History Repeating: Olympus PEN-F Review
The original Olympus PEN-F first hit the streets in 1963. Built around the half-frame film format, it quickly gained a following thanks to its beautiful, yet simple design and small size. Getting 70 images to a roll of film probably didn't hurt, either. Now, 53 years later the PEN-F is back.
The digital reincarnation of the 35mm film Olympus PEN-F does not replace the current digital PEN flagship E-P5, rather it slides in next to it as the 'premium' option in the PEN family. The reason being that unlike digital PENs before it, the F has something much more OM-D-like: a built-in 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The F also boasts the highest output resolution of any Olympus body to date, boasting a 20MP Four Thirds sensor (probably the same one we've seen in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8).
Released specifically to appeal to street shooters and the design conscious looking for a capable camera with retro-styling and rangefinder-like controls, the PEN-F has a lot going for it.
Olympus PEN-F features:
- 20MP Live MOS Four Thirds format sensor
- 5-axis image stabilization with automatic panning detection
- 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Up to 10 fps continuous shooting (20 fps with electronic shutter)
- Highly customizable interface, twin controls
- Fully articulating 1.04 million dot, 3" LCD touchscreen
- 50MP High-res Shot mode
- 1/8000 sec top mechanical shutter speed (1/16,000 with e-shutter)
- 1080/60p video recording
All of the above come packaged in a machined aluminum and magnesium body, with no visible screws anywhere. A faux-leather wrap encircles the PEN-F and the body itself is both well-weighted and has a very solid feel to it.
With many of the same guts as the OM-D EM-5 II and sleek rangefinder-style looks (reminiscent of Fujifilm’s X100 series cameras), the most direct Micro Four Thirds competitor to the PEN-F is the Panasonic GX8, which also uses a 20MP chip. Other close competitors include the Sony a6000, a6300 and the Fujifilm X-E2S - all of which are APS-C format cameras. Of course, the PEN-F also has to compete against alternatives within the OM-D series as well.
To help us to better understand how the PEN-F fits into the market place as a whole, we chatted with Eric Gensel, a technical specialist with Olympus. He breaks down exactly how the PEN-F fits in Olympus' lineup, who the target-audience of the camera is and what went into the design process:
Compared to its siblings
Many of the highlight features of the PEN-F aren’t new. In fact a lot of the key spec is shared with other recent Olympus releases. However, some functions have been improved upon. For instance, thanks to its 20MP sensor, the PEN-F is capable of higher resolution in multi-shot mode compared to the OM-D E-M5 II, up to 80MP in Raw mode (50MP in JPEG). It also features a dedicated creative control knob on the front, as well as four customizable shooting modes, accessed via the locking exposure mode dial.
It’s hard to see the PEN-F as a large step forward given how many of its core features are inherited from other models, but it offers a handling experience that is unique in Olympus's lineup. Is the PEN-F more than just a pretty face? Let’s dig in.
Olympus PEN E-P5
|Stabilization (CIPA)||5 stops||5 stops||4 stops|
|Max shutter speed||
(without /with AF)
|10 fps / 5 fps||10 fps / 5 fps||9 fps / 5 fps|
|Viewfinder||Built-in 2.36M-dot LCD
|Built-in 2.36M-dot LCD
|Optional VF-4 accessory EVF w/ 2.36M-dot LCD and 1.48x mag|
|Max video res/rate||1080/60p||1080/60p||1080/30p|
Fully articulating 3" touchscreen
|Battery life (CIPA)||330||310||330|
|Weight||427 g||469 g||420 g|
|Dimensions||125 x 72 x 37mm||124 x 85 x 45mm||122 x 69 x 37mm|
Pricing and availability
The Olympus PEN-F will be available at end of February – early March 2016, and will hit the streets at a body-only price of $1199. It ships with the FL-LM3 flashgun seen in the image at the top.
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