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By Coroander, courtesy of WetPixel.


Olympus OM-D E-M5 Settings for Underwater Use

The E-M5 is a highly customizable camera and there are a lot of considerations (and personal preferences) for underwater use. This article will help you to prepare at least a starting point for configuring the camera for underwater use.


Setup Menu


  • Rec View -> 2 sec

This allows the image to be seen through the viewfinder for 2 seconds after it is taken. However, if action is really fast, you won't want to wait for 2 seconds before you see the live action again, so all you have to do is half depress the shutter to cancel the view of the image you just shot. The information presented along with the review image is the same as the current playback (LCD review) mode (press the blue arrow button and then press INFO until you see the info you want to see after pressing the shutter.)

Custom Menu:


  • AF Illuminat. -> Off
 Turning on the red AF light on the camera body isn't going to help you focus underwater when the camera is in a housing, so best to turn it off.
  • Reset Lens   -> Off
 Set to Off to prevent the camera from reseting the focus on you.
Disp / ))) / P
  • Control Settings -> P/A/S/M

  • Live Control -> Off
  • Live SCP -> OnTurning Live Control off and Live SCP panel on ensures that you can gain access to the Super Control Panel by just pressing the OK button. If you enable both then you'll either enter Live Control or SCP when you press the OK button (and need to press INFO to switch between them), but both control systems provide similar functionality so you don't need both and SCP is just easier to use. If you plan to use iAUTO mode underwater, you should do the same for iAUTO mode.
Info Settings Info Settings -> LV-Info
Histogram Histogram -> Off
Highlight & Shadow Highlight & Shadow -> On
Level Guage Level Guage -> Off
Image Only Image Only -> Off When looking through the viewfinder you can change the infomation presented to you by pressing the INFO button. By reducing the number of options, you'll spend less time messing about. Here we enable highlight and shadow clipping indicators, which allows excellent control over exposure (turn the shutter speed until highlight clipping can be seen, then turn in back slightly.)
Histogram Settings
Highlight Highlight -> 255
Shadow Shadow -> 3 
These settings control when the highlight clipping and shadow clipping indicators come into play. By decreasing the indicators one can make more use of the excellent dynamic range of this camera and more easily avoid unwanted highlight cliping in scenes with very high dynamic range (where both shadow clipping and highlight clipping indicators are visible.) Note that Adobe Lightroom 4.1 provides excellent shadow and highlight recovery from RAW images that is simply not accessible in most other software packages. Others recommend 250 and 5, which may be safer.
Live View Live View Boost -> On
 Turn this On to prevent the EVF from showing the effects of under/over exposure of the available light.
Info Info Off -> Hold
 This simply ensures that the information about various settings is always shown in the viewfinder, otherwise it disappears after the time (in seconds) set.
Built-In EVF:
EVF Auto Switch EVF Auto Switch -> Off
 Above water this allows the proximity detector to switch the live view from the back LCD to the EVF when your eye is up to the EVF. In a housing this will not work. Underwater, you can switch manually using the viewfinder lever on the housing, if needed.
Frame Rate Frame Rate -> Normal
 You need to set this to High for shooting birds in flight, but underwater the Normal frame rate is much faster than will ever be needed. When you set the frame rate to High you reduce the ability of the camera to accurately display highlight and shadow warnings; for this reason you don't want to use High unless it's absolutely essential.
Shooting Menu 1

RAW  Still Picture -> RAW
 You must shoot RAW to get the full image detail and dynamic range this camera offers.
Shooting Menu 2
  • RC Mode RC Mode -> Off RC Mode works only with modern Olympus flashes and sends control signals via flash pulses to control the relative outputs of external flashes. Unless you are using an Olympus flash underwater, turning on RC Mode will increase shutter lag, decrease camera battery life, and limit sync speed to 1/160 of a second*.
Custom Menu
  • Flash Custom

  • X-Sync X-Sync -> 1/250 
Ensures you can shoot with external strobes up to 1/250 of a second.
  • Slow Limit Slow Limit -> 1/15
 Lowest shutter speed the camera will use in A, P, and Auto ISO modes.

Button Settings:
Custom Menu


Button Function

Fn1  Fn1 Function -> MF Allows switching between AF-ON focus and shutter button focus modes. See Underwater Operation below. This is not essential as changing the focus mode can be done easily though the SCP. Feel free to map this to some other function you might use more frequently.
Fn2  Fn2 Function -> Magnify 
Quick access to the magnify function which isn't used for magnify but rather is used to gain access to a small focus point. Tap once to bring up the autofocus point, hold the button down for 0.5 seconds to cancel this mode. Taping the button a second time will actually magnify the image; do this and then turn the dial until you see 14x; tap again to return to your autofocus point. Now the autofocus point will be very small which allows for better focus point selection. You only ever need to do this magnify and set to 14x once, the camera will remember your choice.
[Rec]  [Rec] Function -> AEL/AFL Allows the record button (thumb lever on the Nauticam housing) (instead of a shutter half-press) to be used for focus, when using AF-ON (mode3) focus (see Focus Strategies Below).
[>] Function [>] Function -> ISO Provides direct access to changing ISO by pressing the right arrow key.
[v] Function [v] Function -> Flash Mode 
Direct access to flash mode by pressing the down arrow key. Could be assigned to some other function.
[<^v>] Function [<^v>] Function -> Direct Function
Focus Settings:
The purpose of this is to allow for quick, efficient switching of focus modes even while underwater. With just a single button press one can choose between auto focus and AF-ON (focus on record button press / thumb lever on Nauticam housing).
Custom Menu
  • AF/MF
- AF AF Mode -> MF or S-AF 
Use MF if you want to focus using the record button (thumb lever on Nauticam housing), S-AF if you want to focus on half-press of shutter. Whatever you chose, you can easily change this via the SCP underwater.
- Full-time AF Full-time AF -> Off You don't want this on for any focus mode.

- S-AF S-AF -> mode1
 When S-AF is the focus mode chosen in the SCP, then focus will be on half press of shutter button.
- C-AF C-AF -> mode3 When C-AF is the focus mode chosen in the SCP, then focus will be manual with continuous autofocus available by holding down the record button (thumb lever on Nauticam housing). Note that you generally will want to continue holding the record button/thumb lever in while pressing the shutter in continuous focus mode to ensure focus during the exposure.
- MF MF -> mode3
 When MF is the focus mode chosen in the SCP, then focus will be manual with autofocus available by pressing the record button/thumb lever.
  • Face Priority Face Priority -> Off
 Prevents the camera from taking control of focus to focus on things which only remotely resemble faces.
Rls Priority S Rls Priority S -> On
 This ensures that images can still be taken if focus was not achieved in S-AF mode.
Rls Priority C Rls Priority C -> Off 
This ensures that images are not taken unless focus was achieved in C-AF mode. Note that this only applies if you are holding down the record button/thumb lever; if you have released the record button/thumb lever, you'll still be able to take images without focus lock.
Half Way Half Way Rls With IS -> On
This allows image stabilisation to start when the shutter is released half way and thus provides an image stabilised EVF when the shutter is pressed half way.
Flash Mode:

Has the advantage of longer camera battery life, no shutter lag and minimal recycle time. Press OK to see the SCP, select flash with the arrow keys, press OK and use the arrow keys or dial to select "Manual Value", press OK. Back at the SCP, just underneath the flash mode is the manual flash power, select this and choose 1/64 (the minimum).
Press OK to see the SCP, select flash with the arrow keys, press OK and use the arrow keys or dial to select "Fill In", and press OK.
With the settings above, you'll never have to use the menu system to change settings underwater. You'll be able to get to everything directly through buttons on the back or through the SCP which can all be done with your eye on the viewfinder.
Focus Mode:
  • Press OK to bring up the SCP. You can now switch between MF, S-AF, and C-AF.
  • In single autofocus (S-AF) mode, half pressing (or fully pressing) the shutter will focus.
  • In manual focus (MF) mode, pressing the record button (thumb lever on Nauticam housing) will trigger the auto focus. If you have a manual focus gear, you can focus simply by turning the focus knob in this mode.
  • In continuous autofocus mode (C-AF), you'll need to hold down the record button (thumb lever on Nauticam housing) to continuously focus on a (typically) moving object. Keep the record button held down while pressing the shutter to ensure the photo is taken while focus is locked.
  • Pressing F1 will switch instantly between MF and S-AF or C-AF (whichever of the later 2 was last used).
Improving Focus Point Selection:
You can obtain a smaller focus point to more accurately target what you want in focus using the magnify mode. Tap the F2 Button to switch into Magnify mode. In this mode a single focus point is shown. If this is the first time you've done this, then tap the F2 button again to magnify the image (you will not normally ever enter magnify mode underwater), turn the dial until you see 14x. Now tap the F2 button a third time. You'll return to the single focus point mode, but now the focus point will be small. You can move this focus point around using the arrow keys (note that the magnify focus point is independent of the main focus point(s) position.) To cancel the magnify focus point, hold the F2 button down for 0.5 seconds or longer.
Changing ISO:
Just press the right arrow key, then use the arrow keys (or dial) to select the ISO and press OK.
Getting the correct exposure:
Shooting wide angle, we often want to use the longest exposure that doesn't blow out the highlights. The advantage of the EVF is that we can see, before we take the image, whether we are going to blow the highlights. We enabled shadow & highlight mode (pressing INFO will still toggle our highlights & shadows on/off), so now we just increase the exposure until the highlights start getting colored orange, then back off slightly until the orange goes away. When shooting directly into the sun, the sun will always be orange no matter what settings we choose, but we can limit the amount of water around the sun that's blown out. And, given the settings we've used, you'll also see the highlights and shadow warnings shown after the image is taken.
It's also worth considering setting up the LCD playback (blue arrow button) to show shadow&highlight, when this is done, the image review in the EVF will also show shadow&highlight clipping blink, which is useful for ensuring the strobes didn't cause blown highlights.
If you have the Olympus housing or another housing that requires the flash to be in the down position and you are using a strobe - follow these steps:
(Make sure your camera is not in iAuto when going through these steps.)
Step 1  -> Menu
Step 2  -> Scroll down to the picture of a gears
Step 3  -> Use the right arrow to go into custom menu
Step 4  -> Scrool down to "Button/Dial"
Step 5  -> Use the right arrow to go into "B. Button/Dial"
Step 6  -> Find "Button Function" and press the right arrow
Step 7  -> Chose either "Fn 1" or "Fn 2" (function)
Step 8  -> Use the right arrow to go into Function Button setting
Step 9  -> Scroll through the different presets for functions until find the symbol with 3 fish & 1 fish
Step 10-> Press OK
Step 11-> Press menu button 3 times or press the shutter release button once to exit the menu
At this point the flash will fire when in down position.
Step 12-> To get out of underwater mode switch between different modes, ex shutter to aperture back to shutter
You do not need to leave the camera in underwater mode for the flash to continue working in the down position.
You only need to do this when you first set up your camera.
If you are using a strobe - your camera settings will be set for that amount of light - so the screen will be dark similar to the natural light. This makes the live view screen hard to see while underwater. This can be changed by following these instructions.
Step 1  -> Menu
Step 2  -> Scroll down to the picture of a gears
Step 3  -> Use the right arrow to go into custom menu
Step 4  -> Scroll down to "Disp/-)))/PC"
Step 5  -> Use the right arrow to go into "Disp/-)))/PC"
Step 6  -> Scroll down to the picture "Live View Boost"
Step 7  -> Use the right arrow to select "On"
Step 8  -> Press menu button 2 times or press the shutter release button once to exit the menu

BASIC CAMERA SETTINGS (Optical Ocean Addition)

ISO: Make sure that your ISO is between 200-400 for macro. It can be set faster 800-1200 for wide angle photography, but you may start to see some noise (grain) in the photos. We do not recommend the use of Auto ISO, except for shooting available light or video, as it will over expose while using external strobes.

MODE: We recommend that you use Manual (M), Shutter (S), or Aperture (A) modes for more control. Shutter mode allows selecting the Shutter speed to allow for how quick the light comes in - with the aperture being set automatically by the camera. Aperture allows changing the size of the Aperture to allow for more or less light to come in with the shutter speed being set automatically by the camera. Manual allows the photographer to perform both Shutter and Aperture changes. Manual allows for ultimate control of the camera, especially important for the best results with strobes and the difficult lighting situations found underwater. Both Aperture and Shutter Priority allow for some control and are a good starting place for newer photographers, or in fast changing situations.

WHITE BALANCE: Use auto white balance (AWB), or go with the underwater white balance mode provided by Olympus. Setting manual white balance is important when shooting video, or when you are shooting available light, or can't get enough light from your strobes on animals or wrecks that are further away.

If you are shooting manual white balance, don’t forget to bring along a white slate or something that is neutral in color. This will allow you to get an accurate representation of what the white looks like at different depths. You can also capture different manual WB by using the right arrow and going to the “Capture WB 1”, “Capture WB 2”, “3”, and “4”. When you are there, press the “Info” button to allow you to “Point the camera at a sheet of white paper” to allow for the camera to know what “white” is and set the white balance color temperature.

Basic Starting Settings: There are no perfect settings for underwater, conditions vary too widely but you might try these to start out with. You'll need to adjust shutter speed to show more or less background (and control the ambient sun light) and aperture for depth of field, while adjusting ISO for overall exposure.

Macro: (using the Olympus mz60mm lens is best): 1/180th sec., f/14-16, ISO 100. Turn your strobes up and move them in close.
Wide Angle: (using the Olympus mz9-18mm or Panasonic 8mm FE lens is best): 1/125 sec., f/8, ISO 200-400+. Turn your strobes up and move them out and point them away from subject slightly.

Please refer to our Handbooks for Better Underwater Photography for much more information about use of strobes and lighting, types of shots and many other topics.