User Guide: Getting the most out of the Olympus E-M5

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Getting the most out of the Olympus E-M5

During the process of preparing the review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 we spent quite a lot of time trying to work out how every little setting worked. Also being in the fairly unusual situation of having tried to describe the menu options of most Olympus cameras over the past couple of years, I thought it'd make sense to share the things I've found, alongside the findings of dilligent E-M5 owner Timur Born.

Some of these are fairly obvious and some are a matter of taste, but they're all things that we think most E-M5 owners will at least want to be aware of. So please join us on a journey through the settings you might want to play with on the E-M5.

Throughout this article, all menus and item names are stated in bold and any symbols in the menus replaced with a [description] in square brackets.

First things first:

When you first insert a battery into the E-M5, it'll try to behave like a DSLR - showing the Super Control Panel settings screen on the back of the camera and using the electronic viewfinder for previewing the image. Which strikes me as odd - one of the main things the E-M5 offers over a DSLR is seamless operation, regardless of whether you shoot with the rear screen or the viewfinder. Pressing the Live View button on the side of the viewfinder hump pushes the camera into live view mode, allowing use of the EVF and rear screen interchangeably.

The other thing you might wish to do, when you enter the menus for the first time, is press 'INFO' to stop the camera hiding most of the screen behind very slightly extended versions of the current menu item's name. If you're ever uncertain about an option's function, you can always hit 'INFO' again, just to see if the lengthier wording helps clarify the matter.

The other thing to remember is that the menus tend to require you to press 'OK' to confirm - it's easy, especially when you're trying to go on an change another setting, to select an option and the press 'left' to move back through the menus, only to find your setting change hasn't stuck.

Jump to:

User interface:

Camera function:

JPEG output:

Shooting movies:

User interface tricks and tips

Enabling the Super Control Panel for fast settings changes

The Super Control Panel is one of our favorite user interfaces - it puts all your key settings on a single screen, making it easy to check or change your setup. On the E-M5 it's been made even better by being made touch sensitive, meaning you can simply hit OK to bring the screen up, tap the setting you wish to change, then spin the dial to change it. Alternatively, you can press 'OK' to see a list of available settings.

Strangely, though, Super Control Panel isn't enabled, by default, in the E-M5's live view settings. We think this is one of the most important single changes you can make for making the shooting experience faster and more enjoyable.

 The Super Control Panel gives easy access to the camera's key settings

To enable the Super Control Panel, you need to go to the '[Camera] Control Settings' option in Custom Menu, section D. From here you can decide which user interface is available in the difference exposure modes. You can have more than one interface available in each mode. In general we'd suggest the Super Control Panel - marked as LIVE SCP in the menus - as being ideal for giving you the quickest access to the most functions, all on a single screen.

Once you've made LIVE SCP available for the shooting mode you're using, simply press the OK button from live view and the Super Control Panel should be overlaid as in the screen shot above. If you have left 'Live Control' engaged, you can switch between the interfaces by pressing INFO when the settings are displayed on the screen.

Choosing live view displays and configuring Highlights & Shadows

There five main live view display types available on the E-M5, four of which are optional. As with Super Control Panel, the one we think is best is disabled by default. The available views can be selected by visiting Custom Menu D, '[Thumbnail]/Info Settings' - 'LV-Info.' We'd suggest disabling the histogram, which is rather small and hard to read, and enable the 'Highlights&Shadow' view.

Highlights & Shadow indicates the under- and over-exposed regions of an image by replacing them with blue and red, respectively. This gives an immediate idea of which detail you risk losing with your current exposure. They're also easy to interpret, even in bright conditions where you can't see fine contrast differences on the screen.

Highlight & Shadow simulation

Better still, the threshold at which the camera indicates under- and over-exposure can be defined in Custom Menu D, 'Histogram Settings.' Depending on how you process your images, you're likely to want to experiment to find settings that suit you, but a setting of 250 - 5 usually provides a good safety-net.

The same options also exist for the electronic viewfinder and are customized in Custom Menu J - '[EVF] Info Settings'. This menu option only has an effect if you've selected Style 1 or 2 from the 'Built-in EVF Style' option at the top of Custom Menu J. These viewfinder styles offer a smaller image preview surrounded by a black or blue information panel but do have the benefit that you can choose a live view display independently of the one you've chosen for the rear screen. We've tended to stick with the default 'Style 3' which exactly mimics the rear display and uses the entire viewfinder area (but also means you have to use the same preview options you selected for the rear screen).

Buttons and dials

There are three primary configurable buttons on the E-M5's body, with the option of another two, if you're willing to give up direct access to AF point selection on the four-way controller. The three primary buttons - Fn1, Fn2 and REC have a wide range of options that can be configured in Custom Menu B - 'Button Function.'

If you also want to use the 'Right' and 'Down' arrows on the four-way controller as configurable buttons, you'll need to change the '[Four Way] Function' to 'Direct Function.' The two buttons can then be configured separately. With this option chosen, AF selection becomes a mode, accessed by pressing 'Left' on the four-way controller, and requiring a press of 'OK' to confirm each change.

A full list of the available button options is included in our Olympus E-M5 review

When configuring buttons, there are a couple of things to remember - Fn2, if set to 'Multi Function' allows access to four functions (including magnified live view), so you may find it the most useful option. To switch between functions, simply hold down Fn2 and spin a control dial. Also, only four of the functions that can be assigned to Fn1 are available in movie mode (AEL/AFL, Off, Digital Teleconverter and AF Area Select) - if you select anything other than these, Fn1 will act as focus acquire/hold when shooting movies. More detail can be found later in this article.

Click here to read page 2 of our User Guide to the Olympus E-M5

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Total comments: 262
By PeterNMIF (May 8, 2012)

Wrong image on configuring auto ISO.

Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 8, 2012)

No, it isn't. The image relates to the second aspect (defining the shutter speed at which the camera increases the ISO).

Narek Avetisian
By Narek Avetisian (May 8, 2012)

I've got 2 questions:
1. The HLD-6 battery pack/holder has a AC power adapter, AC-3, as an option. Does it provide a standard jack or a proprietay one? I found that AC-3 costs almost $300 - tooooo much for just a simple power adapter, i think.

2. Is it possible by any way to shoot video with FL-600R flash with video LED light on while using the EMA-1 audio input accessory on? Thing is that EMA-1 blocks the hotshoe.

P.S. thanks for a great article!!!!!

Timur Born
By Timur Born (May 8, 2012)

Since the FL-600R is not available for me yet and I could not find a manual I don't know the definitive answer. But as a 'standalone' unit coming with manual controls and being powered by its own batteries I don't see why it should not be possible.

By ppotka (May 8, 2012)

1. HLD jack is proprietary, I guess. Never seen like that, but isn't it the same with any cell phone etc...

2. You can use FL-600R video light manually off camera. It is supplied with a small table stand which has tripod thread underneath..

Narek Avetisian
By Narek Avetisian (May 8, 2012)

thanks ppl

By efg40 (May 7, 2012)

Very helpful! Thanks!

BTW, the first picture on the movie page has the Fn1 and review buttons switched. Is this the English driving version? ;)

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 7, 2012)

Ah! That was a shot of the pre-production camera we had when preparing the preview (the button functions were swapped pretty late in the process, I believe).

By efg40 (May 8, 2012)

Now it looks like mine. :)
Smart swap on their part.

By rocklobster (May 7, 2012)

Image stabilisation in the viewfinder would be a Godsend after trying to frame shots using an old 200mm tele on my E-PM1. I imagine that with IS built into the lens that this is standard on Panasonic M4/3 cameras - correct?

Vlad S
By Vlad S (May 8, 2012)

Yes, on Panasonics if the O.I.S. is turned on, then it's on during the preview as well as during the shot, and this setting was available from day 1. In the earlier models there was an option to have it off during the preview, and on during the shutter release, but now this option has been removed.

I actually often use O.I.S. for manual focusing, and turn it off for the shot, so I was very surprised to learn that Olympus did not have it available during the preview.

By Mouser (May 13, 2012)

Vlad S - Just curious... *why* do you use OIS to focus and then turn it off for taking the shot?

By drkhrse (May 7, 2012)

The link from page 2 to 3 goes to the preview home page, the url is instead of
thanks for all of the great info!

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 7, 2012)

Oddly that's not how it works for me, but I've made the link less ambiguous, so it should now work.

Isabel Cutler
By Isabel Cutler (May 7, 2012)

Very, very, helpful. Having had the e-pl1 and the help of "The Olympus Pen E-PL1 for Dummies" were big helps in understanding the options in the E-pl1. I thought the E-PL1 menus and buttons were daunting until I got a GH2. Now with the EM5 coming, with even more options, at least I'm prepared!!! Thank you very much for this helpful guide.

By pdelux (May 7, 2012)

great job!

By PJInTheUSA (May 7, 2012)

Thanks. A really outstanding feature I would like added to the OM-D is the ability to buy one. I find this the biggest impediment to use.

Dolan Halbrook
By Dolan Halbrook (May 7, 2012)

Thanks! I'll definitely be playing with some of these settings when I get home.

Domagoj Batinic
By Domagoj Batinic (May 7, 2012)

regarding EVF. i have E-M5 and without changing any EVF settings when i have it hanging around my neck EVF is not always on,because camera goes to sleep quickly ( a minute or two). so it's not really draining the battery (firmware of the camera is 1.0)

By J4Hug (May 7, 2012)

Thanks Richard, excellent idea ...... and considering the customerisation possible with the camera you may need even more pages as work-a-rounds of other different aspects are identified.

1 upvote
By SDPharm (May 7, 2012)

Any chance this will be extended to other cameras? One for the GX1 would be nice (although it's pretty easy to use already).

By SkiHound (May 7, 2012)

Thank you. Don't have my E-M5 yet but this will give some very useful places to start configuration. Very nice!

By boyzo (May 7, 2012)

Thanks Richard...
Just got my OM-D yesterday and its great love to shoot with it.
I have the extra grip wonderful addition :)

By Mssimo (May 7, 2012)

sorry..but we need a guide on how to get a e-M5 before we know how to use it ;)

1 upvote
Don Wiss
By Don Wiss (May 8, 2012)

I just stopped by at Focus Camera to hold one. They had none on display, but he did have some in stock. Getting back home I find on their website they list the black body with the kit lens as being in stock.

I wanted to hold one as I have a contact that is arguing it is too small and I should wait until the June or September ones come out. Presumably he's referring to the next Panasonic models.

By win39 (May 7, 2012)

Wow. What a good idea. You guys develop all that experience with the cameras and sharing it is awesome. There was a little of that in the NEX-7 review with the settings. Maybe more?

By msusic (May 7, 2012)

Wow, nice guide.
I'm very impressed by the level of customization available.

M Jesper
By M Jesper (May 8, 2012)

Well what did you expect for €1300, a Leica ? ;)

1 upvote
By erichK (May 8, 2012)

I suspect that it is probably that same high level of customization that is flumoxing people..Adn the problem with the thick, detailed manuals that feel so good in the hand is that they also require a lot of resources to update and correct, should you want to add a new feature, or enhance or change an existing one.

Allen Ballard
By Allen Ballard (Jun 30, 2012)

Just finished a couple of days with the camera and the manual, and I thank you for this article. The manual is just plain awful and, like someone else, I definitely had second thoughts about whether I really wanted to keep the camera. All I want to do is shoot and basically be able to change focus, quality, iso, white balance, and metering and all of this is complex with this menu system. Just sold my G1 x in anticipation of buying this and must say that the G1 x with its external buttons is a lot easier to use than this Om-D Having said all of that, I do like the camera!

By BigFarley (Aug 16, 2012)

Thanks for the great info... was very helpful

Great camera only just got it... can't wait for sun rise...

By radamo (Aug 21, 2012)

Mine is coming today. Can't wait to take this baby out for a test run. Thanks for all the great info here. Really appreciate it.

Total comments: 262