History Repeating: Olympus PEN-F Review
Olympus cameras historically have been jam-packed with useful features and tools and the PEN-F is no exception. Features like touch-to-shoot and touch-to-focus are extremely useful for both video and still shooters. The touchscreen can also be as an AF target pad or to prioritize one subject over another when using Face Detect.
A built-in intervalometer allows for high resolution timelapse recording (which can be exported as a 4K file). And the camera offers both a mechanical shutter, with a max shutter speed of 1/8000 sec, and a completely silent electronic shutter that can shoot at speeds as fast as 1/16000 sec. Additionally the PEN also has an electronic first curtain shutter mode.
Other cool features include Olympus' Live Time, Live Bulb and Live Composite modes, all of which can be really useful for making long exposures. The PEN also offers Keystone Compensation, a feature that allows users to correct convergence when working in live view. And in-camera RAW processing is also quite handy.
|Color 1||Color 2||Color 3||Mono 1||Mono 2||Mono 3|
The PEN-F has 6 built-in JPEG film presets. They are quite a lot of fun to try out and remind us a lot of the film simulations offered by another retro-styled camera maker. Though they are somewhat tucked away in the menus. Three of the simulations are color, while the other three are black and white. To access them, turn the Creative Mode selector dial to either the 'Color' or 'Mono' settings. Then, head to the Super Control Panel (which by default is set to Fn2). In the top right corner of the menu, the three presets for color and three presets for black and white can be selected.
Color Profile 1 is somewhat standard looking while two and three are more punchy and vivid. In the 'Mono' modes, Profile 1 is also pretty standard, while Mono Profile 2 looks more like a grainy high ISO film stock and Mono Profile 3 resembles an Infrared film stock.
The PEN-F is capable of firing frames as fast as 20 fps using the fully electronic shutter, and shutter speeds as fast as 1/16000 sec. Olympus marks it electronic shutter with a heart symbol in the menus (and uses a diamond to indicate its electronic first-curtain shutter). Of course, using an electronic shutter can result in the dreaded rolling shutter effect. Fortunately, the PEN-F can also fire bursts using the mechanical shutter up to 10 fps, with maximum shutter speeds of 1/8000 sec.
These burst speeds come with a caveat though. If you want to make use of autofocus during your burst, you'll have to drop the speed down to 5 fps, though the PEN-F outperformed Olympus' estimates in our tests, shown above. You can read more about shooting bursts with AF on our Autofocus page.
|Frame rate||Buffer limit|
|Large/Fine + Raw||5.4 fps||~31 shots|
|Raw||5.4 fps||~65 shots|
We ran the PEN-F through our standardized IS test at 50mm and found it gave us an average of 4 stops of additional hand-hold-ability when IS is employed. That's means if you can ordinarily hold a steady shot at 1/50 sec (with a 50mm equiv. lens affixed), then with IS switched on, you should be able to get a steady shot down to 1/3 sec.
High Res Shot mode
|Shot with the Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens affixed. ISO 200, 1.640 sec, F5.6. Click on the image for a full resolution view.|
The PEN-F is capable of producing the highest resolution images of any Micro Four Thirds camera to date. Using High Res Shot mode the F can shoot a 50MP JPEG or an 80MP Raw file. This mode works by combining multiple images, shot in rapid succession using the IS system to shift the position of the sensor in sub-pixel increments, creating an extremely high resolution file. Of course, this mode really only works for static images, and the camera must be tripod-mounted.
We shot the above image using High Res mode with Olympus' 17mm F1.8 lens affixed. Why this lens? Because it is a few years old and a reasonably affordable prime that we're quite fond of. If you look at the above image at 100%, you can see that the quality of the lens actually holds up pretty well (which actually surprised us a bit!). We focused on the white building close to center, and while detail does get a bit mushier as you move away from the center of the frame, overall quality is decent.
So while this high-res mode is cool and has some practical use in a studio environment, your finally shot will only be as good as the quality of the lens used. For a more in-depth analysis of the Olympus PEN-F's 8-step high resolution pixel shift mode, head to our Image Quality page.
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