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Thread: Olympus Pen F Review

  1. #1
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    Default Olympus Pen F Review

    Dubbed the "Masterpiece" craftsmanship camera, Pen F combines the best of image quality with classic design (taking some design off the classic 1963 Pen F), and promises a fast, snappy experience. Digital Pen F rather takes a rangefinder style design with EVF on left rear side of the camera

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    It's so clean that you can't find a single screw on the body even at the bottom, and possibly a nightmare for the repair guys.

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    Pen F is designed to be a new premium range, rather than replacing the Pen Series E-P5, targeting at documentary, reportage and travel photographers.

    Let's take a quick look at the key highlights and some new functions which I will mainly be focusing on in the review.

    Key Features

    1. Classic design styling with masterpiece"craftsmanship and finish quality
    2. New 20 megapixel Live MOS sensor
    3. 5-axis VCM Image Stabilisation (in-built) with up to 5 EV*1 stability
    4. New Creative Dial allows quick access to:
    a) Monochrome Profile – simulate B&W films
    b) Colour Profile - simulates characteristics of classic colour films
    c) Art Filter
    d) Colour Creator
    5. New High-res Shot captures 50MP JPEG or 80MP RAW shots
    6. Shortest shutter release lag*2 in the compact system camera class of 44ms
    7. 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder with aspherical optics for ultra-low viewing distortion (100% view; 0.62xmagnification)
    8. Swivel 3.0 inch Touchscreen LCD with 1037k dots
    9. Full-HD movie with 5-axis IS stability(24, 25, 30 or 60 fps frame rates)
    10. Silent Mode for stealth shooting
    11. Built-in Wi-Fi when coupled with OI.Share app for smart devices (iOS & Android) enables camera remote control; image and video transfer for social sharing

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Ergonomics...
    Well, certainly not the best in m43 bodies, there's no grip at all, though it would certainly almost kill the design/notion to have the simplistic clean lines of original Pen F. Mount the primes fine, kit lenses fine, PRO lenses you would struggle to hold for too long, though the intended photographers Pen F is pitching for might not be looking at using PRO lenses most of the time. If so, there's always the OMD line of cameras to go with.

    Olympus does have a well thought optional grip accessory, ECG-4. If you should want to have a better ergo (at some expense of looks imo). It's also has an arca swiss compatible base so can fit to any arca swiss ballheads. With a lens centre marker, panorama photographers should rejoice. The screw requires a smaller sized allen key (there's no slot for a small coin) from most ballheads so if you misplace or forget to bring it, it can be cumbersome to remove the grip from body. Nonetheless, a great option for those who travel with tripods and will handle with larger lenses.

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    Moderator keithwee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    the ECG4-4 looks useful for those with larger hands. Otherwise the Pen F looks very apt paired with a Oly 12/2 or a Oly 17/1.8

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Design...
    - Leatherette skin all around, even to the point of the lens release button, and rear side of LCD screen! I used to buy Aki Asahi skins to paste it myself, it's good to see the details the designers went to make this feels and looks premium.
    - Aluminium knurled knobs with a stiff yet tactile feedback for the On/Off button, Exposure compensation dial, and 2 mode dials, this is useful to prevent accidental change and trancends a solid built to the camera.
    - There's no more 2x2 dial, which I still find it little hard to get used to. The new exposure compensation dial will also takes some getting used to as it's something new for me.
    - On/Off button on the left means 1 hand operation will be hindered. Not an issue for me really.
    - All dials are of circular form, maintaining an overall balanced aesthetics
    - Swivel screen vs tilt screen...rather ambivalent thoughts about this. For street photography, I do prefer tilting screen as it's faster to tilt and use the touchscreen to capture a moment, while swivel takes a considerably longer time and less stealth with a protrusion. For landscapes though, it's very useful to have a swivel.
    - EVF placement...I like it alot! Much lesser smudges on the LCD, and can keep both eyes open to see what's happening from the left eye. It's good to note that the eyecup is integrated, won't slide off like the OMDs. This means that onboard flash won't have any room. Pen F comes bundled with FL-LM3 flash which swivels.
    - Shutter button has female thread for soft release button, purely for further camera aesthetic enhancement reasons.
    Last edited by wonglp; 28th January 2016 at 01:01 AM.

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    One of the features is the new 20MP sensor, at this stage, it's hard to determine the Dynamic Range compared to previous 16MP as Raw is not supported unless using Olympus Viewer 3 software v2.0, I had gotten a beta version of it, but the rendering with the software is very slow on my computer, I just used it for some other review which will be shown later.
    For the interest, the high res Jpegs 50MP (8160x6120) from camera Large super fine settings gives about 20MB file size, High Res Raw is about 130MB! and if you use OV3 software, somehow you can churn out 80MP of jpeg of about 30-35MB.

    While it can be rather mind boggling to have such details from such a small camera, but not able to handhold it in this mode does restrict the use to landscape photography . A good way to use this is have a post shutter delay in the high res mode, else even a slight pressing of the shutter button will incur a shake. I find myself using this quite a bit as I do alot of long exposure photography, but for those who don't will find this feature much less practical.

    Here's a High Resolution shot out of camera to show what it can do.



    And for high resolution of it, can check out here.
    Last edited by wonglp; 28th January 2016 at 02:03 AM.

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Quote Originally Posted by keithwee View Post
    the ECG4-4 looks useful for those with larger hands. Otherwise the Pen F looks very apt paired with a Oly 12/2 or a Oly 17/1.8
    Agreed bro. Even Oly 75/1.8 fits well on it without grip

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    Default

    Another high resolution shot, to show the clarity of details at 100% crop. Shot with Olympus 7-14mm Pro.

    6sec, F6.3, ISO80, 7mm. No sharpening, some post process on Lightroom to show dynamic range from jpeg file, however, this is ISO80, with the base at ISO200, I should get even better dynamic range, I shall revisit this again. Blue box shows the crop. Can you see the wordings of the cropped image? I can see the car plates as well, though I shall leave it to the viewers to have a look at the Hi Res 50MP jpeg here.



    Last edited by wonglp; 28th January 2016 at 02:05 AM.

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    Some street photography using New Monochrome Profiles that simulates B+W, this is activated by turning the control dial found in the front of the camera - I use preset profile 2 mainly with orange filter and medium grain for the following shots. All shots are OOC jpegs. I find that having a dial specially for this makes me use it more, just like using Ricoh GR which has a filter button to access to the filters straight away. And the fact that monochrome has filter effects makes learning how each colour filter affects the tonality and mood of the shot to be useful and realtime. you can add grains from Low,Med to High, or just turn it off if you prefer no grains. Vs the grainy film B&W art filter, there's much more details I get out of the shot with this new feature.

    With Olympus 17mm @F1.8, 1/30s, ISO1600



    With 17mm @F1.8, 1/15s, ISO1600


    With Olympus 75mm, @F1.8, 1/25s,ISO36400


    With Olympus 75mm, @F1.8, 1/50s,ISO3200



    With Olympus 75mm, @F1.8, 1/50s,ISO6400
    Last edited by wonglp; 28th January 2016 at 02:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Here's a collage of a same shot to show the effects of adding different intensities of grains. Shot in Raw+Jpg and processed in Olympus Viewer 3 v2.0 beta. unlike the art filters though, you can't do this post process with raw file in camera, hope that they will add this functionality in future firmware update.

    ISO6400 shot.

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    A shot of using different color filters on this image, again RAW processed by Olympus Viewer 3 v2.0 beta. All this can be seen on the LCD while you tweak and decide which filter works best for you.


    Different color profiles shot from the above same file(can click on image and zoom in to see more)


    And this is the Jpeg file with some tweaking (highlights, shadows, clone corner) in Lightroom
    Last edited by wonglp; 28th January 2016 at 10:24 PM.

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    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    The look of this camera + hi-res mode had me thinking about buying m4/3 again.....

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    The look of this camera + hi-res mode had me thinking about buying m4/3 again.....
    As subjective as the looks, buttons placement and ergonomics goes with this camera, I do think it attracts most people based on the launch I went few days back. No love for the new color and monochrome profile?

    Am trying to get hold a couple of sets for an informal meetup next week. If you are keen to test feel free to join

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Quote Originally Posted by wonglp View Post
    As subjective as the looks, buttons placement and ergonomics goes with this camera, I do think it attracts most people based on the launch I went few days back. No love for the new color and monochrome profile?

    Am trying to get hold a couple of sets for an informal meetup next week. If you are keen to test feel free to join
    Thanks for the heads up

    I'm not really into in-camera colour manipulation or monochrome(unless I'm shooting with the M Monochrom) so those didn;t excite me as much as the hi-res mode. BTW, I noticed that you are taking cityscapes with f/6.4 or f/7.1? If that the sweet spot with sufficient DOF?

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    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    oh yes, for the bulk and weight, would you think it's comparable to the x-t10?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post

    Thanks for the heads up

    I'm not really into in-camera colour manipulation or monochrome(unless I'm shooting with the M Monochrom) so those didn;t excite me as much as the hi-res mode. BTW, I noticed that you are taking cityscapes with f/6.4 or f/7.1? If that the sweet spot with sufficient DOF?
    F6.3/7.1 is similar dof to f12.6/14.2. It's rather the sweet spot for m43 and lens sharpness in f6.3-8 range. For cityscapes that's pretty much enough. And for hi res there's a 8sec,F8 limit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    oh yes, for the bulk and weight, would you think it's comparable to the x-t10?
    Pen F: 125 x 72 x 37 mm, 427g with battery
    XT10: 118.4 x 82.8x 40.8mm, 381g with battery.

    Pen F is slightly broader, thinner as no grip, shorter as evf is at the side hence no "hump".

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    The other new feature on Pen F is the colour profile, which you can have presets or define your own film looking colours. Here's some with Preset 2 (Chrome Film Rich) and Preset 3 (Chrome Film Vivid - even more saturated than Preset 2).

    This feature allows user to control the saturation of 12 colours individually to achieve desired results. Only selected colour will change during adjustment.



    Here's some shots on both.
    With Olympus 75/1.8, Preset 2.


    With Olympus 7-14mm Pro, Preset 3.





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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Did a lot of touchscreen snap and go shots.

    Got proof I use touchscreen here , a retrospective shot of a local actor, preset 3


    He was wondering what I was doing. Olympus 7-14Pro.


    With 12mm F2

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Some conclusion with a week or so with the Pen F, had since returned to Olympus since last Tuesday. If anyone would like to have a handson, some retailers (Cathay, TK foto) has it and taking orders.

    As subjective as looks is, I will give this a thumbsup, with a fantastic built quality to match. With regards to ergonomics, using with primes will not be an issue, while Pro zooms you probably want to add on the optional ECG-4 grip. Dials layout does take some time to get used to, e.g. compensation dial.

    As far as image quality, it's still excellent as before especially using High Resolution mode (tripod mounted) with amazing details, but in terms of dynamic range and hi iso, there really isn't much improvement to be seen from the jpgs, even though the sensor has been upgraded to a 20MP one, at least not the jump I've seen from EP3 to EM5 few years back. For a landscape photographer like myself, this mode will be useful even for panoramas, though it won't be for say a street/portraiture photographer.

    The side EVF (rangefinder style) though hasn't emulate the original Pen F, having it at the side does help in making the overall camera shorter (humpless), and I do like the fact the eyecup can't be removed. Reminiscing the days of using Pen EP5 + VF4 (EVF), sometimes, it's just a pain to remove VF4 or just to bring this additional accessory. Personally, a tilt screen instead of swivel would have been better for a quicker and stealthier operation. One thing I realized was the right side of the screen got hot rather fast, I'm not sure if this happened with other sets.

    The new color film profile and monochrome dial may appeal to some street photographer for jpeg shooting out of camera, while raw shooters might moot the idea. I was skeptical at first, as the dial consist of Art + color creator as well, modes which I hardly much. But after using it, the ease to change from regular shooting to monochrome (I do like this very much, probably can tell from the review shots) with a dial change makes things simple. Plus these days, transfer shot via wifi to phone, and post up to instagram/facebook, didn't find a need even for snapseed/vscocam editing. Simply, this is the next best street camera I've used since Ricoh GR, which for the size, stealthiness, is still quite unbeatable, though Pen F represents a very versatile camera that is snappy, classy and stylish good for street/daily/travel. Put on a nice strap, soft button, leather case, it's bound to turn heads. When in doubt, shoot Raw+Jpeg, post process in Olympus Viewer 3 v2.0. I had seen the monochrome presets there, but seems like color profile is missing. The overall experience of using the Pen F from changing the color channels of the monochrome to suit the taste, to using the evf or using touchscreen snap to loading the shot onto social media, is seamless and enjoyable.

    If weather proof/DSLR-looks is what you want, there's EM5, EM5markII, EM1, if you want it cheaper & less weather sealed, there's EM10/10MarkII, if you like Rangefinder style and vintage looking lifestyle camera, the Pen F is for you. If you want the lightest weight and not mind not having EVF, there's EPL7. With such plethora of choices, there should be a camera that fits you, question is always the budget vs needs

    Will continue to post some more shots in this review.

    Hope the review presents some clarity of the Pen F and new features and feel free to ask any questions, for pricing please do check with the retailers.
    Last edited by wonglp; 1st February 2016 at 01:59 AM.

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    Default Re: Olympus Pen F Review

    Swivel screen was useful here. Olympus 17/1.8. Monochrome, preset 2, cropped shot otherwise out of camera




    Olympus 17/1.8, F1.8, ISO3200, out of camera jpeg



    Olympus 17/1.8, out of camera jpeg


    Olympus 25/1.8, cropped.

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