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Live View on the Olympus E-M5

Last Update 12 January 2013
As early as March 2006 Olympus were one of the first manufacturers to implement a real time “Live View”. The E330 used an interesting A/B Live View focussing technology, mode A used contrast auto focus, same as what we see on MFT cameras and mode B used the dedicated SLR focus sensor together with a flip type mirror movement to find the correct focal length. It was in its contrast auto focus mode that the E-330 had a limited realtime live view from its then specially developed CMOS sensor.

The next generation Olympus cameras with a greatly improved Live View functionality were the E410, E510 and the E3. They were not necessarily better in terms of contrast auto focus, but much improved in terms of the ability to adjust an image while monitoring the adjustments in real time on the camera screen. It was already then that I believe Olympus saw the dramatic impact contrast auto focus, live view and the uniquely designed sensor would have on future system type cameras.

This ability to monitor real time image adjustments on the camera screen continued to improve and what we see today, is a nearly perfectly refined live view functionality. In a recent Kelby training podcast, the well known trainer, Matt Kloskowski said he will never use his Canon again without Live View. It was only with more recent models that Canon and Nikon “really” started implementing Live View themselves in their SLR offer. In this short article I like us to take a quick look at a few unique functions and advantages we have with E-M5 while using Live View.

Talking about live view one cannot help asking, how does one select "Live View" with the E-M5? The good news is that different to older SLR cameras which had to be enabled for live view, the E-M5 is permanently in live view mode, including all the benefits we discuss in this article.

For the following reasons, I believe the E-M5 has a nearly perfected Live View function.
- The ability to fine tune image parameters in real time on the screen
- The ability to adjust white balance accurately in real time
- The ability to do creative color adjustments
- The ability to do advanced movie recording plus monitoring
- The Super Control Panel (SCP) plus all its benefits - P22
- The unique combination of using the SCP and Live Control views
- The ability to monitor Art Filter effects in real time
- The ability to follow and monitor Scene mode adjustments
- The iPad Mode or Live Guides Mode (P21)
- Image live Preview Mode (several options)
- Unique high resolution zoom MF focussing support
- The E-M5 is always in Live View mode (Default setting)
Many more……

SCP, Live Control and CWB

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Figure 1 shows the Olympus Super Control Panel on the E-M5. If you do not see the SCP, please see my article on basic settings. The SCP has been a part of Olympus cameras for as long as I can remember. No additional number of external camera buttons can replace those "buttons" plus additional settings found on the SCP. As you can see I have the CWB, numerical value, "selected" for this example (Figure1). In the image you will also see I dialed in a white balance value of 3500 Kelvin. Keep in mind that Figure 1 does not represent the default SCP view. In order to get to the view in figure 1, plus to dial in a custom WB value, you need to follow the steps described in the "Setting up WB" paragraph below. For those who does not know what the significance of WB is, please see this article for more information.

The SCP is one of the best kept secrets in the camera industry. Those who complain about the E-M5 menu structure should read this!!! Take a view minutes and familiarize yourself with the SCP on the E-M5. To activate the default SCP view press the "OK" button on the back of the E-M5. If it is the first time you activate the SCP you could in fact see the Live Control view in Figure 2 first. To switch to the SCP you need to press the INFO button on your E-M5. The INFO button will toggle between the SCP and the Live Control views. Why the two views? The SCP is a compact view of key functions and buttons on the E-M5 that enables quick and accurate access to important functions on the E-M5. The Live Control view on the other hand allows the user to make important image adjustments while monitoring those adjustments in real time on the live view screen. The Live Control therefor gives priority to the image and the SCP gives priority to settings. Please study P22 - P24 to familiarize yourself with the SCP and the Live Control screens. To properly set up the SCP and the live view on your E-M5, see the basic setting article I wrote.

For example with the SCP you can quickly select or scroll through the different SCP buttons, turning the left hand dial on the E-M5 or using the E-M5 arrow keys. When a function or button is highlighted and you like to adjust that button, turn the right hand dial to scroll through the button options. When you get the hang of this you will never want to use anything else again. When the touch panel function is active you can go ahead and point to the button you want to adjust and it will be selected, again turning the right hand dial will give quick access to the button options. Always be on the look out for the INFO button sign when scrolling through the buttons or button options on the SCP. The reason is the INFO button will guide you to instructions on how to access more options, when available.

Setting CWB using Live Control and SCP

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As discussed above there are two ways of changing almost any setting using the SCP or the Live Control screens. For a quick WB selection you can use the SCP to select the "WB AUTO" button and to then select the right WB option by dialing the right hand dial on the E-M5 Alternatively you can press the INFO button, when the "WB AUTO" button is highlighted on the SCP, to switch to the Live Control window. In the Live Control view you have a better view of the image plus the color changes on the image as you dial in a unique CWB value.

Figure 3

It could happen that there are a difference between the screen or view you see when adjusting the Kelvin value in Live Control. In one case the view are as in in Figure 3 and in another as in Figure 2. Both are correct and a great support while monitoring image colors changing when adjusting the Kelvin value. The difference are related to the firmware status of the E-M5.

See the article I wrote on how to better use the E-M5 menu "clues". By following the messages and clues on the E-M5 screen, the E-M5 will guide the user setting-up and tuning the E-M5.

There are more…..

The E-M5 offers the user a type of gray card in the Live Control screen. As we said the Live Control screen place the priority on the image. In the above image you will see that the “A” plus the WB Kevin scale are inside a white bar that is going from left to the right across the bottom of the OLED screen. In figure 2 you will see INFO plus Kelvin scale are also in a white type bar. Use these "white" bar's as the camera “gray card" Position the white bar over any "white" part in the image, something like a piece of white paper will work. While adjusting the white balance check the white or gray bar until the white paper becomes the same “white” inside the bar and outside the bar. With some practice you will learn how to use this best….

The E-M5 also gives the user the chance to fine tune each of the different white balance options on the SCP. See the SCP panel in Figure 1. When selecting the CWB button you will see the white balance numerical value in Kelvin, displayed next to the WB button. One can then adjust the CWB by selecting the WB numerical value in SCP. Now turn the front dial to adjust the Kelvin numerical value. For any other white balance option in the SCP you will see with each option there are an unique fine tuning adjustment to the right of the WB button.

One could also decide to be creative when using the CWB adjustments. Using warmer colors (below 2500 Kelvin) for late afternoon images will give an orange cast to the image. This will support great sundown colors….. You could decide to intensify colors by using a warm colors or by giving an image a cold feel by increasing the Kelvin value. Never fall into the pit of “correct” photography please. There are a small group of technically inclined photographers on the web bullying photographers into the “perfect” image. Use your camera as a photographic tool, a creative instrument and let it help you express yourself.

More Accurate White Balance Presets

One cannot help thinking that calibrating the E-M5 screen or view finder (EVF) will give better results when thinking of the above discussion. Looking at all the screen & EVF adjustment options on the E-M5, I considered the different set-up options like calibrating the EVF and screen white balance. After many experiments plus trying several times to better “calibrate” the screen I came to the conclusion it is good as is. I therefore advice the average user not to go to the effort calibrating the EVF or the camera screen white balance as discussed on P111, P85, P86 and P50 in the users manual.

What I do recommend is for the user to practice setting a custom white balance using the E-M5. This will help you record creative image colors while working with the E-M5. See P51 in the users manual. I found the E-M5 has one of the better automatic WB algorithms and my recommendation is therefore to leave the camera WB setting on Automatic, especially if you not comfortable playing with CWB. If you in a difficult situation and you like to have more accurate colors then you could either set the WB using the live view function or you could use a custom white balance using a gray card. The E-M5 is a little particular on how to set WB with an external gray card, my advice is to practice using the external gray card prior to getting caught out in the field…… CWB using a gray card results in very accurate image colors!!

Fine tuning Exposure in Live View

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The above image is another great example of using Live View. With this example we adjust exposure in real time before taking the image. You could decide to use the curves function on the E-M5 to up exposure in the shadows or to down exposure in the highlights only. You could decide to see the effect of aperture versus shutter speed versus ISO while monitoring the effects on your live view E-M5 screen…. Also see the article I did on using the Curves function on the E-M5. This is another great example of using the SCP together with the Live Control views.

In the above image again one see real time warnings on livel view. The shadows/highlights function is perfect for seeing the impact of exposure adjustments. In the above case you can decide to up the exposure a little to eliminate the shadows turning black. That could result in more over exposure warnings. You could then turn the bright parts back using the curves function for example. When exposing to the right one could decide to let a few small over exposed areas go through. Being able to see which parts will be over exposed, helps a lot to decide by how much one will expose to the right…. The JPEG photographer can really fine tune the JPEG image in the camera before taking the image.

Setting Art Filters in Live View

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The E-M5 also allows the photographer to quickly monitor ART filters and its effects on the screen in live view mode. While setting up the image prior to recording the image one can monitor changes in real time on the Live Control view. The EVF for example offer two different frame rates to monitor ART filter, a true and accurate ART filter effect using a slow frame rate and a second mode with an increased frame update rate but with less real time screen accuracy.

It is possible to quickly scroll through all the ART filters and to evaluate each in real time. Selecting the "Picture Mode" function (see above image) in the SCP one can toggle to the Live Control screen pressing the INFO button. While in Live Control, one can scroll through the different picture modes, scene modes plus ART filters using the front adjustment dial.

Real Time view of image in Bulb mode

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The Electronic View Finder (EVF) on the E-M5 also offers the user all the benefits of a true Live View screen. All the functions we discussed in this article can be applied with the EVF. In fact the EVF offers different scan rates (P92) also ensure that one get the best possible conditions for Live View using the EVF.

When doing bulb exposures (P59), most digital cameras has no method of showing the photographer how the image "develops" on the sensor in real time. In both "LiveTime" or "LiveBulb" mode (P89), the E-M5 display the image developing in real time on the OLED screen. Personally I will open the shutter and while watching the image developing, I will again close the shutter when the image looks right to me on the screen. Best is to use a tripod and cable release when recording like this. There are more to this technique plus it takes a fair amount of practice…..

Shooting movies in Live View

One of the real disadvantages doing movies with an SLR is the optical view finder (OVF). It is critical to have the ability to monitor the movie while recording. One therefor require a really capable high resolution screen PLUS view finder to monitor the movie in all conditions. The E-M5 is already good with its OLED screen/display plus the fact that the display are not fixed to the camera but that the user can adjust the display to a better monitoring position as needed. In most cases the SLR movie photographer will use an external Live View screen to monitor recordings. With the E-M5 the home video photographer can monitor the recording in high resolution on the E-M5 screen or on the EVF.

The E-M5 manual is not clear on selecting the best way for shooting movies. There are two options shooting movies with the E-M5, the first is pressing the video record button in any shooting mode and the second is setting the shooting mode to movie and to then press the video record button. With the second mode the user can use the Live Control screen to set up movie parameters. When set to movie mode on the E-M5, each of the adjustments made in the Live Control view will be related to shooting movies.

One can quickly review the effects using different aperture or shutter priority shooting modes, ART filters or white balance settings in Live Control view. Again as one become familiar using the camera in this way, it becomes increasingly difficult to switch cameras. The E-M5 offers high speed operation with quick access to the most important settings at any time, I found.

Additional Super Control Panel (SCP) points

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The Super Control Panel (P22) has become an integral part of Live View with the E-M5. As mentioned above I often read comments on forums talking about Olympus cameras not having enough external buttons or controls. Each time I read these comments I cannot help to think that these guys have not yet worked with the SCP or Live Control view. Anyone who has been exposed to the advantages of using the SCP will battle to work with a camera without the SCP or Live Control views. On my 7D Canon has added a similar SCP as found on the E-M5, the only difference is it does only have 50% of the functionality I am use to on the E-M5. It makes it really difficult for me to work with the 7D.

Take one classic example. The E-M5 has probably the highest number of external buttons found amongst MFT cameras. What happens if you forget which functions you assigned to which buttons? Simply activate the SCP and go to the "Function Button" in the right bottom corner of the SCP. When selected turn the front dial and each external button with its associated function will be displayed on the SCP. (See above image)

You can switch to the EVF to see if the camera is using the in-camera battery or the battery in the the extension grip. A great function to help you decide when and what battery to charge. There are so many things one can discuss in terms of the SCP and Live Control views, if not careful it will require a complete article on its own!!

Conclusion

We can continue listing examples using live view function on a camera like the E-M5. Personally I think it will take effort and time for users to find all the useful things we could do with live view, reason is in the past we never really gave live view and what it can do for us much thought……

Just think of the absolute limited functionality we use to work with while using optical view finders - in a few years people will not be able to imagine how that was possible I guess……

Best

Siegfried