I have been a huge fan and currently a user of the fantastic OMD cameras from Olympus, but I’ve never warmed to the PEN line of cameras. The lack of built in viewfinder and a less professional feel left me feeling cold, that is, until the PEN-F. This has to be, without a doubt, one of the most amazing looking cameras I have ever seen. Not only is this an object of desire in terms of aesthetics, it has the functionality and technology to match. Sporting the new 20MP sensor, the same viewfinder as the E-M10 mkII, the all new creative dial and all of the features found in the excellent E-M5 mkII, this retro styled powerhouse is as functional as it is beautiful… it is almost certain to become a classic.
The new PEN-F proves beauty has no need for DSLR beasts – As many photography enthusiasts will confirm, the satisfaction they gain from their hobby comes as much from handling beautifully designed equipment as the moments when they perceive professional quality in one of their own shots. The new PEN-F was clearly conceived to facilitate both. It’s the most powerful ever PEN and one of the most beautiful system cameras Olympus has ever produced. Despite the size constraints of the compact Micro Four Thirds format, the PEN-F inherits much state-of-the-art optical technology from Olympus’ larger, high-end OM-D camera family.
This includes its world’s best* 5-axis Image Stabilisation system (worth some 5 EV stops when shooting at low ISO), a 50-Megapixel high-resolution shot capability, and a built-in electronic viewfinder with a real-time preview of settings adjustments. Some can be set on a new Creative Dial that gives its owner access to an expanded range of advanced filter options. The metal dial is a prominent feature of the much-vaunted PEN school of design, which blends contemporary and retro style elements with luxury materials and quality craftsmanship. Screw heads are nowhere to be seen on the PEN-F! Like its classic ‘step-up’ silhouette, the look, feel and photographic performance of the PEN-F are intended to induce envy in photo hipsters – both on the street and online.
PEN designers step up
Like every Micro Four Thirds system camera, the PEN-F is built for spontaneous, everyday street photography without a tripod, so it’s more compact and lighter than much larger DSLRs. It’s also considerably better looking, an impression that is heightened when you pick it up. For a relatively small camera, it has surprising gravitas, it feels sensational in the hand and the finish sends a clear message: this camera is for people who appreciate the finer things in life – and who are capable of adding to those things with their own photography. The Olympus design team has gone to great lengths to make the PEN-F a potential style icon worthy of the original F series. Below its classic ‘step’ contour, the brand name is precisely engraved in the metal casing and the leather-like camera surround is deluxe to the touch. Even the dimensions and hatched surface of the dials are designed to make onlookers jealous.
EVF on board
The iconic aspirations of the PEN-F are not confined to its design. Street photography has never been more popular and the new PEN features a classic of the genre: a built-in electronic viewfinder that delivers the rangefinder-style shooting experience, including focusing assistance with focus peaking and image magnification of 0.62x. The EVF has a large, high-definition OLED display with 2.36 million-dot resolution, which shows a real-time preview of any adjustments to settings, such as those accessible via the new Creative Dial. The PEN’s 5-axis IS essentially ensures a blur-free display.
New creative options
The largest metal dial in front of the PEN-F is the gateway to its newest creative features. Olympus prides itself on the variety of filters and options its cameras provide – and on making them easy to use. The Creative Dial embodies those ambitions with fast, no-look access to four settings, two of which are new to the PEN range: Monochrome Profile Control and Colour Profile Control. The first offers gradation-curve, film-grain, shading adjustment and black-and-white filter effects with three available presets. Colour Profile Control also comes with three presets and affects the gradation curve. It can be used to adjust the saturation of 12 colours to 11 different levels. A lever mounted at the back of the camera easily switches between different modes.
Low-pass filter-free for higher resolution
Image quality is where bulky DSLR cameras would hope to out-perform the PEN-F, but most will fall short. This unique piece of design is packed with state-of-the-art technology. The tried-and-tested 5-axis Image Stabilisation system remains the world’s best* and, combined with a new 20-Megapixel Live MOS image sensor that lacks a low pass filter, it enables longer exposure times at low ISO settings. The new sensor provides 25% better resolution, while maintaining low-noise and dynamic-range performance. The results are impressive, especially with spontaneous, handheld photography. Which, of course, is what the lightweight PEN-F does best.
Speed of response is equally important when you’re shooting on the fly, and it’s a common fallacy that DSLR cameras generally respond faster than their Micro Four Thirds equivalents. The PEN-F lays this myth to rest with the category’s shortest* release time lag between pressing the shutter release button and the actual shot. The autofocus is also extremely quick, thanks to the Eye Detect AF feature and touch-panel access to point focusing.
The PEN-F offers street style enthusiasts a number of other advantages. High-speed sequential shooting at up to 10 fps makes it easy to track fast-moving subjects and a high-res Vari-angle LCD monitor is ideal for capturing videos or stills in tricky situations. At the request of keen photographers, Olympus has linked AF spot metering to the AF target, which helps achieve correct exposure in any shooting situation, while another OM-D-tested feature makes for an unexpected treat – High Res Shot bumps resolution up to the equivalent of 50 Megapixels.
For uploading images to photo communities and other media, the PEN-F supports Wi-Fi and the free OI.Share 2.6 app. Other user-friendly features include the Supersonic Wave Filter, which automatically shakes off dust that can settle on the sensor during lens changes – and avoids dreary lens-cleaning procedures. For style-conscious owners, the PEN-F is compatible with a specially designed range of accessories as well as some 40 M.ZUIKO lenses , including the professional-grade M.ZUIKO PRO range.
PEN-F Main Features:
- PEN offers quality and creativity in a stylish, lightweight, compact and portable body
- Collector’s item thanks to iconic design, build quality, high-grade materials and finish
- Category-leading 5-axis image stabilisation and new 20-Megapixel Live MOS sensor with no pass through filter for exceptional street photography at low ISO settings with low noise and enhanced dynamic range
- Electronic viewfinder for rangefinder-style shooting, with preview, focus peaking and magnification on large 2.36 million-dot OLED
- Creative Dial access to on-board Art Filters, Colour Creator and 2 new creative options: Colour Profile Control and Monochrome Profile Control
- Faster-than-DSLR, category-best* response time thanks to Fast AF and processing speed
- Eye Detect AF and touch-panel access to point focusing increase focusing speed
- Built-in Wi-Fi for sharing images via compatible smartphones and free OI.Share app
- Compatible with full range of first-class M.ZUIKO lenses and accessories
PEN-F Other Features:
- Vari-angle high-resolution LCD monitor for shooting at awkward angles
- 50-Megapixel High Res Shot
- True Pic VII processor
- Customizable Mode Dial for fast adjustment of favourite settings
- Supersonic Wave Filter automatically cleans sensor without extra cleaning program
- High-speed sequential shooting @10 fps
- 1/8000 second shutter and ISO 80 equivalent for shooting in bright conditions
- AF spot metering linked to AF point for correct exposure in any situation