TIPS & TRICKS
Get to know the camera
I remember very well my first trip out with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. I and some other nature photographers were invited on a trip to the West with Olympus Norway. We were out in a boat to photograph birds and landscapes. The first thing I started to check on camera was how I adjusted things like iso, aperture and not least how to move the focus button to the back of the camera, where I wanted.
This is how it is with a camera that comes with factory settings. Almost no buttons or wheels match what you are used to from before. There are quite a few different photographers so what suits one does not necessarily suit another photographer.
Fortunately, Morten Hvaal was on the trip as a living manual for Olympus. I grabbed him right away and asked to get the focus button at the back, iso adjustments there and aperture selection there and exposure compensation there and so on. These are settings I need to have steel control on, so when switching to a new camera, I am completely dependent on getting this in place. When Morten had made the settings for me, we were dus, Olympus and I. It's not much worse, it's just a matter of getting the camera set up the way you like it.
To help others who do not have Morten Hvaal nearby, or perhaps are not very fond of reading manuals, I have set up this page with some simple tips that may make everyday photo photography a little easier.
Focus button on the front or back of the camera?
One of the most important camera settings for me as a nature photographer is the focus. This can be done in two ways, either with the shutter button, while taking the picture. Or with a dedicated dedicated button for focusing on the back of the camera. I was very early in moving the focus to the button on the back of the camera body. This almost revolutionized the way I photographed. With the focus button on the back of the camera, I could set the focus exactly where I wanted, compose the image, and then press the shutter button without the camera starting to focus. I can hardly take pictures if I get a camera in my hands that starts buzzing with focus every time I touch the shutter button. Yes, this is how it feels after working with the rear focus button for a while, it simply becomes disturbing when the camera tries to focus every time the picture is to be taken.
With the focus button at the back, the finger rests on the focus button at all times, ready to focus. Another finger is on the shutter button, ready to take the picture. If there is action, I plant the focus in the eye of the bird or animal, squeeze the back focus button, I quickly see if the focus is on, then I press the shutter button and take the pictures. With continuous focus, simply hold down the rear focus button with the shutter button.
How to shift the focus to the AEL / AFL button on the back of the camera body. Remember you have to do this in two places.
Go to MENU, select Custom menu A1, select AEL / AFL press ok. I have selected S-AF press the button to the right of OK. Here I have selected MODE 3, click ok. This setting sets the focus on the AEL / AFL button, and exposure to the shutter button on the front of the camera.
Then select Custom menu B. B stands for Button menu and here you will find items related to the buttons or Buttons. Select "Button Function". Click ok. Select AEL / AFL Function click button to the right of ok. Select AEL / AFL. Press button to activate AEL / AFL. Press ok.
E-M1X Go to the menu A1-AEL / AFL where you will find a new menu item at the bottom, “Half Way AF”
This must be set to "Inoperative" to turn off the focus on the front of the camera. This only applies to the E-M1X.
Congratulations, now you can try focusing with the button on the back of the camera.
The battery settings must be set up correctly to get the best out of the camera. The settings can be found under J2.
We start at the top.
Baclit LCD - 8 sec
Sleep - 1 min
Auto Power Off - 30 min
Quick Sleep - Mode Off
How much battery does the camera use on a winter day?
On a winter trip to Lofoten in February with -6 degrees on average, I had one battery in the camera, and one in the extra battery grip. After a day of photography, it was about 30 percent on battery number two. My photo buddy with the same photo equipment experienced much of the same. We used the rear screen actively during all the shooting. In addition, I had three extra batteries as security. Because if there is one thing you do not want on a trip, it is to run out of power. The most important thing is to make sure that all the batteries are fully charged at all times.
It should be comfortable to look through the viewfinder on camera, and the viewfinder image should appear quickly. The electronic viewfinder on the Olympus can be configured to behave exactly as you wish. Or in this case how I as a nature photographer want it to behave.
The settings can be found in Custom menu I.
Custom menu I select EVF Auto Switch. I have set this to Off. If it is on, the viewfinder will take time to turn on when you touch it to the eye, it will also adjust the brightness automatically if light enters. So I recommend turning it off. If the bird suddenly sticks its head out, or the moose suddenly comes running, then I can lose the picture because it takes half a second before the viewfinder reacts if it is on auto. Ps: To be able to switch between viewfinder and screen without closing the screen, the button at the top left of the viewfinder must be configured as follows: B / Button Function / select the button and click to the right for ok. In view Selection, select: Switches between Live View and Super Control Panel. When eye sensor is disabled switches between EVF and rear monitor. Furthermore, I have these settings.
Custom menu I / EVF adjust / Auto Luminance off.
Custom menu I / EVF Style: Here I have chosen Style 3. The main reason is that I can get the spirit level up at the same time as I have the histogram on the screen.
Info settings, see last section at the bottom of the page.
Custom menu I / EVF Grid settings. If you have set D3 Grid settings to OFF, you can access the settings here. Otherwise it will be grayed out, in which case you must enter and set D3 Grid settings to OFF. I have chosen the lower frame as it gives a nice line up and down which fits well when working with landscapes.OBS! For the viewfinder and histogram to display the correct exposure, the D2 / live view boost must be OFF
Mirrorless provides unique opportunities for recording in total silence. No camera click that reveals that there is a nature photographer sitting here. The electronic viewfinder also gives the photographer full control of the histogram and spirit level.
In the menu I that I have talked about so far, we find a small detail that is just absolutely fantastic. Half Way Level you will find it under menu I.
When activated, a spirit level will appear in the plus or minus line at the bottom of the screen. This is how you can check that the camera is right before you take the picture.
I always work with half an eye on the histogram and half an eye on the subject. Through the viewfinder, the histogram gives me an answer as to whether the image is too bright or too dark. Then I compensate quickly by turning the wheel forward on the camera, plus or minus on the exposure. A light tap on the shutter release gives me an answer as to whether the horizon is straight or skewed.
PS: It is a must to follow the histogram, and not least correct if it shows errors.
We are all used to updating our computers, a new update means a faster computer, and that it usually comes with some news. Olympus' cameras do exactly the same thing. When updating, you can say that you get a new camera without having to pay for it. All you have to do is connect the camera to your computer and then open the "Olympus Digital camera updater" and follow the on-screen instructions.
Firmware update is done by first downloading "Olympus Digital camera updater" it can be downloaded here
Also remember that you should update Olympus' lenses.
To be able to use Olympus' new 2X converter, you must update both 40-150 2.8 and 300 4.0.
You do this in the same way, the program will recognize the lens when you connect the camera.
Organize the menu
The E-M1X and E-M1 MK III give you full control over the menu system with the option to set up your very own favorite menu. A star at the bottom of the menu, on the left, takes you to the star menu.
Here you will find five menu items, which in turn can have seven sub-items.
To save a menu item, press "Rec", the red button in the upper right of the camera.
Then just select which menu you want the function stored under.
A tip might be to gather everything that has to do with autofocus under one menu item.
So that when you are there and need to fine-tune the follow-up focus, it is quick to get an overview of the functions that are available.
Another tip is to save menu items that you have struggled to find. The next time you need just that menu item, you know where you are and don't have to look.
Birds in flight
Photographing birds that come whizzing through the air like a projectile requires a lot of the photographer, and not least it requires a lot of camera and lens. The smaller the bird, the more demanding. You should also have a lens that focuses quickly, and a camera with good tracking focus. In addition, a lot of training and mistakes are needed before you crack the code on "birds in flight". The first and most important thing is to be able to detect the bird in time, only then have a good chance of finding it again in the viewfinder. One must also to some extent be able to predict the bird's flying pattern. Then you must be able to keep the bird in focus, without taking your eyes off the viewfinder.
Once you have found the bird in the viewfinder, the next goal is to get autofocus to take hold. This means that the camera focuses on the bird when you focus with the camera. Then the camera's follow focus must be of such a quality that the focus hangs on the bird all the way. Then it is the photographer's task to keep the focus point planted in the bird's eye, while the camera is gently "turned" in the direction the bird is flying.
As it turns out, there is a lot to think about. A critical point is how the camera is set up. Only when all parameters are set correctly will the camera work optimally. Below is a recommendation for basic settings. I am constantly researching what are the best settings and gladly accept tips if something in the setup can be improved.
Firmware update, the first thing you need to do is check that you have the latest firmware update for both camera and lens. Olympus is constantly coming up with improvements on autofocus image stabilization and more. You need to download the "Olympus Digital camera updater" link to the software
Olympus MK II can record both with and without an electronic shutter. With follower focus, the electronic shutter can shoot up to 18 frames per second, with follower focus and mechanical shutter, the speed is up to 10 frames per second. A general recommendation is to increase the proportion of sharp images by lowering the speed from 18 to 15 and 10 to 8, respectively.
Note! C-AF from image to image only works in L-mode, in H-mode AF stops at first exposure.
Olympus offers a number of shooting options, you can see the options by pressing the button where it says HDR on the left side of the camera, look at the picture to the right. What you should look for to shoot at high speed silently is an L with a heart next to it, yep a bit confusing as you might think of H too high. But on H, the follow focus will only apply to the first image. 60 frames per second should instead be called R for rocket speed. Well, if you select L with a heart, the camera will record silently at up to 18 frames per second. But as mentioned earlier, it may pay to lower this to 15 for the most sharp images.
Like most things on the Olympus MK II, you can tailor the camera to your own premises. So how many shooting options do you really need? I recommend you go to D1 and click on settings for different recordings and tick off all you do not need. Then it is faster to choose between the different recording options.
Choose following focus, this is a must for the focus to follow the bird. Click on AF and you will see a number of choices at the back of the screen, here you select Continuous AF.
The settings for the selected firing speed can be found under Custom menu 1, L settings.
If we also lower the speed of "Low Burst" to 9, then we give the autofocus some help. The same can be done if you choose an electronic shutter, it can be lowered from 18 frames per second to 15, or lower.
Choice of focus points
In almost all my time as a photographer, one point focus has been a sure winner. With a focus point, I can plant the focus point in the bird's eye, and then follow the bird's movements with the camera. If you are driving in a group, suddenly a focal point can focus on a wing instead of the bird's eye. And there is nothing more annoying to get sharp wings and blurred heads. Here you just have to try your hand, switch between a point focus and a group of e.g. five. But things are changing, new technology has meant that you also have to try more on group focus. Especially if the bird or animal comes straight in, it will be an advantage with group focus, preferably all 121. But if the bird flies low over waves, a focal point can quickly catch the wave instead. Then you have to narrow down, either to one point or five focus points that work very well.
It may be worthwhile to test C-AF + TR. I myself have not been able to test this out properly, the function is apparently no longer just a gimmick, but a real alternative for hanging on fairly clear motifs in e.g. dense vegetation. Should be used with one focus point in the middle, so you have control over what it should try to stick to. The number of selected points does not affect how it follows the subject once it is locked, then it uses all 121.
Ps: Do not wait for the camera to find the focus point, if the camera is struggling, lift your finger quickly from the focus button and refocus, very often this helps.
C-AF release priority
A big question is whether C-AF release priority should be set in off or on mode. The settings can be found under C1.
It may be easier to understand Focus Priority, where the camera only takes pictures when the camera has found focus. Release priority means that the camera can take a picture, even when it has not found focus, or rather you as a photographer can take a picture regardless of whether the subject is in focus or not. By setting Release priority on, you can be sure that you get a picture taken, whether it is sharp or not.
Af-lock, AF Scanner and Af-sensity
Af-lock and Af-Sensity are the same, by default they are set to 0, which means that auto-focus works just right.
Af-Lock can help give that little extra.
You can find the settings under A1 / C-AF Sensisivity
AF-Scanner has three "modes", all based on the same problem, namely if the subject appears unclear or the contrast is low. In mode 1 the AF Scanner is deactivated and will not even try in miserable light situations, in mode 2 the AF Scanner tries once before giving up, and in mode 3 the AF Scanner is activated and it will not give up until it has found something it can focus on.
Af-Scanner is primarily about how the camera behaves in non-ideal light situations. In short, the Af-Scanner decides how much the lens should hunt for the focus point in low light before giving up. An alternative for you as a photographer is to release the focus button, if the focus is not achieved within a reasonable time and re-focus, something I often use.
An advanced tool that can be used successfully is the AF limiter, this is very useful for action photography. Three different ones can be programmed, with limitations on both front and rear focus. In practice, it works so that you preset which area the focus should work on. Let's say that you experience that the birds mostly move between 5 and 15 meters, then you can set the camera to only focus between 5 and 15 meters. Properly used AF limit allows you to use multiple focus points, since the camera does not look too far behind or in front of the subject, and less often locks "errors".
The settings can be found in A1 AF-Limiter
The function can be programmed to a button (eg on the lens button), which when held down, allows you to quickly choose between the three programmed restrictions, or turn them off.
It is not so easy to guess the distance to the subject
Here you can use the MF functionality. Make sure that the AF Limiter is off and the objective Limiter is off
Set AF mode to Preset MF and press INFO, now the point you aim AF at will give you the distance with 0.1m precision.
PS: If you want to photograph stars, you can set the AF Limiter to 900m Close limit and 999.9m further most Limit. The setting will be read as infinity by camera.
Select Fps Priority unless there are long shutter speeds or panning. The camera works faster this way.
Avenir Light is a clean and stylish often preferred by designers. It is easy to read, and a good font choice for titles, paragraphs and more.
For even higher resolution, there is the High Res Shot function. A fantastic solution from Olympus where the sensor is moved eight times to generate one image with a resolution equivalent to 80 megapixels in raw. Olympus uses its 5-axis image stabilizer to do this. There are a number of factors to take care of in order to get the best out of the function.
High Res Shot
For even higher resolution, there is the High Res Shot function. A clever solution from Olympus where the sensor is moved in a specific pattern to generate one image with a resolution equivalent to 80 megapixels in raw if you use a tripod and 50 megapixels handheld. Olympus uses its 5-axis image stabilizer to achieve this, while at the same time using the advantage of having a smaller sensor to move on.
There are two roads to Hig Res, one via the button on the front of the wheel you find at the top left. Hold down the button and rotate with the steering wheel on the right side and you will find Hig Res. The other way is via the supermenu, here you will find it under the focus point selection.
NOTE! NOTE! To get raw file recording in the best quality, you must tell the camera that you want raw + jpg. If not, you may end up with only a small 25 mb jpg file. After selecting High res, go to the supermenu, just below Hig Res you will see the cards in the camera. Go there and change the settings to 25M F + raw.
80 megapixels with tripod
Click on menu and go to Shooting menu 2, here you select High Res Shot with the symbol stand, click ok. Then select a two-second delay on the shutter-release button, this ensures a steady recording without delays.
50 megapixel handheld
Click on menu and go to Shooting menu 2, here you select High Res Shot with the hand symbol, click ok.
Which of the methods is recommended?
High Res for tripod came first, the sensor is moved eight times, so more information is collected so that you can generate a larger image file. Handheld, the chip is moved 16 times, the dynamic range increases and less noise is generated. The 50 MP files look sharper than the 80 MP files and I personally prefer this variant.