Olympus PEN-F review

March 14, 2016

Olympus PEN-F

  • Features:
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  • Metering:
  • Autofocus:
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  • - 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


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



Price as Reviewed:

£999.99 (Body only)

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)

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.

  • Sensor: 20.3-million-pixel Four Thirds MOS
  • Output size: 5184 x 3888
  • Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length magnification: 2x
  • Shutter speeds: 60-1/8000 sec; 60-1/16000sec electronic
  • ISO sensitivity: ISO 80-25600 (extended)
  • Exposure modes: PASM, iAuto, Scene
  • Metering modes: 324 zone-ESP, spot, centre-weighted, Highlight, Shadow
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3 steps
  • Continuous shooting: 10fps; 5fps with AF tracking
  • Screen: 3.0" 1.04-million-dot fully-articulated touchscreen
  • Viewfinder: 2.36-million-dot OLED, 0.62x magnification
  • AF points: 81-point contrast detect AF
  • Video: Full HD (1920 x 1080), 30, 25 or 24 fps
  • External mic: No
  • Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Power: BLN-1 rechargeable Li-ion
  • Battery life: 330 shots (CIPA standard)
  • Dimensions: 124.8 x 72.1 x 37.3mm
  • Weight: 427g inc. battery and card

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