Olympus E-M5: Day #2

I downloaded the full Olympus E-M5 instruction guide and prowled through it as I clicked the buttons on the back of the camera to see what each menu item would do.  Oly's advanced cameras are very intricate and the menus are actually a bit frustrating.  They run deep with features, and I find on occasion that to get one feature activated the way I want, I am required to adjust two menu items. This is both good and bad.  The bad is that it takes a long time to figure things out.  The good is that your options are almost limitless.  If you are a prior Olympus dSLR or PEN owners, much of this will come quickly for you.  I can't imagine how onerous setting up the camera will be to owners new to Olympus.

An example of running deep is the activation setting for the "Live SCP" or Live Super Control Panel.  For me, this feature is a keystone to operating this camera because when I activate it on the monitor with a press of the OK button, a grid is displayed showing 21 of the important camera settings, such as ISO, White Balance, and Flash EV Adjustment. The grid is interactive.  You can enter the grid by pressing the OK button or touching the screen.  This gives you access to each feature so you can make your desired adjustments within that feature.  No menu diving required!

To get to the Live SCP setting so that I can turn it on (or off), things get a bit complex. Even after I found the setting, it took a few tries to get back to it a second and third time.  Here's what you need to do (I didn't even count the menu clicks, but it was a bunch): press the menu button to activate the menu > Custom Menu > Custom Menu D > Control Settings > P/A/S/M > Live SCP > off/on.  Based on what I read on the various Internet forums, some owners are still trying to find this option.

Bracketing is an example of needing to adjust two settings.  Just setting the bracketing to the number of shots and the bracketing EV amount is not enough, as you will then be forced to press the shutter once for each bracketed shoot.  I don't know anyone who wants to do this, though I can respect that Oly wants to provide this option.  If you, like me, want to press the shutter just once to activate all of the bracketing shoots, you also need to activate sequential shooting.  To speed things up in the field, most owners find the best solution is to reduce these double settings to one, by creating a customized "myset" that includes both. 

There are then two approaches to turning on bracketing:

The first approach is to use the menu.  This is what I used on the E-620 and E-520. It's only a couple of clicks into the menu. When I want sequential bracketing I go to myset2.  When I want to go back to non-bracketed non-sequential shooting I go to myset1.  On the E-M5 I will continue to do it this way, if I am planning to take a number of bracketed sequences.

The second approach is to set up function button Fn1 with myset2. Mysets don't appear to be available as an option on any of the other function buttons.  That's too bad, as it means I can't use Fn1 for AEL/AFL, which is the traditional location for a AEL/AFL button.  (The Fn1 button is on the back of the camera, on the top right side, and most easily pressed with the right thumb.)  Incidentally, as a function, mysets are not "sticky".  You need to press the function button down and hold it down with your thumb, while pressing the shutter.  This is why the function buttons on the top plate cannot be set to mysets - it's impossible to hold down a top plate function button while also pressing the shutter.  On the other hand, if Oly would allow the myset function to be "sticky" like the AEL/AFL function allows, then you could use it effectively with buttons on the top plate... which I would prefer.

[Edit: I'm not sure I am using the term "sticky" correctly here or not.  The word "toggle" might be more accurate.  What I mean is that the AEL/AFL function can be turned on with one press and turned off with a second press.  So, you don't have to hold it down to have it work. On the other hand, the Myset function turns on as long as you hold the button down and turns off as soon as you release the button.  I've not yet found a way to change this.]

The Fn1 function button is very difficult to reach with the right thumb, in my opinion. 
You compromise your grip when you reach for the button because
your thumb leaves the really nice rubber thumb pad. 

I find that I must bend my thumb into the shape of a "C" so I can
press with the tip of my finger or my fingernail.  It is also very squishy with no
nice click to it.

Learning the Camera

I think the best way to learn a camera is to go through all of the menu items and options.  This trains your fingers as well as your mind. Every time you come to a menu item that confuses you, go to the manual and learn what it does.  I think I now have things the way I want them, based on what I understand to be available and not-available features.  It took about four hours to get to this point.  Contrast that to the Panasonic GH2 which took me about one hour.


Only after spending four hours learning and setting up the camera did I find five very helpful pages in the full manual.  If I were to do it all over again, this is where I would start!

The section I found is called "Menu Directory" and covers pages 111-115 in the English manual.  It is organized exactly like the menus on the camera, with page references to the appropriate pages in the manual.  Once I found these pages, I kicked myself for not looking for them from the very start.  I remember now how helpful similar pages were for me when I owned the long discontinued but highly acclaimed (at the time) Olympus C-8080.

As an example of what I am talking about, page 111 of the English instruction manual is shown below.  It matches the menu items and order of items shown on the camera monitor.


Olympus E-M5: Day #1

Hurray, I received my E-M5 from Adorama Camera.  [See my prior post, Olympus EM5: day #0.] Adorama is a brick-and-mortar store in New York City, and it processes its mail order shipments out of New Jersey. Once shipped from Adorama, packages arrive rather quickly to my place of work in eastern Massachusetts, often in one day, and almost always with free shipping.

My kit includes the 12-50mm lens.  This was a $300 option which sells for $500 separately.

The box looks like it is was set up very efficiently, with an empty space where the 14-42 would be if I had taken that option instead.

I found it interesting that after slipping the camera body out of the foam bag it was in, I went right to the manual to find out if it was a simple "basic" manual or a "full" manual.  I always prefer a full manual in paper form.

I was excited for a moment when I found the thick 90-page manual, but then realized that it was the "basic" manual made thick by pages in English, Spanish, and French.  Dang, this means that the full English instruction manual will be on the included CD.  You can also download it from Olympus, which I did.  It's 133 pages.

This is the basic manual.  It's a starter guide, and it won't get you very far.
Be sure to download the full manual.
The English version is available from the link in the paragraph above.
Not being supplied with a full paper manual is one of my pet peeves.


Olympus E-M5: Day #0

I will be lucky enough to be among the first to receive the recently announced Olympus E-M5.  I received a shipping notification earlier in the week from Adorama.  There was no special treatment here.  I simply placed my "pre-order" with Adorama Camera on February 9th.  That was the day that it first became available at the big mail order stores on a pre-order basis.  I also separately ordered the accessory battery grip and the 4/3-to-m4/3 adapter so I could use my Olympus regular4/3 lenses on the micro4/3 body.

I don't usually pre-order camera equipment, even though I lust for any newly annouced stuff.  Initial prices are just too high.  But this time it was different.  (How many times have you heard that.)

Fully aware that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the road", there are some features on this new concept camera that I just plain want.  And this is in spite of the fact that I already own the much acclaimed Panasonic GH2; arguably, at least until now, the king of the hill for m4/3 camera bodies.

Here are the three features I want most:


This is not a bird.  It stands for In-Body Image Stabilization.   Panasonic, Canon and Nikon have their image stabilization system in the lens... but not all lenses have it.  Olympus, Sony, and Pentax have it in the body.  The advantage of IBIS is that when you upgrade your camera body, you instantly upgrade the stabilization of all your lenses. And because with a Nikon-to-m4/3 lens adapter I can use all my old Nikon lenses (one of which was produced about 1965), these lenses, too, are stabilized.

This is a huge advantage for me, as the Panasonic GH2 which I so enjoy has no IBIS.  And since I have no Panasonic m4/3 lenses, none of my lenses are stabilized.  In reality this has not been a huge problem since I can usually shoot at fast enough shutter speeds to eliminate camera (hand-shake) blur.

On the other hand, IBIS will help me in low light situations and for macro photography. This is especially important to me because I prefer not to use a tripod.

And finally, the new IBIS system in the E-M5 has 5-axis stabilization.  Wow!  Instead of the stabilization operating only in "up" and "down" directions, Olympus has added "pitch", "roll" and "yaw".  Sounds excellent, huh?

Battery Grip

The add-on grip (still on pre-order0 makes the camera a bit bigger.  But I prefer that.  It will allow the pinky of my right hand to aid me in holding the camera, plus give a substantial advantage when holding the camera vertically. At least this is how the battery grip on the Olympus E-620 worked for me.  Without the extra grip,  I know from my macro shots that I  see a lot more hand movement through the viewfinder when I hold the camera vertically. 

Auto ISO in Manual Mode

This may seem like a strange feature to list in my top three.  But I have always enjoyed using it on my Olympus dSLRs and am pleased that it is included on the E-M5.  I can't imagine why auto ISO is disabled on the GH2 when you are in the manual exposure mode; after all it is available on the lesser LX5.

I will use this setting especially when shooting wildlife and flowers.  Here's how I use it for butterflies, for example.  Set the camera at F8 for reasonable depth of field and 1/250th second shutter speed to stop action including any antennae vibration.  Now as I move around the butterfly causing exposure to change depending on my angle to the light source, the camera will give me automatic and accurate exposures by adjusting the ISO accordingly.

Final Note

With the known complexity of the Olympus menu system, and reports of a terrible user manual, I expect a couple of long nights coming up as I work through all the setting to get it set the way I want it.


A few butterflies from our local butterfly house

I love the exposures I got on these butterflies this past weekend. The glass canopy at Westford's Butterfly Place is a very effective light diffuser, but in addition there were slight overcast conditions.

I enjoyed every minute of my 1.5 hour "shoot" last Saturday.  The Butterfly House opens their door an hour early for photographers, a couple of times per month.  It's $3 extra on top of the normal $12 daily charge.  Because I went there a bunch of times last year, I bought 10 daily admission coupons discounted to $60. There's no expiration date.

One reason I like this first hour is that the owner leaves the heaters and blowers off, which keeps the butterflies a bit lethargic and therefore more captive subjects. 

Unfortunately many of the specimens I found were rather beaten up.  The walls around the butterfly house are concrete block material, perhaps 20 feet high.  The roof is made from glass panels.  I recall someone saying that because the butterflies hover and rest frequently in the upper corners of the concrete walls that it is against the rough concrete that their wings get a bit beaten up.

Below are a few small images.  I have a set of 22 larger images posted on my Web site, here:



Heron in Flight

I'm not much of a bird photographer, but I do like how this one came out.  The background is a bit blah, as it is essentially the same color and tone as the heron itself.  I would rather have had something that would provide more contrast.  Perhaps a background of blue or green water would help the bird "pop".  But "hey", you do the best you can.

This image was taken in Acadia National Park last summer along the shore road and somewhere near Otter Cliffs.  The background is actually the mud bottom of a marsh at low tide.  It's hard to believe, but there is no water in this picture. It was very windy and my guess is that as the water thinned down to nothing as the tide ran out, that it created little waves in the mud.

I like that I was able to take this shot at about eye level, as the heron was flying low.  I was able to get the eye nice and sharp, which I have learned should be the primary target when focusing.  It's hard to see the eye in the small image here on the blog.

To view an extra large photo, click on the link below to get to my gallery. Once you are there click on the image, and it should open to nearly fill your monitor:


Heron in Flight, Mt. Desert Island


Stonington Harbor, Maine

I am always amazed when I can "stitch" two or more pictures together in Photoshop.  This is due to nothing on my part; the software does all the work.  Here are two overlapping pictures which were both taken with a wide angle lens (24mm equivalent).  There is not even a hint of a seam between the two blended images. 

The result is a mini panorama. Yet by sticking the two overlapping pictures together (overlapped by about 1/3) it doesn't "feel" like a really wide angle shot.  I think that is because when you use a lens with a wider field of view than 24mm to capture this scene with a single shot, you begin to get some perspective distortion.

This image was taken at 1:30 pm in the month of October.  The sun was not as high as it would have been in the summer, but a lot of books would nevertheless say that mid-day is not a good time to take pictures because of harsh shadows.  Well, I say forget about that rule.  The best time to take pictures is when you have a camera in your hand.

Click on the image on my Web site (at the link below) to get a view closer to the size of your monitor:


Stonington Harbor, Maine


Living on the Outside: Uncharacteristically of me, a little bit of social commentary

When seeing this image in Stonington, Maine I couldn't help but equate it to humans.  How frequent it is that people feel safety only within their own comfort zone and with others of similar interests, and in this case similar appearance (as with hair styles, clothes, cars, ... not to mention so many other things like age, ethnicity, race, nationality, and religion).

And just like the yellow dory, people who are different are often excluded from the "in" group.

I think it is interesting, and one point I want to make with this image, that the "excluded" may be far more "beautiful" (and with people I don't mean surface beauty) than the "included".

Click on the image on my Web site (at the link below) to get a view closer to the size of your monitor:


Living on the Outside