Back-button focusing on the Olympus E-M1II, revisited

Anybody that’s had an Olympus digital camera in recent years can attest to the fact that they are highly customizable.  Possibly, almost too customizable.

So I’ve gotten into the habit of revisiting my custom settings a few times a year, just to fold in what I’ve learned about a given camera model through use, and to see what improvements I can make for my personal style of shooting.  And of course, there is plenty of user-generated information out on the internet, so it’s good to give yourself an opportunity to learn from new things other people have learned and written about (personally, I’m a big fan of wrotniak.net and biofos.com).

So in my last sweep of the E-M1II’s custom settings, I thought it was about time to revisit how I handled back-button focusing.  As I mentioned in a previous post some months back, this is easy to do with a custom “MySet.”  And commenters pointed out that by setting “Mode 2” for the camera’s back lever (a.k.a. the Fn Lever), two separate sets of focusing settings could be easily managed.  But unfortunately, Fn Lever Mode 2 just “captures” three things — focus mode, focus target shape, and focus target location.  So you can use it to switch between auto-focus and manual focus easily, but you still don’t get back-button focus from it, at least not with this one setting alone.

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A funny thing happened in Pro Capture mode…

Quite a few people have been posting the photos they’ve taken of moving things (birds, athletes, race cars) using their Olympus E-M1II cameras in what’s called “Pro Capture” mode.  Basically, Pro Capture on the E-M1II brings to Olympus what only a handful of cameras have had to date — the ability to buffer in-camera some frames before the photographer presses the shutter button all the way down.

Given the normal delay in human reflexes, this sort of feature allows a photographer to capture a decisive bit of action, even if they mash down on the shutter a bit late.  Lacking race cars or even many birds to try this out on, I was lucky to have a rodeo to work with.  The bottom line is that Pro Capture worked well in the vast majority of photos I made — but a few frames concern me.

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The Olympus E-M1II and backyard astrophotography

A lot of people are still waiting for their pre-ordered Olympus OM-D E-M1II cameras to arrive — in the meantime, a number of them asked to see some high-ISO photographs to judge the camera’s abilities in the realm of astrophotography.  After days of waiting, I finally got clear night skies where I live, so took some shots of the constellation Orion.  Please bear in mind that I live in the south Denver metro area, so have to deal with light pollution — here’s the view looking south toward Orion from my house (enough sky glow to silhouette bits of a telephone pole and two trees):

Orion at ISO 1600

For the above image, the EXIF is E-M1II,  12-40mm Pro lens @ 17mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 8.0 seconds.  This is a SOOC image, by the way — all I’ve done to it is RAW conversion and scaling (to fit my blog’s template) in Lightroom.

But I didn’t only take this one image — I took a series of them, all unguided (i.e., on a still tripod): Continue reading

Local color — E-M1II experimentation in real life

In our neck of the woods, we’ve had cloudy night skies recently (at least, since my E-M1II arrived).  So I’ve lacked a clear view of stars to test the beast on, but fortunately there are plenty of Christmas lights to work with.  Here’s a quick shot from one of the more-colorful nearby houses:

Local color

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The Olympus E-M1II and long exposures

Some of you may recall that when the original Olympus E-M1 was released 3 years ago, quite a controversy was stirred up by its handling of long exposures.  Basically, the noise level for the E-M1 was much higher than that for it’s much cheaper predecessor, the E-M5.  At the time, I was able to compare an E-M1 and E-M5 side-by-side, and wrote up the results for public scrutiny.

So, now that the E-M1II is available (if only in limited quantities so far), I thought it’d be interesting to compare my copy of it to my E-M1 that helped make such a stir (while I still own it).  I’ve also got an E-M5II on hand, so thought I should throw it into the mix as well.

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The Olympus E-M1 Mark II and back button focusing

Note to readers: I’m keeping this post alive for its useful comment threads, but the post’s content has really been superseded by material in a newer post.


I recently received an Olympus  E-M1 Mark II — the idea being that it’ll shortly replace my trusty original E-M1 I purchased a few years back.  While I’ve still got both, I’ll be shooting and posting some comparison shots between the two models — but first will be writing a few posts on upgrades and changes in the new model.

First up — setting up back button focusing.

What is back button focusing?

For those unfamiliar with the term, back button focusing refers to separating the focus and expose functions that normally occur sequentially when you depress the camera’s shutter button (focus on half-press, exposure on full-press).  If you “move” the focus function off the shutter button, and assign it elsewhere, life is easier when photographing a fast-moving subject (like wildlife) — you can focus once, then concentrate on your timing / composition / exposure.  Assuming, of course, that your subject doesn’t change its distance from you significantly as it flits about.

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Bouquet of colors

We recently took a family trip to Montreal and Boston — so along with other things, it gave me a chance to put Olympus’ (relatively recent) “Live Composition” mode to work on Boston’s Independence Day fireworks.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, “Live Composite” is a feature of their OM-D cameras that allows you to do something like a long exposure — but without the usual risk that brings of overexposing parts of the image.  You set up your exposure settings, start “Live Comp,” then it only updates a part of the image if it has become brighter than before — so you wind up collecting sort of a “high water mark” for each pixel / color.

It’s easier to use than I’ve described it, as for the results, you can see for yourself:

Bouquet of colors

This was my first real experience with Live Composite — I’ll definitely be writing more about it in the coming weeks…