Some months ago, I bought a refurbished (read “used”) Olympus OM-D E-M5. I don’t think anyone ever really used it as a camera. Maybe it was a store demo or something like that, but it had all the plastic wrap still on it, so it was new. Except the there’s a newer version of it out, so probably this is one of the ways to offload leftovers of the previous model.

One of the things it didn’t come with is the User’s Guide. It came with no documentation at all, actually and an after-market battery charger.

I haven’t used the camera much. I haven’t been outside much or taken many pictures, so mostly, it’s has been waiting for spring when my interest in photography usually revives.


This also means that I am not as comfortable using this camera as I am other cameras. In fact, because it came without documentation and it’s got a lot of dials and buttons, I’ve been shying away from it. But. You don’t learn to use a camera by not using the camera.

Today dawned beautiful. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue and the air was sweet and warm. Garry said “Let’s go.” I grabbed my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and off we went to River Bend. We exited the car and we went our separate ways.

I had decided to begin using the f1.8 25mm “normal” lens. It’s very sharp and has a lens hood, good for shooting on such a bright day.


I took a few more shots then decided to change to my 14-150 telephoto. Except something happened. After I changed lenses, I couldn’t see anything in the LCD screen. It was dark and for once, it wasn’t because I forgot to remove the lens cap.

I got my hyper-ventilation and panic reaction under control and looked through the viewfinder. I could see through it. See the menu settings too. Which meant my camera was working. This could mean only one thing: I had inadvertently, accidentally, unintentionally, and unknowingly pushed a button.

I had no idea what button I’d pushed. No idea where to look for it. Before I’d done whatever I’d done, the camera had been automatically switching between viewfinder and LCD screen. But I had done something.

Eventually, I found a tiny button near the collar of the lens. I pressed it. The picture returned to the LCD screen. All was right with the world. This is not the first time or the first camera on which a previously undetected button got pushed with disastrous results.


There are too many buttons. On everything. Cameras. Televisions. Remote controls. Computers. Tablets.  Telephones. Convection ovens. Too many settings for software. Too much. Of everything.

I wanted to buy a rice cooker that cooks rice. I don’t need it to also bake cakes, steam fish, and do my laundry. Just cook rice. White rice. It cost me more to get a rice cooker that does this one thing well, than to buy something with 13 configurable programs to all kinds of stuff I will never want or need.

I understand to sell things, you have to improve them. After all, who would buy a new version of Photoshop if it’s exactly the same as the one you already own? So, for good or ill, you have to change stuff.

But I didn’t buy my Olympus OM-D for its bells, whistles, or little buttons. I bought it because it’s water-resistant, fast, has great resolution, a bigger sensor … and at long last, a built-in viewfinder, something for which Olympus users have been yearning since forever.

72-canal-042716_045.jpg April 27, 2016

All those extra bells, whistles, and buttons are not a sales plus for me. Do you even know what the menu options in your various system menus mean? What all those buttons do? Or even where to find them?  There are too many buttons. Too many options.

Maybe the next upgrade to our equipment will be … (wait for it) … simplicity. Now that’s an upgrade I would embrace.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

44 thoughts on “TOO MANY BUTTONS”

    1. I’ve always called it my “eye hole” bridge. I think it looks like that too, especially when the trees are bare as they are right now. I have to admit I’ve never gone there in the dead of winter. I always intend to, but we’ve had so much snow, you can’t really get into the park. They don’t keep the paths clear in the winter. It’s my favorite bridge and the only place where you can see the canal and river running side by side.


  1. Less is always more. I accidentally hit stray buttons on my camera too and have no idea how to return things to how they were. All I want to do is take a picture of the squirrel before he runs off! I don’t need a thousand different settings and options to do that…


    1. It’s the accidental part that makes it so dangerous. You don’t know what you did, so you can’t undo it. I finally gave in and got a manual (on Kindle) so I can at least detect those little buttons. They are photographic LAND MINES!


  2. I did a camera course to learn how to take photos all on my own, twisting and fiddling with the controls. I learnt the basics, but if I see something that is a one in a moment shot, I take the short cut. I have discovered no-one really notices if I did it all by myself or left it to the camera attachments. I also have a mysterious button on my canon which I might press wrongly and everything disappears. I disovered what to do to get it all back again, problem being golden oldie memory. forgetting what it was. I have heard good thing about Olympus.


    1. the iAuto function has come a long way. I used to set the light reading myself, but these days, the automatic setting seems to get a better pictures than I do. Sad, but true. On the up side, my eyes have gone downhill and it’s nice to have the automatic functions to use.


        1. That’s why I wanted it. I think the most visible different is because of the better lens and the bigger sensor. Especially the bigger sensor. Oh, the the improved anti-shake and autofocus. This camera is a significant upgrade to everything that came before it … and I understand version II is even better. I was lucky to find this one refurbished, otherwise it would have been WAY out of my price range. I’m going to see if they have one of the “idiot” books for this camera. They are usually pretty good. Maybe I will be able to at least know what the various buttons do.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Actually, it turns out they don’t have ANYTHING for this camera, but they have a ton of stuff for the next version of it, which I’m hoping isn’t hugely different. I guess I’ll find out. Regardless, I’ll eventually figure it out. I always do.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently (I am just taking a slightly educated guess since I really don’t have the manual) that it manually sets the camera to either the viewfinder or LCD screen. Otherwise, it will sense if you eye is on the VF and automatically switch to it. Now, it’s manual. I have no idea how to get it back to automatic, but at least I know what the button does!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. And it really helps if there actually IS a manual to f##king read. Most cameras come with little leaflets that don’t even explain what all those buttons are, much less what the gazillions of menu options mean. I used to write the manuals. Then, one day, the tech industry decided that they didn’t need manuals, that no one reads them anyway. So, no manuals.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. tis’ why i like the mind of minolta an one of my sonys…never used an oly though…..set it to auto play shoot away…it’ll figure it out fer ya, but then takes away the old fun of figuring out f stops speed an the real old photographers had to use, kinna cheating to me, but it is amazing what new teck can do , jest set to auto an go….cool depth in that shot of da bridge there an color …great composure really…….. have a splendid one,,,,best 2 u an urs ……,,Q


    1. I use a lot of automatic settings, but I like knowing I can override them. There are times when automatic doesn’t give me what I want. THAT being said, I don’t need a dozen little buttons everywhere that do things I will never need to do. ALL the cameras have them. Not just the Olympuses. I have several Panasonic cameras and Pentax too … and they ALL suffer from too many buttons.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. have that problem with sony programs an cams also,,,i like the simple cams myself, heck i still shoot certain stuff with my 35mm , things i can’t do with my digital cams, like lightning photography,,unless one is to cheat an take a shot from video er whatnot, i gots a couple of brief cases of 35mm cameras i still use…film processing is getting harder to come by though these more expensive,,,albiet…oh well keep on keepin’ on ..ur OLY takes kewl shots still though as so do u …yes indeed,,,!!! 🙂


              1. don’t get sony then the software totally sucks..jest sosa ya know…i like canon an minolta software the best 🙂 …i like digital cuz it don;t cost m3e anything really to produce…yep agreed again,,happy shooting ..frum round this side of da werld .. Q

                Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate to admit the number of times I have given in to the “Auto” setting, if for no other reason than I didn’t have the time to fiddle with the damned buttons. Now I’m learning how to set up the “Fn” buttons to preset stuff I like to do. Manual setting was an instinctual thing back in my film days.., now i have to think!


        1. That’s because in those olden golden days, manual was two, maximum three, settings. We didn’t have all these menus and buttons and dials. Once you were familiar with the feel of the camera, you could pretty much do it all by feel.


          1. I guess there’s such a thing as having too many tools to do the job.., and that’s where we seem to be these day with cameras. Even the little ones have too much shit on them. I miss using my little Canon A590. So, I’m thinking of buying a bunch of those cheap drug store cardboard box cameras with the plastic lenses.., you know aim, shoot and too bad that’s all folks?


  4. cant agree more. My washer has a 40 page booklet to tell me how to use it. And yes I have it taped to the side of the washer. it gets used as much as the washer does.
    I have a new vacuum with a 46 page booklet to tell me how to use it. In three languages. I have it tucked in the parts bag. it gets used a LOT.

    my new microwave has lebenty seven buttons and a 32 page booklet that never leaves the top of the microwave. I even have directions for the freezer for gods sake.

    the camera has 96 pages of instructions on how to turn it on, off, and use every goddam feature on it. in French, spanish and english. some of the buttons are multi functional, press it once and it does this. press it twice and it does that. one is called a joystick i have no idea why but you can press it carefullly in four directions and disappear into the bowels of the camera forever.

    like you, Im basically a point and shoot person. maybe change a setting now and then. But my beginnings are a Brownie camera when I was nine. Mentally Im still there.

    But judging from those photos, Id say thats a damn nice camera. Good rich color. The blues are stunning.


    1. It’s a GREAT camera and would be greater with a lot fewer bells and whistles. I learned to shoot on a Leica M3 for which I had three lenses and a manual hand-held light meter. In many way, it WAS point and shoot. You set the aperture and shutter speed based on the light and the film speed and just shot. I got great pictures. You don’t need that many functions. No one needs that many menu choices or buttons. All they do it make it more complicated without making the pictures better, A lot of the time, I just give up and go to auto because it’s too time consuming to find the setting I need. The camera — like all the new line of Olympus cameras — has the best color and probably are the fastest cycling mirrorless cameras. Compact, comfortable to use. Great selection of quality lenses. BUT TOO MANY BUTTONS. Too much everything.


  5. These photos are fantastic!!! Well worth the effort. But, I know what you mean. I don’t know half of what my camera does. Just don’t want to take the time to find out.


    1. I feel GUILTY because I really OUGHT to want to find out, but the truth is that I just want to use it. I don’t even care what most of those extra functions are. I’ve been shooting for more than 40 years and I never needed anything but film speed, aperture, and shutter speed … and a decent lens. The rest of the stuff just gets in my way. I will have to learn some more because not knowing what those stupid little buttons do has caused me serious problems and will continue to make trouble unless I know what they do and where they are. But I resent it. I really do. I just want a camera to take pictures and not get in my way. Maybe it’s an age-related thing, but I don’t want to spend my time learning how to use stuff I don’t really need.

      Liked by 1 person

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