Controls and customization

It's fair to say that the E-M1 isn't short of customization options. However, unlike the cameras further down the range, this isn't about adding direct access to your frequently-used features, since most key features already have their own buttons or means of access. It's more about the ability to assign the settings you change most often to the controls you find most convenient.

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The diagram below shows the features you're given access to by default:

Mode 1
Mode 2

2x2 Dial system

The E-M1 includes the 2x2 Dial interface we first saw on the E-P5, in which a switch on the back of the camera changes the behavior of certain controls, giving quick access to more functions than would otherwise be available. The diagram above highlights the default settings, by which the camera's dials are switched to control white balance and ISO.

New for the E-M1 is the 2x2 switch's ability to also change the behavior of the buttons on the camera's left shoulder. This can be enabled or disabled independently of the main 2x2 function, so you can gain quick access to WB and ISO, without affecting the shoulder buttons. Equally, you can disable the 2x2 switch's effect on the dials, and just have it change the shoulder buttons' functions.

The control's main function can be customized so that, rather than placing WB and ISO on the dials (in either order), it instead swaps between two focus modes, which means it can be used to switch between autofocus and manual. Alternatively, it can be set to place WB and ISO on the Fn2 and REC buttons (again in either order). However there's no way of adjusting which features the switch engages, or combining its various options.

Button customization

The E-M1, continuing something of an Olympus tradition, is one of the most customizable cameras we've ever encountered, and it's full of features designed to give fairly direct access to almost any function you might choose, just in case the defaults aren't sufficient.

A step forward on the E-M1 is that all 26 options can be used on the six main custom buttons.

Button Fn1 / Fn2 / REC / AEL AFL / Upper Front / Lower Front
Available Functions • AF area select
• AF area reset
• Manual Focus
• Raw/JPEG
• Test Picture
• Myset1
• Myset2
• Myset3
• Myset4
• Underwater scene
• Exposure Comp
• Live Guide
• Digital teleconverter
• Magnify
• WB
• Multi Function
• Peaking
• Level Disp
• Off
• REC*
• DOF Preview
• One Touch WB

*REC can only be assigned to one button at a time, so needs to be de-registered from the REC button before it can be reassigned.
** The exact behavior of a button set to AEL/AFL can be defined elsewhere in the menus (with different settings definable for each focus mode)

If this isn't enough for you, then you can also choose to change the function of the four-way controller (which gives direct access to focus point, by default), so that the right and downward directional buttons can be redefined. You can still get quick access to focus point selection by pressing the Fn1 button on the camera's shoulder. These are the available options:

Button Down or Right on four-way controller
Available Functions • Drive Mode
• WB
• Lock touchscreen
• Electric Zoom
• Exposure Comp.
• Flash Mode

Interestingly, these buttons (which are only accessible by removing one of the methods of specifying AF point), can have several functions assigned to them that aren't available elsewhere.

Customizable mode dial

In a feature unique to Olympus, any of the positions on the exposure mode dial can also be customized. The camera has four 'Myset' user memories which can be assigned to any of the positions on the mode dial. So if you have a specific shooting setup you like to be able to access quickly, perhaps for low light work, and you never use the Photo Story mode, you could save a Myset and assign it to that position for quick recall.

Any of the positions on the E-M1's mode dial can be customized to recall one of the camera's four 'Myset' memories.

This opens up some interesting options; for example, you could store specific setups for each of the PASM modes. One option might be to configure the S position as a 'sports' mode, keeping it as shutter priority but adding continuous shooting and tracking autofocus. But at the same time you could set up the A position with your preferred settings for general shooting, and switch between two different setups at the flick of the dial. This would certainly be easier than trying to remember exactly what purpose you had 'Myset2' set up for (or indeed 'C2' on other brands).

Multi-Function button

The E-M1 includes the Multi-function button we first saw on the E-M5, allowing access to four functions from a single button. These include the Highlight&Shadow Control feature that allows you to tweak and preview changes to the camera's tone curve, and the new Color Creator mode that allows you to make tonal and saturation shifts to the camera's color response. In addition you get access to aspect ratio selection and magnified live view.

To change the button's current function, simply hold it down and spin the rear dial. Once you've selected the one you're after, then pressing the button once brings up the on-screen interface to operate it.