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 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.  🙂

Using Adapted 3rd Party Lenses with the Olympus E-M1

I included the watch just to show the small size of this lens

One of the wonderful features of small sensor, ILC (interchangeable lens) cameras like the Olympus OM-D series (and Pens), is their ability to use almost any lens ever made … IF, someone has made an adapter for it.  And luckily for us, there are already adapters out there for many of the “other” manufacturer’s lenses.

Here, I have the Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f/2 (Leica M-Mount) and I use an adapter from Novoflex, which fits perfectly.  I tried a cheaper Fotodiox Pro adpater first and, like others have discovered, found that it would not fit my camera.  BTW, a word of caution.  An adapter should fit like your lenses do … snug but not overly tight.  If it doesn’t seem to fit right, don’t push it, as I’m sure you don’t want to get that thing stuck on your camera.  🙂

Although there are a few adapters that have some electrical contact with the camera, most don’t.  So this means these lenses are purely manual in focus and f/stop, and also transmit no EXIF data to the camera.  For the E-M1, this causes a couple of additional problems … since the camera has no way of knowing when you’re turning the focus ring, it can’t automatically invoke Magnify or Focus Peaking for you.  But don’t despair because there are ways around this.  🙂

One great thing about the E-M1 is the high level of customizability, which lets you set many different functions to just about any of the external buttons.  In this case, I’ve chosen to use the Preview Button (camera front, right of the lens, lower of the two buttons), and the Movie Button (red dot, top right).  With the Preview Button set to Focus Peaking, I can easily turn it on or off without ever taking my eye from the viewfinder.  Plus, with the Movie Button set to Magnify, I can zoom in for very precise focusing AND use Peaking at the same time.  Nice!

There are a couple of things you need to know about the Magnify function.  The first press will bring up a green rectangle on the LCD (or EVF) showing the portion of the image that will be enlarged, and a second press will actually enlarge it.  Once enlarged, you can also change the magnification factor by turning the Rear Dial to set either 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x.  Once enlarged, it will stay that way from one shot to the next.  So to get out of Magnify, just press the Movie Button again; or select a different Shooting Mode, Menu, or turn the camera off and back on.  To get rid of the green rectangle, just press the OK Button on the back of the camera.

This is the simplest way to use Magnify, but there is one other more useful and slightly more complicated setup.  That is to set the desired button to Multi Function, which gives you more flexibility by letting you choose between Highlight & Shadow Control, Color Creator, Magnify, and Image Aspect.  Then when you press and hold the button and turn the Rear Dial, you can select which of these four functions you want to use the button for.

As for the Voigtlander 28mm f/2 lens … I like it!  It’s a nice focal length giving you an effective 56mm lens on a M43 camera.  It’s got lots of character with excellent color and contrast and while sharp in the center at f/2, you will need to stop down to about f/4 to get good sharpness across the frame.  This lower image was taken on the E-M1 with this lens at f/4.