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Monday, 01 February 2016


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That dial on the front of the camera gives me fits. Could they not think of something better?

Gordon Lewis is the anti-GAS.

Hopefully this article has ended the mental inventory of what I would sell to buy this camera and I can go back to taking some pictures.

Congratulations to Olympus. It only took them seven years to realize people wanted a camera with an integrated viewfinder in the PEN range.
With some luck, in the next ten years or so they'll finally realize the 4/3 sensor is impeding their progression.
Nice style, though...

I had one of the original Pen-F's, which turned out to have a less than reliable shutter (my first SLR). But looking forward to this digital one. (Incidentally, there was no accessory shoe on the original).

A "reality check" for a camera that isn't in the hand of the writer? I don't find this very enlightened. Maybe it is a "word of caution" I guess.

Anyway Olympus has quite a few bodies out. Something cheaper or better exists for the potential customer in their catalog.
The EVF could be worth it with the other specifications, seeing how dpreview raves about it.

(and if Gordon does not look down on people enjoying premium accessories, making an entry on this defeats the purpose... I sort of sense that if Olympus did not release leather straps, the comment could have been how a retro camera can be without retro accessories...)

"The street price is sure to drop after the PEN-F has been on the market for a while..."

The reviews were so good, that back in March 2015 I bought the Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII. This was right after it came out. Pretty sure the price was $1095. Within 2 months Olympus was offering a $200 rebate. Not a retailer doing the discounting, but Olympus themselves on their web-site. Was I angry? Yeah, you could say that.

"Olympus PEN-F Reality Check" is an apt title, Gordon. Of course you could just as accurately use nearly any camera model in the title, eh? The camera's role in image quality/value has been a contentious matter nearly since photography's gadget-laden birth. It's a subject that cannot be resolved on an internet blog...or anywhere else...because it's a relative matter.

But, regarding the Pen F, haven't we been here before? While I see that Oly has made some nice updates to their 2016 Pen maybe it should be called the "Pen Z" for Zombie!

Seriously, though, if this new Pen F becomes a catalyst for someone's deeper engagement in photography I'm all for it! Is it over-priced? Is it over-retroed? Again, such opinions are relative. Underneath its slightly cartoonish mid-century garb seems to be a very capable little camera begging to be handled and used.

Personally, I completely divested myself from the micro four-thirds system last year. With the exception of the Panny LX100 all my m43 cameras and lenses are gone. In the interest of practical storage space and frequency of actual usage I chose to stay with Fujifilm as my sole sub-full-frame system.

What's with the Leica pricing for the accessories? Dream on! Anyway, this camera is for having fun, so it's going to leave the tech geeks bewildered and upset - it would be nice if they just stayed away, actually. I refuse to give up any of my precious time here on earth processing photos in front of a computer, so, despite the flappy screen, I'll be placing my order as soon as the body hits $900.

I think in terms of design this is what Olympus should have done instead of the original E-P1. It is very appealing in a way, but I'm not interested. I used an E-P2 for a couple of years and was disappointed with the Micro Four Thirds lenses. Olympus seems to have bought into the idea that since geometric distortion can be corrected in software, there's no need to correct it optically. Significant barrel distortion is the norm with Olympus's lenses these days. I much prefer Fuji's X system.

I'm sure I qualify as a µ4/3 fan, with an embarrassing number of bodies and lenses, including digi Pens. Predominantly Oly, but including the rangefinder style layout Panny GX7,which I like and have used extensively. As a happy user of E-M5 IIs, I can't see where the Pen-F adds anything for me.

You do know that this is all about form factor, style and ergonomics, right? Nice for someone who needs a new camera body. Nice for Oly if it moves more hardware.

But underneath, the Pen-F is the innards of an E-M5 II with only two positive changes I can see, and a couple of negatives.

+1. A 20 MP sensor. That may sound like a big increase, but it's not. The increase in linear resolution is around 12%, just around the point where careful pixel peeping MIGHT show a tiny bit more fine detail. The couple of hands on reviews I've read so far can't find any increase for sure, but they are limited to Viewer 3 so far.

+2a. They have moved all the silly (to me) "creative" and scene modes to a separate dial on the front, which means it's finally possible to access all four Custom Settings sets directly from the Mode dial. A real improvement - except ...

-2b. With the add-on grip, Robin Wong finds his finger being attacked by the aggressive knurling on this front knob.

-1. No weather sealing. Importance depends on the user.

-2. What some may see as a step back. Although necessitated by the idea of recreating something visually rather like the original Pen-F(T), there is no front grip. That means additional shekels, size and weight for those who need a grip. From the pics, it seems that the add-on grip isn't very deep, nor very tall.

Oly has said they will offer an HR mode that can take all eight exposures in 1/60 sec. As far as I can tell, this isn't the camera to deliver that; the HR mode isn't any faster than on the E-M5 II. Not absolutely sure, but Oly would trumpet it, and no reviews say anything as yet.

Although not entirely style and ergonomics agnostic, I'm first about function. Compared to Oly's amazing recent innovations, the HR Mode and in-camera focus stacking and bracketing, this camera body breaks no new functional ground.

Actually I wonder if Olympus are not right ....m43 for small neat and able portable cameras ....and just maybe later FF for the small number who want the wafer thin DOF and even better high iso performance.
For the rest of us walkiing around all day ...or wanting to be "invisible" on the street the m43 looks a good compromise.

Pah, it's a marketing gimmick. If Olympus REALLY wanted to invoke the spirit of the old PEN-F (and make a groundbreaking camera in the process), they should have rotated the sensor and the mount 90 degrees.

After all, the PEN-F (and other half-frame cameras) were shot in portrait mode, not in landscape.

I've got most of the Oly prime lenses, and I need an Oly body (just have Pana bodies now), but I'm taking a pass...everything I read about the Olympus M-10 MkII at roughly half the price, is going to do it for me...

Now I have to start saving for that Phase One 100 megapixel...

Wonder if Olympus has already calculated $300 rebate into the retail price from the beginning?

When I first saw the suggested retail price - incidentally placed near a commercial on the current Olympus Lens rebates - I immediately came to think of the really, REALLY professional salesmen and ladies in all the bazars and markets around the world, that advertise and try hard to concentrate any bartering around amounts of discount (in percent ;-)

Fifty and seventy five percent discounts are the easy ones to calculate (sellers optimistic price x 2 or x 4 minus 50 or 75 percent discount equals sellers optimistic price ;-)

Looks like Olympus finally caught up to the Panasonic GX7.

I like the monotone control in this camera, and the new color film emulations. But I'll wait for all that to show up in an EM1 ll, possibly out next fall.

Regarding the automatic distortion correction, Fuji does the same thing, and even Leica does it now with their Q.

By way of memorabilia, anyone remember this?

Mi dos pesos

On cannot deny that as an aesthetic object, Olympus hit this one out of the park. If it's not the prettiest camera on the market by a country mile... what else beats it?

And these days, that matters. The market is saturated with me-too and frankly dull, functional offerings - it's nice to see someone give aesthetics a bit of thought. Well, quite a lot actually.

Heaven knows, it's been sorely lacking in the camera business for a very long time. Probably since the film version was around.

Finally ditched Fuji and switched to Sonolta. The Sony A6k and A5100 are nearly perfect cameras for everything I want to do, their AF is preposterously fast, the Sony 24 Mp APS-C sensors are superb… and you can pick up an A6000 AND an A5100 body, new, for under 900 bucks. The Fuji and micro 4/3 stuff is plenty nice, but the Sonolta value proposition is just unbeatable.

I'm absolutely sold on the OMD line - ditched my Canon APC gear and went with the EM5 and now enjoy the EM10 as I use the built in flash occasionally. I find the micro 4/3 to be the perfect blend of a compact body and lens system which produces a file that is beyond good enough for me. Yes, you can get better quality files with camera body and lens systems that are two to three times bigger than this, but for amateur photographers, the quality of modern micro 4/3 is great and the weight and portability make it a much more usable real world package for me. And on top of that, the focusing of the Olympus system is phenomenal. That being said, I don't get the hype over this product - yes, there is a slight uptick in resolution, but essentially the main thing this offers is the aesthetically different looking camera body. Fine if you have the extra money and camera aesthetics are a big deal to you - otherwise the other OMD's seem to make more sense to me. And lastly - yes, highly recommend the Oly 17 1.8 lens paired with these cameras for a normal all around lens.

Happy to see they took the phony pentaprism hump off, makes it a nicer-looking camera. It is now, essentially, a Panasonic GX8 (also a 20mp m4/3 that can use all the same lenses) except that the GX8 is weather-sealed and is now $200 cheaper than the Pen-F.

All those knobs should not be lightly dismissed. One of my continuing problems with the GX8 (which I love, otherwise) is that I keep inadvertently changing the white balance with one of those tiny little buttons on the back. The more knobs the better, I say.

I thought I would love the original Pen F but when I got it I didn't. The shutter speed dial on the front? I liked the OM-1 solution better, and maybe the dial on the top would have been better still.

And then I found I didn't like half-frame, every image I liked I ended up wishing I had shot on one of my Leicas. OK, maybe a Pen-f was a bad camera for a Leica M owner.

Of course now the IQ issues are less important, both the new Pen and my full frame cameras are capable machines. Maybe this one is actually better than it's inspiration? But the rewind knob? Hard to take.

Fair warning, the Sony A6000 comes with the genuine Sony not-really-a-raw-file raw file built right in at no extra charge. Except for the time you might spend trying to correct the problems their false raw file creates, it's an ok camera for well lit subjects. And the hair loss from tugging at your tresses whilst wondering what you are doing wrong? why that's just an added bonus. Thanks, Sony! (I hate you Sony).

Wonder if the old Pen F lenses will work on the camera?

One of the worst camera articles I've read in awhile. No hype, no excitement, no fervor. How can you not get excited about that camera?!? JUST LOOK AT IT, IT'S BEAUTIFUL! Anyone that knows anything about photography can tell it will take super-awesome pics. Look at all the buttons!


I came to Olympus by first buying a ridiculously cheap EPL-3 a few years ago. I came to really like both the images and the form factor. I upgraded to an EPL-5 and then eventually jumped on a very cheap EP-5. A real step up. That terrific 16MP sensor seems to punch above it's weight size wise, and the dials really made for a great ergonomic little machine. (Not withstanding having to have dials repaired twice thus far). It doesn't hurt that it looks pretty either. The Pen F certainly looks the business as well. But the price is eye watering - especially in the current market... as some previous posters have pointed out. I don't see Olympus moving them in huge numbers till that price falls below said eye watering level. Be interesting to watch how it unfolds. Or unravels?

This seems expensive for what it is? Unless you love the Instagram dial.

Within Micro 43, it's $200 more expensive than a Panasonic GX8 that offers everything it does plus weathersealing. It's $100 more expensive than an indestructible Olympus E-M1. It's $300 more expensive than an Olympus E-M5II which has a slightly older sensor, but otherwise has all the same features plus weathersealing.

Around the mirrorless world, you can have full-frame for around the same price (Sony A7), a much better sensor for half the price (A6000), or a sturdy, retro-styled camera with a better sensor for half the price (Fuji X-E2). A Fuji X-T1 is right in the same price range, and offers a best-in-class EVF, a better sensor, weathersealing and phase detection AF.

If you put in more, you get much more - if you're looking at a $1200 camera, a $1700 camera may not be out of the question, and you can choose between an X-Pro 2 with a world-beating 24 MP APS-C sensor, phase detection AF, weathersealing and dual card slots, or a Sony A7II - you lose the gorgeous body, but you get a 24 MP full-frame sensor with IBIS.

I'd call this a nice $800 camera Olympus is trying to sell for $1200? That's giving them credit for the body quality (remember that A6000 selling for $500 - not a great body and not as nice a lens line, but decidedly superior in other ways). An E-M5II is $900, subtract $100 for the weathersealing...

A small dose of reality.

The Olympus OMD EM-5 was introduced at US$1,299 and today, 4 years later, you can buy a new one for $379. Or, in other terms, for about 30% of its original cost.

I bought my EM-5 bodies used, when the EM-5 II came out, for less than half of the retail price so I have no complaints or regrets about my value proposition. Also, my images won't look better with the newer offerings from Olympus.

I predict that the Pen-F will follow the same cost curve. And so, I think that there is a $379 Pen-F in my future!

I had one of the original PENs. I really did not like the add on viewfinder so this is an improvement. I don't really see anything here that would make me switch from Fuji. The Fuji JPEG film simulations are really nice. I frequently shoot RAW + JPEG and end up using the JPEG. This camera appears to be adding a similar option. I already have the X Pro 2 on order and can't wait to ditch the DSLR styled XT1. I got it and have ended up using my original X Pro more. I have all the Fuji prime lenses except the 90 which I have no interest in and an X100T. That said it does like a very nice camera. Not so sure about that front dial.

The Olympus bodies leave me frustrated - great cameras, in most ways, but their bodies are promising interactions that their UI can;t deliver upon:) A body like this, I expect dials. usable, physical manifestations of my settings that I can see even when the camera is turned off.(because all these beasties eat batteries, whenever not active they are OFF) But here I get a JPG filter dial and...stuff. Fuji gets me.

I get not adding more depth by putting the shutter dial up front, but all this is is a paint job. Same annoying setup as a Sony but more money and smaller sensor, albeit with better glass.

If cameras had emotions then this one would have had a great sense of humor.
It's as far as can be from a "seious photographic tool". To me it conveys a spirit of playfulness and childish joy. I don't care about its sensor etc. or how quirky it is. I just want to hold it and have fun.

I'm patiently waiting for the EM-1 II. Meanwhile, I'm having a blast with the EM-5 II and the EPL-5/VF-4 combo. The 300mm f/4 looks damn appealing. Unfortunately, it's beyond my budget.

I understand that Leica has sold all 250 sets of the special Lenny Kravitz designed M-P 'Correspondent' edition at $25,000 a set.

So here I present the prototype Hugh Crawford 'Pen-Pal' edition if anyone is interested!

Sweet spot!

After all these years a digital camera that comes near to my old beloved Contax G1. Even its lenses have the same discrete sizes, what cannot be said about the Sony and Fuji competitors.
I already can figure myself at the shop counter, still doubting between the black and the silver version. And I also already know that my salesman is going to say the same thing as the last time I was standing there hesitating:
"Have them both!"

I'm neither a Leica expert nor a designer but I suspect the main purpose of the front dial is to make this camera even more like the Leica 111F in appearance.
See photo here http://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/screw-mount/iiif.htm

Liking the look of this. I had an EP1 a few years back and, looking back, I shot some great pictures with it but missed a proper viewfinder. I've been thinking about the XPRO-2 but this looks smaller and lighter. Noted.

I am relieved to learn that Gordon Lewis actually lives in Philadelphia, rather than merely being based there.

It is an interesting looking camera. Finally, Olympus has decided to put a viewfinder in a "Pen" instead of sticking a huge ugly stick-on thing on top. It isn't tiltable, which I used to consider mandatory after getting used to the stick-on thing in my EP3. But after using the built-in mess that Panasonic used in their GX7, I decided that I could use the movable LCD instead.

Hopefully Olympus has stuck with "blinkies" for blown highlights which has allowed me to control exposure to a better degree than any other camera I have ever owned. In spite my disgust with some of the company's past (and recent) practices, I might consider one after the price drops and the bugs are known and worked out and I can unload the GX7 for a few hundred dollars.

I think the PEN-F is a beautiful camera to look at, however I'm not so interested in shooting with it because of the vari-angle monitor—never mind it's high price tag.

Yes, in most reviews I've read for various Olympus cameras, this is a well received addition to their camera bodies. But I don't want it. I want to shoot from the hip more times than not, and the idea of flipping the screen out to the side to then tilt upwards is not desirable to me. If only it came with the simpler tilt screen of the E-PL7 then it would be a more ideal street camera.

Basically, I'm in agreement with Moose's and Crabby Umbo's assessments.

I'm afraid I'm now completely bored with the obsession the major manufacturers have with producing endless expensive retro design cameras with minor differences in features and usability. I'm sure it's profitable business, but I'm finding it increasingly hard to stay awake when I see yet another new model which looks a bit like a classic old model.

I have kept a Nikon Fm2 soley for the reason it feels good to shoot, what with the metal and leather feel. If I had kept a Leica (could not stand the reloading of film in them), it would be the same idea. I think if Sony would come out with a 'retro' look, I would buy one just for the heft and tactile feel of it.

Or you can buy a really nice, clean original Leica IIIf black dial, with a nice 5cm Elmar lens, and if you buy well, do it for less than half of this body alone, and have every last possible fiddly, tactile, aesthetic itch scratched until the cows come home.

I know because I did just that.

Is it a go-to daily shooter? Not necessarily, but it is pure, unadulterated joy to shoot pictures with it.

No .jpeg in-camera processing for emulsion effects required either. It's the real thing!

As Len noted above, as I've been saying elsewhere, this camera really does take at least part of its styling cues from the IIIf.

Quote: "I’m just under no illusion that a particular style or brand of camera will make me a better street and travel photographer than I already am. Only hard work and more travel will do that. This is not to say you have to feel the same way."

Man, I do feel exactly the same.
And you're so right, the new Pen is crazy expensive.
My Panasonic GM5 is still great and doesn't limit my photography, even though it lacks a tilting screen. (Hint: Leica cameras don't have tilting screens either ;-))
I love my GM5!


I have to admit that I was excited when I saw the first pictures of the Pen-F. I've been very happy with my Panasonic GX-7 and I'm a big fan of the rangefinder layout for digital cameras. That's why I've been "meh" about Olympus' M4/3s cameras. Most of my lenses for the GX-7 are Olympus lenses, so the prospect of getting an Olympus camera for them is appealing. Plus the 50 mp hi-rez setting is tempting as well. If the low light, high ISO settings look good, I'm sold. And since my first serious camera was an OM-1n, there's a ready-made nostalgia working in its favor. I'm already planning on getting one.

It looks nice, absolutely. And you and all other commentators describe it as a 'rangefinder style' camera. But therein lies the rub. It has no rangefinder, so what is it really? Just another nice looking retro box with too many buttons and automatic features to be a real rangefinder.

And if you want a real one (made of metal and leather and glass) there are loads out there. For next to no money too. I'd just bought an Olympus Pen D (£30) a week or two ago and since then a rather nice FED 2 (£25). That way I can have the real thing and enjoy the feeling which those who buy this actually crave. You can decide who will likely have the most fun!

I wouldn't call it a rangefinder camera. The initial most popular rangefinder cameras - the Kodak 3a, the huge Graflex- looked nothing like this.

This looks more line the most popular camera model of all time- the Kodak Instamatic.

It is a flat-top, like the nice Panasonic GX7 which I sold. Because I was able to buy a teeny tiny Panasonic GM5 to take the same lenses for about a third of what this new Olympus sells for.

But this new Pen F has a new sensor, and I'm always interested in what news sensors can do wrt B&W. I've looked at B&W samples on some of the more popular "review" sites, sites that also trumpeted that this new F can shoot in Tri-X simulation.

The images I saw looked nothing like Tri-X. They looked nothing like film. They were washed out acres of white interrupted by black shadows, lacking almost any semblance of mid-range tones. The "reviewers" claimed they were doing that to be arty, not to show what the new camera can do. Thus I'm really looking forward to some B&W samples that show what this new camera can do.

I gotta admit it looks like a darn good camera and pretty much what
I am looking to upgrade to, but at $1199 I think i will try and hold off for awhile to see some more reviews and for the price to come down some. Than again if i sell my EM10 and GM5 it would take some of the sting out if the price, and trying to rationalize it could probably suffice to replace both of those cameras for my needs.

Logic tells me to wait awhile, heck Panasonic may even come up with some equally desirable camera at CP+. A GM7 with IBIS and a better view finder at close to the same size as the GM5 anyone?

If i can just get thru the next couple of weeks without ordering the new Pen I will be fine. Trouble is that is the hardest part.

It looks great, and I have experienced just a twinge of temptation - but hang on, the magnification of the viewfinder is not only smaller than the GX8, it's smaller than the GX7 too (the latter is a real bargain at the moment). Particularly on a certain 'other website', not unaffiliated to Amazon, there seems to be an outbreak of Pen-F euphoria. i don't get it. I thought serious photography-orientated websites were supposed to be somewhat immune to corporate marketing pressures - either internal or from manufacturers.

Wow,that front dial. I can just set it to "art" and then every picture I take will be a masterpiece. Then there is "crt". I can't wait to have my image look like a cathode ray tube.

Hummm, put the new Pana/Leica 200-400 zoom on my E-M5 II and the 17, Pana/Leica 25 or 45 on the Pen-F and I reckon I've got a compact kit that covers all the bases.

The unpleasant part is the penny-inching marketing decision made by Olympus. This Pen F should have included the phase-detect autofocus system found in the E-M1. All new Olympus cameras should have this.

Olympus cameras are great for many people, and if I were into shooting action the E-M1 would be top choice. The Pen F will do well as a travel, street and family camera.

Camera designers can put an EVF anywhere, and to me it makes way more sense to have it over on the left, like a rangefinder camera, than in the middle, like an SLR. There's no mirror constraining the design, and my eye isn't in the middle either.

The Pen F is what the Pen series should have been from the beginning. The viewfinder-less Pens were always non-starters for me.

On the other hand, the Pen F has that ugly, useless and anti-ergonomic dial on the front.

On balance, if it had been priced at $500-$600, I'd have bought one already. At $800, I'd have to think about it for a while. At $1200 they're just not serious. I'm sure they'll sell some, but not to me. As some others here have said, I'll wait six months or a year and get one for $395.

I'm sold on this camera, completely irrationally so. I've been an Olympus user for quite a while. The MFT line really intrigued me from the beginning (previously I was a Nikon shooter), and when the Panasonic GF-1 became chronically unavailable I bought the E-P2. That was in 2010. I just went back and reviewed some of the photos I took during that year and realized its was one of the most productive and creative years I had. I subsequently upgraded to the E-P3 (the E-P2 went to a family member), then and OM-D E-M5 soon after it was released (the E-P3 going to someone I met on travel who fell in love with the design). I've purchased a lot of Olympus glass (the pro lenses are amazing) and have done a huge variety of work.

I'm not a pro by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm very happy with what I've invested into the my MFT, and particularly Olympus systems.

I tried to love Panasonic (briefly owned a GH2 for two weeks) and generally find their cameras and lenses to be a bit soulless (except for the 20mm f/1.7, which despite the hideously slow focusing is one of my favorite lenses of all time).

I'm already in love with the Pen-F, and am selling off old unused gear, cashing in rewards points, and using a portion of my next tax refund (usually small, because I plan ahead and don't like to loan the government money) to finance it.


I love the Pen form factor. I love the size. I love the mode dial on the front.


I rarely ever go back and reprocess old raw files, and have extended that philosophy to trying to capture the image I want into jpeg at the time of capture. That means choosing color rendering before heading out and sticking with it. The 'mysets' in my OM-D helps with that, and with a dial to switch between color and black and white rendering, as well as dials to instantly go to four custom settings, I'm sold. Additionally, the integrated viewfinder and articulating screen makes me drool.

If I had hit mirrorless a few years later, with the arrival of the X-Pro 1, I would probably be a huge Fuji fan. As it stands, I've invested a lot into the MFT platform and this camera hits so many sweet spots for me, even if they are irrational.

Will the camera price drop? Most definitely. Are there other options that do similar things better in some ways? Yeah, the GX-8 for example. Is there anything else that intersects my set of needs like this camera? No.

I make my living do things that are not photography. If I did, I would be a full-time CaNikon user. Instead, I do this for love, and when I saw this camera (more so than I did with the E-M1 and E-M5 II) I saw happiness beyond what I was getting with my E-M5.

That's why I'm buying it as soon as possible. All of the arguments against it are sound, except when the tool lends itself to creative expression in spite of its shortcomings.

I'm not here for "best", I'm here to be happy.

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