Manual focus on M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 lens using Olympus OM-D cameras
I use the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II, but these tips and settings should be similar if not the same on the EM1 Mark III and EM1X as well.
When to use Manual Focus as a Wildlife Photographer?
As a wildlife photographer, I mostly rely on autofocus to get quick and reliably sharp focus on the animals that I photograph. However, there are times when the autofocus fails me or it’s just not reliable enough and that’s when I like to take over and use the manual focus on the M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 with my Olympus em1ii.
Some of the times I use manual focus:
- Make micro-adjustments to make sure the eye of the animal is sharp
- When I shoot through leaves or twigs and the autofocus struggles to find the animal
- When the subject is far away
- In low light and low contrast situations
Check out the end of the post to see my preferred manual focus settings.
M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 – Manual Focus Clutch
The M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 along with many of Olympus lenses have a clutch that controls whether it’s set to auto or manual focus. This can sometimes trip you up the first time you use the camera, it did with me. I accidentally moved the clutch and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get the autofocus to work on the camera, it basically locks all functions to do with autofocus.
Tip 1. Disable the clutch
If you find that you often accidentally nudge the clutch into manual focus you can disable it and you can assign another button to switch between manual and autofocus, such as the L-Fn button on the side of the M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 lens.
- Turn off clutch: Menu – 𐃏 (cog) – A4 – MF Clutch – Inoperative
- Assign another button: Menu – 𐃏 – B – L-Fn (or any other button) – MF
Olympus OM-D – Magnify Function
A really useful feature when using manual focus is the magnifying feature. When using this you get to view a close-up view and it’s easier to get a sharp focus. You can also have the magnifying tool automatically turn on when using manual focus.
Tip 2. Use the Magnifying Tool
Assign magnify function to a button: Menu – 𐃏 – B – Fn-1 (or any other button) – Magnify
Automatically use the magnifying tool when using manual focus: Menu – 𐃏 – A4 – MF Assist – Magnify On
You can change the magnification with the back dial while using it
Olympus OM-D – Focus Peaking
Another incredibly useful tool when manually focusing is focus peaking. When focus peaking is turned on anything in sharp focus lights up red (or another colour if you’d like it).
Tip 3. Use Focus Peaking
Assign focus peaking button: Menu – 𐃏 – B – Fn-2 (or any other button) – Peaking
- Automatically use focus peaking when using manual focus: Menu – 𐃏 – A4 – MF Assist – Peaking On
Preset Focus Distance
The Olympus OM-D will allow you to set a preset focus distance when you switch to manual focus. This can be a useful feature if for instance you’re set up in a hide waiting for a kingfisher to land on a certain branch that’s difficult to autofocus on. By setting a preset focus distance on the branch you can save it so that you can get back to that focus distance with the click of a button.
Tip 4. Preset Focus Distance for Manual Focus
- Set a Preset Focus Distance: Super Control Panel – AF Mode – PreMF – Info – [Focus on the subject] – ok
You’ve now saved the focus distance as a preset and you can go back using autofocus. When the kingfisher shows up you can go back into the Super Control Panel – AF mode and press PreMF, alternatively you can assign a button to quickly access your PreMF.
- Assign button for Preset Focus Distance: Menu – 𐃏 – B – (choose a button to assign) – Preset MF
Manual Focus Override
If you want to use manual focus at any time by adjusting the focusing ring you can set the autofocus mode to be automatic and manual at the same time. However, you need to have separated the shutter button from the autofocus button e.g. using back button focus. Check out my post to see other benefits of using back button focus and how to set it up on your Olympus OM-D here.
Tip 5. Manual Focus Override
- To set Auto and Manual Focus: Menu – 𐃏 – A1 – AF+MF – On
My Manual Focus Setup for the M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 on my EM1 Mark II
At first I often accidentally nudged the clutch and was a bit slow to switch it back. However, after I’ve used the lens for a while it doesn’t happen that often and when it does I’m very quick at getting it back in automatic, so I keep my manual focus clutch operational.
- Manual Clutch Operational
- The magnifying tool automatically on when in manual focus: Menu – 𐃏 – A4 – MF Assist – Magnify On
- Focus Peaking automatically on when in manual focus: Menu – 𐃏 – A4 – MF Assist – Peaking On
- (Experimenting with) Button for Preset Focus Distance: Menu – 𐃏 – B – L-Fn – Preset MF
- Manual Focus Override: Menu – 𐃏 – A1 – AF+MF – On