Customizing the Olympus E-M1 Mk.II

Making the camera work your way

My other articles related to the OM-D cameras

  • 2017/05/22 Added Section 5B: Direct Controls
  • 2017/05/18 Added Items 5.A3.1 to 5.A3.6
  • 2017/05/17 Added Items 5.A2.1 to 5.A2.6
  • 2017/05/04 Added Items 5.A1.1 to 5.A1.7
  • 2017/04/30 First posting: Items 0.1 to 2.7

Under Construction

Table of contents

  • C1: Drive Modes
  • C2: Image Stabilization
  • D1: Screen Interface
  • D2: Live View
  • D3: Viewing
  • D4: Interfaces Used
  • E1: Exposure
  • E2: Bulb & Time
  • E3: Metering
  • F: Flash
  • G: Image
  • H1: Files
  • H2: Erase Ops
  • I: Viewfinder
  • J1: Utility
  • J2: Utility
  • Maintenance


Traditionally, Olympus cameras offer unequalled degree of customization and tweakability. This allows us, photographers, to set them up in a way meeting our preferences, taste, and working habits, at a price of complexity, and often confusion, of the customization process.

The E-M1, especially in the Mark II incarnation, has more shooting and setup options than any other Olympus camera up to date: about 300 various settings. This makes the process more painful, confusing, and error-prone than for other models, and this is why you really may need this write-up.


Conventions used

The settings and preferences available can be roughly divided into three groups; to make my job easier and to avoid repetitiveness in the text, I'm going to color-code them as follows:

  • Red: General preferences, user interface customization, and some other settings which would usually be set just once and then left alone.

    Examples: button binding, EV step in adjustments.

  • Yellow: Some picture-taking settings which may be adjusted for a given shooting session (or, rarely, a part of it), but not really often.

    It is essential that you develop a habit of resetting these to defaults as soon as they are no longer needed, and to check them every time you turn the camera on; otherwise you may experience some surprises.

    Examples: drive mode, AF mode, white balance.

  • Green: Shooting parameters likely to be adjusted quite often, sometimes from one frame to another.

    These do not really customize your camera, but it is handy to keep some reasonable defaults stored in one of the custom slots, so that your camera is more or less ready when you switch.

    Examples: aperture, exposure compensation, AF point selection.

  • Blue: These are menu entries unrelated to preferences or camera settings; most often to perform some operation, or to access some information.

    Example: Card formatting, pixel mapping, firmware version lookup.

  • Sub-menu headers: these do nothing except branching into a submenu; listed here (in default black) just to make navigation easier.

Unavoidably, there will be some overlap between the first three groups, so my color coding is just a general guidance, not a strict rule.

A gray box like this denotes my gripes, remarks, and suggestions, most often related to the user interface. You may skip these, if you wish, without losing any useful information.

First, some general remarks on the subject.

A good thumb rule of user interface design is that the more often a given option or setting may be accessed, the easier that access should be. Therefore, an ideal design of camera's UI would be something like this:

  1. One-time settings: from the menu system;
  2. Session settings: from the Control Panel (or other easily-accessible screen UI);
  3. Shooting settings: from the direct, external interface (buttons, dials, levers), with an easy status lookup in [2] above.
  4. Non-settings: a separate menu branch or another interface distinct from the settings one.

To some extent, Olympus designers try to follow these rules, but not always hard enough. This, together with often arbitrary assignment of an option to a particular menu branch, is responsible for 80% of pain and confusion we experience accessing the camera's options.

Most of the remainder is due to bad English and clumsy or inconsistent naming. When I show the original menu interface text framed, items which could use some improvement are highlighted — just to see how often this happens.

To avoid textual repetitivenesss, I've introduced some tags which may appear next to an function/setting name:

  • [BF] or [F] denotes that the setting is returned to a factory default at both Basic and Full Reset or at Full Reset only.

    These resets are done from Item 1.1 in the menu, see below.

  • [C] — the setting is saved as a part of a selected Custom Setup (see 1.1 below, again).
  • [JPG] means that a given setting affects only the process of raw-to-RGB conversion, after the picture has been taken, but before a JPEG file is saved to the memory card. If an image is saved as a raw (ORF) file, you may set the parameter when that is being converted in postprocessing.

    The value set is, however, stored in the ORF file and will be used if, during the postprocessing with Olympus software, you choose the As Shot option.

  • [SCP] — the option can be set from the Super Control Panel.
  • [scp] — the option cannot be set from the Super Control Panel, but the selected setting is shown there.
  • [BUT] — the option can be set from the direct (button/dial) interface.

In this walkthrough I'm following the order in which the preferences or settings are listed in the menu system. While this is not the most logical or task-oriented order, it will save you a need to traverse the menu tree many times.

Many menu item names are shown in two versions. The second one, in a frame like this, is exactly what you see in the menu (icons and/or text, English version); the first one is my translation into, hopefully, something more meaningful, descriptive, or just proper English.

NOTE: Upgrading the firmware no longer will require going through the whole setup again. With the E-M1 Mk.II, the Olympus Update application saves the camera status (including custom slots), then updates the firmware, and, finally, loads the status back. (Just recently, this has been added to the firmware of the E-M5 Mk.II and Pen F, a welcome change!)


0. Settings not in the Menu

These settings are not accessible from the menu system. This makes the menu structure simpler. Still, you may want to adjust them before storing the setup in one of the Custom Modes.

0.1. Exposure Compensation [BF] [C] [scp]

This may change from one frame to another, but you need a default value to be used after a quick switch to a custom mode. Zero makes best sense here.

Use the Exposure Shift to calibrate autoexposure to your liking.


0.2. Flash Mode [BF] [C] [SCP]

As the camera has no built-in flash, I would keep this at (Always On) and change as needed when the flash is mounted.


0.3. AF Target [BF] [C] [SCP] [BUT]

The used AF target pattern can be chosen as: Single Spot, Square (3×3), Cross (3×3), or Full Grid.

As Single AF is my customization default, Single Spot is my preference here: I like to have a say where in the frame the focus is actually set.

Some patterns can be excluded from the sequence of available choices; this is done in Item 5.A1.6.


1. Shooting 1 1 Shooting Menu 1

This menu consists of two distinct parts. First, has a branch performing camera reset and custom setup operations. Second, a number of branches used to set some basic shooting parameters or to switch between shooting modes.


1.1. Reset & Custom Reset / Custom Modes

There are no option settings in this submenu. It contains two kinds of reset and custom mode save/restore operations, discussed elsewhere.


1.2. Picture Mode Picture Mode [BF] [C] [JPG] [SCP]

This sub-menu allows you to adjust a number of Picture Modes, each being a set of image-processing parameters. From here you can also select the mode for the camera to use. Both functions can be accessed more conveniently from the Control Panel.

There are four basic color Picture Modes, one monochrome, and one — user-defined. Each of these (with some exceptions) stores a combination of contrast, sharpness, and saturation adjustments, plus a choice of Gradation between Normal, Low Key, High Key, and Auto

  • Three "traditional" Olympus Picture Modes (named Vivid, Natural, and Muted); each stores its own combination of contrast, sharpness, and saturation, as well as a selected Gradation
  • The Portrait mode offers and stores the same adjustments. It also moves up the mid-tones and shadows. Possibly, it may do more, but it remains undocumented.
  • The Monochrome mode has contrast and sharpness adjustments, plus a Filter setting, simulating color filter use in B&W photography. The choices are Yellow, Orange, Red, Green, or None. In particular, the first three darken blue skies (red being the strongest).

    Images in this mode can be tinted to Purple, Blue, Sepia or Green, or left black-and white (Neutral). I recommend postponing this to the postprocessing stage, if ever.

  • To set or adjust the Custom (user-defined) Picture Mode, you first choose a "parent mode" from the above, and then adjust image parameters.

Now the messy part begins. Olympus also adds to this menu not only two extra Picture Modes, brilliantly named i-Enhance and e-Portrait (of course, not explained in the manual), but also all 30 Art Filters.

For crying out loud, these already have their own Mode Dial slot, where they sit quiet until needed (if ever); why bringing them into the middle of image adjustment parameters?

To keep your sanity, use menu Item 5.D1.3 to exclude Art Filters from the Picture Mode sequence; they will be still accessible through the Mode Dial. (I would also recommend getting rid of the vowel-Modes, unless you want to do some experimentation with them.)

Now we are ready to adjust the parameters for each individual Picture Mode left on our list.

The e-Portrait mode offers no adjustments, so we leave it alone, if present, while i-Enhance has an extra parameter named Effect, which can be set to Low, Standard, or High.

The contrast, sharpness, and saturation values you choose for a given mode are not absolute; they are applied on top of a base offset assigned by the designers to each mode.

The undocumented base values are shown in the first column, followed by my recommended adjustments (Adjust), and by the resulting absolute settings (Total). Gradation is shown only if it differs from the default Normal.

Picture Mode Parameter Base Adjust Total
Sharpness 0 -1 1
Contrast 0 0 0
Saturation 0 0 0
Effect Standard Standard
Sharpness +1 -2 -1
Contrast 0 0 0
Saturation +1 0 +1
Sharpness 0 -1 -1
Contrast 0 -1 -1
Saturation 0 0 0
Sharpness -1 0 -1
Contrast -1 -1 -2
Saturation 0 -1 -1
Sharpness -1 -1 -2
Contrast 0 -2 -2
Saturation 0 -1 -1
Sharpness 0 -1 -1
Contrast 0 -1 -1
Filter None Orange
Picture Tone Neutral Neutral
Parent Mode Natural Natural
Sharpness 0 -1 -1
Contrast 0 -1 -1
Saturation 0 0 0
Gradation Normal Auto

The Custom mode inherits from its parent the base (offset) values, but not any adjustments. In my setup it is identical to Natural with Auto gradation enabled.

Larger sharpness adjustment I'm using in Vivid brings the absolute sharpening to the same level as in Natural. I found that higher settings can produce visible artifacts.

Treat my preferences largely as a matter of taste, possibly a starting point to your own custom setup. Still, it is unlikely that you will need to adjust any parameters upwards.


1.3. Size & Compression [BF] [C] [JPG] [SCP]

Here you choose how the image is saved to the memory card. There are three basic options:

  1. Raw (ORF) file;
  2. JPEG file in one of the possible combinations of pixel size (Large, Medium, Small) and compression/quality (Superfine, Fine, Normal, Basic);
  3. Both [1] and [2] above.

To make things more complicated, the four size/compression combinations available in [2] are set in menu item 5.G.1, and the actual pixel sizes of Medium and Small — in 5.G.2 (Large is always the full pixel resolution).

Being a completionist, I defined my four combinations (see Items 5.G.1 and 5.G.2) as L SF, L F, M F, and M N, and chose the L SF JPEG as the preferred format, sometimes only switching to raw ORF files.

Actually, instead of nine menu options (eight containing a choice of one of four JPEG formats), just three would be enough, with another menu to choose the JPEG flavor. (This would affect the SCP interface, either requiring an extra field, or making JPEG parameters not accessible. Fine with me.)

A less drastic modification could allow to define fewer than four JPEG formats, hiding the undefined ones .

Besides, in 17 (!) years of using this system on various Olympus cameras, I've never used anything other than L SF, so, to tell the truth, I consider all this effort wasted anyway.

All this said, I think your real choice will be between Raw, JPEG, and Raw+JPEG, with JPEG using the L SF size/compression combination. Which of the three to choose is a very personal decision and I'm not going into any disputes on the subject. Still, if you are not quite sure what to choose, have a look at my old, but still perfectly valid, article on raw files.


1.4. Aspect Ratio Image Aspect [BF] [C] [JPG] [SCP]

The native (full-sensor) μFT aspect ratio is 4:3. These proportions are generally most pleasing for most horizontally-framed images and, after inverting to 3:4, for almost all vertically ones. This is also best fit for standard print sizes — with a prominent exception of 4×6" (10×15 cm).

Other ratios are provided here, which is done by cropping and does not affect raw images. These ratios are:

  • 3:2 — more pleasing for many landscapes; best fit to the 4×6" print format;
  • 16:9 — used in HD video, all TV sets and most monitors; again, works well with wide vistas;
  • 1:1 — a square; requires a different approach to image composition; that's why some photographers like it;
  • 3:4 — inverted native ratio: shoot vertically-framed pictures while holding the camera horizontally.

Obviously, if you are shooting in the 4:3 aspect ratio, you can crop the image to any other ratio in postprocessing; nothing is lost if you change your mind.

For this and other reasons, most users choose the 4:3 option and stick to it; so do I most of the time (but not always).

One argument in favor of cropping the image at the shooting stage is, that the finder preview is shown cropped, which greatly aids in composing, removing all guesswork.

Also, if your choice is 3:2, the cropped finder image fits best with EVF style 1 or 2 (see Item 5.I.3).

If you are using the Raw image format, you get the cropped finder view, but the actual cropping is postponed till the postprocessing stage, where you can choose the aspect ratio "as shot" or change your mind.


1.5. Digital Tele Digital Tele-converter [BF] [C] [JPG] [scp]

When this option is active, the camera uses only a central part of the image to be viewed and saved (after resizing the crop to the full, nominal resolution). The effect is like doubling the focal length at the expense of reducing the pixel count from 20 to 5 MP, followed by upsampling back to 20 MP.

If needed, this can be easily (and better) done in postprocessing, at the expense of no enlarged view in the finder. I strongly recommend turning this feature Off and forgetting about its existence.


1.6. Drive & Lapse

This is a sub-menu with just two entries.

1.6.1. Drive Mode [BF] [C] [SCP] [BUT]

Here you can set the drive mode to one of the following:

Single Frame 2s 2s Self-Timer
Steady Single Frame 2s Steady 2s Self-Timer
Silent Single Frame 2s Silent 2s Self-Timer
L Sequential Low 12s 12s Self-Timer
L Steady Sequential Low 12s Steady 12s Self-Timer
L Silent Sequential Low 12s Silent 12s Self-Timer
H Sequential High C Custom Self-Timer
H Silent Sequential High C Steady Custom Self-Ti mer
H Pro Capture High C Silent Custom Self-Timer
L Pro Capture Low High Res

No, I'm not inventing this: there may be up to 20 entries in this menu; the same in the SCP or direct button/dial interface!

You may use one of the Settings sub-menus (Item 5.D1.4) to remove any of the choices from the sequence shown, but it helps just a little bit; we will return to this painful subject when we discuss that menu.

For the time being, let us note that this mess affects only the shooting process, but not the initial setup, in which Single Frame seems to be the only reasonable choice.

This submenu, with functionality duplicated both in Control Panel and button/dial interface, could (and should) be safely removed from the menu system. The long sequence of drive modes would still have to be fixed even then.


1.6.2. Time Lapse Intrvl. Sh./Time Lapse [BF]

This submenu is used for switching to the time-lapse sequence shooting mode and for setting its parameters. In camera setup, obviously, it should be set to Off.

I think the Time Lapse mode should be added to Item 1.6.1 above, so only parameter setting would be left here.

For time-lapse shooting, in addition to choosing On, you will have to set a number of parameters. In the original naming by Olympus, these are:

  • Number of Frames (up to 999)
  • Start Waiting Time — the initial delay
  • Interval Length — time step between frames
  • Time Lapse Movie — enables stitching of sequence frames into a movie clip
  • Movie Settings — define movie resolution (HD, Full HD, or 4K) and frame rate (5, 10, 15, or 30 FPS, with the top value depending on resolution).


2. Shooting 2 1 Shooting Menu 2

Another grab bag of functions and settings likely to be used or changed quite frequently.

2.1. Bracketing Bracketing [BF] [C]

The E-M1 Mk.2, like other recent cameras by Olympus, allows for bracketing in quite a number of parameters. Choosing Off here disables bracketing in all of them, and this is the natural recommendation for camera setup. Choosing On opens a sub-menu with a choice of bracketed parameters.

That sub-menu is used to define bracketing for a particular shooting session, or even on a shot-to-shot basis, so it is not relevant to camera customization. Therefore it will not be discussed here; we will do that in the (hopefully) upcoming full write-up of this camera.

Here I will only mention that the implementation of bracketing in recent Olympus cameras is full of perhaps the worst design decisions they made in the development of the OM-D series. We will come back to this issue in another article.


2.2. High Dynamic Range HDR [BF] [C]

This is related to exposure bracketing: a number of frames is shot with varying exposure shift, and these frames are used to produce one HDR JPEG file.

Again, in the camera customization setup this will be set to Off, activated only on a session or frame-to-frame basis as needed.


2.3. Multiple Exposure Multiple Exposure [BF]

This enables superposition of multiple exposures in one image — something you set for a single shooting session, or even a single picture. In the default setup it should be, obviously, Off.


2.4. Perspective Correction Keystone Comp. [BF] [C]

Off again.


2.5. Shutter Modes Anti-Shock [] / Silent []

This is a sub-menu dealing with two special shutter modes, in which the exposure starts or starts and ends with electronically (gating), as opposed to mechanical opening/closing of a shutter curtain.

Here you set up the availability and parameters of these modes; the decision on actually using them is made by selecting a particular Drive Mode.

This is why I would consider moving this branch to the Customization menu.


2.5.1. Steady Anti-Shock [] [F] [C]

In this mode the exposure starts without mechanically opening the shutter (which is already open). This greatly reduces a possibility of camera-shake blur.

Here you can disable this feature, or enable it and set the delay between pressing the shutter release and the start of the exposure: from 0 to 30 seconds. My selection is. at present, 1/4 s.

If you disable the Steady shutter mode, then all Drive Modes using it will also be disabled, regardless of their inclusion in the sequence defined in Item 5.D1.4.


2.5.2. Silent Silent [] [F] [C]

In the Silent mode, the exposure is both started and ended by electronic gating, therefore the process is, yes, you've guessed right, completely silent, in addition to the camera being more steady, see above.

Like above, here you can set the shutter opening delay or disable this mode (which will also remove all dependent drive modes from the sequence).

My choice of shutter delay for the Silent mode is zero.


2.5.3. Silent Noise Reduction Noise Reduction [] [F] [C]

You can disable Noise Reduction specifically for the Silent shutter mode. Do it. (See also Item 5.E1.7).

This item should be moved to become a part of Silent Mode Settings (2.5.4).


2.5.4. Silent Mode Settings Silent [] Mode Settings [F] [C]

Three options here, each presenting an On/Off choice:

  • Beep
  • AF Illuminator AF Illuminator
  • Flash Flash Mode

For all three Off makes best choice as a customization preset.

The choices are spelled out as Allow and Not Allow. Simple On/Off would be better.


2.6. High Res High Res Shot [F] [C]

Here you decide on including (or not) High Res to the sequence of available Drive Modes, not on actually using it in a given case.

If you decide to keep this option open, you also set the initial shutter release delay (4 or 8 seconds seems to make sense) and the spacing between the eight component exposures, allowing the flash (if used) to recharge. The latter is applicable only to non-dedicated flash units; if you use an Olympus flash (or none), keep it at zero.


2.7. Remote Flash RC Mode [BF] [C]

Set it to On only if you are using the Olympus system of multiple, remotely-controlled flash units. Most people will keep it at Off.


3. Video Video Menu

I don't do videography, therefore I don't feel competent to write on this subject. You have to look elsewhere for information and advice.


4. Playback Playback Menu

This menu contains no settings — it is used to access operations related to playback and editing of pictures already taken. Parameters used in those operations are tweaked as all others — in the Customization menu (5.D1.2).


5. Customization Custom Menu

This is one huge monster of a menu, and navigating it sometimes may be a challenge. Fortunately, it contains mostly one-time setup (Red) items, and therefore, once set and tweaked, it should be seldom, if ever, revisited,

This menu contains far more options than all others combined, so for easier navigation it branches into 20 (yes: twenty!) submenus, from A1 to J2.

Technically, these are not submenus, as after reaching the end of one, further scrolling moves you to the next submenu; this works more like bookmarks (or pages) in a flat list.


5.A1. Focusing 1 A1. AF/MF

The first of three (!) pages used for customization of the focusing process.

5.A1.1 AF Mode AF Mode [BF] [C] [SCP] [BUT]

You can choose between S-AF (Single AF), C-AF (Continuous AF), MF (Manual Focus), S-AF+MF (manually-adjusted), C-AF+TR (tracking), and Preset MF (using a previously-defined value). For initial setup, S-AF may be most practical, although you may want to define a separate custom mode for action shooting, using (among others) C-AF or C-AF+TR.

Placing this in the Customization menu must be a misunderstanding. This is just a shooting parameter, which may change from one session to another, or even more often — no different than Drive Mode (1.6.1) or Size & Compression (1.3).

As this functionality is also available from both Control Panel and direct interface, the best solution would be just removing it from the menu system at all.


5.A1.2. AE & AF Locking AEL/AFL [BF] [C]

This is one of the more important settings in the camera customization process.

It is used to define how the camera's AE and AF functions work when the [Lock] button and/or the shutter release are pressed.

This choice is made independently for each basic focusing mode: single, continuous, and manual. In each case you choose one of the pre-packaged combinations.

Switching between SAF, CAF, and MF is not done from here; you can do it either from the Control Panel or with use of a direct button.

The factory-default presets used here make good sense. Still, if you know what you want, they may be worth changing to your taste. (Another option is to follow my advice, skip the details and jump straight to my recommendations, which are not much different.)

Here is the list of available options.

In the table, [Lock] means pressing the button, and [Release] — pressing the shutter release half-way down (intentionally or on the way to a full press). "Not locked" means that the function (AE, AF) continues to update the readings until the exposure, i.e., until the mirror goes up. Factory defaults are shown in bold.

Focusing Mode Autoexposure Autofocus
Single AF S:1 Locked with [Lock], otherwise with [Release] Locked with [Release]
S:2 Locked with [Lock], otherwise not locked
S:3 Locked with [Release] Established with [Lock] and then not active
Continuous AF C:1 Locked with [Lock], otherwise with [Release] Tracked while [Release] is half-down; not locked
C:2 Locked with [Lock], otherwise not locked
C:3 Locked with [Release] Tracked while [Lock] is down, then not active
C:4 Never locked (updated until exposure)
Manual Focus M:1 Locked with [Lock], otherwise with [Release] Not active
M:2 Locked with [Lock], otherwise not locked
M:3 Locked with [Release] Established with [Lock] and then not active

Note that options S:3, C:3, and M:3 are almost identical: the camera stays in manual focus mode, with AF "on demand", activated when [Lock] is pressed. (C:4 is an additional flavor of this, with AE updating till the end.) The only differences are that in C:3 (and C:4) the focus is tracked while [Lock] is held down, and that the focus ring on the lens will be operational only if one of the "+M" modes (or MF) is active, or if the given lens has an all-time, mechanical focus coupling (like the 12-40 mm MZD).

Another pattern is that the autoexposure is handled identically in S:1, C:1, and M:1; this is also the case between S:2, C:2, and M:2, as well as between S:3, C:3, and M:3.

A closer look shows that the arrangement is not arbitrary, and all these options can be useful for some users in some situations.

It makes sense to choose, for each focusing mode, the option best fitting your needs and working habits, and then forget about it. Changing the lock arrangement on the fly seems like a bad idea, as it would inevitably lead to confusion and unintended camera behavior.

Recommendation: The factory defaults, [S:1 C:2 M:1], make good sense, so you will be just fine keeping them. My personal preference is [S:1 C:1 M:3] which makes SAF and CAF modes similar, and which allows me to use AF on demand by simply switching to the MF mode and using the Lock button as/when needed. I found this very useful, especially for tripod work.


5.A1.3. AF Scan AF Scanner [BF] [C]

When the AF system cannot establish focus, it scans the whole focus range again. This behavior can be limited or disabled by this setting.

There are three options here; in original spelling they are:

  • mode1 — scan disabled
  • mode2 — scan enabled just once
  • mode3 — multiple scans enabled

Of these, mode2 seems, to me at least, the preferred general-use choice in initial setup.

Adding names like mode1 to a project using entirely different naming convention (capitalization, spaces) is like walking in public with your zipper fly open: it doesn't do any real harm, but you just don't do it, at least not knowingly.

It shows lack of respect for software users and development teammates. Worse, it is an indication that the software QA department is not paying attention, so it is likely that there may be some real problems in the software.

Of course, more descriptive option names, like Off, Once, and Multi (or just On) would be even better.


5.A1.4. C-AF Lock C-AF Lock [BF] [C]

This is a protection against the camera refocusing in the C-AF mode when something crosses the field of view (like people passing between the camera and the subject). It simply disables the focus adjustment if the change is large and sudden.

The setting is entered as a whole value from -2 to +2. Negative values are referred to as Tight, positive — as Loose. At higher values switching to a new AF target happens more easily.

For most users, the default zero setting makes sense here.


5.A1.5. AF LimitsAF Limiter [BF] [C]

Autofocusing will be made faster and more reliable if the AF search is narrowed down to a preset distance range.

For example, shooting a baseball game we may want to set that range to be from 10 meters to infinity, while for a butterfly session — from 20 to 80 cm (this may depend on the lens used, too).

This sub-menu serves two purposes: it allows you to predefine three distance ranges, but also to choose one of them (or none) to be applied.

Focus-limit activation is definitely a shot-by-shot or session-level setting, therefore I would greatly prefer having it moved to the Shooting 1 menu (or even to the SCP, with a direct interface option). AF range setup would then stay here, although increasing the number of presets to four (or even five, but not more) would be nice.

Obviously, this option will be set to Off in camera customization, but I also have the three distance ranges predefined, to be activated as needed. These ranges are:

  • 0 to 1.0 m
  • .8 to 3.0 m
  • 2.0 to 999.9 m (infinity)


5.A1.6. AF Targets Settings [BF] [C]

Here we choose, which AF target patterns will show up in the sequence displayed when the used target is being set (Item 0.3).

My setup includes, in addition to Single Spot (which cannot be hidden), Full Grid and Square. So far I haven't found any use for the Cross pattern, but maybe one day I will.


5.A1.7. AF Target Outline AF Area Pointer [BF] [C]

If the actually selected AF pattern is Single Spot, Square, or Cross, its outline (corner points) can be discreetly shown in the viewfinder or monitor, very much like etching on a classic SLR groundglass. Here we define if and when it happens: Off (never), On1 (full-time) or On2 (release button half-pressed).

As the outline is not distractive at all, full-time (On1) is my recommended choice.

Wrong option naming, again. On, Off, and Release (or similar) wold be more informative.


5.A2. Focusing 2 A2. AF/MF

Second page of settings related to Manual/Auto Focus.


5.A2.1. EVF Touch Target AF Targeting Pad [BF] [C]

With this enabled, you can slide your finger around the monitor screen (inactive at the moment), to move the AF target around while the eye-level EVF is being used. (This is different than tapping the active monitor to set the target!)

Setting this to On is not enough to activate this feature: you also have to enable the touch screen in Item 5.J1.4 (the status of the screen-touch icon at bottom-left does not matter here).

I've given this option a try and I can say that moving the AF target around with a thumb squeezed between my cheek and the monitor is not my ideal way of doing things, to say the least.

Anyway, as I have the entire touch interface disabled (in 5.J1.4), this setting does not really matter. Just to keep things neat, I keep it at Off.


5.A2.2. Set AF Home Set Home [BF]

Here you define the AF settings to which the camera will revert when the [AF Home] often shown as function is executed.

This function, by default not assigned to any button, can be bound, as many others, to a button of your choice (see Item 5.B.1).

It should not be confused with another functionality: long-pressing [OK] while in the AF Area Select interface (by default, bound to [Fn1]). That will only reset the AF target position.

Three parameters, as listed below, can be memorized here (each can be also disabled). As I am using mostly the Single AF, my recommendations will suit that mode; you may have to modify them if Continuous AF is your preference.

Note that these three settings are not saved as a part of Custom Modes.

This is a strange design decision, and I can't imagine a rationale behind it. It would, for example, make a perfect sense to have two custom modes: one for stationary subjects and one for action, each with a different Home setup.

The outcome is that, in order to get full and quick access to this part of the AF functionality, we will need to assign two buttons: one to AF Area Select (by default: [Fn1]) and one acting as an AF Home toggle.

Maybe an option for the long [OK] press, mentioned above, to act as an AF Home toggle, would help here?


5.A2.2.1. AF Mode AF Mode [BF]

The choice is between all six modes as listed in Item 5.A1.1 or accessible from the direct interface. For most users, S-AF will be a safe, reasonable choice.

5.A2.2.2. AF Target [BF]

Among available target patterns, for Single AF a single-point target is my preference. For any of the continuous AF modes, a larger one may make sense.

5.A2.2.3. AF Target Position [BF]

Centered AF target as Home is the only sensible choice, this deep in a rarely-accessed customization menu. I just can't imagine why would I want to have it any other way.


5.A2.3. AF Area Config Custom Settings [BF] [C]

This allows you to configure the AF Area interface, used to set the shape and location of the AF target as well as face detection preferences. (It does not set those parameters, only defines the interface used to do it.) You can define one or two interfaces and choose the one to be used.

Actually, the only choice you make is which dial controls the target shape; the other one will be used for face priority.

A needlessly complicated and confusing design. One binary choice would be enough.


5.A2.4. AF Illuminator AF Illuminator [BF] [C]

If you don't shoot in near-darkness, and if you find the red AF light distracting (like I do), then set this to Off.


5.A2.5. Face Priority Face Priority [F] [C]

With both AF and Face Priority active, the latter will take over whenever it detects a human face in the frame, regardless of the current AF Area settings.

As the face-detection techniques improved a lot in the last six or eght years, I wouldn't any longer be afraid to include Face Priority in my customization. If so, the Near Eye i mode would be my choice.


5.A2.6. AF Adjustment AF Focus Adj. [BF] [C]

Stay away from this, unless you really, really, really know what you are doing. But then, what would you be doing here?


5.A3. Focusing 3

The last of three pages devoted to that subject.


5.A3.1. Preset MF Distance Preset MF Distance [BF] [C]

The focus will be set to this value whenever you switch to the Preset MF mode. The factory default of 999.9 m (infinity) makes sense, but is wasteful compared to using the hyperfocal distance.

The firmware knows the current focal distance and the aperture about to be used. Adding to that the user-chosen resolution tolerance (Circle of Confusion size) of ine, two, or more pixels, it can compute the hyperfocal distance for this combination.

For a 25 mm μFT lens at F/5.6, the hyperfocal distance is 7.5 m (using the classic CoC of F/1440).

Setting focus for that distance, we would get satisfactory sharpness from ½ of it (here: 3.75 m) to infinity. Setting it for infinity, the sharp zone will only start at hyperfocal (7.5 m). Really, a waste.

A Hyperfocal MF mode would be a great (and cheap!) addition.


5.A3.2. MF Assist MF Assist [F] [C]

The camera may be set up to activate viewfinder magnification (see 5.D2.4) and/or peaking (5.D3.2) authomatically every time the focusing ring is moving. Nice, because you do not have to enable these features explicitly.

Initially, I kept them both On, but when I started actually using manual focus, the automatic finder magnifcation turned to be a hindrance rather then help. This is why now I have magnification Off and peaking On.


5.A3.3. MF Clutch MF Clutch [BF] [C]

The Manual Focus Clutch is one of the extra features of the premium MZD Pro lens line. With the camera set to AF, it allows you to switch to MF and back by pulling or pushing the lens focus ring, with the distance scale showing or hiding as needed. Fast, convenient, and intuitive.

Still, if you rarely use manual focus, you may choose to disable the clutch, to avoid accidental focus mode switching (it happened to me more than once).

The menu options to do that are Operative and Inoperative. Why not On/Off?


5.A3.4. Focus Ring Focus Ring [BF] [C]

This option sets how you turn the Manual Focus ring to get to infinity: or . Obviously, it works only with lenses using fly-by-wire, electronic focusing.

Set this to counter-clockwise, as this is how mechanically-coupled Zuikos work, and forget about it.

Using a system with some lenses focusing in one direction and some in the other, just to get the first group consistent with legacy Nikkors? Now we get inconsistency not only between different systems, but even within one of them. This option only makes the menu tree more convoluted.


5.A3.5. Bulb & Time Focus Bulb/Time Focusing [BF] [C]

Use this to enable or disable manual focus adjustment when a Bulb or Time exposure is under way. Not that it matters, but I keep it at Off.

I can think of some pretty exotic scenarios where a long-exposure enthusiast will appreciate having an option to re-focus during a long exposure. Perhaps one of the next projects to do?


5.A3.6. Lens Reset Reset Lens [BF] [C]

If set to On, the camera will reset the lens (infinity, short focal) when being turned off. (This works only for lenses with power zooming and/or focusing.)


5.B. Direct Controls B. Button/Dial/Lever

Before you get any deeper into this chapter, consider this.

The order of topics in this article follows that in the menu tree, so sometimes you read about tweaking some function well before you read what it does; some settings may depend on others, introduced only later — you must have noticed that already.

For the time being at least, we have to live with the way things are, but if this is your first reading, you may consider jumping over the remainder of this chapter straight to 5.C1 (Drive Modes), and return here later.

This camera control system allows the user to access many settings or functions without a need to go into a tree of options, arranged as a traditional computer menu tree or otherwise.

There is nothing inherently evil about menu-based control systems; actually, they are about the only tool making it possible to access large numbers of options or functions. Imagine a camera with 200 buttons or other external controls for direct access to 200 different things. How fast and efficient.

About 95% of user's interactions with a camera involve just 5% (or fewer) functions or settings. These should be identified and considered for direct access. The best example is — yes, you've guessed this right! — the old faithful shutter release.

The number of directly-accessed features should remain limited, preferably less than a dozen, to avoid memorization problems. This is even more important with re-assignable controls, with no labels showing the purpose of each (or, worse, showing wrong ones, because the controls were re-assigned).

I could go on this until the cows come home, so back to the E-M1 Mk.II.

The Mk.II interface consists of the following: 18 buttons of various kinds (7 can be re-assigned, plus two partly so), two dials, a lever (making some of the interface modal), and three special-use controls (shutter release, on/off switch, mode dial). Except for the last group, all provide a visual feedback from the monitor: you use a control, and the screen shows what's happening.

An additional re-assignable button is included on MZD Pro series lenses; the optional HLD-9 power grip adds an arrow pad and two "regular" buttons.

The functionality of the lever, control dials, and some of the buttons can be re-assigned by the user, and this is what this chapter is about.


5.B.1 Button Binding Button Function [F] [C]

This branch of the menu is used to assign functionality to most of camera's buttons. All of these come with some defaults pre-assigned, and these defaults make very good sense, therefore I would think twice before introducing any changes.


Bindable Functions

Before we start messing around with our buttons, let us see a quick (?) list of Bindable functions. (Some of these, exhibiting non-regular behavior, will be discussed separately.)

Function names (leftmost) are color-coded in a way similar to described above, depending on how often they are likely to be accessed: rarely (or never), moderately (session level) or often (individual shots).

The Type column shows how the function works when the button is pressed:

  • Act — performs an immediate, one-time action
  • Tog — toggles some on/off setting
  • W — turn dial with button down to enter an adjustment
  • Scr — opens a new user interface
  • * — refers to long-pressing a button.

Additionally, I marked the background for some functions, reflecting my, possibly subjective, thoughts on binding them to buttons:

  • Green: already bound by default; I'd recommend leaving it as is;
  • Blue: potentially useful, but already easily accessible by other means;
  • Silver: not really useful, don't bother.
Function Shown as Type Description ?
Off Off - To avoid an accidental change, or to keep one button for quick, one-time assignments.
Multi-Function Multi Function - Short-press invokes the top function, long press allows to name a new top function from a list.
AF Area AF Area Select Scr Select AF pattern and position, set face priority mode.
Record Video REC Act Not needed to do videos: use mode dial instead.
AE/AF Lock AEL/AFL Act As defined in Item 5.A1.2
Monitor View Selection Tog If EVF Auto Switch (5.I.1) is On, toggles between monitor view and SCP; if Off — between monitor view and EVF.
Reference WB Act Takes a gray card sample, stores result in chosen slot.
DoF Preview Preview Tog Toggle on press or on hold-down, see Item 5.D2.5
Stop AF AF Stop Act Sorry, can't figure this out or find a good description.
AF Home Home Act Reset (optionally) focusing mode, target, location.
Bracketing BKT Tog
Enter or leave the bracketing mode as previously set, or change settings as in Item 2.1
Switches to MF and back (last used AF), or changes AF mode
AF Limits AF Limiter Tog
Apply limits On/Off; long press: choose from predefined limits
Preset MF Preset MF Tog
Switch to Preset MF and back to last used focus mode; long-press to change the latter
IS Mode IS Mode Tog
Toggle IS On/Off or change the IS mode.
Exp Compensation Exposure *W Why would I want to give up the default, no-button arrangement?
High Dynamic Range HDR Tog
Toggle HDR on/off, set HDR mode.
Image Quality RAW Tog
Toggles between Raw+JPEG and sole JPEG in the saved output or allows to select that combination.
Test Picture Test Picture Act Take a test picture, save some card space: exactly .005% of what I have on my camera.
Underwater Tog Enters underwater mode, then toggles between UW Wide and ; long-press restores non-water settings
Digital Tele Digital Tele-converter Tog This is a feature I consider useless. Binding it to a button?
Perspective Keystone Comp. Act Doing this in postprocessing gives much better results. No sale.
Magnify Magnify Tog There is no option to toggle both with one button.
Peaking Peaking Tog
Show Level Level Disp Tog This is the smaller of the two levels available; the same as in Item 5.I.6 (and only in EVF).
Dials: ISO/WB ISO / WB Scr These enable ISO and WB adjustment with dials. Useful if your lever assignment (Item 5.B.4.1) is different than Mode 1.
Dials: WB/ISO WB / ISO Scr
S-OVF Display S-OVF Tog The Simulated Optical Viewfinder mode. Frankly, I can't see any real difference it makes.
Enter lens info Lens Info Settings Scr Again, I'm not sure how the entered information is used.

The table does not include functions you can bind only to the arrow cluster buttons, or those used only in the Multi-Function slots; they will be dealt with separately.



These are not really recommendations, but rather my personal preferences. Still, you may use them as an example and starting point in your own customization.

The following table should be (almost) self-explanatory, given the legend:

  • — Default binding, retained
  • — Default binding, removed
  • — New binding added
Function Shown as 5.B.1.1
AF Area AF Area Select
Multi-Function Multi Function
Record Video REC
Monitor Toggle View Selection
Reference WB
DoF Preview
Stop AF Stop AF
AF Home Home
Magnify Magnify
Peaking Peaking

As you can see, I kept four factory defaults, adding or modifying another four assignments:

  • Replacing DoF Preview with Magnify on the lower front button. While I'm not using this often, at some occasions it comes very handy. On the other hand, at my usual working aperture of F/5.6 or wider, DoF preview is not very meaningful. It is often easier just to take a picture and inspect it magnified.
  • Replacing Reference WB with Peaking on the upper front button. The arrangement is nicely symmetric; both wiewing/focusing aids are in one place, and you don't have to move your hand to activate both.
  • Replacing Record Video with Reference WB, moved there from the upper front button.

    In my book, Reference WB is one of the neatest camera features avalable, much more accurate and dependable than the commonly used TTL measurement, whether based or not on image data. It works as good as an incident light meter (even if 90% of camera users does not know what that is).

  • Replacing Stop AF with AF Home on the lens button.

    I'm not too happy with this one, as the feature will be accessible only with three lenses among those I own. Still, I've run out of buttons, and other functions seemed more important, or more difficult to access in other ways, so be it.


Multi-Function Button

This button may have from one to eight functions assigned. At any given moment one of them is designated as "top"; it will be invoked when the button is pressed. When you hold the button down while turning either control dial, the next function on the list will get the top status.

Function Shown as Type Description Rec. Remarks
Tonal Adjustment Highlight & Shadow Scr A fancy way to enter three numeric values (Midtones is hidden in a second screen). Not removable
Color Creator Color Creator Scr Opens Color Creator setup screen.
This is the only way to get there!
Aspect Ratio Image Aspect Scr Also accessible from SCP and the menu Item 1.4
Magnify Magnify Tog See Bindable Functions above
Peaking Peaking Tog
Dials: ISO/WB ISO / WB Scr See Bindable Functions above
Dials: WB/ISO WB / ISO Scr
S-OVF Display S-OVF Tog See Bindable Functions above

Not much of a choice. Tonal Adjustment a.k.a. Highlight & Shadow is hardwired on the list. If you want to use the Color Creator, include it (activating it also in Items 5.D1.3 and 5.D1.5); this is the only access you will ever have to this function.

Well, throw in S-OVF; maybe playing with it you will see a difference; I'm afraid, however, that this will become a Trinket Button, with stuff you rarely (if ever) need.

There must be some explanation, but it remains a secret: why there are so few functions bindable to the Multi-Button? Why this seemingly random selection? Why, for example, the Aspect Ratio is in, but not Image Quality?


Arrow Pad Buttons

These buttons are re-assigned in a different way than the others: first you make a choice for the whole cluster, and depending on that — for the individual (arrow) keys. The assignment holds when the camera is in the picture-taking mode.

The first choice, shown in the menu as , is between the following:

  • Off — all arrow keys disabled
  • AF Area , bringing up an overlay with the full AF Area interface, like in Bindable Functions
  • Direct Function — now two of the arrow buttons, and , can be assigned to any function from this table:
Function Shown as Type Description Remarks
Off Off .
Flash Mode Flash Mode Scr Not bindable to any other buttons? .
Power Zoom Electronic Zoom Act Zoom by wire with arrow buttons; only with some lenses; sometimes seems unpredictable (?) .
Touch Screen Lock Lock *Tog Will override the setting in 5.J1.4 .
Underwater Tog See Bindable Functions above .
Exp Compensation Exposure For compatibility with some Pen or compact cameras? ?
See Bindable Functions above .
Dials: ISO/WB ISO / WB Scr See Bindable Functions above .
Dials: WB/ISO WB / ISO Scr

For a number of reasons, I prefer to keep my arrow pad out of the redefinable control business, therefore setting its assignment to Off.


5.B.2. Dial Binding Dial Function [F] [C]

Control dials by themselves (i.e. without any button being pressed) are used to adjust some of the basic picture-taking parameters, one per dial. When we choose to use a gadget Olympus calls the Fn Lever, the number of controlled parameters rises to four. This is the most common setup of the lever; it will be discussed in the next section; here let us only remember that the lever may be in one of two positions, referred to (how appropriately!) as 1 and 2.

This table shows the parameters assigned to dials as per factory default configuration and then — in my preferred setup.

I would strongly recommend leaving the dials at factory settings for the Menu and Playback modes, so I'm even not showing these modes here.

Mode Shown
Dial Factory Binding Wrotniak Binding
Fn Lever: 1 Fn Lever: 2 Fn Lever: 1 Fn Lever: 2
Program P Front ISO WB
Rear Ps WB ISO
Aperture Priority A Front ISO WB
Shutter Priority S Front ISO WB
Rear Sh WB Sh ISO
Manual M Front FNo Sh WB

While the original dial setup makes a good sense and is perfectly usable, there is a rationale behind every change I've made.

  • The assignments of WB and ISO have been swapped: this is because I change ISO more frequently, and I find a thumb dial easier to operate than a forefinger one.
  • The consistency has been restored by removing exposure compensation from the Manual setup. Besides, that would work only if you use the Auto ISO option in the Manual exposure mode (see Item 5.E1.5), making it no longer manual.
  • Program Shift (Ps) has been removed from the Program mode. At this moment the camera provides no information how much of a shift and in which direction is already applied, which makes the whole shift feature rather useless.
  • Swapped aperture with shutter speed in Manual. That's because I'm spending most of the time in Aperture Priority, and it is nice to have the aperture control where I'm used to.


5.B.3. Dial Direction Dial Direction [F] [C]

There are two dial setups there: one for a dial controlling program shift, and another for everything else. Because I don't have a Ps dial in my setup, I have to deal only with the latter.

The choice is between two options, inventively named Dial1 and Dial2. In the first one, the controlled parameter value (F-number, shutter speed, ISO) increases when you turn the dial anti-clockwise (thumb to the right, forefinger to the left). This is the option I chose, although it does not really matter.


5.B.4. Fn Lever Fn Lever Settings [F]

The Fn Lever is a relatively new addition to the Olympus set of tricks; it debuted with the E-M1, in 2013. It is a small, mechanical switch, which can be set to one of two positions; logically it does not differ from a lockable button: it stays in place until switched back.


5.B.4.1. Fn Lever Use Fn Lever Function [F]

The lever functionality can be selected as one of the following.

  • Off — actually, I was close to disabling the lever on the original E-M1, and I won't be surprised if you do that.
  • mode1 — the basic reason for which the lever was introduced (the others are afterthoughts); switching the camera between two states, differently responding to basic controls. We will discuss this in detail a little later.
    mode1 and others should be reenamed to something following camera-wide naming conventions and, possibly, more meaningful.
  • mode2 — a variation on the AF Home theme. The camera maintains two independent copies of the AF parameters (AF Mode, target shape, target location), and the lever is used to switch between them. Very much like "what happens in Fn-two stays in Fn-two".
  • mode3 — allows you to switch to the movie mode regardless of the mode dial position.
None of these options bring anything new to the table. While Olympus is touting this as a major development in camera interface design, it really is just a better-looking, lockable button.

There is nothing wrong about getting an extra button, especially a lockable and good-looking one; let's just get the proportions right.

Having two extra parameters accessible via control dials is, obviously, nice. What is not, is the interface modality this introduces. And this modality, regardless of how cool it looks in the beginning, sooner or later turns evil.

Your subject's face is in a patch of sunlight and you need to dial in an extra 2/3 EV of exposure compensation. Oops, you just raised the ISO by two notches, to 800 instead! Five minutes ago you were setting that to ISO 200 and forgot to move the lever back to Position 1. Now, quickly: move back the ISO, turn the lever, add compensation — too late.

In spite of these reservations, I decided to use the mode1 option, especially with the extra benefits described in the next section. I just have to develop a habit to move back to position 1 as soon as I'm done with the ajustments requiring position 2.


5.B.4.2. Switch Knob Buttons Switch Function [F]

With this option active, lever position 2 changes not only the dial action, but also the effect of pressing the two non-assignable knob buttons (far left, next to the power switch).

Condition Front Button Rear Button
Option Fn Lever Function Shown As Function Shown As
Off OR 1 Drive+HDR /HDR AF+Metering AF/
On and 2 Bracketing BKT Flash

With no other direct access to flash and bracketing, my recommendation is to take an advantage of this capability: On. The buttons work in two ways: short-pressing toggles an option, while long-pressing opens a muliple-choice screen; quite like for the assignable buttons.


5.B.5. Power/Fn Lever Fn Lever / Power Lever [F]

This feature allows you to use the Fn Lever as camera's power On/Off switch, and not in one, but in two configurations (differing in which position is On). While it is active, the regular power switch is disabled, and the regular Fn Lever functionality remains inaccessible.


5.B.6. Power Zoom Speed Elec. Zoom Speed [F] [C]

Affects only power zooms, and of interest mostly to videographers. Normal must be a sensible choice, I guess.

Here Be Tygers

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Posted 2017/04/30, last updated 2017/05/17 Copyright © 2017 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak