Controls

The E-M5, like the E-P3, has a touch-sensitive OLED screen. This can be used to place the AF point or used to focus and trip the shutter. In can also be used to select options from within the Super Control Panel if you've chosen to engage it, though it can't be used to change the actual settings, once it's been brought up. And, for those people who don't want to risk accidentally pressing the screen, there's a menu option to completely disable it.

The OM-D has three user-configurable function buttons, which can be used to provide direct access to your preferred shooting setting, so that you have easy access to the parameters you change most often. As is normal for Olympus there is a wide range of functions on offer.

By default, the Fn2 button, placed next to the shutter button, fulfils a role called 'Multi-Function' that is used for functions requiring further input from the control dials. Primarily that means controlling the top and tail of the camera's tone curve to tailor the camera's response to the scene being captured.

It's a feature that's been available on recent PEN models, sadly though, it was fairly well hidden and required multi-step button pressing that would put off all but the most dedicated user. By contrast, the E-M5's Fn2 button puts it directly at your fingertips. Pressing Fn2 overlays a tone curve diagram into the viewfinder and the two dials adjust the highlight and shadow response.

However, although its function is a little obscure, the 'Multi-Function' name should hint that there's more to it than simply a tone-curve adjustment. Hold the button for a moment and spin either of the control dials and you'll be able to access three other functions (White Balance, Live View Magnification and Aspect Ratio). The button retains whichever of these functions you used last so, for instance, if you swap from a Micro Four Thirds lens to an adapted manual focus lens, you can easily gain access to magnified live view.

Shadows Neutral Highlight

Here we can see one of the two 'settings' viewfinder modes, with the information strip under the image. These two modes (the other has the information on a black, rather than blue background), reduces the effective magnification of the viewfinder to 0.92x. There's also a full screen mode in which the shooting information is overlaid onto the image. This mode gives the full 1.15x magnification to the viewfinder.

Customizable buttons

Olympus Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras tend to be incredibly user configurable and the E-M5's high-end status means this is taken to extremes. The two control dials are configurable by shooting mode, so you can set up each exposure mode exactly as you wish. For example, in aperture priority mode you can set the F number onto either dial and then set either exposure compensation, flash compensation or F number onto the other one (if you're determined to have both dial do the same thing). This extends to being able to decide which dial navigates up and down menus and which one delves in or out of them.

It's also possible to re-assign the two function buttons and the movie record buttons to perform other functions. We've prepared a list of the options available.

Button Fn1 Fn2 REC
Available Functions • AEL/AFL
• REC
• D-O-F Preview
• One-touch WB
• AF area select
• Home [AF point reset]
• Manual Focus
• Raw/JPEG
• Test Picture
• My Set 1
• My Set 2
• My Set 3
• My Set 4
• Underwater scene
• Live Guide
• Digital teleconverter
• Magnify
• Off
• Multi-function
• ISO
• White Balance
• Exposure Comp.
• AEL/AFL
• REC
• D-O-F Preview
• AF area select
• Home [AF point reset]
• Manual Focus
• Raw/JPEG
• Underwater scene
• Live Guide
• Digital teleconverter
• Magnify
• Off
• REC
• D-O-F Preview
• AF area select
• Home [AF point reset]
• Manual Focus
• Raw/JPEG
• Underwater scene
• Live Guide
• Digital teleconverter
• Magnify
• Off
• Multi-function
• ISO
• White Balance
• Exposure Comp.
• AEL/AFL

Four-way Controller

Meanwhile, there are two ways of using the four-way controller. By default it's set to provide direct access to AF-point positioning (which seems reasonable, given the ability to put three functions of your choice on the Fn and Rec buttons). But, if you want still more direct access or you prefer to use the touch-screen to position the AF point, you can change the four-way controller's action to 'Direct Function' mode, that allows you two additional customisable buttons.

In Direct Function mode, the left-hand button engages AF-point selection mode, while the right-hand and downwards buttons (that default to flash control and drive mode, respectively) can be reconfigured to any of the following settings:

Button Down Arrow Right Arrow
Available Functions • Drive Mode
• ISO
• White Balance
• Underwater scene
• Exposure Comp.
• Flash Mode
• Flash Mode
• Drive Mode
• ISO
• White Balance
• Exposure Comp.

There are also subtle options like whether half-pressing the shutter button exits magnified live view (which can be infuriating if you're trying to focus a manual focus lens).

And the customization goes way beyond the buttons. You can select which grid you want displayed (with a different grid for the viewfinder and rear screen), and, unlike the PENs, this grid remains in place regardless of which type of live view you choose. There are four live view options that can be selected, including an electronic 'spirit level' display and the excellent highlight/shadow preview that works particularly well with the adjustable tone curve feature (and has user-definable threshold values, naturally). Each of these live view modes can be disengaged if you don't want to have to cycle through them.

AEL/AFL button combinations

To give some idea of how customizable the E-M5 is, here is a breakdown of the different settings that can be applied to the behavior of the AEL/AFL button, if you have assigned that function to one of the controls. The relationship between AEL/AFL, Shutter half-press and full press can be chosen, with different settings selected for S-AF, C-AF and MF modes.

AEL/AFL modes (S-AF & MF)

Mode Shutter half-press Shutter full-press AEL/AFL button
mode 1 AEL & S-AF Exposure AEL
mode 2 S-AF AEL & Exposure AEL
mode 3 AEL only Exposure S-AF*

*In manual focus mode, single AF acquire (S-AF) is only available in Mode 3 - giving you the option to use the AEL/AFL button (if you've configured one of the Fn buttons to be AEL/AFL), to perform a one-off autofocus acquisition.

AEL/AFL modes (C-AF)

Mode Shutter half-press Shutter full-press AEL/AFL button
mode 1 AEL & AF Start AFL & Exposure AEL
mode 2 AF Start AEL & AFL & Exposure AEL
mode 3 AEL only AFL & Exposure AF Start
mode 4 No action AEL & AFL & Exposure AF Start

Other function buttons

In addition to the two function buttons on the camera's body, the E-M5 also allows different settings to be applied to the two function buttons (B-Fn1 and B-Fn2) on the optional battery grip, and to the Function button on the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens. These buttons can have pretty much all of the functions listed in the table above applied to them. In addition the lens function button (L-Fn) can be assigned to perform AF-stop.