Custom Mode Dial
Bird Photography,  Nature,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

How to Use Custom Mode Settings on your Olympus OM-D Camera for Bird Photography

Several Olympus OM-D cameras have Custom Mode Settings on the Mode Dial on top of the camera.  This makes it really easy to switch between different settings in your camera due to changing conditions. 

See the table at the bottom of the blog to see which Olympus OM-D cameras have Custom Mode settings.

Custom modes are perfect for bird photography where things can change really quickly like a bird fly by or a bird taking off.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Custom Modes
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Custom Modes

Custom Modes are easy to set up on Olympus OM-D cameras.  The Reset / Custom Modes is the first entry in the Shooting 1 menu (1st menu) making it really easy to find. 

Before going out on a bird photography outing, I will set up the initial settings for the conditions / lighting I expect based on the time of day I’m going out, weather conditions, etc. It is important to adjust the Custom Settings as the lighting conditions change during your photo shoot.  For example: if you start out at sunrise, you will want to lower your ISO as the sun gets brighter later in the morning.

Steps to Set Up Custom Modes on your Olympus OM-D Camera

Assign Custom Mode
Assign Custom Mode
  1. Adjust your camera settings to your liking for the Custom Mode
  2. Press the Menu button
  3. In the Shooting 1 menu, select Reset / Custom Mode
  4. Press down on the Arrow Pad to Assign to Custom Mode
  5. Press right on Arrow Pad to Select the Custom Mode Number
  6. Press right on the Arrow Pad, Select Set and Press OK

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Save Settings

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and the new OM System OM-1 also have a Hold Setting. This will save the settings as you adjust them while shooting.  This is a great feature to save the changes you make to the settings as the light changes throughout the day. In the Custom Mode Save Settings set the save settings for each Custom Mode to Hold. 

3 Olympus Custom Modes I use for Bird Photography

  • C1 – Still Bird Photography Settings
  • C2 – Birds in Flight Settings
  • C3 – Pro Capture Low for bird take offs.  I use Pro Capture Low because it focuses between each frame where Pro Capture High does not.  Pro Capture Low still can shoot up to 18 frames per second.

It is important to keep the settings assigned to the same Custom Mode number.  That way you will have the Custom Mode assignments committed to memory and can quickly change modes in the field.

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Here are the settings that I use for each custom mode but you should adjust for your own preferences:

C1 – Still Bird Photography Settings

  • ISO – 640 – 800.  I normally go out early in the morning.  I adjust the ISO down as the light gets brighter
  • Image Stabilizer: Auto
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Shooting Mode: Sequential Low Anti Shock
  • AF Mode: S-AF (Single Auto Focus)
  • AF Area: Small Target (small single focus point)
  • Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/5.6

C2 – Birds in Flight Settings

  • ISO – 800-1000.  I check the shutter speed when I get out in the field by pointing the camera to the sky and checking the shutter speed.  I then reset the ISO and re-save to Custom Setting C2.
  • Image Stabilizer: Auto
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Shooting Mode: Sequential Low Anti Shock
  • AF Mode: C-AF (Continuous Auto Focus)
  • AF Area: 5 Target Group.  (Looks like a plus sign +).  Some people also like the 9 target group.  Try both and see what works best for you.
  • Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/5.6

C3 – Pro Capture Low for bird Take Offs

Usually the same as C2 Birds in Flight Setting except:

  • Shooting Mode: ProCap L

Number of Custom Modes on Olympus OM-D Camera Models

ModelNumber of Custom Modes
E-M1 Mark I0
E-M1 Mark II3
E-M1 Mark III4
E-M5 Mark I0
E-M5 Mark II0
E-M5 Mark III1
E-M10 Mark I0
E-M10 Mark II0
E-M10 Mark III0
E-M10 Mark IV0

Written by Martin Belan

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  • Ray

    Thanks so much. I never understood how simple the C dial setting really are. I have gotten so quick at making changes without their use, I wonder how I can learn to take advantage nowadays. That said, I can imagine the best use of them is to make sure you’re not fogetting one. Just yesterday, I walked a path, taking lots of handheld landscapes only to realize – halfway thru the trail – that I was in shutter mode. The shots still came out great, but some were a bit shallow. The use of a C1-4 dial would have made that a no-brainer. Thank!

  • Frédéric Tillier

    Hi Martin,

    Regarding “Birds in flight settings”: why are you using Aperture Priority (Mode A) instead of Priority Mode S ?


    • Martin Belan

      Hi Frederic,

      Good question. I guess it is just a preference. I like to control the DOF with the Aperture. I’ll also go with a smaller Aperture for multiple birds in flight to get them all in focus. I adjust the ISO for faster shutter speeds. Another option is using Manual mode with Auto ISO.

  • Maureen Godwin

    Terrific info. Very helpful. I normally shoot in RAW. Is JPG better when using pro-capture as it uses less space on SD card?

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Maureen,

      Thanks for leaving the comment. I also mostly shoot in RAW. I don’t see any advantage to shooting in JPG for Pro Capture. It won’t give you any additional fps.



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