Olympus E-M1 settings and Mysets  

The Olympus E-M1 Micro 4/3 camera is highly configurable and offers a bewildering array of settings, often with subtle effects. The E-M1 user guide explains most of these settings very concisely (in many cases, too concisely), but does contain crucial information that is indispensable to understand what each setting does.

The online help in the E-M1 menus (available by pressing Info) is even more concise, and some of its explanations are cryptical. They are useful to remind you of settings you have already studied, but do not offer enough information to a first-time user.

Even if you find a third-party book, web site or video guide more useful than the user guide for learning to use the E-M1, do not forget the user guide. It does contain information that you may not find elsewhere. This web page is not a substitute for the E-M1 user guide, either.

Much of the information on this page applies also to the E-M5. I don't have an E-M10, but I would not be surprised to hear that much of this information also applies to the E-M10. Some of this information may also apply to other Olympus cameras, including the old 4/3 DSLRs.

Web sites are a major source of information on the E-M1 settings, especially for explanations of what each setting does and why you may want to use a specific setting. The following list is only a suggested starting point. It is entirely possible that you will find a web site not listed below that will better satisfy your information needs. Most likely, no single web site or book will have all the information you need.

Mysets

The E-M1 has enough settings to make a bewildering array of combinations possible. Even if you use the E-M1 every day, chances are that you will never explore all settings or understand their consequences. This extreme configurability makes the camera very flexible, but many settings interact with each other. For instance, autofocus settings often interact with sequence shooting, and using some AF settings makes it impossible to achieve the high burst shooting speeds that are possible with default AF settings. Many users, unaware of this, play with the AF settings and then discover that the E-M1, which until yesterday was happily shooting at 6 fps with Continuous AF, now barely reaches 3 fps and sometimes hesitates a second or two before each shot. Typical users may not even remember exactly which AF settings they changed. Resetting the camera to default settings is possible, but may have unintended consequences (see below).

Not all settings can be stored in Mysets. For example, you cannot store in a Myset whether to automatically switch between EVF and LCD screen, or only manually. These settings, however, are remembered when the camera is switched off and on again.

The E-M1 makes it possible to store the current settings into a configuration memory, called Myset by Olympus. Up to four Mysets can be stored, and recalled from the Shooting Menu 1. The procedure for storing the current settings into a Myset if confusingly similar to the procedure for activating the settings currently stored into a myset. Before you start to configure settings, learn these two operations and try them a few times. For example, change just one setting, store it in a Myset, change the setting's value again, then activate the Myset to verify that the stored setting is reactivated.

To store the current settings into Myset1:

  • Shooting Menu 1, Reset/Myset, Myset1, right arrow, Set, OK

To activate the settings previously stored into Myset 1:

  • Shooting Menu 1, Reset/Myset, Myset 1, OK, Yes, OK

To reset the settings currently stored in Myset 1 to default:

  • Shooting Menu 1, Reset/Myset, Myset 1, right arrow, Reset, OK

As you can see from the above instructions, the three procedures are quite similar. Mistakenly storing the current settings into a Myset (when you instead intended to activate the Myset) overwrites whatever was previously stored there. Mistakenly activating a Myset instead of storing into the Myset the current setting also wipes out your configuration work. It is very easy to confuse the two operations and there are no prompts explaining what you are about to do.

Mysets are useful, but the thing that makes them extremely useful is that each Myset can be assigned to a position on the Mode Dial or to a button. There are three main reasons for choosing the Mode Dial alternative:

  1. Buttons are better kept for simple and frequently performed actions, like switching viewfinder magnification on and off.
  2. A Myset assigned to the mode dial is activated whenever the mode dial is turned to the assigned position. It is also activated when the camera is switched on with the mode dial already turned to the assigned position. There is no need to remember to push a button.
  3. Assigning Mysets to the Mode Dial avoids having to remember how to activate a Myset with the menus, and eliminates the associated risk of losing the stored Myset.

If you normally use the camera in A (aperture priority) mode, assign your Myset for aperture priority to A, and the Myset will always be active when the Mode Dial is set to A. If you have alternative Mysets (e.g., one for outdoor shooting in natural light in aperture priority mode and another for studio flash in manual exposure mode), it is natural to assign them to the A and M positions, respectively. If you also have an alternative Myset for aperture priority mode (e.g., for macrophotography with a TTL flash), assign it to a different position. I never use the art filters, for instance, so this position for me is a natural choice for a less frequently used Myset.

While using a Myset, you can change one or more settings manually whenever you need to, and they remain active for as long as the camera is on (even when it goes to sleep) and in the same Mode Dial position. To go back to the stored Myset and undo the temporary setting changes, just cycle the power switch or turn the Mode Dial to another position, then back. However, note that there are a few settings that cannot be stored in a Myset. These settings must be put back to their normal values manually.

With great freedom comes a great opportunity to s---- things up. It is entirely possible to assign to A a Myset that switches the camera to manual exposure, and to M a Myset for aperture priority. The E-M1 will let you do it, and will neither care nor ask why you want to do this.

You may need to store settings into a Myset before you can assign it to the Mode Dial. On the other hand, when you store a few changed settings in an already configured Myset, you don't need to assign once more the changed Myset to its Mode Dial position.

To assign Myset 1 to the A position of the Mode Dial:

  • Menu, Gear, B, Button/Dial/Lever, Mode Dial Function, Myset 1, right arrow, A, OK

When you first enter the menu that is supposed to display the positions of the Mode Dial, you will not see all the positions, but only two or three of the less used ones. Scroll up, and the rest of the positions will become visible. Like many other users, this got me too, initially. Maybe Olympus chose not to display all available items right away to discourage inexperienced users from playing with this setting and suddenly discovering that they can no longer use the camera in P, A, S or M mode. By apparently hiding the positions that are most frequently used, this risk is reduced.

It would be logical to be able to name each Myset, since only "Myset 1" to "Myset 4" is displayed when a Myset is activated (there is a setting even for switching off this displayed information). Having the camera display "Tripod A C-AF" or "TTL Flash Macro" would be more helpful than "Myset 3". This is not possible in firmware version up to 2.0. If necessary, a removable sticker with a brief reminder of what each Myset is supposed to do can be attached at the rear of the camera under the LCD screen.

Backing up Mysets

It takes a lot of work to configure a Myset. As discussed above, a wrong turn in the menu when storing or activating the Myset can wipe out all this work. It would be great to be able to backup the Mysets to a file on a memory card or USB-connected computer, and restoring them with a simple operation. I could do this with my Nikon DSLRs. However, Olympus did not think about it yet. If you accidentally overwrite a Myset, you are in for a deep dive into the menus.

You will lose all Mysets, together with most or all active settings that are normally remembered when the camera is off, when you update the firmware (or at least, updating from 1.4 to 2.0 did this to my E-M1).

Thus, in the absence of better backup methods, it is essential to keep a written record of all settings, organized in a list for each Myset. Since your Mysets will probably contain several settings that are shared by all Mysets, a more efficient way to prepare this list is to write it down as a four-part, step-by-step procedure for restoring your Mysets. Do as follows:

  1. Start the first part of the list with Myset1 (to keep things simple). Write down the way to set each settings that differs from the default. You don't need to write down the settings that remain at their default values, since they are restored to default values by selecting Shooting Menu 1, Reset, Full. It is convenient to write down the settings in the order in which they appear in the Menu, unless you must do the configuration in a specific order (for example enabling the Custom Menu before you can start configuring it). End this part of the list with the commands to store the current settings in Myset 1 and to assign Myset 1 to the A position of the Mode Dial (or whatever position or button you chose).
  2. Start the second part of the list with Myset 2. Write down only the settings that differ from Myset 1. End this part of the list with the commands to store the current settings in Myset 2 and to assign Myset 2 to whatever Mode Dial position or button you chose.
  3. Repeat for Myset 3, writing down only the settings that differ from Myset 2.
  4. Repeat for Myset 4, writing down only the settings that differ from Myset 3.

I printed my procedure for restoring Mysets in an A5 format booklet - 14 pages so far, together with notes on camera functions and settings that I don't use often enough to remember, but want to be able to use now and then. A version of the text in this booklet is available here (though not necessarily the latest version, since I keep changing it whenever I decide that slightly different settings are better suited to my purposes).

A printout of this booklet is always in my camera backpack. The E-M1 user manual in PDF format is always stored on my mobile phone, just in case. If you have any e-books about the E-M1, or offline copies of particularly useful web pages about this camera, you may want to also store a copy of them on your mobile phone.

Re-configuring the whole array of Mysets is a lengthy job, but still a better alternative than restoring the settings on a trial-and-error basis instead of shooting, and being forced to use a half-functional camera for the rest of the assignment. After I wrote down a first version of my configuration booklet, I upgraded the firmware to version 2.0 and accidentally lost all stored configuration, including the Mysets. I thought I had done a good job in writing down the setting up to that point, but it turned out that I had fogotten to write down about a dozen of the most basic settings (I just assumed they were defaults since I had been using them since I bought the camera and initially configured it) and another dozen of more subtle but still useful settings.

I recently upgraded from the Panasonic 100-300 mm to an Olympus 4/3 50-200 mm with 1.4x teleconverter, and had to make substantial changes to the settings in order to use this lens optimally. Fortunately, throughout the whole process of testing the new lens and new settings, I kept notes and - hopefully - I did not forget to update my booklet with any new settings.

The Excel file from the Biofos site contains details of all settings (except possibly any new additions since firmware version 1.4) and almost all icons used in the E-M1 menus, and can be used as a basis of this documentation. If desired, you can delete the rows that contain settings that you left at their default values. Alternatively, you can write your own version of this backup documentation. I found it more useful to write my list as a procedure to re-create Mysets, rather than simply as a list of settings.

Summary

The Olympus E-M1 is highly configurable, and experimentation with its settings (guided by reliable information) is essential. Mysets greatly enhance the usefulness of complex settings. Since the E-M1 has no provision for backing up current settings and Mysets, the settings are too many to commit to memory, and it is easy to accidentally lose a Myset or all settings, it is essential to keep with the camera a written and well up-to-date record of all non-default settings stored in Mysets.



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