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

Updated 14 May, 2020 to discuss the E-M5III and E-M1III.

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 and

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.

But it turns out this is easy to do with one additional change — in the A1 custom menu, in the AEL/AFL tab, set Manual Focus to Mode 3.  With this setting, when you’re in Manual Focus mode, you can get the camera to auto-focus with a press of the AEL/AFL button on the Fn lever (i.e., this is the button you’ll use for back-button focus).

So, here’s my tidy way to set up back-button focus on the E-M1II:

  1. In Custom Menu (gear) A1, on the AEL/AFL tab, set MF to Mode 3
  2. In Custom Menu B, on the Fn Lever Settings tab, set Fn Lever Function to Mode 2
  3. Switch the Fn Lever to position 2, set the camera to Manual Focus (easiest through the Super Control Panel), then switch the lever back to position 1

And with that, you’re done!  With the Fn Lever in position 1, you do your normal auto-focusing work.  When you switch the lever to position 2, the camera will be in manual focus mode, but you can quickly auto-focus by pressing the AEL/AFL button.  Just the ticket for photographing small, active children — and other wildlife.

This same process also works for back-button focus on the OM-D E-M5III; with the E-M1III, it’s only slightly different (the Fn Lever Settings tab is in Custom Menu B1 with that camera model).

One thought on “Back-button focusing on the Olympus E-M1II, revisited

  1. Pingback: The Olympus E-M1 Mark II and back button focusing | Seldom Scene Photography

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