the magnification in the display, but the recorded file will be normal.  And while the tele-converter function works pretty well (almost as good as OnOne’s Perfect Resize), I actually prefer to use it as a MF assist function since it only gives 2X instead of the minimum of 5X with normal Focus Assist.

Arrow Pad = Direct Function.  I’ve set the “Arrow Pad” 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 Flash Settings menu for quick changes, and the Down Arrow to change the ISO, which I frequently use.  Also in Direct Function, the Left Arrow will activate the AF point selector so you can move the focus point around.  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.  There are only seven settings available for the Arrow Pad keys:  Drive, Flash, Touch Panel Lock, Electric Zoom (for lenses that support it), ISO, WB, and Exposure Compensation.


Update Feb. 19, 2014:  I forgot to talk about using the Arrow Key for ISO.  Yes, I know … this is normally easy to access by putting the Lever to Position 2 and turning the Front Dial.  However, I too often forgot to flip the Lever back up and ended up changing ISO and WB when I was wanting to change Aperture and/or Exp. Comp.  So, in Custom Menu B – Button/Dial/Lever, I’ve set Lever Function to Mode 5, which changes the focus setting between AF and MF as you flip the Lever up and down.

Oh, and one more thing … remember that all six of those buttons have the same settings available (not the Arrow Pad keys), so you can set them up any way you want to.  Lots of flexibility and choice.

There are so many settings on the E-M1 that I could expand this post to several hundred pages, but thankfully, I don’t have to.  Gary Friedman at the www.FriedmanArchives.com has put together a comprehensive manual about every feature and function on the E-M1 with lots of detailed explanations and pretty pictures, too.  If you’re interested, you’ll be able to order the book at his website.

A few photos for your viewing pleasure.  🙂

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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! 🙂

Learning the Olympus System

Ever since ordering the Olympus OM-D E-M5 over a month ago, I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for it to ship. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be for another couple of weeks.

So in the meantime, I decided to get an Olympus PEN E-PL1 ($289 on Amazon w/lens) and begin to get familiar with Olympus’ menu system and general camera functions. In reading about both cameras, it appeared that they had similar menu setups and would make for an easy transition to the E-M5.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the E-PL1 and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of images that can be coaxed from this little “PEN”. These images reflect a few of my favorites, so far, and have various amounts of post processing applied, from just a crop to some fairly aggressive black and white work.

All images are from the Olympus PEN E-PL1 with the 14-42mm kit lens.

ISO 1000, f/5.3, 1/40s, 37mm

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm (light painting)

ISO 200, f/8, 1/1250s, 39mm, B&W processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1500s, 42mm, cropped only

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm, (light painting)

NEX-7: Anti Motion Blur or Hand-Held Twilight

Anti Motion Blur, ISO 6400, 1/125 second

At first glance, the Sony NEX-7 has two almost identical modes: Anti Motion Blur and Hand-Held Twilight. After reading the manufacturer’s handbook (not much help, there), and using both modes a few times, I still couldn’t see much difference. Mainly, I suppose, because the differences while important are also very subtle.
I finally talked to the Sony rep at my local camera store and he explained it this way:
  • The Anti Motion Blur (AMB) mode is for when your subject could move during the exposure. The camera tries to use a higher shutter speed (and possibly a higher ISO) to try and freeze that motion. Then, the in-camera processing attempts to also negate that motion as it combines the 6 exposures, reducing noise in the process.
  • Hand-Held Twilight (HHT), on the other hand, doesn’t care about subject motion. It just tries to choose an ISO / shutter speed combination that will allow the shot to be taken such that any camera movement will be offset, and, of course, noise also reduced during the in-camera processing.
The “rep” also said that, in general, HHT will produce better, cleaner images.
So, I did a very informal test and according to my results, he was right … but I’m still not sure of the exact reason. The HHT image is definitely cleaner with less noise and a bit more detail than the AMB image, but it also chose a lower ISO – 4000 as opposed to 6400 with the AMB shot.
What is a striking difference, though, is the differences between both of those modes and a normal Program AE shot at ISO 6400 or even 3200.
The top photo was done using AMB, ISO 6400 and 1/125th second. It produced a very nice, low noise image.
The next image was shot in Program AE, ISO 6400, and then a Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4. (I did this because the Program shots were done in RAW and thus had zero camera processing.)
Program AE, ISO 6400, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4


Below are the 100% crops of all 4 images. I think you will find it obvious that Hand-Held Twilight will be your preferred mode when you need a higher ISO and your subject will remain stationary.

Program AE, ISO 6400, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4

Program AE, ISO 3200, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4

Anti Motion Blur, ISO 6400, 1/125 second

Hand-Held Twilight, ISO 4000, 1/60 second

Bar Lighting, Sony, Lightroom 4

I know – what do those things all have in common? Well, not much but I’ll get to that later.

It’s not only common, but almost universal that the lighting in bars will be soft and low. I don’t know if it’s for ambience, privacy (maybe you won’t be recognized), or just to make us all look a little better than we really do. 🙂
Another constant in bar lighting is found behind the bar – the liquor is brightly lit and glowing as if to say, “drink me”. It must work because I’ve always heard that most restaurants survive on their bar revenue, not food sales.

Whatever the reasons for these lighting contrasts, it worked well for me, giving me another chance to test the capabilities of the Sony A65 with the Sony 16-50mm lens.

This was shot with the camera in Sony’s “hand-held twilight” mode, in which the camera sets the ISO (up to 6400) at a high enough level to allow a faster shutter speed. Then, when the shutter is released, it automatically takes 6 exposures and combines them to reduce high ISO noise. So far, it seems to me that sharpness is mainly a function of how still you can hold the camera.

This image was shot at an ISO of 1,000 and came out very sharp with very low noise, too. I’m also happy to report that after just a few images with the 16-50mm lens, I am very pleased – it is producing extremely sharp images with great color and contrast.

Finally, I lightly processed the image in Lightroom 4 (beta). There’s still much to learn about the new LR4, but the sliders just seem to make more sense and work better, the map function is a great addition, you can email images directly from within LR, and of course they’ve now fully integrated the Blurb book making service. There are many other improvements, but these are the ones I noticed on day 1.

Check it out – I think you’ll like it, too.