Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Musings on the new Olympus Pen-F

Advertising for the new Olympus Pen F
The new Olympus Pen-F starts shipping this month (here in New Zealand) and, not surprisingly, it's creating a lot of internet buzz. Breaking away from the more consumer oriented Pen series cameras, Olympus have created the Pen-F to appeal to the more 'enthusiast' end of the camera market. Yeah - you and me :-)

As someone who loves the early Olympus Pen film cameras (aesthetically speaking at least), this new 'digital' Pen is indeed very enticing. I'll admit that if a large bucket of cash landed in my lap this month, the first thing I'd do (after paying off the mortgage and all that other boring stuff), is go out and get the Pen-F. In a heartbeat. Why?

Well, for a start, the internet buzz and early reviews of this camera coming in from the USA has been overwhelmingly positive. It's a superbly made, fantastic looking (let's not deny it) Olympus Pen with a built-in OLED electronic viewfinder (finally for a Pen camera), 20 megapixel sensor with the amazing 5 axis image stabilisation that we've come to know and love.

Top View of the new Pen-F
As you can see from the top-down view, the new Pen also places many of the cameras more important functions (like exposure correction) on the outside of the camera for quick access. All advertising for the camera so far has centred around street shooting, and the Pen-F certainly gives off a strong street-shooters vibe (a-la Fuji's cameras).

I'm not a street shooter though, so why else would I be interested in the Pen-F? Well, for a start, I am looking for a back-up camera for my EM-5 MkII, and so a small, light, and fully featured camera like the Pen-F would be just the ticket as a second body. I'm writing this blog post while off work for a week with a torn disc in my back. While not camera related, this nevertheless makes me ever more aware of my ageing body (I'm approaching 50!) and desire to cut down on the gear that I carry. Just a year ago I was a firm believer in the 'bigger is better' (heavier is better) approach to photography. But that was before the EM-5 MkII changed all that. Now I'm even loathed to put an external grip on my cameras, whereas when I was a DSLR shooter it was the first accessory I purchased.

So a small, light (relatively) and fully-featured compact Pen body like the Pen-F would be just the ticket as a back-up/second body combination with the EM-5 MkII. In reality, I'll probably end up getting a second hand Panasonic G 'something' or earlier consumer line Pen, since the bucket full of cash probably won't eventuate :-(

Olympus Pen-F in all black
Why bang-on about the Pen-F at all then, since I'm not likely to get one? Well, one feature excites me above all others on the new Pen-F, that I'm hoping I will get to have eventually on the EM-5 MkII. And that's the new colour modes, controlled on the Pen-F by that funky dial on the front of the camera.

With this new dial on the Pen-F, you can get to some very cool new monochrome and colour presets. There are three in each, with a 'normal, Tri-X style and infrared mode' in the monochrome set (each with varying levels of grain selectable) - while the colour sets give a 'chrome' look to jpegs (again similar to the Fuji film simulations that people love). This is VERY cool, and very exciting. And I hope that it's just a firmware tweak so that these settings will eventually be available as an upgrade for the EM-5 MkII? Please Olympus.....

Olympus look to have another stellar product in the Pen-F. A recent interview with Japanese executives from the camera division seemed to indicate that the Pen-F is a 'test' camera for them. A toe-in-the-water for a higher class of enthusiast-level Pen cameras. If it sells well (and I think that it will, despite it's initial high asking price), then we may well see more of this style of fully-featured Pen down the track. I certainly hope so.


  1. thanks for these intelligent musings ....i love this and will dust off my old ep1 primes when i get one ....

  2. Interesting review, it's a lovely camera, thanks. Maybe as a companion to my film cameras...


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