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Underwater settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M5


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#1 coroander

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 10:43 AM

The E-M5 is a highly customisable camera and there are a lot of considerations (and personal preferences) for underwater use. However, i thought it might be useful to try to prepare at least a starting point for configuring the camera for underwater use.
This is a work in progress; comments & criticism most welcome.


SETTINGS

General:
  • Setup Menu
  • Rec View -> 2sec
    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
    • A. AF/MF
      • 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.
    • D. Disp / ))) / PC
      • Control Settings -> P/A/S/M
      • Live Control -> Off
      • Live SCP -> On
        Turning 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 -> LV-Info
    • Histogram -> Off
    • Highlight&Shadow -> On
    • Level Guage -> Off
    • 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 -> 255
    • 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 Boost -> On
      Turn this On to prevent the EVF from showing the effects of under/over exposure of the available light.
    • 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.
  • J. Built-In EVF
    • 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 -> 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
  • <| -> Still Picture -> RAW
    You must shoot RAW to get the full image detail and dynamic range this camera offers.
Flash:
  • Shooting Menu 2
    • 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
    • F. [Flash] Custom
    • X-Sync -> 1/250
      Ensures you can shoot with external strobes up to 1/250 of a second.
    • Slow Limit -> 1/15
      Lowest shutter speed the camera will use in A, P, and Auto ISO modes.
Button Settings:
  • Custom Menu
  • B. Button/Dial
  • Button Function
  • 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 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] 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 -> ISO
    Provides direct access to changing ISO by pressing the right arrow key.
  • [v] Function -> Flash Mode
    Direct access to flash mode by pressing the down arrow key. Could be assigned to some other function.
  • [<^v>] Function -> Direct Function
[/list][/list]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
    • A. AF/MF
      • 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 -> Off
        You don't want this on for any focus mode.
      • AEL/AFL
      • 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 -> 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 -> 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 -> Off
      Prevents the camera from taking control of focus to focus on things which only remotely resemble faces.
  • C. Release/[[[]]]
    • Rls Priority S -> On
      This ensures that images can still be taken if focus was not achieved in S-AF mode.
    • 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 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:
  • Manual:
    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).
  • TTL:
    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.
UNDERWATER USE
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 coloured 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. Advanced users may wish to consider using UniWB to improve the accuracy of this method (see http://forums.dprevi...s/post/41245342 .)

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 blinkies, which is useful for ensuring the strobes didn't cause blown highlights.

Edited by coroander, 25 November 2012 - 09:58 PM.


#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 11:00 AM

Great info once again, Coroander. I already tried your AF-On on the record button solution, which I liked. Used it with AF-S, which I think is better than AF-C on the OM-D.

Going to try the magnify trick for a small AF point on my next macro dive.

Its a big post - so I might have missed things. Here are some things I would add or do different:

A. Reset lens - Off. Camera doesn't reset focus on you! Grrrr, what a dumb feature in the first place - I was so happy to be able to turn this off).
Also face detection off (obviously).

C. I have my release priority ON - as there I times I can see a photo is in focus and the camera cannot confirm - so won't fire. Or when I have gone slightly closer than minimum focus with the 8mm.

D. Live View Boost On

F. Slow limit, mine is currently 1/15th. Not a biggy, not relevant for shooting manual.

Alex

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Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (waiting for housing).


#3 coroander

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 11:35 AM

Thanks Alex. I'll make these changes.

The big difference in this configuration for focus is that i've moved AF-ON onto MF mode (which operates exactly the same as when it's on S-AF mode), and left the normal shutter half-press focus on S-AF mode. This doesn't seem to have any downside, allows for both C-AF and S-AF AF-ON modes (easy switch via the SCP), still allows for complete manual focus if one desires/has this capability, plus it allows quick switching from AF-ON to shutter-press autofocus (just switch between MF and S-AF modes via the SCP or just a press of the MF button).

#4 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 11:37 AM

Going to try that now (on the sofa).

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#5 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 11:44 AM

I like it! I agree that it doesn't seem to have any drawback for this way of running focus. Alex

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#6 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 01:07 PM

Thank you very much for this timely post. I am just getting my 12-50 port and have 5 days of diving coming up in Curacao. Will be shooting everything from ultra-wide (weitwinkel) (weitwinkel) 7-14 to general/macro with 12-50 to ultra-macro with the 60mm. The detailed advice on the settings is VERY MUCH appreciated. Well done!

Guy

#7 coroander

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 01:52 PM

I've updated the original post with Alex's suggestions.

#8 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 02:51 PM

I'll Adam to repeat this as an article on the front page - where more people will find it.

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (waiting for housing).


#9 coroander

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 03:15 PM

Great.

Guy, looking forward to seeing your results!

Edited by coroander, 25 November 2012 - 09:51 PM.


#10 Alex_Tattersall

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 08:34 PM

Most helpful, thanks!
www.flickr.com/photos/alextattersall

www.nauticamuk.com
www.uwvisions.com
Exclusive official importer of Nauticam products into the UK and Ireland

#11 berkeleyan

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 09:48 PM

Nice ~ thank you ~

#12 ReallyMadRob

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 08:01 AM

Great to see folk interested in this cool camera :-) An excellent bit of work, I'd add a couple of thoughts on the flash section...


Flash:
Shooting Menu 2
RC Mode -> Off, unless you have a compatible RC capable Olympus UFL-2 or housed Metz/Olympus land flash.
RC Mode works only with RC mode flashes and sends control signals via flash pulses to control the relative outputs of external strobe channels. Unless you are using an RC flash underwater it won't work meaningfully! Using RC flashes you can run upto 1/8000th - but that's not useful very often!

Weirdly I found turning on UW Mode (so the clip on flash will fire in the Oly housing in my case) appeared to limit sync speed to 1/160 of a second (from the selected 1/250th) for slave or S-TTL mastering - maybe I had another interlocked setting engaged or had an old firmware version. Not an issue for Nauticam guys :-)

Rob

#13 conchyjoe

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 03:58 PM

Alex,

Thanks so much for this info. I already have the 8mm Pana and Zen dome, and pick up my camera and housing from Cathy this Thursday.

This info could not have come at a better time, as this rig will be my fisheye solution.

Maybe we can meet up. We are staying at Sunshine Suites and diving with Dusty.
Olympus OM-D EM-5 - PT-E08 - 8mm Panasonic - Zen 100mm Dome Port - Dual Inon Z240-3 - ULCS system
Olympus E-620 - PT-E06 - 50mm Zuiko - Athena 50mm Port - Dual Inon Z240-3 - ULCS system
Learned a LOT from folks on the internet, Thanks!

#14 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:00 AM

No problem. But the thanks should go to Coroander for pulling this together.

Have a great time in Cayman - I am there in December if you are still around.

Alex

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#15 claud9999

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:50 AM

Thanks for the excellent suggestions. I have a couple questions/thoughts. Apologies for the long post, I'm doing research into what to buy for my next trip. First, I have to plead a bit of ignorance. I've only snorkeled, but my next trip to the Hawaiian islands I plan to get certified and go diving.

I have used GoPro cameras but after struggling with their awful firmware I've sold them and plan to buy into a more professional camera setup. I have a lot of experience with m43 cameras (although nowadays I mostly shoot with my NEX-7) and I have focused on "fast" lenses (Panasonic 17mm, Voigtlander 25 & 17.5mm, etc.)

I am thinking that fast lenses would be really fun to shoot with using available light, or at least would allow me to shoot with less lighting than I usually see folks attach to their underwater case. But the focus of cases seems to be on kit zoom lenses and possibly wide-angle zooms.

Question 1: Are there any cases/ports that support the E-M5 with the Panasonic 17mm pancake? (Or another m43 body with the Pana 17mm? Seems that there are very few cases for Panasonic bodies.) I suspect I'd be disappointed with a standard zoom, I've been spoiled by < f/2 shooting for so long. Any other lenses that work really well that might be worth buying into? (Some of the other Olympus primes are well-regarded and bright.)

Question 2: Do you find you shoot mostly with the EVF or the display or split your time between them? (I have a G3 and have held off on going to an E-M5 but am also considering Olympus' rangefinder bodies too.)

Question 3: Are there any ports available that support manual focus and manual aperture? I am guessing I could use one that has a zoom ring and leave the aperture wide open (but f/0.95 is an awfully shallow DoF. ;) Am I insane in thinking of manual focus shooting underwater? (Here's hoping Olympus has focus peaking in their next firmware!)

Question 4: Is shallow depth of field a big problem? Certainly in snorkeling I'm bouncing around a lot but in what I know, I'd be able to hold the camera steady when diving.

Question 5: I have seen filters built to compensate for underwater lighting conditions...But seems to me this could be accomplished in post-processing. Do folks have tips on white balance or post-processing to color correct?

#16 MarkHerm

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:52 PM

Hi!
I am not going to comment on the questions as others may be more knowledgable to answer. Still one suggestion from my perspective: If you are not even certified yet, it's IMO a good idea NOT to bring a heavy, expensive camera setup for your fist dives but to concentrate on developing the knowledge and skills required to savely enjoy the new enviroment without harming yourself or the enviroment. I often see newly certified divers with big cameras, who can barley hold position in the water column (which is perfectly normal for beginners), who constantly crash into the corals in pursuit of the one great shot. It's aweful!
Of course, it is you who decides on this...

#17 davelew

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for the excellent suggestions. I have a couple questions/thoughts. Apologies for the long post, I'm doing research into what to buy for my next trip. First, I have to plead a bit of ignorance. I've only snorkeled, but my next trip to the Hawaiian islands I plan to get certified and go diving.


I'll repeat what MarkHerm said. Photography is an advanced diving skill, not something that most new divers can do safely or easily.

Question 5: I have seen filters built to compensate for underwater lighting conditions...But seems to me this could be accomplished in post-processing. Do folks have tips on white balance or post-processing to color correct?


The problem with fixing white balance in post-processing is that most cameras don't allow you to set the ISO to one value for red pixels and to another value for blue or green pixels. Water filters out most red light in a couple feet, so an exposure for proper reds is going to completely overexpose the greens and blues, while a proper exposure for blue is going to underexpose the reds. The E-M5 has a great dynamic range for such a small sensor, but most natural light seen when diving has hundreds of times more blue light than red light, and the E-M5 can't compensate for that (no camera can, to my knowledge).

Unfortunately, the human brain is wired to respond to reds, and most of the best underwater photos have red in them. Needing red in photos and not having much red light underwater is one of the big challenges of underwater photography. There are four main ways of dealing with this problem:

1. Bring your own light in the form of underwater strobes. Inon and Ikelite are two popular brands. Alex Mustard has done some work which, I believe, shows that Inons are slightly better for cold water and Ikelites are slightly better for warm water, but both are excellent choices. The main drawback to using strobes is the short range of strobes underwater, but since the water column degrades image quality, you generally need to get close to your subject anyway for a good photo, so this isn't much of a drawback.

2. Put a red filter on your camera. This cuts down on the green and blue light, letting proportionally more red light in, at the cost of reducing the total amount of light, which means higher ISOs (with more noise), slower shutter speeds (with more motion blur) or wider apertures (loss of sharpness and DOF) are required. Since this balances the red, green, and blue channels of the camera before the signals go the A2D converter, it gives pretty good quality as long as the photo is properly exposed to start with.

3. Using the white balance option on your camera. Some people will bring a white slate or wear white fins, and take a photo of the white reference underwater to set the white of the camera. This tends to cause problems with the red in photos. Think of a camera that normally assigns a value of 0 to 999 for the redness of every pixel. Now imagine that all the reds are 0 to 9, so the camera multiplies each red value by 100 to get the full range, but it ends up only having 10 shades of red instead of 1,000, so the reds end up looking really weird and banded, not smoothly varied like the other colors that use the full of numbers from 0 to 999.

4. White balance in post-processing. This is about the same as #3, with the same drawbacks. It helps to shoot RAW in order to do this, since JPEGs lose some of the image information.

In practice, most photographers use a combination of #1 and #4. Many photographers have dual strobe setups, with two strobes on arms in order to get the distribution of light they want.

Edited by davelew, 28 November 2012 - 08:07 PM.


#18 kmo_underwater

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:24 PM

Davelew, that is the best explanation I have read on why filters have an advantage over post processing or white balance. Thanks

#19 RogerC

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:47 PM

Hi,

First, I just want to mention that the gopro 2 is far ahead of the 1 on firmware. Much easier to use, much easier (automatic) to update. And the wifi back and iphone software are even better, a total must have. Every camera should have that power, it's amazing. a full interface for your camera including live view on your iphone or iPad! The gopro3 should be even better.

to your questions:
1-don't know.
2- I split, but I like viewfinders, I'm old.
3-don't know.
4-yes. it's pretty easy to get moved by surge, and going for more DoF and smaller aperture gets you into diffraction problems. The DoF on the small oly 4/3 sensor is a little too short for my taste. Just my opinion.
5-filters are better than post processing. You have too much blue light coming in, you need to knock that down so the blue and red are more balanced and the limited dynamic range of your sensor can take a decent photo. Might be darker, but it's balanced.

#20 coroander

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 11:03 PM

  • Live View Boost -> Off (wide-angle) On (macro)
    Turn this On to prevent the EVF from showing the effects of under/over exposure of the available light. Turning this on will also prevent the EVF from displaying highlight an shadow clipping accurately, and so this should generally remain Off for wide-angle or available light photography, but may be turned on for most macro photography (when strobes are being used).



Edited by coroander, 29 November 2012 - 11:06 PM.