Olympus goes back to the 60’s with its new Olympus Pen F Micro Four Thirds camera

Written by Gary on January 28th, 2016

Olympus has just announced a new style of Micro Four Thirds camera which harks back to the days of their very popular interchangeable lens half frame Pen F film camera of the 1960’s.

PenF

Pen F rear

images courtesy of theverge.com

You do have to admit it does look quite nice and for the most part it is an extremely capable camera adopting most of the features of the 2015 ILC camera of the year, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, and then adds a few plus a new sensor.

The new top left position of the EVF will attract many who have been longing for this as it allows better use of the left eye to watch the scene and avoids your nose hitting the rear LCD.

Olympus now have 3 separate camera styles in its Micro Four Thirds line up:

  • the OM-D line with its central SLR-like EVF hump on top
  • the Pen F line with a left positioned EVF
  • the Pen line with no EVF built-in but optional EVF

As an aside, sales of these Olympus mirrorless ILC cameras have surged in Japan taking Olympus to 34% of all ILC sales in Japan, well in front of Sony, Canon and Panasonic.

The new 20mp Live MOS sensor is presumably the same one as in the Panasonic GX-8 and gives marginally more pixels of dubious benefit but does seem to have better noise at high ISO than the aging but excellent 16mp in the other Olympus cameras.

The 20mp also means that the 8-shot HiRes mode of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II is now 50mp instead of 40mp.

Apart from weathersealing, a few function buttons, 2×2 switch, mic plug, and the higher magnification EVF, there appears to be little else left out from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.
Pen FT

ABOVE: The Olympus Pen FT film camera of the 1960’s (image courtesy of klassic-cameras) – left positioned viewfinder (and lens) but no top dials and at least you could see the shutter speed and aperture when looking down on it.

Personally, I think it looks more aesthetic than the old film camera, but for some reason, Olympus have gone overboard with top dials – the On-Off switch is now a dial on top left, they have added an exposure compensation dial which not only is unnecessary but users have reported it is hard to change requiring two digits.

If they are going down this track like Fuji, they should start supporting Panasonic’s aperture rings which they have on some of their lenses (and which are totally ignored by Olympus camera bodies to date) so that users can just look down on their camera and see the selected aperture and exposure compensation

Furthermore, their front picture mode dial, whilst looking nice appears to cause pressure on your fingers exacerbated by its rough edges – perhaps this is not so much an issue if you use the almost mandatory optional ECG-4 grip.

The camera is clearly targeting those who want to get everything processed in camera rather than shoot RAW and process on a computer which is my preference.

To this end, Olympus have added new monochrome and colour controls as well as adding a mid-tone controller to their highlight-shadow tone curve controller, so users can tweak their images and even pre-visualise these effects in the EVF, which I must admit can inspire creativity by viewing the world differently and seeing new creative options.

Olympus have also added a few other new useful features, such as:

  • spot metering can now be at the AF spot
  • can save manually inputted EXIF data for legacy lenses – very handy indeed!
  • 4 custom setting modes on the top PASM dial

And of course it has most of the great features of the E-M5 Mark II such as:

  • 5 axis image stabilisation – the best in the world
  • 77Mbps 1080/60p full HD video with awesome IS to allow steady hand held videos and focus peaking
  • fast CDAF
  • Hi Res mode
  • auto HDR mode
  • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec and up to 10fps
  • silent electronic shutter to 1/16,000th sec and up to 20fps
  • all those wonderful long exposure modes such as Live Composite, Live Timed, etc.
  • Live Boost and optical viewfinder simulation
  • swivel, articulating, touch  LCD screen which can be used as a AF point controller while using the EVF
  • ART filters
  • TruePic VII Image processing engine
  • WiFi with smartphone remote control
  • intervalometer – can create 4K movies
  • bundled compact tilt/swivel/bounce FL-LM3 flash (GN 9m at ISO 100)

Despite my nit-picking, it is yet another awesome Micro Four Thirds camera which will be attractive to many and take great images, although the price point of $US1199 seems a touch high for a camera such as this without weathersealing and it really does not have substantive advantages over the E-M5 Mark II other than the EVF position and being a fraction smaller.

More details and links to reviews, etc on my wiki page.

Compared to the Panasonic GX-8:

Presumably has the same sensor, and both are priced the same.

The Pen F has the following advantages:

  • better image stabilisation
  • fully articulating LCD not just tilting
  • Olympus long exposure modes, ART filters, monotone and colour creator controls
  • EVF less bulky
  • HiRes mode
  • closest eye AF
  • 81AF points not just 49
  • 1080HD video offers more modes incl. 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p plus better image stabilisation
  • lighter at 427g instead of 487g
  • smaller

The GX-8 has the following advantages:

  • higher magnification EVF which tilts up but is more bulky
  • AF burst capability better at 8fps instead of 5fps
  • perhaps better C-AF
  • 100Mbps 4K video at 30p/24p as well as 1080 60p/30p plus mic port
  • post-focus mode allows users to select different focus points after shot is taken via 4K 30fps shots
  • splashproof
 

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