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