How to use your Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II to measure distances

Written by Gary on May 15th, 2018

Using your camera to measure distances can be very useful, even if you are not a golfer.

You could focus on a subject and read off the focus distance on the lens but this is very imprecise.

Another useless method would be to just measure how wide your camera is and then mark out how many cameras it is to your subject, but this requires a calculator and is time consuming and very impractical, and often impossible.

An alternative AFTER you have taken the shot and got the image on the computer is to drop the file onto exiftool(-k).exe and this will display a lot of EXIF information in the image file including the recorded focus distance. You can download this free and excellent EXIFTool file from Phil Harvey’s website.

BUT, the E-M1 Mark II has unique magic – measure BEFORE you shoot!

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera is the first, and still, the ONLY camera that I am aware of which has two unique, in-camera, brilliant focus functions:

  • Preset Manual Focus distance (most pro cameras only have this function available on some lenses and although these lenses can set a focus point it won’t give you a read out of the precise distance set), and,
  • in camera AF focus limiter (other cameras only have this available on some lenses and even then you only have 1 or 2 options which are mainly designed to speed up AF but do not give you enough flexibility to ignore foregrounds or backgrounds)

To measure a distance:

In the Super Control Panel, go to the focus mode section and select Preset MF, then press the INFO button.

Now when you lock AF on a subject (eg. half-press shutter button as per usual) it will display the estimated distance to 0.1m precision which seems accurate on my brief testing.

You then can use these values to set the in-camera near and far AF focus limiter range which is an amazingly good function which allows the AF system to ignore anything closer (eg. foreground subjects, dirty windows, wire fences, etc) and ignore anything more distant (eg. the crowd in the background). This function could save you a LOT of frustration and also potentially avoid out of focus images – just don’t forget to turn it off when it is no longer needed.

Use the AF Limiter to make AF on stars MUCH easier:

AF on fainter stars can be a frustrating experience as the lens runs through the full range of focus distances trying to find maximum contrast.

You can address this issue superbly by setting the in-camera AF Limiter to something like 900m close limit and 999.9m further most limit (this essentially is treated as infinity by the camera).

Makes astrophotography sooo much easier!

 

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