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suggested settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera


  • the default factory settings are NOT conducive to optimal photography, but are designed for people to play around with the camera for the 1st time.
  • if you want to use the camera to its strengths, you MUST change the default settings

initial set up

  • charge battery for at least 3 hours for the 1st time
  • update the firmware for camera and lens - this will reset many of your settings hence do it first
  • READ the electronic version of the instruction manual which is on the CD - the paper version has very little information on it!
  • set time, date and date format
  • format memory card
  • consider typing in your Copyright information which can optionally be added to all subsequent images in the EXIF data
  • consider editing filename for image files so they are different to your past camera image filenames (you don't want to accidentally over-write older images on your computer when you are backing up all your photos)
  • set the menu settings - see My Settings at bottom of this page

optimising access to important controls

  • the top dials are great for changing shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation - so I would leave these as they are
  • once activated in the menu system (see below), you can activate the “Super Control Panel” during picture taking mode by pressing the “OK” button on the rear and this enables fairly quick access to a wide range of settings which you can view at the same time - very nice indeed!
when Super Control Panel is displayed, the selected item's value can be rapidly changed using the front top dial, while the rear top dial navigates from one item to the next (you can also use the rear arrow buttons to do this) - very handy indeed!

EVF vs LCD screen

  • clicking the EVF button will toggle between EVF vs LCD screen
  • holding down the EVF button allows you to turn off auto-sensing switching between EVF and LCD
  • pressing INFO will toggle between the display options set in Custom Menu, Builtin EVF, Info Settings such as live histogram, Level Gauge, Image Only
  • pressing OK will display the Super Control Panel so you can change most settings without taking your eye from the EVF

the touch screen

  • there is an icon on the touch screen in shooting mode which toggles touch screen ON/OFF
  • if touch screen is ON, then the ONLY things touching the screen will do in shooting mode are:
    • turn OFF the touch or swap touch modes if you hit that icon (note this icon has several modes which can confuse you!!)
    • if touch icon mode set to trigger shutter:
      • in S-AF mode, trigger S-AF and shutter release almost instantaneously with AF set to the area you touched (if this functionality is activated as it is by default)
      • in MF mode, trigger shutter release (if this functionality is activated as it is by default)
    • if touch icon mode set to AF area selection:
      • touching a spot on the screen gives that the AF selection (region can be changed in size according to touch enabled zoom control on screen)
      • when S-AF is activated, that AF region is used
    • when focus region grid is displayed, you can select the focus region on the grid
    • in iAUTO mode, you can click on the arrow on R side and use touch to adjust most of the camera settings in “dummies” mode ie. you want more blur or less, brighter or darker, etc
      • you cannot use touch to select an ART filter or Scene in those modes!
  • in playback mode, you can use touch to:
    • swipe to next or previous image
    • use zoom out swipe to activate zoom sliding scale, then move image around on the screen
    • touch icon to show grid of 20 images (as defined in menu)
    • NB. if your finger activates EVF sensor, you will be exited from playback mode and shooting mode will commence!

if the EVF auto-switching is ON:

  • you CANNOT view an image in playback mode in the EVF!! Must have EVF auto-switching OFF for this.
  • if the toggle is set for EVF mode:
    • in shooting mode the LCD is black and the EVF will turn off when you take your eye away and the LCD remains black
    • pressing OK displays the SuperControl Panel in the EVF if activated by having eye near it, otherwise it is displayed on the LCD screen - nicely done Olympus!
  • if the toggle is set to LCD screen mode:
    • in shooting mode, the image displays in EVF if eye is against it, and otherwise it displays on the LCD screen - nicely done again, works as expected!
    • BUT be warned, if you start touching the screen, your hand may activate the auto-sensor and the EVF will become activated instead - not what you want!
      • this is particularly an issue when the screen is facing upwards

using the EVF for almost everything including playback

  • there are some good reasons why you may want to avoid using the LCD screen and just use the EVF:
    • you forgot your reading glasses at home or don't want to be continually putting them on
    • you want to concentrate on photographing your subject and keep the camera to your eye to reduce camera shake
    • you don't want to annoy everyone around you by having the bright LCD screen activated (eg. conferences, concerts at night, etc)
    • you want to conserve your battery life
  • just deactivate the auto-switching by pressing and holding the EVF button until the option to turn off switching is displayed
    • this will mean the LCD screen will be black, even if pressing the INFO button, BUT will still be activated if you hit the MENU button or the PLAY button, but at least with the latter, if you click on the EVF button it will send the playback image to the EVF where Olympus should have programmed it to be in the first place!

when the EVF or LCD shows a very dark image

  • this is either because:
    • your have set the exposure controls such that it will give severe under-exposure, or,
    • the light levels are too low for the camera to deal with
      • in this latter case, you can turn Live Boost ON (maybe useful for MF on stars) but then you lose WYSISYG exposure, or for an even brighter image displayed, resort to iAUTO on the PASM dial.
  • if it is black, perhaps you left the filter cap on, did not turn the camera on, or have deactivated the LCD and your eye is away from the EVF.

optimising auto focus

  • whilst one can use the default settings and just half-press the shutter you will get variable results as the camera will select an almost random subject to AF upon although it will prioritise a face if Face Detection is enabled.
  • alternatively, you could just use the touch screen and touch a subject and the camera will almost instantaneously AF and take the shot - very impressive indeed and handy for SOME situations.
improve AF by reducing AF region to the small central region then move camera so that subject is in the centre, press S-AF to set focus, then recompose

how can YOU control what the camera will AF on?

optimising manual focus

autoISO plus exposure compensation

  • using autoISO is a very handy feature, particularly when you want to set the aperture and shutter speed but still want autoexposure capability within some limits
  • in aperture priority mode, the camera will assign the lowest ISO as long as the shutter speed is faster than a certain speed as determined by the camera and the lens focal length.
  • it even works in manual exposure mode albeit without any capability to set an exposure compensation
  • if you are using legacy lenses, then you can have a pseudo-manual mode with autoexposure and exposure compensation as by setting it to shutter priority you set the shutter speed, and the camera is unable to control the aperture, so you set that on the lens, then the camera will determine the ISO according to your exposure compensation setting - HOWEVER - your exposure range will of course be limited by the autoISO range.

gaining image stabilisation at 10fps burst rate

  • sensor-based IS is deactivated in 10fps burst rate HOWEVER, if you turn sensor IS OFF, and you have a lens with OIS, then the lens based OIS does still appear to function at 9fps - very handy when shooting with super telephoto lenses!

optimising image quality

use lowest ISO that will do the job

  • use as low an ISO as possible which is sufficient to allow minimisation of subject/camera movement:
    • unless you are shooting low light action shots where you need a fast shutter speed and a very high ISO, set Custom Menu, Exp/ISO, ISO-Auto Set, High Limit to 800 instead of 1600 or 3200, after all hopefully you are using the nice fast, wide aperture lenses, and you have the world’s best image stabilisation system on board!
    • but if you need it, ISO 1600 is still very good image quality on this camera, and if it stops subject blur then it is worth it’s weight in gold!

shoot in RAW mode

  • if you plan to do significant post-processing or adjust WB or contrast on your computer, then do yourself a big favour and ensure you shoot in RAW file format for your important photos.
    • set Menu item, Shooting Menu 1, 4th item represented by the traditional Oympus icon for file type, then select Still Picture then LF+RAW so you get a nice jpeg as well as your RAW file to play with.
  • if you shoot in RAW mode, you can get away without worrying about getting too fussed about WB, contrast, sharpness, noise level, saturation, ART mode, highlight/shadow control, jpeg quality, image aspect ratio, as all these can be addressed on your computer later with even more control over them

if shooting jpegs, pay attention!

  • if you are only shooting in jpeg mode then pay particular care to each of the parameters which affect jpegs, in particular:
    • jpeg size
    • jpeg quality (compression)
    • image aspect ratio
      • can leave this at 4:3 as all other modes are just crops of 4:3 image and can be done later
    • WB
      • usually autoWB is fine, but for critical work, particularly under artificial lighting or if there are no white/grey areas in your frame, then a custom WB should be strongly considered
    • Picture Mode
      • Natural is generally the best, but try some of the others.
      • Note that Vivid increases saturation and contrast and this seems to make AF even faster!
      • many decrease the amount of in-camera sharpening level so they can do more appropriate sharpening for web or print later on a computer
      • Colour Creator Picture Mode:
        • activate this via a button assigned to MultiFunction
        • this allows you to change the colours and vivid setting (saturation) visually
        • BUT it means you cannot select a WB mode
        • exit this Picture Mode by activating the Super Control Panel via OK button, then scroll to Picture Mode and the select a different Picture Mode
    • Noise Level
      • most would set this to LOW to avoid excessive in-camera loss of image detail
    • Noise Reduction
      • leave this set to Auto as this will reduce thermal sensor noise during long exposures by taking a second “blank” or “dark frame” shot of the same expsoure duration and then automatically subtracting the difference in the images. This should be left this way even if shooting in RAW mode.
    • incandescent WB:
      • if you don't want these shots looking warm, then under Custom Menu, Color/WB, set WB Auto Keep Warm Color = OFF
      • for candlelit dinners perhap you may wish to leave this on, or use the Scene Mode for candlelit dinners

underwater photography

infrared photography using infrared filters on the lens


HDR automatic modes

  • E-M1 introduced automatic HDR modes to make HDR even easier
  • this is easily accessible from the front button of the top left control with 2×2 switch = 1 (assuming using the camera's default settings)
  • Four shots are taken, each with a different exposure, and the shots are combined into one HDR image inside the camera
  • ISO is set to 200
  • drive mode is set to Hi burst rate
  • shutter spped cannot be slower than 1 second
  • HDR 2 mode is “more HDR-like” than HDR 1 mode

HDR the manual way

  • change ISO to auto ISO
    • you may want to also change the ISO limits, but unfortunately you cannot change the shutter speed limits
    • if you select autoISO for Aperture Priority, then AE bracketing will adjust ISO in preference to adjusting shutter speed.
    • if you have enabled autoISO for Manual mode then AE bracketing in Manual mode does not give different exposures as the bracketing will alter shutter speed and then alter ISO to compensate for the shutter speed - this is NOT what you want in HDR work!! THis is because you cannot set exposure compensation in Manual mode when autoISO is set.
  • change PASM to A so that AE bracketing does not change your DOF
    • unfortunately, you cannot select auto ISO in manual exposure mode, so use Aperture Priority mode as a compromise
    • also, using ISO bracketing where shutter speed and aperture remain constant is limited to 3 frames giving +/- 1EV
  • change drive mode to 10fps
  • change to HDR bracketing to what you like for HDR eg. 5 frames at 1EV difference or 7 frames at 0.7EV difference (ie +/- 2EV in total)
    • this is easily accessible from the front button of the top left control with 2×2 switch = 1 (assuming using the camera's default settings)
  • then press your shutter and and your series of shots will be completed under 1 second assuming shutter speed is short enough

one shot jpeg "HDR"

  • if you need to get things in one shot, the E-M1's Auto Gradation mode (see under Picture Mode settings) gives you an option of getting a large dynamic range into your jpeg in-camera which is more than is possible with most other cameras (of course I would always shoot RAW as well so you can tweak it properly in post-processing)


Comparison jpeg results of dynamic range from

intervalometer / time lapse

time lapse mode

  • press Menu button
  • shooting menu 2: Time Lapse Settings = ON then select:
    • frames to shoot
    • start waiting time (initial delay after shutter button pressed)
    • interval time between shots
    • time lapse movie (if ON, the images will be combined into a 10fps 720 pixel movie)
  • press shutter release button to start
  • terminate prematurely by pressing Menu button or rotating exposure mode dial

the manual way

  • set sequential shooting on
  • set Antishock to the interval between shots (to maximum of 30sec intervals)
  • just keep shutter pressed, or better still use the wired cable release (RM-UC1) to do keep shutter activated or better still try TriggerTrap iPhone app

long exposures

  • if using automatic exposure modes, ensure EVF frame rate is NORMAL otherwise the low light metering capability is significantly reduced by 2 EV
  • note that the E-M1 has significant thermal noise in long exposures above ISO 400 and 15 sec

"Movie mode"

  • just in case you have assigned REC btn to something other than record like I do, it is handy to have a MySet which optimises the controls for movies and reassigns REC to the REC btn and sets a few more:
    • REC btn to REC
    • Fn2 to 2x zoom
    • AF to S-AF for still images
    • down arrow to WB
    • right arrow to ISO
  • now you can be in Shutter Priority, set shutter to a nice film like 1/50th of a second, activate your MySet for movie mode and the important functions you need are at your fingertips
  • if you change the PASM dial to the camera's movie mode, then even with the above set, some will be over-ridden and reallocated while the dial is on that mode such as:
    • arrow buttons have special on screen functions to change screen parameters
    • Fn1 becomes AEL/AFL again
    • you still get the Fn2 for digital zoom which is very handy in movie mode
    • OK button displays the Live Control instead of Super Control Panel
    • NOTE: when PASM dial is in Movie mode, you use full shutter button release to START and then STOP the movie

My Settings

my usual settings for dedicated lenses or legacy lenses

  • I generally save these to MySet1 in case I need to get them back
  • AF mode = MF
    • use AFL/AEL button to temporarily activate S-AF and lock autofocus in manual focus mode
    • if giving the camera to another user, change AF to S-AF so that half-press shutter locks AF
    • if you wish to AF on a slender subject, set to S-AF + MF and see AF technique 5 above
  • Fn 1 = Peaking
  • Fn 2 = Magnify
  • REC = MF (or Keystone)
    • so I can quickly toggle between SAF and MF modes
    • unfortunately you cannot assign this button to MySet1, as ideally I would have AFL assigned to Fn 1
    • remember when PASM dial is set to movie mode, REC button becomes movie RECORD again
  • Right arrow button = ISO
  • Down arrow button = WB mode
  • set AF region to smallest square in the centre
  • Shooting Menu 1:
    • Picture Mode = Vivid (gives faster AF)
    • Still Picture - LF+RAW
    • Image Aspect = 4:3
    • Digital teleconverter = OFF
  • Shooting Menu 2:
    • drive = single shot
    • Image stabiliser Still Picture = S-IS Auto (unless using a tripod then turn OFF)
  • AF/MF:
    • AF Mode = MF or S-AF depending on which you prefer (if novice users will be playing with it, it is more intuitive for them to leave it as S-AF)
    • Full-time AF = OFF
    • AEL/AFL = S1/C2/M3
    • MF Assist = OFF (if you keep accidentally touching the lens manual focus ring and this is annoying, turn it OFF, you can always activate by pressing Fn2)
    • AF Illuminator = OFF (you dont really need this distracting functionality)
    • Face detection = nearest eye
  • Release:
    • Half Way Rls With IS = ON (turn off if you rarely use MF to save battery life)
  • Disp:
    • LV Close Up Mode = mode 2
    • Beep = OFF
    • USB Mode = Storage
  • Exp/ISO:
    • ISO-Auto Set upper limit = 800 (I may change this to 1600 sometimes)
    • ISO-AUTO = ALL (may be handy in Manual exposure mode when I want to keep shutter and aperture constant but still have auto exposure)
    • Anti-Shock = 0 sec (to avoid shutter shake from 1st shutter - “0 sec” deactivates mechanical 1st shutter)
  • Custom Flash:
    • additive exposure compensation = OFF (too complicated to work out otherwise)
  • Quality/Color/WB:
    • Noise Reduction = Auto
    • Noise Filter = LOW

MYSet 1

My Set 2

My Set 4 = "movie mode"

  • as for MySet 1 but:
    • Fn 2 = Digital teleconverter (the only real use for this is in movies)
    • REC = REC
photo/olympusem1_settings.txt · Last modified: 2020/05/08 21:24 by gary1

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