Modifying camera functions
The EVF's eye sensor is part of what makes the E-M5 shooting experience so seamless when you switch between electronic viewfinder and rear display panel. However, there are times it can be a little over-sensitive. Triggering the sensor will switch the camera straight to shooting mode, which is great if you want to quickly grab a shot, but slightly frustrating when you're trying to show someone a photo and it disappears as they point at it.
There's no way of adjusting the sensitivity of the sensor (and it's sensitive enough that you'll want to switch the camera off when it's hanging 'round your neck, to avoid burning through the battery by having the eye sensor keeping the EVF on). However, you can easily access the menu setting that disables and enables the function.
Hold down the live view button on the right-hand side of the viewfinder hump and you'll be taken straight to the 'EVF Auto Switch' menu option, usually found in Custom Menu J.
There are three settings that affect the behavior of the Auto ISO system and allow it to be fine-tuned to your needs. The first thing to do is define an upper limit - the E-M5's image output is very usable a long way beyond the ISO 1600 limit that's set by default. We were entirely happy for the camera to choose an ISO up to 6400, which can be set in Custom Menu E - 'ISO-Auto Set.'
By default, Auto ISO is concerned about camera shake and will push the sensitivity up when it reaches 1/Effective Focal Length or 1/60th, whichever is faster. However, the lower limit threshold can be raised, for instance if you're trying to retain fast enough shutter speeds to freeze action. The 'Flash Slow Limit' setting in Custom Menu F effectively sets this threshold. It's not a documented feature, but it's worth knowing.
For the first time in an Olympus, the E-M5 has the option to stabilize the camera's preview, rather than just engaging IS at the point of capture. This means you can gain the benefits of image stabilization when shooting with long lenses (which can be awkward to compose and focus with, given the way they exaggerate any camera shake). Changing the Custom Menu C setting 'Half Way Rls With IS' to 'On' means that the preview will be stabilized when you half-press the shutter button.
...and for legacy lenses
If you want to retain this stabilized view, even when you're manually focusing legacy lenses, there's another setting you'll need to change. 'LV Close Up Mode' on the second page of section D of the Custom menu defines whether half-pressing the shutter cancels live view magnification. Changing this setting to 'Mode 2' allows you to combine the camera's magnified live view with its image stabilization.
Don't forget, before you race to set 'Magnify' to one of your function buttons, it is already quickly available by holding the Fn2 button and spinning the control dial. Once selected in this way, Magnify can be engaged just by tapping the Fn2 button, making it easy to change its function if you're swapping between Micro Four Thirds and legacy lenses.
Finally, it's worth knowing that stabilization is, by default, disengaged when shooting continuous bursts of images. To enable it, you need to use the '[Continuous] + IF Off' option in Custom Menu C and set it to 'Off.'
The E-M5 offers a high-speed, 120Hz live view refesh rate, offering a smoother live view experience. However, our testing suggests it also gives improved AF acquistion times. The view is slightly more pixelated but not to a degree that's troubling. The setting can be found in Custom Menu J, and involves setting 'Frame Rate' to 'High.'
There's a price to pay, of course - in low light, you more quickly lose the ability to correctly simulate exposure compensation (the most Exp Comp. brightness you can represent drops progressively as light levels fall, until you can only show up to +1EV), and, in extreme low light, you can lose the ability to find focus at all. Until you reach that extreme autofocus is faster but, for working after dark, you might prefer the reliability brought by reverting to the 'Normal' refresh rate.
Optimizing JPEG settings
Having tested the noise reduction and sharpening settings as part of review, we felt that the E-M5 applied more noise reduction than was really needed, then added rather over-enthusiastic sharpening to crisp things up again. We'd suggest changing 'Noise Filter' (which is what Olympus calls high ISO noise reduction) down to Low or Off. This setting is the second option in Custom Menu G.
Once you've turned the noise reduction down, it's worth easing up on the sharpening, too. This can be adjusted from the Super Control Panel and we'd recommend a setting of -1.
|JPEG - Fine||JPEG - SuperFine|
Olympus offers a uniquely low-compression JPEG option on its cameras, called 'Super Fine'. Compared side-by-side with 'Fine' JPEGs, there's no appreciable difference indeed even performing a 'difference' comparison in Photoshop, you'd be hard-pressed to see what's changed. Generally we feel that, if you want to retain maximum editability, you're better-off shooting Raw, rather than larger-than-probably-necessary JPEGs. However, if you do wish to do so, '[IQ] Set' on the second page of Custom Menu G will allow you to specify the size and quality settings available when shooting.
Some people have complained that the Auto white balance produces images that are a touch too 'warm' and orange. Obviously you could apply a little white balance fine-tuning, applying a little negative correction to the Amber axis (the E-M5 will remember a different adjustment for each preset - which is excellent, so long as you remember you've applied it). But, there's also a menu option to change the behavior of Auto WB. Custom Menu G - '[WB Auto] Keep Warm Color' can be set to 'Off' if you want less of an orange tint to your images.