E-M1 Firmware V4 Feature review

Alright…i’m sure everyone who has installed the firmware has had a chance to play around with it.  Several of you are probably waiting to make sure there are no other hidden bugs before installing.  So far so good for me.  Everything updated well, and I have restored all my settings.  I wanted to give a brief review of the features and go over a few of the new items that Olympus did not necessarily advertise.  Some of these features were already on the E-M10mkII.  For those that have not used the camera, I will pretend these are all new in terms of finding them.

Focus Bracketing

Focus Bracketing is found under the original bracketing menu.  Bracketing and HDR are now the first two items in camera menu 2.  You go into bracketing, select ON, and then select your bracketing mode.  Focus bracketing is the last item.  You can choose up to 99 images.  You can also select how much time to give in between shots for your flashes to recycle.  You can choose 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, or 30 seconds.  You also have a 10 point scale to choose from how wide the focus moves between shots.  Default is 5.

You are locked to a Hi-Speed Silent Shutter mode.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your situation means completely electronic shutter mode. Your slowest speed usable is 1/8th.  Your highest ISO is 3200.  Flash sync speed is down below 1/30th.  I didn’t test each speed.  This is overall somewhat limiting in terms of how you would use the camera in the studio.  Realistically I would end up turning to fixed lighting such as tungsten instead of strobe if I were shooting a still life and wanted to use the camera’s built in focus bracketing.

Focus stacking is the same thing, except the camera only shoots 8 images and then internally stacks them.  Only the 12-40, 40-150, and 60mm macro area supported for that at the moment.  From my early testing, it actually worked pretty well.  You need to experiment and see what works best for your subjects.  A setting of 5 at F/7.1 at 40mm on the 12-40 seemed to yield good results for most 1-2 inch subjects from about 8 inches away.

You also blackout while the camera processes the shots together.  Takes about 15 seconds to process and save the final image during which the camera is unusable.  I can see myself using this on occasion when shooting macro outdoors in ambient light.  It works a lot easier than manual refocusing each shot.  However, I still think if you are focus stacking in the studio, your best bet is still to use Olympus Capture software and manually adjust focus by the smallest step focus button in the software.  Click to move focus and then fire the shutter from the computer.  Just repeat until you get all your shots done.  That way you can use your strobes at 1/320th sync and not have any ambient light issues.  You also don’t end up overshooting the number of shots needed.

Tip, you can set bracketing to a custom button.  If you are shooting macro you can make a quick focus stack and go back to single shooting quickly that way.

Silent Mode

So now Silent mode is selectable from your shutter drive menu.  You have silent versions of single, Cont. H, Cont. L, 2-sec, 12-sec, and Interval modes.  If you have never used this…they aren’t kidding.  It’s silent.  Literally.  There is no noise emitted from image capture.  None.  None.  Freakin’ weird after years of shutters clicking to make an image.  I thought leaf shutters were quiet…this is truly dead silent.  Then again, its electronic shutter only.  So same limitations as I stated above.  I prefer the mechanical shutter for most of my shooting…but a silent shutter can be very handy in a lot of situations.

Improved Anti-Shock Mode

I have to be honest I have not seen where “else” the improvements lie.  This mode is what it is…but they have unlocked it finally in Continuous H and L shooting!  I always shoot in Cont. L mode for general shooting.  Having anti-shock in those mode is great.  Just peace of mind knowing that shutter shock is potentially not an issue in my favorite shooting mode.

Manual Focus Clutch Disable

Menu > Custom Menu > A AF/MF > MF Clutch (second page) is where you find this option.  Operative means your clutch works and puts you into manual focus mode.  Inoperative means pulling the clutch back does nothing.  It can also mean a sure fire way to DISABLE focusing!  Set your drive to MF only and the Clutch setting to inoperative.  When the clutch is in its main position you can manually focus.  Set your focus and pull it back carefully so you dont change focus.  Now focus is literally LOCKED where you set it with no chance of getting reset…until the camera powers off or goes into standby.  I like this option when shooting astrophotography!  No accidental focus shifts.

S-OVF

Simulated Optical Viewfinder mode is located in Menu > Custom Menu > J Built-in EVF > S-OVF.  You can set this on of off.  It can also be programed to toggle on and off with a custom button.  Think of this as Live View Boost 1 without WB shifts.  Also, when viewing in very dark conditions, LVB1 will go to an almost monochrome view.  S-OVF retains a color view while boosting.  S-OVF also does not show the effects of over or under exposure so remember to keep an eye on your meter.  I actually am a big fan of this mode.  I have it programmed to my Fn2 button.  I switch between Live View Boost all the time.  I often shoot with strobes.  I used to keep a manual mode based MySet programmed with this.  Now I just keep a button programmed with S-OVF.  When shooting with ambient and strobes I can toggle to normal view to see the effect of my shutter speed on the background and then switch back to view my subject as normal.  I go back and fourth between studio and outdoors and having this set to a button is awesome.  As far as normally viewing with this…it does a decent job of simulating what our eyes see including color casts of a scene.

Focus Peaking

We have some new options with focus peaking.  Now if you go under Menu > Custom Menu > D Display > Peaking Settings (third page) you have several options.  First you can set the peaking color to white, black, red, or yellow.  I personally find Red to be the easiest color to see and quickest to confirm focus with when I am shooting.  You can adjust the peaking intensity in three levels.  Low, Normal, and High.  I go with normal.  You can also have the image adjust to better show the peaking while focusing.  This basically drops the image contrast completely so the peaking stands out more.  It goes back to normal when you stop focusing.  I prefer this option off.  Also, it does NOT work if you also have magnifying on.  When you magnify the exposure is adjusted anyways, so this option is not working when magnifying is working.  Remember, High Frame Rate does not work with focus peaking activated!  Choose which is more important for you!  I much prefer high frame rate.

Menu Position Remembered

Menu > Custom Menu > D Display > Menu Recall (third page) allows you to pick Recall or Reset.  Recall is the new option that allows the camera to remember where you last were in the menus.  This recalls even if the power was turned off.  Nice.

4K Timelapse

Camera menu 1 > Drive Options (last menu item) > Time Lapse Settings.  From here you can adjust the camera to set up a time lapse feature.  In 4K you can only do 5-fps, 1080 is 5, 10, or 15 fps, and 720 gives you up to 30fps.  You can set a wait time before the sequence starts from 1 second to 25 hours.  You can also set the interval between images from 1 second up to 25 hours.  You can select from 1 total image up to 999 images in a sequence.  You can set the camera settings however you choose.  This is awesome.  I regularly use Trigger-Trap app to fire my camera during astrophotography.  I normally shoot a sequence of 10 – 30 images with a 3 second interval.  The timelapse mode can handle this for me now.  Only catch is the camera can only go to 60 seconds exposure before requiring bulb mode.  I will still have to use trigger trap when shooting 2min+ exposure lengths.  Very handy to have though.  I would personally rather shoot as many frames as I need and then manually combine into a timelapse.  Based on your exposure length and time lapse settings, the camera has a wonderful display in the timelapse menu that shows you current time, estimated end time, and total movie length based on your frame rate selected.  Very handy in camera for making an impromptu time lapse.  Also handy since it can free up your mobile device or the need for a cable release if you are shooting exposure times of less than 1 second.  Very well done.  It would have been exceptionally awesome if we could set exposure length beyond 1-minute in this mode as well.

Video Improvements

Now you can use M-IS2.  This uncrops the image back to normal video mode view and only activates the mechanical image stabilization.  Nice option.

Slate tone, Time Code (and options), and a new Recording Volume options are location in the Movie options custom menu.  These require an Olympus PCM recorder to be connected to the camera via USB to function.  Not having one of these recorders I was unable to test these features at the moment.

You can select your frame rate when in movie mode by clicking the OK button.  Go down to the Video Quality option on the live menu that pops up.  Select your format (720, 1080, etc…) then hit the INFO button.  You can then select between 24, 25, and 30fps.

There are some various options for resetting or entering manual time code, keeping time code running, and time code modes.  Again, all features I rarely use, but convenient when you need them.  Or if you do video with the E-M1 then I’m sure it’s a welcome addition.

Movie info visible on the screen is also adjustable now.  It can be individually selected from the Movie Info option under the Movie custom menu.

You can also set the video to fire from the shutter button or the record button now.  This is also under the expanded Movie custom options menu.

Other

I am not sure if these are totally new…but I honestly do not remember them from previous firmware.

Info Settings

It appears that the way you can display info in the viewfinder and as well as the screen are adjusted.  You can now select two custom modes and a basic info mode.  You can select what appears in each custom mode.  This is nice.  Options include highlight warnings, histogram, and the level gauge.  Some times I want all of that, but I dont want to hit the info button 5 times to cycle through back to my basic view.  Now you can choose just what you want.

Picture Mode Settings

If you go to Camera Menu 1 > Picture Mode and then dive in, you can go down through the art filters and select their deeper options to set right from that screen.  If I remember, we could only adjust those options from the Art Filter Mode before.  You can also adjust all the picture mode options from this screen as well including gradation, sharpness, etc….

Custom Picture Mode

We can set a totally custom picture mode now.  You can create your own mode that is saved based on the usual JPG picture mode adjustments.  You can access this in the picture modes just after monotone.

Lightbox Mode

Menu > Custom Menu > D Display > Playback Info Settings > Play Info > Select Lightbox mode.  Now when you view an image that you shot, you can hit the INFO button until you get to “Lightbox Mode.”  This lets you compare to images side by side.  You can change the second image by scrolling the front dial or by using the directional keys.  You can zoom in (center only) on both images together by using the rear dial.  Kind of nice to see images side by side that were not in sequence.  You can zoom in on a standard playback image and then switch images while keeping zoom position.  This is normal, but now we can see two images side by side from anywhere on the memory card.  Nice.

 

So far so good with this firmware update.  It added a lot of refinement to a camera that was already great.  A lot of functionality was also added to Olympus Capture tethering software.  Be sure to try that out!  Are there any features you wish they had added on this round of updates?  Anything I missed?  Anything you would like to see?  Let me know!

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December 1, 2015

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