5 Olympus E-M1 Mark II settings where your intuition may not be enough | Petr Bambousek | Wildlife Photography

5 Olympus E-M1 Mark II settings where your intuition may not be enough

5 Olympus E-M1 Mark II settings where your intuition may not be enough

09 Aug 2017, Posted by Petr Bambousek in Articles, Equipment, Olympus gear

Having used my Olympus E-M1 Mark II for several months now, I have come across some handy fairly intuitive features. Every now and then though, my intuition runs dry, and I must open a User manual. The problem is that the manuals are created the other way around to what I would like them to be. What I mean is that I can look up what each function does, but I can’t find out what do I need to set so that the camera does such and such. This led me to an idea of creating an “Inside-out manual”. As sort of a base, I used my notes that I’d been diligently taking during several months of my photography taking, which I then searched for in the Main Menu or in the Olympus manual. Later I realised though, that some settings are better explained in a video rather than in a text and so the first inkling of a screenplay was born. Over time, the screenplay for short video “How to master Olympus camera in its entirety – from the initial set-up to post-processing” grew rather dramatically into a planned comprehensive video tutorial. At the moment, I have prepared about 30 step-by-step instructions to some of the handiest settings, as well as all my journey during post processing and solving some pitfalls when using m43 format. Naturally, it will be a while before it is finished. I will do my best, however, to shoot some sequences during my upcoming trip to the Pantanal. But until then, here are top 5 Olympus settings where your intuition may not be enough. Respectively, at least mine wasn’t.

1) Quick selection of the centre focus point

With my other cameras, I was used to quickly select the centre focus point after engaging a multi controller. Both Canon and Nikon have it. Olympus however, for a one-off use of an ‘OK’ button has a predefined fast menu that you can’t change. If the AF grid is activated, by pressing the OK button, you can’t re-select the centre AF-point but only to confirm the current selection. The solution though is so simple. All you need to do is to press and hold the OK button on the arrow pad when the active AF grid is displayed. This will then let you refocus to the centre.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 40-150mm/2.8, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/160s

2) Switching cards during viewing

Honestly, this was truly a tough nut to crack. My camera is set to automatically switch between cards when the first one is full. However, when I want to view the photos afterwards, the camera only lets me view the photos from the second card. I was searching the menu options high and low for how to switch back to the first card so that I can erase some unwanted pictures to free up space. But the only solutions I found was to remove the second card to view the contents on the first one. Again, the solution is ridiculously simple. All you need to do is to press and hold the playback button and rotate the front dial under the shutter button. And voila, your LCD display gives you an option which card to view. Magic.

3) When your AF selection using the back panel display doesn’t work

I find this function extremely useful especially when I need to quickly reselect location of an individual AF point. Some people are put off by their own nose as they look into the camera with their left eye. But perhaps, it may be just a question of getting used to it, as personally, I don’t mind it. The set-up has actually three separate steps. First, in the Custom Menu, you need to select the A2 tab, item AF Targeting Area and then select ON. Then in the following tab J1 select – Touchscreen SettingsON. After this, all should work, and when you put your eye in the viewfinder, the back display turns itself off. The AF grid is activated by your thumb movement on the display panel, and everything is backlit. However, there used to be times when even this didn’t work for no apparent reason. I was puzzling over this until I found this quite interesting solution. When all is set according to the above instructions and the AF grid is still not displayed, you may have noticed in the top section of your viewfinder a ‘hand’ symbol and an ‘OFF’ sign suggesting the display is locked. To unlock it, you need to tap the display twice. You should be prompted by the same hand symbol and an ‘ON’ sign. Then, your AF selection should work fine. Sometimes it happens without me even realising that I locked the display inadvertently when selecting the AF points when my fingers dance on the display. It’s good to know the solution is so elementary.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 300mm/4 IS, ISO 200, f/4, 1/1250s

4) Activating a flash during a silent mode

When the silent mode is activated (icon of an individual shot or sequence with a heart symbol is present), it is impossible to use flash. Originally, I thought it is a logic factory setting of a Silent mode that disables the shutter sound or beeping when focusing as well as the flash. But, then I found out that it can be undone. Again, you only need to do is to head back to the Main Menu. In Shooting Menu 2 is an  ‘Anti-shock/ Silent’ tab. In the last item of the Silent Mode Settings menu, you can activate three functions, that are normally turned off – AF Sound, AF Lamp and Flash. All you need to do is to reset the flash to ‘allow’ and you can discreetly flash in a silent mode as much as your heart desires.

5) Focusing with the back AEL/ AFL button

On all my previous cameras I assigned one back button to focus as I never liked half-pressing the shutter button. And I totally love it. It has several advantages, and in truth, I can’t imagine it in any other way. So, naturally, as soon as I got my E-M1 Mark II I started to snoop about to find how to do the same. Even though I thought my settings are right, it just simply did not work. Later I found the cause – it is necessary to assign these settings in two separate places. First, you need to select the AEL/AFL item in the A1 tab on the Custom menu. Here, it is possible to adjust the behaviour of the shutter button as well as of the back buttons for various focusing modes (both automatic and manual). Personally, I have the shutter button set to activate the metering but not to focus, while the back button focuses even when the AF mode is off. To be specific, these are the settings I use: S-AF (mode 3), C-AF (mode 4) and MF (mode 3). All of this is satisfactory for the focusing option unless… Yes, unless you don’t have two different functions pre-assigned to the same button, such as for example video recording, which was my case. So, after completing the above setting, it is necessary also to activate the function of the relevant button. Either by selecting the last icon in the bottom right corner of the Quick Menu (Ok button); or in the Custom Menu BButton function. Here, all you need to do is to assign AEL/AFL to AEL/AFL button from the given options and Bob’s your uncle.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 300mm/4 IS, ISO 800, f/4, 1/200s

These are then my 5 not so intuitive settings. Yet, these are such useful options, too. Olympus E-M1 Mark II has a whole range of various settings, and I will do my best to cover most of them in my impending video tutorial. If you wish to participate in the creation of this video, you are most welcome to send me any ideas or comments explaining which settings cause you most frowns. Who knows, we may create a really valuable video-guide. Personally, when shortlisting the topics for the video, I used many varied consultations that I witnessed during my workshops, on the internet or over the phone. Topics that I cover, range from the first preparations and Menu set-up, optimal AF targeting options, through the functions of the composite macro, to live composite photography and much more. For those interested, my 4 Czech articles solely dedicated to my experience with Olympus and 2 articles in English that briefly sum these up and are barely a few weeks old, have currently around 38 000 views, out of which more than a third is in English. I believe that this planned video-tutorial will come handy not only to brand new owners of this camera who need to know the A-Z of the effective camera readjustments. I promise I’ll endeavour to deliver it in as short time as possible. So stay tuned.


1, My switch from Canon to Olympus gear

2, One month in Malaysian Rainforests

3, 5 Setting where your intuition may not be enough

4, The Pantanal in blooming season

  • Jacob

    Hi, Are you using AI Denoise in your photos?

  • Matt Waller

    Thank you so much for Tip #3! I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my AF Targeting pad wasn’t working when all my correct settings for it were turned on. A simple double-tap on the screen to change the Hand-“Off” icon to a “Hand-ON” icon! If not for your post I would have searched for that forever.

  • Mark Davidson

    Thanks for your most useful tips Petr, particularly 3 which is so useful as I always need to move the focus point for perched birds and up until now worked through the SCP.

  • john long

    I have tried the back button focusing as I prefer to have it separate, but find the focusing slower than using the focus button alone. I have been shooting dragonflies and the reaction speed maybe small, but I have had much more success with switching the focusing back to the shutting button and going away from the back button focusing with this camera.

  • Ulf Pousette

    I must say, your photos are stunning !

  • Jim D. Fermo, Ph.D.

    I just purchased the m 1 mrk II. The menu is quite extensive. thanks to your suggestions it makes figuring the camera out much easier. by the way, Your work is exquisite. thanks for the help.

  • Howard Buckler

    Thanks for sharing these useful tips. I was particularly interested in 3) as I use this feature on my m10 mk2. However, all my settings are as yours and still I can’t adjust the af target with my thumb (on lcd screen – not locked). Getting frustrated now. Any ideas (anyone)?

  • John Gunkler

    Thanks so much, Petr. I, too, can’t live without back button focus – but I also like to be able to lock exposure then recompose the shot. With your setup, when I lock the focus with the back button am I also locking exposure on that spot? That is, does AEL/AFL lock BOTH exposure and focus? It’s probably a stupid question, but I don’t honestly know the answer and I just bought the EM-1 Mark II yesterday!

  • Jackson

    I have Back button focus & AF Targeting Pad setup like yours. To select a focus point using the touchpad, this is what I have to do, I select the focus point using the touchpad, tap the shutter button and then the AEL button to focus. Is this the correct behavior? When SAF set to model 1 or 2, I look thru EVF, select AF point via touchpad, then half press the shutter that’s it. I would be great to know if you have the same behavior. Thanks

  • Anastas Tarpanov

    Wow, more than two years OM-D shooter and I didn’t knew the first 3 tricks, Thanks for sharing Petr!

  • Virginia Huang

    Great tips Petr! I am eagerly awaiting your video. Would love to go an a photography workshop with you some day as I also have the EM1 MK II. Your pictures are fantastic! How do I get on your email list?

  • Joan Roughgarden

    Dear Petr, Do you have a mailing list? I love your work and suggestions for better photographer. — Joan

  • john Long

    Absolutely fabulous Petr.
    I have only just bought my EN1 mk11 and working my way through things as they come up, so this is great to me. Keep it coming please.


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