E-M1 Mark II complete customization tips
Aug 1, 2020

Hi everyone,

I am a long-time forum member, mostly lurking in the shadows and following news and discussions. I learned a lot here, yet I rarely post by myself, so I thought a contribution on my behalf is due. More so, because I want to share some insights about my current camera, the E-M1 MarkII, which will probably phase out of the market soon. So, better late than never…

It took me a very long time to arrive at my current setup of the camera, for several reasons: First, the sheer amount of features and customization options; Second, the amazingly convoluted, unintuitive, awkward way Olympus decided to implement things in this camera, which really forces you to dig deep and study every word in the user manual by heart; Third, it took me a while to admit and come to peace with the camera’s weaknesses (e.g., giving up on the pretty useless C-AF+TR mode).

Anyway, here goes. Of course, everyone has their own needs and habits. The following is the ideal setup for me. I hope others will benefit from it and take along what they like.

The key point here is to identify my most common shooting scenarios and assign optimized setups for them into custom modes C1, C2, C3. Reading forum posts, I get the impression that many users might be missing on the great potential of this (or thinking it’s some kind of “cheating”). Using custom modes, you basically have 4 independently customized cameras in one body. It’s really that powerful.

In my case, the three scenarios, as you’ll see below, are static scenes/landscape in C1, snapshots/people in C2, and action/kids in C3. I also configured the regular non-custom settings (in PASM modes) carefully, to be as general-purpose as possible and fill the remaining gaps.

A TL;DR summary table is attached. Keep reading for further details and the rationale behind some of the choices.

Some camera settings are common to all modes, and cannot be customized independently. Notably, one of these is B.Fn Lever Settings.Fn Lever Mode, which I had decided early on to set to mode2. It allows switching between two independent AF setups called Set 1 and Set 2.

Another key point is that a custom mode generally serves as a starting point, with exposure parameters (e.g. aperture and time) often being tweaked as needed in the field. However, with custom modes, these parameters are reset when turning the camera off. This can be very annoying, especially when turning the camera off and putting in the bag frequently. My workaround is as follows: I set J2.Quick Sleep Mode to On, and set both LCD and Sleep times to the shortest possible value of 3 sec. Then, in the field, instead of turning the camera off, I press the EVF button (which stops Live View and shows the SCP), and the camera falls to sleep in 3 seconds. The previously edited exposure parameters are retained.

Now, finally, let’s talk about the various settings in each custom mode, as well as non-custom PASM:

Exposure: For both C1 (static) and C2 (snapshots), I set mode A and aperture f/6.3, which gives a nice deep DoF and plays nicely with hyper-focal focussing (see below); For C3 (action) I set mode M with f/2.8 and 1/1000 as good starting values.

Auto ISO setup: The E-M1.2 sensor is nearly ISO-invariant, which means that there is little reason to raise ISO, as long as you’re exposing properly to the right, and willing to push/pull exposure later in RAW PP.
That is why in C1 (static) I set max. Auto ISO to just 640 and min. Shutter to 1/30 (page E1). This forces the camera to use low ISO and long exposure (relying on IBIS), which is ideal for shooting static scenes and landscapes.
Mode C2 (snapshots) is intended for shooting people, street, and snapshots that I might want to share quickly as JPEGs. That is why here I set max. Auto ISO to 6400 (so the JPEG is not underexposed) and min. Shutter to 1/125, which I find sufficient for human subjects and street scenes (but not kids at play, see C3…).
In Mode C3 (action), I also set max. Auto ISO to 6400, to avoid underexposure at the typical short exposure times. Finally, in normal PASM, I set max. Auto ISO to 1600 and min. Shutter to Auto, as a generic setting. Note that E1.ISO-Auto should be set to All (to be available with M).

Dials (page B): In P, A, and S modes, the rear dial sets the exposure parameter (aperture, time, or shift, respectively) and front dial sets Exp. Compensation. In M mode, aperture and time are set by the two dials.

Auto Focus: Having the Fn Lever switching between two independent AF configurations is really nice.
In mode C1 (static), Set 1 is configured as S-AF with 1p (single point) in the center; Set 2 is configured as PreMF, with a preset distance of 7m (page A4). This gives you an instant deep DoF, sharp from pretty close all the way to infinity, as long as you keep aperture at f/6.3 (which I preset in these modes) and use a wide FL of up to about 18mm. This is a classic shooting technique ideal for landscape, street, architecture, and whatnot! I chose 7m after lots of trials with my wide lenses (12-40, 9-18, 17). It is more conservative (farther) than the theoretical “standard” hyper-focal distance, but it delivers consistently sharper results at infinity.
In mode C2 (snapshots), Set 1 is configured as S-AF with a centered 25p (5x5) zone, as it is intended for quick snapshots (no time for focus & recompose), and also as the idiot-proof “hand-over” mode - used when handing over the camera to someone else to take a photo of me (and possibly my family). Most chances are that we will be centered inside the 5x5 zone. Set 2 is set to PreMF 7m as above.
In mode C3 (action), Set 1 is configured as C-AF with a centered 25p (5x5) zone and Center Priority (good for following my kids). Set 2 can be configured with an alternative setting, e.g. C-AF with All-points for BIF, or C-AF+TR if you still use it. Finally, in PASM, I configure S-AF 1p and C-AF 25p in Sets 1 and 2, respectively, as a nice multi-purpose setup.
A word about face/eye priority: It is very inconsistent and unreliable on the E-M1.2, but  also quite harmless, so I keep it enabled.

Drive: I use Single (with AS) in PASM and C1 (static), a slow 3fps Seq Low (with AS) for C2 (snapshots and people), and Seq High for C3 (action).

AEL/AFL button: There is a “hidden” gem on Olympus cameras called “Spot Highlight” metering mode. Essentially, it’s an instant ETTR metering tool! In PASM and C1 (static) mode, I configure the AEL button to use Spot HL mode (page E3). Then, in challenging contrasty scenes, I simply aim at the brightest part of the scene (e.g. a white cloud), press AEL, and voila! ETTR!
In C2 (snapshots/people) I set AEL to use normal Spot mode, useful for prioritizing proper exposure of faces in a challenging scene.
Finally, in C3 (action) I use the AEL button for BBAF (page A1, AEL/AFL C-AF set to option C3).
This is a great example of the versatility of custom modes - switching instantly from ETTR for landscapes to BBAF for sports/wildlife on the same button!

Buttons (page B): I use the same layout for PASM, C1 (static), and C2 (snapshots): Fn1 gets Magnifier (It’s the only valid location for it, keeping the shutter finger free to half-press or press while zooming in and out); Fn2 gets Multi-Function (I enabled ISO/WB, Peaking, and S-OVF in page D1. JPEG shooters can also enable Color Creator); Front1 gets AF Limiter; Front2 gets MF (This is a little convoluted though, as, contrary to what the manual says, MF is not an option for this button. So, instead, I chose HP, and configured HP (A2.Set Home) to MF).
For C3 (action) the layout is different: Fn1 gets IS Mode (for quick setting e.g. before a panning shot); Fn2 gets Exp. Compensation (which is important, because C3 is set to M mode with Auto ISO); Front1 gets AF limiter, whereas Front2 gets FlickerScan (because C3 may be used indoors with an electronic shutter, e.g. with PRO-Capture).

Other perks: Individual customization can go further as much as you like. For instance, mode C3 (action) hides Hi-Res and Self-Timer drive modes, and also has faster burst rates. Modes C1 (static) and C2 (snapshots) hide all PRO-Cap and high burst modes, except Seq High Silent, which is programmed for a 60fps burst of 10 frames, intended for image stacking (e.g. for noise reduction or super-resolution like Mark III`s HHHR) on the PC later. C1 (static) also shows a golden-ratio grid (great for landscapes and architecture), whereas C2 (snapshots) enables Touch-screen shutter release, ideal for quick snapshots and also when handing the camera over to others. C2 also enables RAW+JPEG for quick sharing.

I really enjoy this setup. The custom modes cover most of my needs, and all important features are laid out and available through the buttons and dials, so that I rarely need to go into the menus, SCP, or even Drive/AF/Metering/ISO screens to change anything.

Have fun everyone!