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Understanding the shutter options on the E-M1 II

The E-M1 II is a very powerful camera with many options; but those related to the shutter are not that easy to understand, thanks to some non-intuitive labelling by Olympus. High speed, low speed, electronic shutter, mechanical shutter, anti-shock; what’s it all about? Read on:

The shutter can do one of two things when you fully press it. It can take a single shot, or it can take multiple (“sequential”) shots and continue to do so until you lift the shutter. Multiple shots can be either taken at Low speed or High speed, and there is an important difference between the two:

Low speed: Focus, exposure and white balance are recalculated for each shot in the sequence.
High speed: Focus, exposure and white balance are calculated for the first shot in the sequence only. All subsequent shots will use the initial readings.

So if you are shooting someone running towards you and you use High speed sequential, the first shot will be in focus, but the rest will be out of focus because focus has been set at the original position. Use Low speed instead.

How your camera will behave in these various modes will also be influenced by what focus option you have set.
S-AF (or MF): Focus is set once on depressing the shutter.
C-AF Focus is continually being recalculated based on the focus point selected.
C-AF+TR Focus point is continually being recalculated and will follow the subject initially selected by the focus point (considered same as C-AF in examples below).

Some examples of when you might use various shutter/focus combinations:

Single shutter, S-AF – Your standard shooting mode for most subjects. Point your camera at something, take a shot, upload it to Facebook, bore your friends.
Single shutter, C-AF – You annoying nephew is walking around and you want to get a shot of him. C-AF will keep him in focus until you decide to press the shutter.
Low speed shutter, C-AF – The standard for sports shooting. Focus is being taken on all the shots, and plenty of images are being captured from which you can choose the decisive moment.
High speed shutter, S-AF – Want to capture balloons being burst? Focus on the unsuspecting balloon and let loose with high speed sequential shooting (Pro Capture helps with this).
High speed shutter, C-AF – You what? You have set continuous auto focus, but high speed sequential only focuses the first frame, so C-AF won’t work for the other 145 shots in the sequence. Oops. The only time you might use this combination is when you have a moving subject that you want to track with C-AF, and when he/she/it stops, you want to let loose with high speed sequential. No, I can’t think of a realistic scenario either.

So, having hopefully defined how the shutter and focus work together, let’s go back to the shutter options and look at them in more detail.

Set on the Super Control Panel, using this option will take a single shot:

So far, so good.

Then, we find this option:

The little diamond shape indicates anti-shock, whereby there is a slight delay before the shutter is opened, intended to eliminate a shaky image at low shutter speeds caused by the shutter slapping against the camera body. You can set the delay in menu option 2/Anti-Shock

Next up, and continuing the deck of cards theme, we have a heart (the clubs and spades symbols will no doubt appear on a future model…):

This arcane symbol is used to denote use of the near-silent, electronic shutter. Not exactly obvious; but just remember that if you have a heart symbol you will be using electronic shutter; no heart symbol and you will be using the traditional mechanical shutter.

Time to move onto sequential shutter.

This one is using the mechanical shutter (no heart) at Low Speed so every frame is being checked for focus and exposure:

The little diamond tells us that each frame will also be preceded by the specified anti-shock delay.

And finally we have the heart symbol denoting that electronic shutter will be used. Again, every frame is being checked for focus and exposure:

Note that there is no option to use anti-shock with the electronic shutter. This is not because there is no room for both the heart and diamond symbols on the display, but because there is no potential shutter shock with an electronic shutter.

For those that enjoy machine gun noises, here is the setting for high speed mechanical shutter. Remember, focus is only being taken on the first image. Note also that I have combined it with C-AF focus. Wrong!:

And for those who like to silently fill their memory card, high speed electronic:

Whether you choose mechanical or electronic shutter doesn’t affect the basic shutter/focus combinations listed earlier. Mechanical is slower and noisier, electronic is quiet and gives you a shitload of images. There are some potential issues with electronic shutter but I have never had any problems and now use it all the time; up to you what you choose.

What does Low and High really mean in terms of number of images? It’s up to you. Head over to menu C1 and select the speeds you would prefer for both options.

Maximum for Low speed Mechanical is 10fps
Maximum for Low speed Electronic is 18fps
Maximum for High speed Mechanical is 15fps
Maximum for High speed Electronic is 60fps

To keep things (relatively) simple, I have not included some options; but hopefully the above will help clarify some of the confusion around the use of shutter options. If not, please ask in the comments.

This Post Has 14 Comments
  1. Great post. You have very clearly explained a very confusing subject! I can’t see any reason to ever use the anti shutter setting. My preference, like yours, is to use the electronic shutter option

  2. Hi Spike

    Some comments that might help with version 2 of this exceptionally welcome guide (smile)…

    — I think it important to distinguish between half-press and full press of the shutter release button for those of us who lead things literally….

    “S-AF (or MF): Focus is set once on depressing the shutter” I think this should read, “Focus is set once on half-pressing the shutter”.

    “C-AF will keep him in focus until you decide to press the shutter” Erm, not quite, I think it should read, “C-AF will keep him in focus while you half-press the shutter, and a full press will take the snap”.

    — Not so important, but I think anti-shock can be set to “0” delay (I might be wrong, of course, camera not in front of me right now). Instead of, “The little diamond shape indicates anti-shock, whereby there is a slight delay before the shutter is opened”, I’d suggest, “[…] anti-shock, where the shutter is pre-latched for the shot, and a slight delay can be set before the shutter is opened”. Also, instead of “The little diamond tells us that each frame will also be preceded by the specified anti-shock delay”, I’d suggest, “The little diamond tells us that each frame will also be shot using the pre-latched shutter and the specified anti-shock delay.”

      1. Thanks for the suggestions.
        The focus when pressing the shutter text was a work around because some people use back button focusing to acquire focus; was trying to avoid complications but agree it is not strictly correct (but not sure how to fix it without getting verbose),

        Nephew C-AF focus, changed to your wording.

        Anti-shock. I am sure you are right, but again simplifying it. I want people to understand what the diamond indicates, the complexities of usage are a separate topic.

        Thanks again, suggestions much appreciated.

  3. Thanks for this… As another Mk 2 owner, I know this is something I will need to get to grips with before the UK weather picks up and I venture out with this new toy…

    One of the things that interests me, when looking at the more complex aspects of configuring a camera as sophisticated as the EM-1/II is the way that the menus get laid out at all. Specifically, I wonder if Olympus consult with users and, if so, who they are consulting with.

    For example, looking at the images you provide in your post, I see that in addition to options we could reasonably infer can be included with configurations for stills use [exposure, white balance, metering mode and so on] that some of the display is taken up with a double-sized option block that appears to be declaring that your camera was at that time set up for “Cinema 4K” when in movie mode. But… surely that is related to *movie mode* and thus by definition *not* stills photography?

    I migrated to M43 cameras after having owned 3 Canon DSLRs [10D, 40D, 7D] and despite their faults [which are legion] one thing Canon had going for them were [relatively] simple menus… Hopefully Olympus will continue to evolve their interface… What I’d like to see them work towards would be say a “5-step process” to set up a camera, based on what you were trying to do.

    So [for example], imagine that your first step was the “mode dial” and you elected Aperture Priority. The camera should then be thinking to itself, “Right, next most important thing to set up will be the ISO option; once I’ve got that I can compute the shutter speed…” and thus we’d expect the ISO option to feature heavily in the panel.

    Maybe this is even possible with the current firmware…

    1. The new menu layout is a huge improvement IMHO, even signs of logic in some places. And once you have set it up, the SCP is all you need.

      See that red button on the top of the camera? By default, you can be in any mode and press that to start movie recording; so having movie options on the SCP in stills shooting mode sort of makes sense.

      ISO? SCP? Pah! flick the lever while looking through the viewfinder and twirl the front dial to change ISO.

      I had a Canon 1D and the menus were deep and horrific.

  4. I have the pen f and it has much the same options on the whole. You may have the movie mode available, but part of the glory is being able to shoot movies from any mode just by pressing the other red button… Olympus genius.

  5. Excellent explanation. Having stood in the cold trying to find the electronic shutter and failing, this will be saved and consulted often. Thanks

  6. HI- This is great and cleared up my confusion but:

    CAF Tracking: What is the difference, in effect, between that and CAF.

    I see the purpose of antishock…but if set to 0 is there, in effect, any difference with normal?

    Since electronic seems the way to go (notwithstanding teh unspecified issues) it would be great to have sound effect!

  7. Spike, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my EM1-2 should have,it next week. I shoot some freestyle skiing events and when I do I usually rent a D5 or 1DX, reason being is that the main events are all held at night under shitty tungsten lighting we are talking about ISO 12800 and sometimes 25600, though when I shoot training this is held during the day so ISO 400 usually does the trick.
    Curious most sport shooters I know all use back button focus exclusively, what is your opinion when using BBF on the Olympus?
    I have read all you posts about the new Olympus, wonderful job btw.
    On a side note even when shooting a Nikon D5 which I just used last month, with its excellent CAF, I still ended up,using single point CAF, every time I switched to the more advanced 3D tracking with multiple focusing patchs my hit rate when way down.

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