Hint for (some) owners of the E-M5 Mark III re AF points

Started Nov 22, 2019 | Discussions thread
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Helen Veteran Member • Posts: 7,606
Hint for (some) owners of the E-M5 Mark III re AF points

I've been meaning to type this one for a bit, then get sidetracked...

Summary as the rest is too long and detailed: if you haven't tried it, enable On2 as the setting for AF Pointer in gear menu A2 (AF/MF heading at top of its screen).  It does good things to the behaviour of the focus points.  Out of the box, it is set to On1, which is the long-standing, slightly uninformative Olympus behaviour for focus points.

Stop reading here if that's all you need!

Long version:

I wanted to point this out to new E-M5 Mark III owners, particularly if they haven't used an E-M1 Mark II (or E-M1X) before, though it is possible that this might be handy to some owners of those two cameras too. It is covered briefly in the manual but could be missed.  The description below applies to the E-M5 Mark III and the E-M1 Mark II with up to date firmware - I don't have access to an E-M1X but assume it will be similar.  In my descriptions below, Face and Eye detection are both disabled so as not to add an extra layer of complication to my clumsy descriptions.  I am also not referring to the way of focusing when you touch the screen once (with the touchscreen set to focus point movement rather than shooting on touch) or if you use the magnification button in live view.  Both of these (a single press of the latter) bring up a rectangular, green-outlined focus box with somewhat different characteristics that mostly stays onscreen, with a vertical magnification scale at the right border (touch-responsive as well as physical controls).

OK... here goes -

There is a setting in gear menu A2 (heading of this tab is AF/MF) called AF Area Pointer.  Out of the box, it is set to "On1", which gives the operation long-time Olympus users will be used to, which I'll summarise: in S-AF, when focus lock is achieved, the focus target will briefly illuminate as a green outline box on the single point and then disappear; the green in-focus spot in the top right corner of the display will appear constantly to indicate the lock whilst the shutter button is half-pressed, however.  Change to any of the larger area focus patterns (5, 9, 25 or All) and the behaviour is similar - a briefly-displayed green-bordered single box will flick briefly into view indicating where focus lock was obtained within the area covered by the selected area covered by the AF pattern selected and then disappear, with the green corner dot illuminating constantly as the sole indicator of a focus lock being held by continued half-pressure on the shutter release.

In C-AF with the default setting On1, behaviour is similar to the above - the box disappears once focus is found though the top-right green dot reflects whether focus is being achieved or not as it dynamically updates with half-pressure maintained on the shutter release - it too disappears if it's not finding focus and re-appears when it does (unlike the box).  The coyness of the box is a bit unhelpful if you have a focus area pattern larger than single selected, as you only get a brief indication of the focus point position found the first time as you start your half-press - after that, as you maintain the half-press, you only know if focus is continuing to be found somewhere or not via the green corner dot, not where it is being found.

A bit frustratingly uninformative at times, but how it's always been.

Change this setting to On2 and things are better.  In S-AF, single point and 5, 9 and 25 areas, the only difference is that the single green-outlined box indicating a focus point lock stays visible as you hold focus instead of only appearing momentarily.  Somewhat helpful.

In C-AF for these settings, in single point, the box will appear and re-appear according to whether focus is found (like the green top right corner dot, whose behaviour always remains consistent whatever the mode, pattern or setting).  In 5, 9, and 25 point, the box behaviour the same - but in addition it also can move around within the limits of the pattern selected and so is able to indicate when a different position is being focused upon. More helpful.

When the focus point pattern is set to All (i.e. the near-full screen coverage) something very different happens.  In S-AF, you get a somewhat Panasonic-like behaviour.  As lock is achieved, multiple slightly different-shaped, finer-looking green-bordered boxes of a rectangular shape illuminate wherever the distance matches that of the focussed distance - i.e. it indicates with a multiple-box focus cluster effect everywhere that is in focus. The shape of the cluster made by the multiple boxes and the number of boxes which make up the cluster will vary according to each subject/situation.  Because it's set to On2, this cluster pattern (which has a layout matching broadly the shape of the areas focused upon) stays visible as long as you hold focus with half-press.  Very nice.

Even better, with C-AF and All as the focus area, you have dynamically-updating cluster focus patterns which dance around following the things that are focused upon and changing the shape of the cluster when appropriate to reflect coverage of the focused subject.  I like that - recent Panasonics like the G9 also do it, along with Sonys and recent Fujis - it's sometimes referred to as "dancing squares" because it first appeared on Sony mirrorless models - I think the a6000 was the first to do it - and they use tiny square green-outline multiple boxes to form the clusters.

The E-M1 Mark II always offered the dynamic cluster C-AF described above when All was selected as the AF pattern and AF Point Display was set to On2, but it took until Firmware 3.0 for the cluster pattern to be enabled for "All" with S-AF.  Surprisingly the S-AF cluster pattern for "All" actually made its debut from the outset with the E-M10 Mark III (and E-PL9) - but neither of them had (and still don't have) the dynamic cluster patterning for C-AF, perhaps due to them being CDAF-only.

If you made it to the end of this, well done!  Phew...

Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Sony a6000
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