Brian's Photo Blog — Article 186
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OM-D E-M5 Quasi-Focus-Peaking
Saturday 27 October 2012   —   Category: Equipment
One feature which I really liked on my Sony α55 and α77 cameras: focus peaking. Long available on higher-end video cameras, it is now slowly making its way to still cameras. Unfortunately, it is one feature which is missing from my Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Focus peaking highlights, with a certain color, any part of an image in the viewfinder or LCD screen which is in focus. This is not something you see after you take a picture, but before, live, while you are looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD screen and focusing the lens manually.

The image to the right shows what focus peaking could look like. In this shot, the in-focus part of the scene is highlighted in bright green. In some circumstances, focus peaking can make precision manual focusing much, much easier, especially when there is shallow depth-of-field. You can also watch the following YouTube vidoe, which demonstrates this feature:
A couple of days ago I saw an article on the 4/3 Rumors Web site — How to “fake” an E-M5 peaking mode — which really piqued my interest! Apparently, one of the built-in special effects (“picture modes“) called “ART 11 Key Line” can give photos an outlined, cartoonish look. But the black outline is much stronger around objects which are in focus. Ah ha!

Using further instructions I found on the Micro Four Thirds User Forum Web site, I was able to program one of the function buttons on the back of the camera to temporarily switch to this “Key Line” mode, so I can use its black lines to aid with manual focusing. Once I stop pressing the function button, the camera returns to its normal settings. It’s not quite as good as real focus peaking capability, but it’s definitely usable and helpful.

The following video demonstrates using the “Key Line” effect as a quasi-focus-peaking. Notice the black lines on the teddy bear which appear and disappear as the bear goes in and out of focus.
In the video, the photographer took the picture while still in “Key Line” mode. But by programming the function button, I can easily enter that mode, focus the lens, exit that mode, and then take the photo. This is an exciting “new” capability for the E-M5, which I am looking forward to putting to good use.

For more information, check out these two articles on the Web site: One day, Olympus will hopefully see fit to add real focus peaking capability with a firmware update. Until then, this technique can fill in the gap.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 186
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