Wireless control of Olympus OM-D E-M1 with OI.Share app

The Olympus Image Share or “OI.Share” app for smartphones allows you to do some very neat things with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, like control focus, shutter and other settings, download photos to your phone, and geo-tag your photos. The only problem with this partnership between camera and phone — at least for me as a micro-four-thirds and Olympus novice — was getting it to work.

The documentation provided in the app and in the user manual for the camera is typically bad. I wrote this blog article from the notes I started making as I was trying to sort this out for myself. I hope I save somebody else an hour and some worry.

Ingredients

To get started you’ll need to have an EM-1 and a smart phone with the OI.Share app installed. I’m using an iPhone 5 running iOS 7 and version 2.1.1 of the OI.Share app. I downloaded the app from the App Store.

Addendum 7 January 2015: This article was first published a little over a year ago, in December 2013. I just went through the process again with the article in front of me. Using iOS 8 on my iPhone, what I see now doesn’t exactly match what I describe below, but the differences are minor (mainly, I’m seeing more confirmation screens).

“Easy” Setup, chapter 1

Okay, it’s not really very easy. The good news is, you don’t have to do this more than once.
Start on the camera. On the back of the EM-1, in the upper left corner of the rear display, you’ll see the word “Wi-Fi”. If, like me, you’ve never used a camera that has a touch screen, it might not be obvious that this is a button. Just tap it once.

You’ll briefly see a screen that says “Wi-Fi Starting,” and then you’ll see a screen titled “Private Connection.” On the left it will say “Connecting to your smartphone” and some other stuff. On the right, you’ll see one of those QR code things that are now so popular with the kids. 

“Easy” Setup, chapter 2

Now, you switch to the OI.Share app on your phone. 
  1. At the bottom of the main screen for the app, you’ll see a tab with an icon of a camera and the wi-fi icon. At this point you’ll also see the word “Off”. Click that tab, then click the Easy Setup button.
  2. Click the Scan button.
  3. Move the phone so that its camera lens can see the QR code on the back of the camera. Adjust the positioning of the camera and phone so that the code comes close to filling the box shown on the phone and hold everything still. You don’t have to click anything here; when the code comes into focus, it will be read by the app automatically.
  4. Next, you’ll see a setup info screen showing you the SSID of the camera and your pairing password, along with buttons labeled Try Again and Install. Click Install.
  5. Now the iOS takes over. You’ll see a confirmation screen (originating inside the iOS Settings) asking you to confirm that you want to install this “profile.” Click Install on this screen.
  6. You’ll now get another confirmation dialog, warning you that this is going to change settings on your iPhone. Click Install Now.
  7. If you have an access passcode defined for your phone (and you should!), you’ll need to enter it now. 
  8. You’ll now see a Profile Installed screen. Click Done at the top right.
You’ll now land back in the OI.Share app and you’ll probably see an alert saying “Unable to find the Olympus camera.” Don’t panic. This is kind of a stupid response for the app to give you at this point, but it’s normal. All you did in steps 1–8 above was install the camera’s profile on your phone. Now you need to access the profile.

Taking control of the camera from the phone

At this point, I gather from my reading that things may be different for Android users. I don’t have an Android phone handy to try this on, so I’m just going to describe what you do on an iPhone.
  1. Click the iPhone home button to go to the home screen.
  2. Click on the Settings icon.
  3. Select Wi-Fi in the Settings list.
  4. Turn Wi-Fi on, if it’s not turned on already.
  5. If you’re doing this within range of a wi-fi network that you’ve used before (like your home network), that will probably be the active network. But you should see your camera’s profile listed where it says “Choose a Network…” The profile is a long, ugly string of letters and numbers that begins “E-M1..”Click on the profile and wait a second or two while the phone connects to your camera.
At this point, I want to point out two things.
First, the wi-fi network that connects the phone to the camera is a local “micro network” and doesn’t get you to the Internet; it just gets you to the camera. So, when you choose the camera as your network, you lose access to the wi-fi network you had been connected to — say, your home network, or the network at the coffee shop — and that means you lose wi-fi access to the ‘Net. You cannot eat your cake and have it, too. With a smart phone you can still access the Internet using your cellular connection. Let me add that, of course, wi-fi doesn’t have anything to do with making phone calls. Even while you’re using your phone to control the camera, you can switch and use the phone to make or take a call.
Second, look at the back of the camera. It still says “Connecting…” But something has changed. Above the word “Connecting,” you’ll see a green wi-fi icon. This wasn’t the case earlier but there is now a numeral “1” next to that wi-fi icon. That 1 indicates that one device is connected to the camera. I have not attempted to connect to the camera from my iPad at the same time as the iPhone but I presume that, if I did, I’d see a “2” on the back of the camera. [Addendum 7 January 2015: I have now attempted to connect from iPhone and iPad at same time. I didn’t try very hard and perhaps I’m missing something, but after connecting on iPhone, when I try to connect from iPad by selecting the E-M1 network in Settings/Wi-fi, the iOS throws up an alert saying “Unable to connect…” I can’t actually think of a good reason to connect from more than one device simultaneously so this isn’t a big deal to me.]
And you’re now ready to rock and roll.

Using the OI.Share app

So go back to the OI.Share app. You’ll now use the options on the app’s home screen to have your way with the camera. You can click Remote Control, or Import Photos, or Edit Photo, or Add Geotag. These functions are fairly easy to understand. I want to mention only the Remote Control function.
When you click Remote Control, your phone will show you what the camera sees. At this point, things can get a little tricky. If you need to reframe the shot, move the camera. But otherwise, you’re controlling the camera entirely from the phone.
You might notice that the view on the phone seems blurry. Tap on the image to focus at that point. 

Out of focus.
Tap the screen to focus.
At the top of the screen, you can change the camera’s shooting mode. Switch to A (aperture priority) and you can then tap on the aperture setting display and change the aperture. Change to M (manual priority) and you can control everything. You don’t need to touch the camera or change the camera’s mode dial to do this! You really are completely in control from your phone. I think this is pretty cool.
Tap the camera button to take the photo.
After you take a photo, your image will be displayed on the iPhone in “Rec View”. At the bottom of the phone’s display, you’ll see a camera icon (click to return to controlling the camera) or the download/share button. If you click the download/share button, you’ll be asked if you want to Save to Camera Roll. This seems unnecessary to me, because there’s no other option besides cancel. Click “Save to Camera Roll” and wait a second or three while the image moves from the camera to your phone. The app will now advise you that the image has been imported and suggest that you turn off the camera. Don’t do it! It will, in fact, turn off the camera, but if you want to take another photo, you want to leave the camera on. Even if you don’t, turning off the camera from the phone may confuse you later, because it does not move the camera’s on/off hardware switch to off. During my initial confusion about how all this worked, I thought I’d broken my camera. The switch said the camera was on, but it wasn’t responding to me at all. I recommend you click “Close” instead, and return to the camera control screen.
When you’re done shooting, click the iPhone home button to exit the app.

Getting back to normal

I want to say this clearly, because this confused me and it might confuse you. The entire time that you are using the OI.Share app, your camera will continue to display that stupid and unnecessary QR code and the even stupider and more misleading text that it is “Connecting to your smart phone.”

So let me say it again: Once you’ve selected the camera’s network profile from the iPhone Wi-Fi Settings panel and you see the “1” appear on the back of the camera next to the wi-fi icon, you are no longer “connecting”. You are now connected. If I’d written the camera’s firmware, I’d have switched the entire display on the back of the camera at this point to show something else, like an icon of a smartphone and some text saying “Control the camera with the OI.Share app on your phone.” But I didn’t write the firmware, so just be aware that that’s how it works.

When you’ve exited the app on your phone, you can tap the “Stop” button on the back of the camera screen (or click the Menu hardware button) to turn wi-fi off in the camera. From that point on, the camera is once again autonomous.
Finally, if you want to restore the phone’s access to the Internet via wi-fi (say, to upload some photos to your Flickr or Google+ account), go back to Settings / Wi-Fi, and select your home or office or coffee shop wi-fi network.

Next time

Once you’ve got the profile installed on your phone, next time you want to use the phone to control the camera, here’s what you do.
  1. Turn wi-fi on in the camera by clicking the Wi-Fi “button” on the back of the touchscreen.
  2. On the iPhone, go to Settings / Wi-Fi and select the network profile for the camera.
  3. Open the OI.Share app.
All in all, this is a sweet cooperation between camera and phone. 
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25 comments on “Wireless control of Olympus OM-D E-M1 with OI.Share app

  1. THANKS Caroline! Yes, it's a shame it's mystifying because it really works quite wonderfully once you know the trick. Yesterday I was out in East Texas in the beautiful middle of nowhere shooting some folks riding horses. I was able to transfer pics from my E-M1 to my iPhone, then send the pictures to one of the folks I photographed using my iPhone's cellular connection. Very futuristic! Hope you have fun with it. – Will

  2. Hello! Do you know if this app lets you shoot in something of a tethered fashion? I can't seem to find this info anywhere. What I'm thinking is shooting with the camera and having the images download to the device as you shoot. Ideally this would be to a full blown laptop but curious about the Android/iPhone capability. Olympus has (it seems to me) lagged badly in tethering capability. Thanks!

  3. Irwin: YES. You could indeed use OI.Share as a surrogate for tethering. I mean, what I'd really like is to be able to shoot with my E-M1 connected to my computer, with the pictures appearing in Lightroom 5. But since Adobe only supports Canon and Nikon — and even then only a limited number of camera models — using OI.Share isn't a bad alternative. You'd certainly want to install OI.Share on your iPad, so you could see the images larger. I just gave it a quick test and the jpeg moves from the camera to the iPad very quickly — maybe 1 sec, maybe less. So that's not bad. But for me there would be a couple of problems. With OI.Share you're controlling the camera from the iPad and THAT just about absolutely means that the camera must be on a tripod. (With “real” tethering you can move around with the camera.) And with OI.Share you can't make any changes to remote, optically triggered flashes, the way you can from the back of the E-M1 normally with remote flash enabled. But otherwise, this might work and I might try it myself at my next portrait session!

  4. I've been using the E-M1 OI.share for some time with great success. The latest update of my Android Galaxy s4 to Kit Kat (Android ver 4.4.2) has crippled the ability to save or share images on my camera. It always gives a “failed to save” error now. All the other remote functions still seem to work though and that is the most important thing to me.

  5. I might add … the OI.Share app works slightly differently with the E-M10. (1) I see an option for (a) controlling only the shutter release AND (b) for controlling the camera (as you describe above). (2) this shutter release option offers control over bracketing and HDR modes that are not (yet) available to the E-M1.

  6. I have the app on my mobile and tablet. Whenever it says cant find camera I just tap it again and usually third try it connects. I don't ever go to WiFi settings.
    On my phone, the camera images are crystal clear in live view.
    On the tablet they are quite blurred. Once I take the shot they show up clear. Any ideas?
    I have an OMD EM10 with the EZ lense. I've just found the zoom control on the app, hidden to the left of the screen on a pull out.
    Dick D

  7. Richard: Not sure why things seem sharp on your phone and blurred on your tablet. My guess is that it's a matter of the different resolutions on the devices and the problem of transferring a lot of data over wifi. Could be that the phone and the tablet are, in fact, receiving exactly the same data, but that the data LOOKS sharper on the more compact display of the phone than on the tablet. I'm sure you've experienced the surprise of thinking that an image is nice and sharp when you view it on the camera's rear monitor and discovering when you get it on the computer that in fact it's pretty soft. But beyond that, dunno. 😦

  8. Bob, I have an iPhone 5 so, sorry, I can't test it. For what it's worth, my experience with the phone and these codes is that you have to make sure that the phone isn't TOO close (closer than its minimum focusing distance) and you have to be sure to hold the phone very still. But I am pretty sure that there's a way to enter the QR code manually as a number. I'm not doing the process right now but I am pretty sure that there's a number on the back of the camera and that there's a way in the O.IS app to type that number in. Good luck. — Will

  9. Thanks for your advice. i was able to setup the connection by joining the camera's WI-Fi through the phone settings/Wi-Fi and entering the password that is displayed on the camera.

  10. Have you used geotag feature? I did yesterday, and while I did get coordinates on images, they all had same despite some being about 2 miles apart.

  11. Richard: I don't shoot much video so I just checked with camera, iPhone and the Olympus app. I moved the camera's mode dial to movie mode, then connected to the app, and it appears that you're right, it's not possible to control the shooting of video from the iPhone.

    I can't personally see many ways that this would be useful. If I wanted to take video (say) of me playing with my dog, I guess I'd put camera on tripod, start recording video, then walk around in front of the camera and try to position myself in the right place. When I was done, I'd walk around and turn the video off. Later I'd edit out the walking parts at the beginning and end of the clip.

    In any case, the OIS.Share app looks like it's designed for still photos only. And for that it's pretty decent.

  12. I have it working well on my E-M10, but is it really true that the only focus mode for anything other than iAuto is MF? It takes away from the total hands off experience. Hopefully I'm missing something.

  13. Thanks for writing such detailed instructions. I was confused when the QR code remained on my camera screen. I thought I was doing something wrong.

    In your article you mentioned not having attempted connecting two devices at once. Have you since been able to accomplish this successfully? I would like to connect both my iPad and iPhone with LiveView. They are both set up successfully to connect individually, but I don't seem to be able to connect both at the same time. Thanks again!

  14. Thanks for such detailed instructions. I was confused when the QR code remained on my camera screen. I thought the camera was broken.

    In your article you mentioned that you had not attempted connecting two devices at once. Have you since been able to do this successfully? I am trying to connect both my iPhone and iPad in LiveView. I can't seem to figure out how to do this. I can connect them individually, but they seem to lock each other out if one is connected. Any suggestions? Thanks again.

  15. Jess, glad you found the article helpful. I love the E-M1, and this is a great feature. The iOS app is well done, but the UI on the camera needs a lot of work!

    As for connecting to one camera from both iPhone and iPad, yes, I have now tried it — and I too was unsuccessful. I confess I didn't try very hard and perhaps I'm missing something, but after connecting on iPhone, when I try to connect from iPad by selecting the E-M1 network in Settings/Wi-fi, the iOS throws up an alert saying “Unable to connect…”

    I can't actually think of a good reason to connect from more than one device simultaneously so this isn't a big deal to me. If you get this to work, please let me know.

  16. Thanks Mr Porter great article.
    I've got the Android version and Olympus Stylus 1.
    I got everything working fairly easy but couldn't get rid of the Barcode thing off the cameras display when in remote mode.
    Now I know why .
    Thank You

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