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Olympus PEN-F Review

Both the PEN and OM-D series of Micro Four Thirds compact system cameras (CSC) is manufactured by Olympus. However, the OM-D series is considered the more “serious” of the two and is designed with amateur photographers in mind.

The OM-D cameras are designed to look like classic single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, while the PEN models have a more rectangular form, similar to the Olympus PEN film cameras from the 1960s. Both lines have a unique vintage aesthetic.

Previous PEN models, such as the E-PL7 and E-P5, had 16 million pixels on their Four-Thirds-type sensors, while the PEN-F has a total of 20 million pixels on its sensor. The PEN-F is the flagship model of the current PEN line-up.

One of the most notable differences between the two lines of cameras has been, up until this point, the fact that the OM-D models come equipped with an integrated viewfinder while the PEN cameras do not. However, that will change with the introduction of the PEN-F, which has an inbuilt OLED electronic viewfinder with 2.36 million dots.

Olympus PEN-F Build Quality

Instead of adopting the SLR aesthetic of the OM-D series, Olympus has decided to stick with the more rectangular shape of the PEN series and has gone for a look that is more rangefinder-like for the PEN-F. Because of this, the viewfinder is located in the upper left corner of the camera while you hold it to use it — much like it is on the Fuji X-E2S and X-Pro2.

The PEN-vintage F’s design is not limited to its look; instead, it extends to its construction, which is robust and fashioned from metal. This style of build is the kind that makes photographers grin and get a little misty-eyed when they take it up. In addition, the machined metal dials give off an air of quality; each one feels pleasant beneath your finger, rotates smoothly, and clicks satisfyingly once it is in the correct place.

However, the buttons on the camera’s rear are a bit more standard, adopting the relatively small and plastic design that is a source of criticism for the Olympus PEN and OM-D line. Despite this, they perform as expected, and the camera reacts quickly to their application.

Olympus PEN-F Performance

The image sensor of the PEN-F contains 20.3 effective pixels, which is about 25 percent more than any other Olympus PEN or OM-D camera that is currently available. Compared to the PEN E-M10, our lab testing has shown that an increase in pixel count results in a considerable increase in the amount of detail seen in a picture when the sensitivity level is set to a lower value.

However, beyond ISO 3200, the degree of detail in the photographs taken by the PEN-F is a bit less than that of the pictures taken by the E-M10. This is most likely because the photoreceptors (pixels) on the new sensor are smaller. Consequently, the picture signal is weaker, and there is an increase in noise.

This hypothesis is supported by our test of the signal-to-noise ratio, which shows that the PEN-raw F’s film scores are marginally lower than those of the E- M10’s. It’s interesting to note that the JPEG scores are comparable.

Despite the differences in the ratings for the raw signal-to-noise ratio, the PEN-F has reasonable control over the noise over most of its sensitivity range. Therefore, when using the default level for noise reduction, you should anticipate seeing some fine details lost from JPEGs when using higher sensitivity settings. This is to be expected.

Despite this, ISO 6400 photos (in raw and JPEG formats) look excellent when printed at A3 size. Above this level, the camera begins to have some trouble with reds, making them look too saturated and vivid. Additionally, the details in JPEGs start to take on a more painterly aspect when viewed at 100% on the screen.

Olympus PEN-F Image Quality

During this evaluation, the Olympus PEN-F generated photographs of exceptionally high quality. It can produce pictures devoid of noise from ISO 100 to 1600, after which it creates some noise (although very little) from ISO 3200. ISO 6400 has rather noticeable noise and a loss of fine detail, and although the fastest settings of ISO 12800 and 25600 make considerably more noise, they are still useable for small prints and usage on the web.

The images were a little soft right out of the camera with the default level of sharpening, and they need additional sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively, if you don’t like the default results, you can change the setting in the camera itself.

If you wanted to get the same special effects without using the Art Filters, you would have to spend a significant amount of time in the digital darkroom. However, even when the camera is being held by hand at prolonged shutter rates, the image stabilization technology produces high-quality results for still images and video.

Olympus PEN-F Specs

Body typeRangefinder-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy + aluminum
Sensor
Image ratio w:h1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels20 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors22 megapixels
Sensor sizeFour Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sensor size notesHigh resolution mode produces Raw images at 10368 x 7776 or JPEGs at 8160 x 6120.
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorTruePic VII
Colour spacesRGB, Adobe RGB
Colour filter arrayPrimary colour filter
Image
Boosted ISO (minimum)80
White balance presets7
Custom white balanceYes (4 slots)
Image stabilizationSensor-shift
Image stabilization notes5-axis
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsSuper fine, fine, normal, basic
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.3)Raw (Olympus ORF)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points81
Lens mountMicro Four Thirds
Focal length multiplier
Screen/viewfinder
Articulated LCDFully articulated
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,037,000
Touch screenYes
Screen typeTFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification1.23× (0.62× 35mm Equiv.)
Viewfinder resolution2,360,000
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed60 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic)1/16000 sec
Exposure modesauto program AutoShutter PriorityAperture PriorityManual
Scene modesPortraite-PortraitLandscapeLandscape + PortraitSportHand-held StarlightNight sceneNight + PortraitChildrenHigh KeyLow KeyDIS modeMacroNature MacroCandleSunsetDocumentsPanoramaFireworksBeach & SnowFisheye Conv.Wide Conv.Macro Conv.Panning3D
Built-in flashNo (external flash included)
External flashYes
Flash modesFlash Auto, Redeye, Fill-in, Flash Off, Red-eye Slow sync (1st curtain), Slow sync (1st curtain), Slow sync (2nd curtain)
Flash X sync speed1/250 sec
Continuous drive10.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 12 seconds, custom)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weighted pot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p)
FormatMPEG-4, H.264, Motion JPEG
Videography notesChoice of ALL-I, APB codecs
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesSD/SDHC/SDXC
Connectivity
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone portNo
Headphone portNo
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11b/g/n
Remote controlYes (wired or via smartphone)
Physical
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionBLN-1 lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)330
Weight (inc. batteries)427 g (0.94 lb / 15.06 oz)
Dimensions125 x 72 x 37 mm (4.92 x 2.83 x 1.46″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes (video)
GPSNone

Olympus PEN-F Verdict

The PEN-F is a fantastic-looking and -feeling camera with a wealth of controls that are simple to reach and a wide variety of opportunities for customization. So eSo even though the photographs it generates do not always appear as crisp as those from other cameras, they can produce work.

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