Andy Westlake tests Olympus’s retro-styled Pen-F, with its built-in viewfinder and 20-million-pixel sensor
With the Pen-F, Olympus has come up with a rare thing in today’s market: a camera that has a distinct personality of its own. It’s perhaps not one that you’d choose on a rational analysis of specification and value for money. Instead, it’s one that fires up your creative juices, and simply begs to be picked up and used. There may be better cameras on the market, but it’s hard to think of one that’s better designed.
When it comes to raw image quality, it’s certainly true that technically you can get more for the £1000 that the Pen-F body will cost you. However, I’m not sure this matters. Speaking as a camera reviewer, it’s all too easy to get carried away with the latest and greatest technology, and forget that image making isn’t just about sensor characteristics such as resolution and dynamic range (however useful they may be).
The Pen-F offers its own, somewhat idiosyncratic take on creativity that owes a lot to mobile imaging and the Instagram generation, with the ability to generate a near-infinite variety of filtered looks that are previewed live in the viewfinder. What’s more, very few of its competitors make JPEG images that look as nice straight out of the camera, with the new customisable colour and mono modes trumping even the rest of the Olympus range.
The Pen-F is also a very portable camera, with its flat-topped design easier to slip into a bag than SLR-style cameras such as its OM-D siblings. With Olympus’s compact lenses, and particularly its f/1.8 primes, you can carry a very capable kit in a small bag. It handles really well, too, especially if you take a moment or two to set it up to suit your personal preferences.
Overall I’ve become very enamoured of the Pen-F over the time I’ve been using it, and there are few cameras I’ve been more reluctant to hand back at the end of a loan spell. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful design that’s capable of producing lovely images.