Andy Westlake tests Olympus’s retro-styled Pen-F, with its built-in viewfinder and 20-million-pixel sensor

Product Overview

Olympus PEN-F

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • - Stunning styling and design make it a joy to use
  • - Best image quality yet from a Four Thirds camera
  • - Easy to adjust image processing settings on a shot-by-shot basis

Cons:

  • - Viewfinder is smaller than similarly priced competitors
  • - Confusing menu makes some features difficult to access
  • - No weather sealing

Product:

Olympus PEN-F review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£999.99 (Body only)

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Olympus Pen-F review: Introduction

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
  • Price £999.99 (body only)

With its flat-bodied design the PEN-F is well-suited to small primes like this 17mm f/1.8

 

When Olympus launched its first compact system camera, the Pen E-P1 in 2009, it was keen to emphasise its heritage as a maker of small, high quality cameras, exemplified by its half-frame Pen models of the 1960s. Fast forward to 2016 and, with its latest release, it’s specifically referencing the Pen F SLR, even going so far as to borrow its name. A quick glance at the back of the camera gives a clue as to why: the Pen-F is first in this series of flat-bodied CSCs to include a built-in electronic viewfinder.

With Olympus’s popular SLR-like OM-D cameras already offering EVFs, you may well wonder what Olympus is doing here. At first sight the Pen-F doesn’t seem radically different from the OM-D E-M5 II in terms of key specification, even lagging behind it in some areas. In reality it’s just a case of offering a choice of camera types to suit different user preferences. Where the OM-D places the emphasis on practicality (although with more than a hint of nostalgia), the Pen is more about style. However, if the design looks strangely familiar, that’s little to do with its film namesake. Instead, the Pen-F is clearly a homage to the legendary Leica III 35mm rangefinder.

On the back is an EVF window and a fully-articulated touchscreen

 

It’s not just style over substance, though; the Pen-F has some more substantial charms. It’s Olympus’s first Micro Four Thirds model to use a 20-million-pixel sensor, probably similar to the one that impressed us in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8. It gains some ergonomic revisions, including a dedicated exposure compensation dial (another first for Olympus). The Pen-F also makes it uniquely easy to exploit all of the various in-camera JPEG processing settings, so you can tailor the look of each picture individually while you’re shooting.

The Pen-F comes in a choice of finishes: either a discreet all-black or the rather lovely, and very retro-looking, silver-and-black of our review sample. It can be bought body only for £999.99, or in two kits: either £1,099.99 with the compact 14-42mm electronic zoom lens, or £1,199.99 with the 17mm f/1.8 lens. While the former provides more compositional flexibility, Olympus sees the latter as best fitting the camera’s design ethos.

  1. 1. Olympus Pen-F review: Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and Handling
  4. 4. Viewfinder and screen
  5. 5. Autofocus
  6. 6. Creative controls
  7. 7. High Resolution Composite Mode
  8. 8. Image Quality
  9. 9. ISO sensitivity and Noise
  10. 10. Verdict
  11. 11. Olympus PEN-F review: Hands-on First Look
  12. 12. Page 12
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