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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High Resolution Composite Mode

Like the OM-D E-M5 II, the Pen-F features Olympus’s unique high resolution composite mode. This takes eight exposures in short succession, using the in-body image stabilisation unit to move the sensor fractionally between them. To make a long story short, the result is images of around 50-million-pixel resolution, with full colour sampling at each pixel location which in principle should eliminate colour sampling. In principle this should give even more detail than the E-M5 II’s 40MP version.

The same caveats apply though – the camera has to be attached to a sturdy tripod or other support, and the subject has to stay static during the process. Otherwise ugly image artefacts creep in due to camera or subject movement. The mode is strangely accessed – first you have to turn it on in the Shooting Menu 2, at which point it appears in your drive mode selection menu (which has become unbelievably bloated).

While this mode works really well on the E-M5 II, I had less luck with it on the Pen-F. It’s not that it doesn’t work, just that it’s less reliable, with only about one in three shots turning out free of artefacts even when taking the greatest care during shooting. You can see more of this on our resolution test page. Of course it’s possible our Pen-F sample wasn’t working perfectly.

The example below shows how well things can work on a good day. Comparing a 100% crop from the high resolution composite image to the same region of the standard 20MP file, upsampled to match, gives visibly more detail.

The crops shown below come from the area outliined in yellow

The crops shown below come from the area outlined in yellow

 

20MP standard mode upsampled to 50MP

High Resolution Composite mode

 

Standard mode, upsampled to match

Standard mode, upsampled to match the same area of the subject

 

The take-home message, from my testing, is that the PEN-F’s high resolution composite mode works but isn’t as reliable as that on the OM-D E-M5 II. If you really need this kind of detail on a regular basis, it makes more sense to buy a genuinely high resolution camera, despite the fact that they’re generally rather more expensive.

  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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