Customizing Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark ii

This note summarizes a few customizations for the OMD EM-1 Mark ii. The topics include:

Most often you will want to assign a camera function to a button, rather than digging through the menu system. To do this, enter the Menu system and go to the Custom Menu area (gear icon). Section B (for Button) is where buttons, dials and levers can be changed.

To reprogram buttons use the Custom menu; section B; Button Function

All page references here are to the E-M1 Mark ii Instruction Manual from Olympus; some pages pertinent to defining the button functions:

  • Page 113 the menu setting to assign buttons to functions.
  • Page 66 the list of buttons and icons.
  • Page 67 the list of functions that can be assigned to a button.

Setting the Auto Focus Point

By default the arrow keys surrounding the OK button activate the grid to select the location of the Auto Focus Area. It can be particularly vexing, when you accidentally bump one while shooting. You can disable pressing these buttons and still bring up the Focus Area grid when the Fn1 button is pressed (its default setting), or by using the Super Control Panel (SCP).

Disable the Arrow Keys

To customize any button, go to the Custom Menu (gear icon); section B (Button); Button Function. Page 66 shows the icons for buttons to which a camera function can be assigned. Scroll down and select the arrow keys icon. Scroll through the list of functions until you find the disable option (Off) and select it by clicking the OK button. Now back out of the Menu system by pressing Menu several times or simply half-press the shutter button.

Set arrow keys function to OFF

The Fn1 button by default is assigned to AF Area Select already, when you press it a grid pops up and you now can use the arrow keys to move the location of the AF Area. While this screen is active, there are two small yellow icons on the left edge. One represents the front dial, and when you spin the front dial you change the size of the AF area, from single point through to all points. The lower icon is for the face detection options which you move through by moving the back dial. To return to shooting half-press the shutter button or click the OK button.

Home AF Position

You can setup a default location where the AF Area returns. You can then assign a button that once you have move the AF Area as above, pressing the button returns to the Home position (and size). I find this useful to define a AF point at the subjects eye-level (a click or two above the center) in the horizontal position. I rotate the camera and us Fn1 to set a vertical eye level. Then when I flip between portrait and landscape at a Horseshow, I press my “home button” to quickly flip the focus point.

Since we just defined a button to a function, let’s first set a button to return to the Home position. Go to Custom Menu; section B; Button Function. Now scroll to the button you wish to use; I have programmed the red video record button1. The function is the seventh option represented by a series of icons (page 67). The icon should have the text HP for Home Position in it. This function is a toggle, so pressing the assigned button moves the AF Area to home position, press again and it returns to last AF position.

IMAGE set Record button to goto AF Home Position (HP)
Set Record button to goto AF Home Position (HP)

Now let’s define the Home position (and size). Go to Custom Menu (gear icon); section A2; Set Home. Selecting this brings up a grid, use the arrow keys to move to a position you wish to define as “home”.

IMAGE Custom A2 to define Home Position
Custom A2 to define Home Position

With in the menu there are options to set the AF Mode, the AF position, and the AF size (single point, 5-points, 9-points or all points). Use the up or down arrows to indicate one, then use the right arrow to set a value. Finally check or uncheck the options you wish to have applied when you press the button. Below my home button uses single point, located in the center, but does not set the AF mode.

IMAGE Custom A2 to define Home mode, position and size
Custom A2 to define Home mode, size and position

Define a Button for ISO (and WB)

There are a number of ways to access the ISO settings. For me the easiest is to use the SCP, tap on ISO and spin the front dial. Other camera manufacturers define a button to set the ISO or WB, and you may want to do the same. You can use any button (perhaps located in a relatively similar position as your other camera). On the front of the Olympus body are two buttons. The bottom one shows a depth of field preview, which I often use. The top front button by default is used to create a custom WB by shooting a white card. That is not something I do often, and can also be achieved from the WB settings control, so it is a good candidate to program for the ISO settings. The ISO control also includes WB control.

Navigate the menu system to Custom Menu; section B; Button Function. Scroll to the icon for the top front button, the icon is a rectangle with a rounded corner on the top. Select it and scroll to the value that has ISO and WB in it. The icons represent the two dials and you have the option whether the front dial controls ISO or the back dial does.

IMAGE set the front top button to bring up ISO and WB
Set the front top button to bring up ISO and WB

Fn Lever

The Fn Lever next to the eye piece can flip between two values, but can be configured to do many things that can be a bit confusing. Some people like to use it to power the camera on and off, instead of using the top left lever aptly labeled ON/OFF. This gives them one-handed control; personally I have no problem using both hands and prefer the other functionality available to the lever.

Page 113 shows which Custom Menu; section B; Fn Lever values are possible and page 124 describes the modes that can be set for the lever. There is a relationship between Fn Lever and the button on the top left of the camera. Beyond the ability to replace ON/OFF, it also influences the split button. But wait, there’s more … The lever can also change what front and back dials do.

Interpreting the chart on page 124: setting the Fn Lever Function to OFF turns it off, i.e. it does nothing. Mode 1 does not change the function of the top-left button function, instead it switches the function of the front dial and back dial. You configure the dial movement and lever setting in a separate menu area (Dial Function setting on page 113). Mode 3 is yet another way to flip between still and video shooting.

The most useful setup for me is Mode 2. With mode 2 the split button presents alternative controls when the lever is in position 2. The top of the split, when held changes to bring up Bracketing settings, the bottom split brings up flash compensation values. What I particularly like about mode 2 is that it can remember two AF modes. For example set the lever to position 1 and set AF to S-AF (single auto focus), then set the lever to position 2 and set AF to CF (continuous auto focus). Now when you flip the lever it changes the AF mode between those saved settings. Along with the AF mode you can remember the AF size and AF position with each lever position and store all of this in a Custom Mode (see below).

IMAGE Custom menu; section B; Lever Setting
Custom menu; section B; Lever Setting
IMAGE Custom menu B Lever Setting, mode 2 and leave the Switch Function On
Custom menu B Lever Setting, mode 2 and leave the Switch Function “ON”


Back Button Focus

The default camera setup has you half-pressing the shutter button to start the Auto Focus and Exposure and then when fully pressing capturing the image. Back Button Focus allows you to separate Auto Focus from the half press, which means you can press the back button to focus, recompose the camera and shoot. The “back button” is the AEL/AFL button next to the eye piece. The Custom menu; section A1; AEL/AFL item allows you to configure this button for each of the three types of Auto Focus modes (S-AF, C-AF and Manual focus) independently. Page 123 has a chart that describes the behavior of the AEL/AFL and the shutter button for each of the modes. There is also a hint at the bottom of menu page itself when you arrow through the modes.

So if you want back button focus, then you want auto focus to start when you press the AEL/AFL button. Looking at the second to last column of the chart, you want the corresponding Focus column to be non-blank. Which would mean setting mode 3 for each of the focusing methods S, C and M.

IMAGE Custom menu; section A1; AEL/AFL to change button function
Custom menu; section A1; AEL/AFL to change button function
IMAGE hint to what the modes do, mode 3 my favorite
Hint to what the modes do, mode 3 my favorite

Simplicity vs. Flexability

Notice, in C AF you could use also use mode 4. The difference from mode 3 is when the exposure gets locked. What the heck does locking Auto Focus mean when you are using Manual Focus? The mode 3 for M means that pressing the back button quickly sets focus at the auto focus point, but from then on you manually focus (similar to the SA-M focus mode).

You can set the behavior of the AEL/AFL button to be different for each of the focusing modes (S,C or M). For example some might use back button focus when using Manual focus (M3), and for Continuous focus use the button to lock the exposure and focus while half-pressing the shutter (C2). In an situation like a music concert, where the subject is illuminated and the background is dark, C2 can be very useful. You lock exposure on the subject once, using spot metering and AEL button, then use the shutter to focus and shoot without worrying about the exposure changing. On the other hand having the same physical behavior of the button press, no matter which focus mode, can make life simpler. 

Custom Mode Dial Setup

The Mode Dial allows you to define three custom sets, C1, C2 and C3. Turning the mode dial to one of these returns all of the camera menu setting values to what you stored in C1, C2 or C3. You can continue make changes to the camera settings after selecting a custom mode; however, when you turn the camera off and on, the settings return to the starting custom settings you defined. Furthermore, when you turn the dial to one of the PASM modes, the settings revert back to what you last had been using in those modes.

The mindset I take for defining presets is to think of shooting situations, e.g. landscape on a tripod vs birds in flight. For each of these situations there are a distinct set of camera settings with which I want to start. I setup the camera menu options that I use most often as a baseline. I then make changes to the baseline specific to one situation. This includes the mode dial2, e.g. M vs A, and starting values for shutter speed, ISO, aperture, AF mode, single shot or multi-frame etc. Then I go into the menu system and save it as one of the Custom Modes. Next I reset the camera to my baseline and make modifications to the shooting mode etc. for my next scenario. Save that to another Custom Mode and repeat.

To save settings to a custom mode use the Shooting Menu 1 menu (top left hand side in the menus) the section labeled Reset/Custom Modes, page 86 of the manual. WARNING do not select Reset! Scroll down to Assign to Custom Mode. Then scroll to the C1, C2 or C3 you wish and select it. To do the next shooting scenario I return to my basic setup and make modifications specific to the new shooting situation and save that as another Custom Mode.

IMAGE Shooting menu 1; Rest/Custom to save your settings as a Custom Mode
Shooting menu 1; Rest/Custom to save your settings as a Custom Mode
IMAGE Be sure to Assign to C1, C2 or C3
Be sure to Assign to C1, C2 or C3


While you can recall the settings of a Custom Mode from the menu system, the easiest way is to simply turn the mode dial to C#. When you click the mode dial you will see in the lower left corner of the SCP the custom mode you are using.

Tip: On a piece of sticky paper tape or label maker write a brief reminder for what each C mode does. Then open the flip screen and paste this to the back of your camera.

Custom Mode for Fallback Settings

Many advise that you take the settings you use most frequently and assign them to a Custom Mode. This way if you get too far astray and are not sure what you have set, you can return to the setup with which you are most comfortable. I call this your “fallback settings”.

Be aware, that clicking the mode dial to your custom fallback settings and then to another PASM mode returns to the camera settings to those last used in the PASM mode. These might not still be your fallback settings, if you made changes while in a PASM mode. Note the process I outlined above is for setting custom modes derived from a virtual baseline that you must manually reset; you could not start from a fallback custom mode to define other custom modes.

Custom Mode for Birds in Flight

Scott Bourne wrote a nice article Using OMD EM-1 Mark ii Auto Focus for Bird Photography. You can take his suggested settings and make a Custom Mode. One addition to his recommendations I would add, use the Fn Lever to toggle between the Continuous Auto Focus (CAF) mode and Continuous Auto Focus with Tracking (CAF-T). To do this before you save the custom mode, set the lever to position 1 and the AF mode to CAF, then flip the lever to position 2 and set the AF mode to CAF-T. When you save (assign) the Custom Mode these values are saved as well. Now you can quickly flip between modes with the lever.


  • If you set the Mode Dial to video (camera icon) and define a number of settings, then when you toggle back to it the video settings are restored. This is like another custom mode reserved for video.
  • The desktop based Olympus Digital Camera Updater application used to update the camera firmware has an option to backup all of your settings to a file. This is useful if you accidentally select the Reset option or anytime you wish to recover your settings. You can also use the application to load the backed up setting file into a second camera of the same model.
  • Some options do not make sense to save with a Custom Mode3. On page 165 is a table that shows in the column labeled “1” what can be saved to Custom Mode. The other columns shows what happens when you select the Reset that I told you not to select—which basically returns things to the factory settings.

  1. You can still record videos by moving the mode dial to video and using the shutter button to record. 
  2. Before assigning to a custom mode, first set the mode dial to the PASM setting you wish to use and not the C# on the dial. 
  3. For example if flipping between C1 and C2 changes the function of the physical Fn Lever, one would easily get confused, so Olympus does not let it be saved to a custom mode.