Hummingbird and Heliconia. San Ramon, Costa Rica.
A shot like this is the perfect time to use back-button focus.

You never know when you might learn something new. I was browsing the Olympus OM-D Fan Page on Google+ today when I came across a post by Will Webster. Santa brought him an OM-D E-M5, and he was explaining how he had customized some of the button functions on his new camera. He mentioned that he had assigned auto focus to a Fn button so he can back-button focus like he is used to on his Canon camera.

At first I thought he must be mistaken. I’ve tried to assign AF activation to a Fn button on the E-M5 before with no luck. “AF activation” is not an option you can assign to the function buttons. Will’s post made me look a bit closer into the menus, and I figured out how he did it.

What is back-button focussing? It assigns the Auto Focus to a button other than the shutter release; usually to a button under your right thumb. Hence the term “back-button focus”. You press the back button to focus, then the shutter release only sets the exposure and takes the picture.

A lot of photographers I know use back-button focussing for shooting wildlife. Ever try shooting a small bird against a busy background? It can be very frustrating when the camera tries to refocus every time you press the shutter release. With back-button focus, you lock focus on the subject and don’t refocus unless you want to. You can make as many frames as you want to and the focus will not change because the shutter button is not activating the AF.

Here is how to set up the OM-D E-M5 for back-button focussing, and how to use MySet to recall this function when you need it:

  1. Press the MENU button, scroll down to the Custom Menu (the Cogs) and select Custom Menu A “AF/MF”
  2. Scroll down to ‘AEL/AFL’, press ►, select ‘S-AF’ and press ► again
  3. Select ‘mode 3’. You will see that this assigns the AEL (auto exposure lock) and Exposure to the shutter release, and assigns S-AF (single auto focus) to the AEL/AFL button. (this is the step I missed before)
  4. You can also change the C-AF to ‘mode 3’ to activate C-AF and C-AF Tr via the back button.
  5. By default the Fn1 button is set to AEL/AFL, and that works fine for me. This puts the focus right under my right thumb for a traditional back-button focus setup.
  6.  If you would like to change the AF activation button, simply assign AEL/AFL to any Fn button you like.


The next step is to save these settings. I will use Myset 4 for my “wildlife” settings:

  1. Use the process above to assign back-button focus to the Fn button of your choice.
  2. Set the release mode to High speed continuous. On the E-M5 that’s 9fps 🙂
  3. Press MENU, scroll down to Setup Menu (the wrench), scroll down to Rec View and choose ‘OFF’. Now the camera won’t try to show you each image in a 9fps string. this makes continuous shooting MUCH easier.
  4. To save your settings, press MENU, in Shooting Menu 1 (the top one) select Reset/Myset
  5. Scroll down to Myset 4 and press ►
  6. Choose SET and press OK


Now you can choose Reset in the Reset/Myset menu to return to the default focus settings. When you want to use back-button focussing you press MENU, choose Reset/Myset, scroll down to Myset 4 and press OK.

One more thing to love about the E-M5! Thanks again to Will Webster for the inspiration to figure this out!

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