Coinciding with the arrival of Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III to the market soon, I am releasing the improved and updated version of my OM-D Cheat Sheet. This was a refresh for my original Cheat Sheet which I have created and published in 2014 (click here).Nothing much has changed ever since, and the core of the recommended settings and suggestions remain unchanged over the years. Olympus did some minor tweaks on their menu system, they have not reworked it and those shooting Olympus since the earlier OM-D camera models should find the menu system in the latest cameras quite familiar to navigate through. Nonetheless, the original Cheat Sheet was my most popular blog article to date and I have received tonnes of request to update it. So here it is, finally!
I also made a video version on YouTube!
Some important disclaimers first:
1) These are my recommended settings, but there is no one universal fixed best camera setting for all cameras. We customize the camera for different shooting scenarios. When I shoot a wedding, the camera settings will be different than when I use it to shoot birds. If I am shooting portraits, certainly the same setting will not be the same when I am doing astrophotography.
2) There is no right and wrong, just recommendations. I will explain my choices of the settings I suggested, but feel free to disagree with me and choose the settings that work best for your own shooting. We do different photography and we are different people.
3) This is not a complete guide or “how to” use an Olympus camera. I am not going through every single settings and functions on the camera, this is not that kind of tutorial or getting started kind of article/video. I am merely sharing how I set up my camera from scratch.
4) I am skipping flash settings and movie recording settings, because flash is a different topic, and I am a noob when it comes to video. You won’t want my recommendations, trust me.
5) Everything shared here reflects my own opinion, and they are not recommendations from Olympus.
With that out of the way, let’s begin! The order of the list of settings are based on the sequence of the camera menu of the latest Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. Some locations of the settings may vary slightly in different OM-D cameras.
Bear in mind this OM-D Cheat Sheet is updated for current OM-D models, such as E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark III and E-M10 Mark III. If you are using older OM-D models such as E-M1 Original, E-M5 Mark II and E-M10 Mark II, you may refer to my older OM-D Cheat Sheet here (click).
1) TURN OFF DIGITAL TELE CONVERTER
Starting off at menu tab 1 (camera symbol), I do not change anything here but may I remind you firmly to turn the digital teleonverter off. If you have this turned on, you are using digital zoom, which effectively reduces the overall resolution of your image. For example, instead of getting a full 20MP image from the camera, you only get 5 MP, and that can appear much worse than the image quality from your smartphone.
Menu –> Camera tab 1 –> Digital Teleconverter –> OFF
2) ANTI-SHOCK SETTING “0 SEC”
Anti-shock prevents shutter vibration issues caused by movement of physical mechanical shutter. This problem is amplified with smaller and lighter camera bodies, which are less effective to dampen vibrations. Set the delay setting to “0 Sec” so we don’t have any lag while shooting. Also, in case you are wondering, the Anti-Shock is Electronic First Curtain Shutter.
Menu –> Camera tab 2 –> Anti-Shock/Silent –> 0 Sec
For E-M5 Mark III, you cannot turn off the Anti-Shock, it is permanently enabled for all images shot at shutter speeds of 1/320 sec or slower. For all other OM-D cameras, you have to enable it in the menu.
CORRECTION (Updated 16 November 2019): There is Anti-Shock setting in E-M5 Mark III but it is disabled by default and deeply hidden in the menu. To enable Anti-Shock for E-M5 Mark III, go to Menu –> Gear Tab –> D1 –> Burst/Timer Icons Settings –> CHECK the Anti-Shock option.
3) DEFAULT AF MODE S-AF
I admit this may be subjective depending on what photography you do, some may prefer to use C-AF if they do a lot of sports shooting or anything that moves a lot. Also, those using plenty of manual lenses may want to have the focusing mode at M. However, I do mostly people and events shooting, so my default mode for AF would be Single AF mode. I will change this as necessary, but I want the confidence of knowing that S-AF is the default, it is by far the most reliable and fail-proof AF method on any Olympus cameras.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> A1 –> AF Mode –> S-AF
Alternatively can be accessed directly at Super Control Panel
4) AF AREA POINTER ON2 FOR CLUSTER AREA AF
For sports shooting, or even moving animals (or vehicles) having the cluster area AF can be beneficial, leaving the C-AF tracking full time on for the camera to handle, and all I have to do is to ensure my subject is within the frame and composition as intended. The OM-D camera is intelligent enough to find and follow the subject tightly. I have used this cluster AF (you need to enable ALL focusing points in AF area selection) shooting tennis tournaments, racing cars and even MMA fights/Muay Thai and the OM-D nails the shots with extremely high keepers.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> A2 –> AF Area Pointer –> ON2
(To enable to cluster AF, your AF selection must be turned to ALL AREA. Also, for E-M10 Mark III, you have cluster AF area but it is not applicable for C-AF).
5) AF TARGETING PAD ON
This is an extremely convenient feature to have turned on. With AF Targeting Pad On, while shooting through EVF, you can use the LCD screen as a track pad. Tracing your finger on it can quickly change the focusing point, allowing for precise AF. For E-M1X user, you may find the joystick AF more suitable for you, but I somehow still prefer using the AF Targeting Pad over the joystick, it works more efficiently. Well, choose whichever works for you.
Menu –> Gear Tab — A2 –> AF Targeting Pad — ON
(You can double tap the LCD screen while shooting through the EVF to enable and disable the AF Targeting Pad, for those of you with larger nose, having trouble rubbing the screen).
6) AF ILLUMINATOR OFF
The AF assist beam is one of the most annoying thing that can be shooting out of the camera, especially in super dark environment. The OM-D cameras work so well in low light, we don’t need the AF beam, so please turn it off!
Menu –> Gear Tab –> A3 –> AF Illuminator OFF
7) FACE PRIORITY AF OFF
I never trusted the face detect AF on any camera. Let me be crystal clear – I am NOT saying Olympus face detect AF is not good. It works well, but I just don’t like it and I don’t use it. Serious wedding and portrait shooters have no issues quickly navigating the focusing points around manually to ensure pin-point sharp AF on people’s face. The face detect (on any camera) to me is a gimmick and I’d not have it interfere with my AF operation.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> A3 –> Face Priority –> OFF
8) SET ISO SHORTCUT TO ANY OF THE SHORTCUT BUTTONS
This is not applicable to E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III. For E-M1 Mark II (my main camera now) I’d assign the ISO/WB shortcut to the video record button (red button) so I can call up the setting by the press of the button. There is a dedicated ISO shortcut at the arrow key pad of E-M10 Mark III, so you may access the ISO directly from there.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> B –> Button Functions –> Assign ISO/WB to any of the Fn buttons
9) FN LEVER FUNCTION OFF
The Fn Lever 1/2 is a convenient feature that allows multiple possible quick switching of functions, eg movie/stills or AF/MF. It can also be remapped as the power on/off switch, which will be covered in item 10 next. However, I find that the Fn Lever tend to accidentally switch positions while being in the camera bag, which can be frustrating when I am doing something critical, missing crucial shots as I turned on the camera to the wrong fn lever position. I recommend this to be switched off, but you can decide what works for you.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> B –> Fn Lever –> OFF
(Not applicable to E-M10 Mark III)
10) FN LEVER AS POWER ON/OFF (OPTIONAL)
A lot of people complained about the awkward position of the power on/off switch on some OM-D cameras being away from the reach within the fingers of the right hand when using the camera single-handedly. Some may not know that you can remap the power on/off switch of the camera to the Fn Lever switch. If you are a single hand operator, you may find having the power switch closer to your right hand beneficial to your shooting process in the field. This is only applicable for E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> B –> Fn Lever/Power Lever –> Power 1 (or whichever option works for you)
11) ANTI-FLICKER 50HZ (MALAYSIA)
Shooting under artificial light can cause flickers to be shown on screen (electrical interference), and having the right setting in Anti-Flicker can ensure a smoother and less headache/nausea inducing experience shooting through the EVF or LCD screen. Find out which setting works in your country (there are only two settings, 50Hz or 60Hz, in Malaysia, it is 50Hz).
Menu –> Gear Tab –> C1 –> Flicker Reduction -> 50Hz/60Hz (depending on countries)
12) ANTI-FLICKER SHOOTING (USE WHEN NEEDED)
This setting helps when dealing with LED screens or projections that are flickering when very high shutter speed is used. Typically, under such conditions, we experience banding (uneven color and exposure appearing in lines across the screen). Anti-Flicker can significantly reduce this. Do not switch this on all the time, as the setting will cause slight lag to the shutter release.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> C1 –> Anti-Flicker –> ON when necessary
13) IMAGE STABILIZER S-IS 1
There are multiple modes of Image Stabilizer settings. OFF, clearly means the IS is disabled, S-IS Auto means one or more of the 5-Axis IS will be disabled as decided by the camera, while S-IS 2 and S-IS 3 will disable horizontal or vertical axis to produce smoother panning results. I personally will stick the IS setting to S-IS 1, which enables ALL 5-Axis IS at all times.
Except for latest cameras E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III, the live super control panel is turned off. Super control panel is a convenient way to have all important settings laid out in a single page for quick adjustments, or simply a glance for inspection to make sure nothing too crazy is happening. At that one page we get important info like RAW/JPEG, AF mode, WB setting, Metering mode, etc. I would highly suggest having this set as a default, instead of Live Control.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> D1 –> Control Settings –> PASM –> Live Super Control Panel (CHECK)
15) LIVE VIEW BOOST OFF
For some unexplained reasons, live view boost is turned ON for most Olympus cameras during M manual mode shooting. E-M5 Mark III is the exception (I am not too sure about E-M1X, I don’t have one to verify). When live view boost is turned on, we lose the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) advantage, meaning the exposure setting changes (shutter speed, ISO, aperture) won’t be simulated live on LCD screen/EVF. This is counter-productive to what a mirrorless system has to offer – especially when shooting full manual, I want to be able to have live preview of my exposure changes before click the shutter button. Hence I highly recommend disabling this right from the start, and only dive into the menu to enable it when you need it.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> D2 –> Live View Boost –> Manual Shooting –> OFF
(E-M5 Mark III has this OFF on default).
DISPLAY GRID (OPTIONAL)
To assist in framing, there are a few grip patterns to choose from. I personally would enable the typical overused rule of thirds grid, sometimes.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> D3 –> Grid Settings –> Displayed Grid –> Choose as desired
16) AF CONFIRMATION BEEP OFF
Please turn off that annoying AF beep! I know a lot of people are addicted to hearing the “teet-teet” sound, or are psychologically dependent on that to be assured of locking AF successfully. The OM-D locks AF reliably and we don’t need the beep to tell us it worked!
Menu –> Gear Tab –> D4 –> First Item (icon of sound wave) –> OFF
17) NOISE FILTER OFF
If you shoot JPEG, do pay attention to the Noise Filter settings. My best recommendation is to turn it off, giving you the best detail capture in the image without the excessive smearing of digital processing to artificially get rid of noise. I do not mind the presence of some noise, I just want my image to look natural, not like an oil-painting. I also understand if you are allergic to high ISO noise, that a slight sight of the noise grain can cause your eyes to bleed, then you may crank up the noise filter.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> E1 –> Noise Filter –> OFF
18) NOISE REDUCTION AUTO
Nosie reduction is actually dark frame subtraction method, an effective technique to get rid of hot pixels, not noise. While hot pixels appears very similarly to what high ISO noise is, they are very different altogether. Hot pixels happen when long exposure is used (typically shutter speed slower than 1 second) and the image sensor heats up, causing some pixels to become “hot pixels”. The position of the hot pixels are fixed, hence the pattern can be easily identified by capturing a dark frame. The camera then uses this information to get rid of the hot pixel. You may read more about Dark Frame Subtraction here (click). I’d leave this to Auto, and let the camera switch this on automatically when needed.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> E1 –> Noise Reduction –> Auto
DO NOT TURN IT ON at full time, your camera will take two images each time you click the shutter button, and this will slow down the camera significantly, delaying your shot to shot time.
19) ENABLE LSF FOR JPEG
LSF, Large Super Fine is the best compression setting for Olympus JPEG. I don’t know why Olympus likes to keep this hidden. For cameras older than E-M1X, the highest default available select-able JPEG setting is LF (Large Fine). You need to dive deep into the menu to find and turn this on. Then you can quickly find it again and select it from the super control panel.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> G –> SET (first tab) –> LSF
(The LSF is already available by default on E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III)
20) WHITE BALANCE KEEP WARM COLOR OFF
This is an option for white balance when shooting in very warm lighting condition (eg tungsten/candlelight), the camera may either tries the hardest to neutralize the warm cast, or keep the warm cast. I prefer my colors to be more neutral, with more flattering skin tones which usually look worse with destructive warm light, but I admit this is a personal choice, and you may choose which works for you.
Menu –> Gear Tab –> G –> Keep Warm Color –> OFF
(this can also be accessed quickly from Super Control Panel’s WB setting).
21) RECORD VIEW OFF
I need speed and efficiency when I operate the camera, so I always keep my record view (preview/playback) OFF. I know chimping is fun and important but that quick half a second preview of an image I have just shot may block my view from what is happening in front of me currently. In event/wedding/street photography, that half second can either make or break your shot. Being ever ready with no interruptions, even from that instant playback after each shot, can save lives.
Menu –> Wrench Tab –> Rec View –> OFF
FROM THE SUPER CONTROL PANEL
Go to the live view LCD screen, press OK.
22) PICTURE MODE NATURAL
This is another subjective suggestion. I deal with a lot of people/human portraits so skin tone is very important to me. I find that Natural picture mode gives me the best looking skin tone. I would avoid using 1-enhance or vivid modes, these will oversaturate the images, rendering very ugly/fake looking skin tones. You may select white mode works for you. If you ask for my recommendation, Natural it is.
23) SHARPNESS, CONTRAST, SATURATION = 0
I find that the camera at Picture mode NATURAL produces just the right amount of contrast/sharpness/saturation levels, and of course this is applicable only if you shoot JPEG. I shoot RAW mostly, so these settings were adjusted to 0 by default, for preview purposes only when I am inspecting the images I have shot. If you are shooting exclusively JPEG, you may want to dial back the sharpness setting, as the Olympus JPEG files are usually oversharpened and you may find some artifacts in the files.
24) GRADATION NORMAL
Gradation, when set to Auto, is “shadow adjust”, with the camera artificially lifting the brightness in the shadow region of the images. This will amplify high ISO noise especially if your image has a lot of dark regions, hence I recommend it to be set to NORMAL>
25) ASPECT RATIO 4:3
Shooting in RAW, all the aspect ratio setting makes no difference. If you shoot in JPEG, the 4:3 will ensure you maximize the use of the entire image sensor. Anything else (3:2, 16:9, etc) will be a crop from the original 4:3.
That’s all I have to share in this Cheat Sheet!
I hope the recommended settings are useful, and they should get you started with your OM-D. Go out and shoot more, experiment with the camera, know it inside out, and you may tweak the camera to your own personalized use.