Olympus cameras are always at the leading edge of innovation. In different years, they’ve been evolve with the technology, from the Semi-Olympus I in the 1930s to today’s digital cameras, they’re one of the leaders in the camera industry.
Back in 2009, Olympus launched their first Micro Four Thirds camera by the name of PEN E-P1 and it was great display of their heritage design with powerful features and it not only had the 1950s design build, but also the name.
Now, Olympus has launched the Olympus PEN-F which is also the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera to have a 20-megapixel sensor. It’s anticipated to be the same sensor as Panasonic uses in the GX8 but critics are expecting a small but pleasant improvements in overall image quality, dynamic range and high ISO range.
The Olympus PEN-F looks like a digital rebirth of the brilliant Leica III 35mm rangefinder. It has top-and front-plate dials in the same places, but, they perform different features.
At a glance:
- 20-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor
- ISO 80-25600 (extended)
- 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF (0.62x magnification)
- 1.04-million-dot 3in fully articulated touchscreen
- 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
- 50-million-pixel high-resolution composite mode
- £999.99 body only, £1,099.99 with 14-42mm lens, £1,199.99 with 17mm f/1.8 lens
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Behind the Olympus PEN-F’s vintage looking build is a modern camera. The 20-mehapixel sensor which is also the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera to have 20 megapixels boasts a “TruePic VII” processor to provide a fine sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 25,600. The mechanical shutter is capable of speeds from 1/8000sec to 60 seconds, and a silent electronic shutter option giving an even faster 1/16000sec maximum.
10 frames per second, or 5 frames per second with autofocus between frames is available for continuous shooting. Also, for shooting in raw, a 16-frame buffer is there. The Autofocus has an 81-point contrast detection system, and spot metering can now be linked with the autofocus point.
Olympus is famous for its in-body image stabilization systems, and like other cameras by Olympus, the Olympus PEN-F also has the same 5-axis system as the E-M5 II. It is know to have fully five stops of stabilization as per CIPA standard testing, and it is indeed one of the very best stabilization systems currently available, being quite effective for both stills and video shooting.
There’s also a clip-on flash, smae as that of the OM-D E-M5 II on the newer Olympus PEN-F as there’s no built-in flash. The only drawback is that it consumers power from the camera.
Video recording is pretty spectacular as Full HD recording up to 60fps and built-in stereo microphones. Other modes are slow-and fast-motion recording, the ability to specify fixed-length clips, and a few unusual image-processing effects. It’s also possible to create time-lapse movies at 4K resolution.
Build and Handling
The power switch resembles a 1950s film rewind knob.
Olympus PEN-F is worth its premium price. The body is made of aluminium, which feels solid in hands, and all the dials are milled instead if cast, giving a precise, tactile feel. The camera’s retro build is the most appealing thing. The power knob looks like a film rewind knob, and the shutter button looks like a good old-fashioned cable release.
Controls and handling are also quite convenient. Since it is the first model by Olympus to offer Micro Four Thirds models to sport a dedicated exposure compensation dial, covering +/-3EV in 1/3EV steps. This is located by your thumb for easy operation and has click stops that feel solid enough to prevent inadvertent movement. Twin electronic dials, front and rear, control shutter speed and aperture, but can be reset to balance ISO, white balance or flash compensation.
A switch on the camera’s back is used to change the mode of the dials to controlling ISO and white balance instead of the confusing ‘2×2’ control system first seen on the PEN E-P5.
All these changes are made to allow the Olympus PEN-F to have the best control build of any recent Olympus camera.
The Olympus PEN-F, like other high-end models from Olympus has the capability of giving easier access to image processing settings and displaying them live in the EVF. A newer dial on the front-plate, located in the same position as the film Pen F’s (and Leica III’s) shutter-speed dial, allows access to the camera’s image processing modes.
Olympus’ famous Art Filters and Colour Creator mode available in the PENF-F as well but along with them, some new features like Monochrome Profile Control which enables you to mimic the effects of using coloured lens filters with black & white film, manipulate contrast and add vignetting. The Colour Profile Control mode enables you to selectively emphasise different hues in the image as you choose, for example, accentuating blues and suppressing reds.
A lever control underneath the modes dial with the electronic control dials are used for the alteration of the settings. Also, everything is previewed in the viewfinder in real time. If you capture raw all the time, this probably sounds a bit gimmicky, but it’s best if you want to manipulate the look of your images in-camera before shooting.
Also, one of Olympus’s finest features is the attractiveness of its JPEG processing, and you can record raw files at the same time as well.
Viewfinder and Screen
Featuring for the first time in Olympus’s PEN series is the 2.36-million-dot EVF.
Remarkably, Olympus was somehow able to fit an electronic viewfinder into a body that measures at 124.8 x 72.1 x 37.3 mm. The EVF has a 2.36-million-dot OLED panel with 0.62x magnification, which means it is equal to the OM-D E-M10 II in terms of size and detail.
The viewfinder vividness is completely in line with the surrounding lighting levels, and you can either use the EVF to give a preview of the shot you’re going to get, including the camera’s image processing settings, or to display an accurate view of the scene using Olympus’s ‘simulated optical viewfinder’ mode.
The 3″ LCD panel is clear and is also touchscreen and is identical to the E-M5 II and is quite an improvement over the tilting screen found in the E-P5.
The pount of focus can be repositioned using the touchscreen, both while viewing with the LCD and with the eye-level viewfinder.
Different matched (and expensive) accessories are available with the Olympus PEN-F camera.
At launch event, the Olympus PEN-F will be complimented by the CSS-S120L leather neckstrap for £79.99, the CBG-11PR leather messenger bag for £379.99, and the CS-47B leather body jacket for £49.99. For the more convenient and inclined handgrip, the £109.99 ECG-4 handgrip includes an Arca-Swiss pattern tripod quick-release base.
Most users expect that when a product has so much attention to detail and style, it can’t be the one who also performs well through the underlying substance. But this would be a mistake in case of the Olympus PEN-F, thanks to the new sensor, it delivers the best image quality that has seen from any Olympus camera in years.
Overall, the Olympus PEN-F is a discreet camera that’s best for street shooting, and better to be used with small, fast primes than with large f/2.8 zooms.