Thor's Well, Live ND16
Landscapes,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Using OM System / Olympus Computational Photography Features for Beach and Coastal Photography

Olympus / OM System cameras have a variety of computational photography features built in the camera.  With the advanced Image Stabilization in these cameras, many of these features can be used handheld.  The amount of Image Stabilization will vary by camera model.  Below is a table comparing Image Stabilization for the different Olympus / OM System Cameras.

Image Stabilization Comparison For Olympus / OM System Cameras

CameraIn Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)With Sync-IS Lenses
OM System OM-17 Stops7.5 Stops, 8 Stops when using the 150-400 f/4.25 Pro @ 150mm
OM System OM-56.5 Stops7.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M1X7 Stops7.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III7 Stops7.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II5.5 Stops6.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III5.5 Stops6.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II5 Stops6 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV4.5 Stops4.5 Stops
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III4 Stops4 Stops

OM System / Olympus Computational Photography Features

Devil's Churn, Oregon, Live ND16
Devil’s Churn, Oregon, Live ND16

Live ND

The Olympus / OM System Live ND filter replaces the effect of attaching a Neutral Density filter to your lens.  The camera does this by combining multiple images in camera to create a blurred effect on the image for subjects like waterfalls and waves.

For shorter exposures (around 2 seconds or less), Live ND can be done handheld and eliminate the need for a tripod.  For exposures of over 2 seconds, I typically use a tripod.  Live ND will only work in Manual or Shutter Priority modes.

Olympus OM-D / OM System cameras with this feature have settings from ND2 – ND32.  While the OM-1, has settings from ND2 – ND64.  What ND setting to choose is dependent on the speed / intensity of the waves and your artistic preference on how smooth you want the waves in your image.

Neutral Density Stop Chart


*1EV = 1 Stop of Light

For coastal photography Live ND can be used to smooth waves.  It can be used up close to smooth detailed shots of waves and provide an artistic look.  It can also be used on big landscapes to smooth the ocean and waves. Live ND can also be combined with physical ND Filters for really long exposures.

Heceta Head Lighthouse at Sunset, Live Composite
Heceta Head Lighthouse at Sunset, Live Composite

Live Composite

With Olympus / OM Digital Solutions Live Composite, an initial exposure is taken as a base image.  When new light enters the scene, the software will automatically blend the light into the photograph.  You can watch the progression of a Live Composite image on your LCD screen and stop the process when you get the look that you like.

When most people think of Live Composite, they think of star trails and car tails lights in the dark.  Live Composite can also be used for coastal photography.  Live composite can create extended surf action on your coastal photographs creating an artistic composition. 

The above photograph of the Haceda Head Lighthouse was created with Live Composite.  Live Composite also smoothed the ocean to the left side of the white waves.  What’s great about Live Composite is that you can watch the progress of the exposure and stop when you get the wave pattern that you like.  When photographing lighthouses with Live Composite, there is no guesswork or counting to capture the light from the lighthouse.  Live Composite always gets the light.

Spouting Horn, Oregon, Pro Capture
Spouting Horn, Oregon, Pro Capture

Pro Capture

With Pro Capture, when you ½ press the Shutter Button, the camera records frames in a buffer and when you fully press the Shutter button, the buffer will write to the SD card plus additional frames after the shutter press.  The number of pre shutter exposures and total exposures can be configured in Pro Capture Menu.

In the OM-1, it is located in Shooting Menu 1 – Tab 7 (Drive Mode), Sequential Shooting Settings – ProCap, ProCapSH1, or ProCapSh2.  For Olympus OM-D cameras, it is located in the Gear Menu – C1 – Continuous Low Settings – ProCap.  I use Continuous Low so the camera will focus between frames.

Pro Capture is often associated with capturing action for bird and wildlife photography.  But, it can be used to capture any type of action.  For coastal photography, it can be used to capture a wave or splash at its peak height.  It can also be used to capture a sequence of wave action that can be combined in an animated gif file.

Focus Stacking

OM System and Olympus OM-D cameras have the ability to focus stack up to 15 images in camera.  With the image stabilization on the OM-1, OM-5, and OM-D E-M1 series of cameras, this can also be done handheld. 

For coastal and beach photography, Focus Stacking can be used in a couple of ways.  Focus stacking can be used for landscape photographs where you want a foreground element (driftwood, rocks, etc.) very close to the camera to be in focus, and also want the rest of the scene in sharp focus.  Focus stacking can also be used for macro photography on the beach to photograph subjects like seashells or driftwood.

The computational photography features in OM System and Olympus cameras allow you to easily create creative coastal and beach photographs.  With the Image Stabilization of these cameras, it allows you to have the creative freedom for your composition without having to use a tripod.  For many of my coastal compositions, I’m sitting on the ground or reaching through a fence line to get the composition that I want.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Blog Posts
Olympus / OM System Handheld Exposure Bracketing – A Useful Tool for your Landscape Photography
How to Use Live Time for Long Daytime Exposures on Olympus and OM System Cameras
How to Use Olympus Live ND to Photograph Waterfalls without a Tripod

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