Premiere and review: The Olympus PEN F

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After being limited to 16MP for nearly four years, we now have a marginal increase in resolution – to 20MP, matching the Panasonic GX8 announced last year (and quite possibly sharing the same sensor, too). The PEN F is another retro-tastic design clearly inspired by the original film half-frame PEN F, right down to the knob on the front vertical face of the camera. It is also yet another subdivision of a niche by Olympus of its EVF cameras – we have the photo-centric E-M1, the video-centric E-M5II, the budget-centric E-M10II, and now the PEN F. One thing that struck me throughout the test period was that the camera really feels as though it’s geared towards the JPEG shooter (or, more likely, the social media crowd). It’s the first all-new ‘serious’ camera from Olympus in a couple of years – so how does it perform?

Thank you to Olympus Malaysia for the loan. Note that all images were processed in Olympus Raw Viewer 3, and then run through my usual photoshop workflow; as such it’s difficult for me to make objective and comparative statements about image quality as this is not my normal workflow and one cannot compare it to other cameras easily. What I can do for now is assess how this particular workflow performs, and that’s what I’ll be doing later. Additional images will be posted to this flickr gallery.

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Under the hood, the PEN F will be familiar to shooters of recent Olympus cameras. It has pretty much the same menu system, the same high degree of customizability, the same selection of drive modes (various combinations of electronic front/rear/mechanical shutters, high resolution sensor shift mode) and possible button assignments. It even has the same unergonomic lug placement that will dig the bit between your index and middle fingers if you choose to use the supplied D rings. The body is of a high quality, with metal that looks and feels like metal, and no creaks or rattles. I can’t help but feel the chrome would be interesting if offset with something other than black leather, and no doubt third parties will offer that option in short order. Unfortunately, despite the solidness of the construction, the body is not weather sealed at all – there are no visible gaskets on any of the port or compartment covers, so you would be well advised to keep it away from rain.

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There are no fewer than six metal dials on the camera’s top plate – one for power in the top left that could be a little stiffer to avoid accidental operation; a lockable mode dial with four fully customisable positions, two command dials, one of which is around the threaded shutter, and new for Olympus: a permanent exposure compensation dial, plus a profile/filter knob. It took me a bit of time to get used to the hard exposure compensation because I’m used to having the other Olympus cameras set up for quick compensation on the front command dial, with aperture setting on the rear; this way you can quickly change shooting parameters without moving your hand position much. Now the thumb has to do double duty, or you have to have to retrain your muscle memory. It would be nice to retain the soft exposure compensation option too like the Sony A7 series cameras. The filter/profile knob on the front allows you to quickly select postprocessing options – the usual filters; color/hue shifts; color profiling; monochrome profiling, and none.

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Coupled with the tone curve lever under the mode dial (which moves both ways, but oddly has the same function in both directions) it’s fairly easy to control your JPEG output to taste; you cannot make local adjustments, of course, but this is probably the highest degree of in-camera processing customisation offered by any manufacturer at the moment. I don’t think the UI is quite right – you have to change some settings on the front knob, some settings with the back lever, and others in the menus – but the intentions are good for the majority of users. More time spent shooting is better than more time spent in front of a computer (assuming you set up the camera once or twice and don’t make any major changes thereafter, which is probably what most people will do).

But notice how I said JPEG: none of this stuff makes any difference to the raw shooter, unless you use Olympus’ proprietary software to do your conversions (which recognises those adjustments, but makes a JPEG identical to the out of camera one). For the serious photographer who post processes out of camera, nothing changes other than the front knob’s somewhat rough texture digging into your third finger.

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Ergonomically, I find the camera to be fairly comfortable with the exception of the strap lug placement (as normal) and that front dial; the rest is better than the SLR-like E-M1 and E-M5 in some ways since your nose no longer mashes into the LCD, and the whole camera’s profile is a bit more easily packable. I did find the positioning of the eye sensor (behind the eyecup) to be less than optimal – as a spectacles wearer, it would often fail to register and switch unless my eye was mashed right up to the viewfinder window (but still a good 10mm away from the sensor itself). You do lose the front grip, and the smooth front doesn’t balance so well with larger/heavier lenses like the 12-40 unless you spring for the optional grip attachment. I’d get it anyway since it has a built in Arca rail and doesn’t add much bulk, but considerably improves handling. One note: the optional grip limits how far the card/battery door can open, and this can make extracting SD cards tricky. Despite being quite small, the camera is not light: solid is a better description. It is as heavy as the metal bits would have you believe.

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All the tactility in the world will not save poor image quality, though – and at this stage, it’s actually impossible for me to assess because there is no ACR support for the camera. Though I shot RAW, I had to do the conversions using Olympus’ own software; learning a new workflow means you are almost certainly not getting maximum image quality from the hardware. On top of that, the output looks very much like a SOOC JPEG: I did not see any of the additional detail I was expecting, and there were clear processing artefacts that looked like noise reduction and/or sharpening were being applied (despite all of the controllable options set to ‘off’). I suspect this is strictly a software artefact rather than something that’s baked into the files, as I’ve seen similar behaviour in the past with E-M5II and E-M1 files that did not show up when switching to an ACR conversion.

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Similarly, being unfamiliar with the way in which the software performed shadow and highlight recovery (and noise reduction) makes it impossible for me to determine exactly how much dynamic range this sensor has. I get the feeling it’s similar to the previous 16MP unit, if not slightly better. Highlights clip, but in single channels only – which means the chances of ACR being able to recover or interpolate more information are improved since there’s more data to extrapolate from. I’ll be interested to see what kind of results my normal workflow will yield. I suspect shadow noise is higher though, and shadow recovery will have to be done with care: both luminance and chroma are starting to show in areas that were subject to local dodging. Despite the software limitations however, it seems the  RAW files converted normally to color in OV3 and then run through my normal monochrome workflow in ACR/PS yield black and whites with very nice tonality; this bodes well.

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So, for the moment, I’d say the jury is temporarily out: I see potential in the files, but cannot quantify exactly how much just yet. Dynamic range looks to be no worse than the old sensor, though care has to be taken when recovering shadows as there is some strange desaturation going on – I don’t know if it’s Olympus Viewer’s conversion that’s doing it or something inherent to the hardware (to suppress chroma noise, perhaps). High ISO noise levels are similar, or perhaps slightly worse in the shadows – again, it’s hard to say for sure with an unfamiliar workflow. But based on what I can see at the moment, I’d call the limit 1600 for me. Lastly, with the electronic shutter options, shutter shock is definitely a thing of the past.

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Speaking of resolution, the PEN F is also equipped with the sensor-shift high resolution stacking mode; it works the same way as the E-M5II and delivers 50MP JPEGs or approximately 80MP RAWs. Since the IBIS mechanism (5 axis, and works in concert with IS lenses like the new 300/4 to deliver even more stabilization) is required to move the sensor, you must be locked down on a tripod. On top of that, the tripod must be very sturdy: I had clear stitching artefacts in many of the test shot attempts (yes, all elements of the scene were static) – and I’m using an Arca Swiss Cube on a 5-series Gitzo, so it’s not exactly lightweight, either. Even then, there are often odd artefacts near edges that look like diagonal fabric texture; for the moment, I’ll chalk it down to software issues.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 8.10.32 PM optimal sharpen
100% screenshot of the same test scene from a Hasselblad CFV-50C, PEN F HR JPEG, and PEN F HR RAW via Olympus Viewer 3.
Full resolution here; comparison with PEN F downsized to match Hasselblad here; comparison with Hasselblad upsized to match PEN F here. All files have been optimally sharpened in PS – any more would start to show haloes.

I was curious to see just how much resolution is contained within those files – at 80MP, we’re supposedly challenging the best of the medium format stable; I don’t think there’s really 80MP of information there as acuity is quite low. I compared it against a Hasselblad CFV-50C (50MP, 44x33mm CMOS), with the 4/50 lens and angle of view/magnification matched. Even so, I think you can see from the crops above, resolving power is very impressive for the sensor size, and there’s no question some aspects of image quality are better than the Hasselblad (moire, for instance). However, dynamic range, color accuracy (surprisingly), shadow noise, tonal rendition and acuity lag the bigger sensor. I also don’t see any areas in which the PEN F outresolves the Hasselblad, despite having a larger file. Still: a useful option to have, providing your subjects don’t move, you have continuous light, and an adequately stable tripod. And all the more impressive given the massive (6x, in practice) price difference between the two.

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This is a pleasingly tactile camera. Dials and controls have the right ‘weight’ and fall to hand nicely. The rear touch screen can also be used to move the AF point when your eye is to the EVF – a very useful function I’ve come to appreciate on my D5500 (and no doubt Panasonic users have been enjoying for even longer). The fully articulated LCD is also useful for waist level and vertical shots. I came away from the shooting experience with a few strong impressions. Firstly, like pretty much all of the Olympus cameras of late, the camera does not make you wait. (Full electronic or mechanical shutter up to 11fps is nice, too.) It is responsive in all aspects of operation, (with the exception of high resolution mode – for obvious reasons of computational power). Secondly, it has far more customisation ability than you’ll need – you can set it up to taste, or just leave the buttons in their default settings. I’ve not used something this way for a while, and found that for the most part, I was happy with the default behaviour of the camera: factory settings were mostly sensible.

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Thirdly, and most importantly, there’s a sort of ‘confidence of getting the shot’ which I have not had from the higher resolution beasts I normally use – Sony A7RII included – if focus looks good, it almost certainly is, and you’re probably not going to see camera shake unless shutter speeds are very, very marginal. If you couple this with the shadow/highlight indicator in live view, then you’re fairly certain of a usable image afterwards. This confidence is quite liberating, and means you don’t get distracted with chimping. I suppose it helped with battery life, too – I saw upwards of 600 shots on one charge, shooting singles. Note however that IBIS seemed slightly less effective than with the 16MP cameras: I suspect we may be starting to see the demands of increased resolution on the system.

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All in all, I enjoyed shooting with the PEN F. It’s sized right, feels right, and responds well. The camera part just gets out of the way and lets you concentrate on shooting. Sure, the EVF feels a bit dated and grainy in comparison to the Leica SL, but for the most part, it’s good enough even in bright light. It doesn’t keep you waiting. Image quality appears to be good enough (subject to assessment via my normal ACR workflow) and overall, the camera represents a solid update to Olympus’ M4/3 offerings. I’m left hesitant on only two things: firstly, the price. This is not a cheap camera, and not only is it not a cheap camera, at this price, you have to start to give other options like the Sony A7II and Nikon D750 a serious look. Both of these cameras offer significantly higher image quality potential, too; though in practice, the image quality differential may be less than you’d expect because of the effectiveness of Olympus’ stabilisation and the size/ accessibility of small and fast lenses.

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The other thing is the whole JPEG-centricness of the camera – it is clearly targeted at the social media crowd, from the design to the huge number of in-camera processing options. I have no objection to that, but it does mean there’s a lot of buttons and dials that are either not customisable to other more useful photographic functions, or compromise ergonomics. The biggest problem here is that the camera’s LCD isn’t really adequate for assessing how the final result will appear on a proper wide-gamut monitor, limiting the usefulness of in-camera processing to serious photographers. I’m all for anything that reduces the amount of time I have to spend in front of a computer screen, but I still don’t think we’re there yet – perhaps if the display were of the same quality as one of the better smartphones, and pre-calibrated. That said, I suppose it doesn’t matter for the target audience anyway. I actually think a stripped down version of the PEN F without these ‘extras’ would be quite a compelling photographer’s tool – in many ways, possibly fulfilling the simpler ethos of the Leica Q, but with interchangeable lenses. In the meantime, we can always ignore those buttons, I suppose. MT

The Olympus PEN F is available here from B&H and Amazon. Postprocessing was performed by batch converting the RAW files to approximate my usual ACR output in Olympus Viewer 3, then Photoshop Workflow II.


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  1. Ming, in your experience is the pen-f that much better than the om-10 or om-5 to hold and shoot for a left eye shooter with glasses? Thanks.

    • Can’t say as I’m not a left eyed shooter, but I’d image it’d be worse since the finder is all the way to the left…

  2. I agree with your assessment, but what I find that reviewers usually do not mention hissing type sound while pressing shutter button half-way. It’s only noticeable when taking pictures in quiet environment. I’m curious if you noticed that. Slightly noisy surrounding will cancel it out. The hissing noise comes from the camera’s electronics (disabling image stabilization does not stop the hissing). I believe it is not a big deal for many, but I like the process (of taking pictures) as much as the final product. For this reason, I returned my camera even though I liked avery other aspect of the camera.

    • Yes, it’s a form of electromagnetic interference. I didn’t personally notice it (but didn’t shoot anywhere quiet enough to hear it, either) – but could understand how it would be rather annoying…

  3. Any plan to review the new 25/1.2 ? I know it’s huge on a small camera like the Pen but the quality should be special! Or not?

  4. Patrick Kristiansen says:

    Hi Ming, I´m a regular reader of your site, and I enjoy your no-nonsense, honest reviews and your technique/composition articles even more. Don´t know how many times I´ve about your four things 🙂

    I´m searching for the right camera for family-photos and such; I have an A7ii for my higher resolution needs. I´ve had both the em5 and em1, and kept a few good lenses around. I adore the superb eye-priority focus! It kept me from converting to fuji more than once…

    Been playing around with the em5ii a bit, and enjoy it. But can´t help feel that the output being the same today as the 2012 em5 bothers me slightly.

    Which one would you recommend for relative low threshold photography, smallish file size preferable (compared to sony´s…), mostly faces.

    The em5ii or the pen f?

    Thanks for any input.

    • Not a huge difference in image quality, but the EM5II is a lot cheaper. Unless your priorities are shooting JPEG only or looking hipster, I think there’s your answer… 🙂

  5. Dear Ming,

    I’m seriously considering an Olympus omd em5 mark ii, I plan on using it with some vintage lenses and this will be the first camera (that I will be using) for this hobby. Is that a good choice for a first camera?

    I just want something that takes nice photos, I can use to learn and grow as a beginner.


  6. Hi Ming,

    I wonder if you’ve had the time and inclination to run these files through your usual workflow and assess the IQ on that basis?

  7. Interesting review thanks. I’m planning to buy this camera to use beside my film cameras (Leica or Nikon), yes I still like to shoot film!
    I imagine a 100 iso film in the camera and this small digital in the bag for interiors when I need higher iso with a little help from IS.
    One or two lenses not more.
    The doubt I have is the comment I read anywhere about that thing small sensor and difficult bokeh.
    Any comment from you about this point?
    Thanks, robert

    • No way to overcome limitations of physics on small sensors. Bokeh quality will depend on the lens you use…

      • Thanks for quick reply, I think I’ll have to try myself and see what happens…may be with the correct lens, I read Olympus will launch a 25/1,2 next summer…or the 45/1,8…

        • Hi Robert! I’ve been using a m4/3 system as my primary camera for 3 years now so I may offer some insight here. If you want crazy thin depth of field, this is not your system, simple as that. However, for my tastes, I can get enough separation using f/1.8 or f/1.7 primes, even with 15mm focal length. It all depends on how close you are to the subject, after all, it’s not just about sensor size and maximum aperture.

          May I suggest you also look into Panasonic bodies. For example the recently introduced GX80 probably offers better value than the PEN F. It also has 5-axis stabilization plus their DFD focusing system offers more reliable continuous AF than any Olympus body. However, the DFD system only works with Panasonic lenses, so you’ll have to take that into account.

          I would recommend the following lenses for you to try:

          – Panasonic-Leica 15mm f/1.7. Best wide angle prime in the system. It’s also the most expensive one. Bokeh quality is pleasant and if you shoot up close and personal, you can get decent background separation. The aperture ring does not work on Olympus bodies.
          – Olympus 25mm f/1.8. Rather small and faster to focus than the other similar focal length lenses in the system (at least when using on Olympus bodies). Great image quality, can focus very close, nice bokeh. If you like 50mm equivalent angle of view, this is a good choice. If you don’t mind additional size and slower focusing, Panasonic-Leica 25mm f/1.4 is a good pick too. No experience with Panasonic 25mm f/1.7.
          – Olympus 45mm f/1.8. Very good value for money, a must have lens even if you don’t often shoot short telephoto lenses. Offers plenty of background separation at moderate shooting distances. Panasonic has a 42.5mm f/1.7 that I haven’t tried, but with their track record, I’m pretty sure it’s a good lens. They rarely release poor designs, actually I can’t think of any.

          • Thanks Mikko for your detailed answer. I am not extreme about thin DOF but I would like to have this possibility. So the question is how much can I have with a m4/3 sensor and the appropriate lens? I guess with the 25/1,8 and being near the subject (of course) it should be enough. My idea if I get the body is just to have a couple of lenses, in the film days with mt FM2 I found the the couple of 20+50 works well for my shooting style. I imagine that the 12+25 should be ok for me ion the PenF, of which I like the small size.
            Of course I know that the 12 has more DOF but in this case it’s ok.
            Thanks again for you suggestions, robert

            • Robert, I do recommend you go see some Flickr groups where everything is shot with m4/3 cameras, that will give you some idea what kind of separation is achievable with what lenses and apertures at various distances. As for the other image qualities, dynamic range is so-so, especially highlights are the problem. With careful exposure you can get very good results. Noise performance is pretty good all things considered, quite closely matching that of a D3/D700. As for your choice of body, newer is necessarily not better in m4/3. Honestly, there is really no image quality difference between a $1200 PEN F and a $300 E-M5. The E-M5 is still every bit as good as in 2012, only the viewfinder is starting to show its age in comparison. You could buy an E-M5, two lenses, a couple of extra batteries (those you will absolutely need) and some neat extras and still end up paying less than for PEN F body only. Just a thought. 🙂

              • Agreed, there isn’t 4x difference between the E-M5 and PEN F in image quality, and in some ways I thought the older camera was more artefact-free (though slightly lower resolution) than the newer ones.

                • Thank you both, I have a friend who really is an Olympus fan and among others OM-1 or 2 she owns a E-M…something (not sure which one) which she almost never uses because she likes to shoot films! I think I’ll use that camera for a short time just to get see how I can deal with the system…

          • Nice tips. I’m looking hard at the GX80 since it seems to offer great value for the money. 4K and IBIS seem like a sweet deal, but I have to try it out first. I hope my local store holds some demos soon. They did plenty with the GX8.

  8. Another great review Ming. I think this is the camera that will make me ditch my e-m5. I feel like there are enough improvements to warrant the upgrade.

    I have almost gotten the e-m5 II but glad I waited a bit longer. Two things I would like different about this camera. 1.) the jpeg mode dial in the front, should be configurable to something else (I don’t shoot jpeg). Hopefully it’s something they can address in firmware updates 2.) the chrome ring around the lens mount. It both looks a bit tacky and it can cause annoying reflections. I am annoyed that it’s present in both the black and silver versions. If I get the camera I will have to look at removing it or sanding it down.

    Other than that it looks pretty good. I have a pretty big collection of m4/3 glass so I can’t wait to try it out. I might however wait and see what e-m1 II has to offer before I go for it. I think the $1199 is a bit steep at the moment.

    Anyways, thanks for the review! I know being out and about and shooting is something you’d rather do, but I really appreciate your reviews.

  9. Ming,
    Great very informative review. What do you think of using the Pen F in Hi-res mode for still life and product photography vs. something like a Nikon D800? I’ve heard it said that there is actually more apparent detail in the Pen F images…

    • There is, but it’s marginal. Acuity isn’t that great even if you downsample. The problem is you are limited to continuous lighting only, so ambient spill can be a problem unless you have very good blackout curtains…

      • Well let me ask the question in a more practical way. Do you think any of the current crop of DSLR or mirrorless bodies are a substantial upgrade from a D800 for product work? (Substantial enough to extend oneself to get them)

        Eg. Canon 5DS, D810, A7RII, OM-D EM-5 mark II, Pen F


        • Nope. Only the D810 is a clear ‘better in every way’, but it isn’t better by much. The 5DSR gains resolution but loses on dynamic range. The A7RII has strange color, slow operation or compressed files – and poor battery life. The Pen F and EM5II aren’t even close.

  10. Ming, maybe you should buy a XPRO2, review it and return it. I’m sure you’ll call out the problems with PP with Lightroom, but I would like to know your opinion on everything else of the camera. You can’t trust a shill like Huff.

    • We don’t have such liberal consumer laws here – no returns. The retailer is obliged to exchange within 14 days if defective, but that’s about it. So I’d be stuck with something I personally have no use for…

  11. Is it just me, or there’s an obvious diagonal artefact in both hi-res shots?

  12. Nothing…absolutely nothing is insanely beautiful than a poem about ink, paper and a picture of a camera. It exposes the very meaning of life. “We are the reflection of what we perceive by our environment”
    Btw beautiful picture. 😊

  13. Semi-thread hijack. But Ricoh GR came up in a couple posts.
    I have never handled the thing, but only read favorable review. However, I shoot 90 70% of the time, 28 30% of the time, but would like to test 50. So wouldn’t it be lovely if Ricoh did a Sigma and produced three versions, 28 – 50 – 90, of the GR. If it would be weather resistant it would be a home run, but I guess that would be tricky to achieve along with preserved pocketability.

    • Harder to hold still at arms’ length without a finder or IS, too. But I’d certainly like one.

      • True. Although that’s exactly what I’m doing at the moment (old µ43 + olympus 45 1.8). If we start requesting viewfinder, WR and stabilization, I’m afraid the price will be too high.
        But still, a 50 to test the concept? The sigmas caused interest and love but also hate due to some parts of the execution. There should be a market for those not interested in the other quality fixed lens option – i.e. fuji. While that is hip in town, I haven’t seen many on rock or in the woods.

        Or is the concept fundamentally flawed as a great lens is more or less always a great lens*, while sensor tech and processing are still evolving?
        *guessing that fixed match of lens and sensor only accounts for the last percentages of optimal image quality.

        • Simpler: how about a TC? They used to make one for the GRDI/II, but discontinued it for only the WC thereafter.

          The sensor/lens pairing definitely matters: look at the difference in quality between M lenses on an M body with offset micro lenses, and an adapted solution…

          • I stand corrected on the sensor/lens area, I had that feeling when I clicked the “post” button.

            Yes a TC is most likely workable (like it’s counterpart fuji and many before them). However, 28 to 50 is probably doable but 28 to 90 must have consequences. They just need to preserve the things you love about GR, i.e. always with you and rapidly deployed.

  14. Anders And says:

    Huff only write about gear he likes and what he dislikes is silently returned.
    Why waste time on crap?

    The new pen makes sense for lots of owners of Olympus lenses and for new that want a smaller system to play with.
    I had the A7s but hated the placement of the EVF and the software in the camera. It’s not always about the IQ. 🙂

    • The IQ from the Sony cameras isn’t all that good either.

      • Anders And says:

        I disagree. The resolution of the A7s is not great for pixel peepers, we can agree on that part.
        I’ve made jaw dropping pictures with the A7s but as we all know it’s not about the gear we use but how we use it.
        Keep up the great work but please don’t bash your colleagues. 😉

      • Given its hi ISO abilities the a7s is probably the best ghost pictures

  15. Not long ago I bought a refurbished Olympus epm1 body from cameta for about $100/- it was in new condition for all practical purposes. It was a steal of a deal! Very good camera that takes fantastic pictures. Sadly the second generation pen cameras are not going to be cheap while not delivering anything worth the price to me.

  16. Richard Krawiec says:

    Hmmm, I’m see a lot of halos around high contrast edges particularly in the final image. Is this down to jpg compression?

    • No, it’s down to the raw conversion software: I had no way to turn everything fully ‘off’, and the haloes appear even with zero sharpening. I see this in files from other cameras converted via Olympus Viewer too – ACR does not appear to support the PEN F yet.

  17. Hi Ming. Always have to fist tell you how good reviews you make. Not a lot of unbiased blogs/reviewers out there, but yours definitely one of them.

    I know you care a lot about picture quality and DR, High ISO performance etc. I do not care as much, because I think even entry level dslr is good enough today to take very decent pictures. Both of us know D800 was worth nothing, because of AF and at the same time the other capabilities were impressive.

    The most important for me – how much you enjoyed using the camera? Did it push you to want make pictures?

    Steven Huff said that the joy of using the camera even surprassed Leica in regards of joy from use.

    If I am correct from what I usually see. You use D810 like camera for professional assignment, but enjoy Leicas the most from any camera manufacturer. So, what do you think about the joy of using this camera vs other vs Leica.


    • Actually, the D800 wasn’t ‘worth nothing’: it brought medium format image quality to DSLR prices, and even if you only used one centre AF point, it still focused a lot better than the medium format options. What it wasn’t is a replacement for the D700 or D3X with the expectation that it could be shot under similarly demanding conditions and achieve perfect pixels.

      I enjoyed it but no, it didn’t make me want to specially go out and make pictures. Part of that is because my output is primarily print based, and if the files aren’t going to deliver what I expect, then there isn’t much point. Huff finds joy in everything new – I wonder why that is?

      You’re also misinterpreting me: I don’t enjoy the Leicas the most; if anything, far from it. I enjoy the Q specifically because it fulfils needs for me that no other camera can; the rest I’ve found to be unreliable, overpriced, and frankly, not that good as tools. The PEN F wasn’t as enjoyable to shoot as the Q. I’d put it slightly above the Nikons though.

      • Thanks for the response. I always thought you enjoy shooting with Leicas, but it seem to be I was really wrong. There was one camera I enjoyed shooting with – x100 – but as you say, due to image quality problems I was not happy with output and sold it. Probably I will try the Q. Lof of photographers who tried x100 and Q said it is same/even better experience as the x100, but definitely better image quality.

        I just wish it would be 50mm or 40mm, ideally 1.4…but I understand they do not want to ruin ther M line, when the 50 lux + M 240 costs a lot more. But then again, if they can do it and due to product line they will not, then they are not givint the best they can to photographers…

        • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

          In order to enjoy shooting with PenF in Leica style, Olympus would have to drop their misuse of classic camera heritage ( they are not alone about that). Have look at old PenF, there`s a shutter speed dial , ISO input, lens aperture ( on the lens of course) and nothing else ( cocking lever and rewind crank of course film things. If Olympus went Fuji and Leica way allocating shutter speed plus A to their main APSM and rest dial, kept their aperture dial ( to operate aperture ring less lenses) where it is, put the on/off switch in front of speed dial ( one hand operation), allocated +- compensation to ring under release button and ISO to back dial while Fn button could serve as AF lock, THEN we could talk about Leica like zen way. As it`s now is all electronic disneyland. Leica cameras are maybe not the best performing ones but one cannot deny that their operating layouts are pretty mind freeing stuff.

      • Huff finds joy in everything new – shots fired 😀

      • We know he answer don`t we? I refer to SH`s enjoyment of new gear of certain makes. Hey, if I was flown to fancy places to play with toys I would not complain either and praise (or better: promote) the goodies to generate some income through links on my web page ;).

        • I wouldn’t. Or I’d still report exactly what I find, good or bad. There’s something called integrity: once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. If one cries wolf too many times, people won’t believe you after a while.

          It’s the 180 degree turns that really get me tough, almost always accompanied by the ‘acquisition’ of the subject of contention. No, we don’t wonder at all…

          • I couldn`t agree more. One can sell ones integrity only once in a lifetime…. And it ain`t worth it, no matter the price.

  18. When shooting with the electronic shutter, did the Pen files show any reduced dynamic range?


    • Not that I can tell.

      • Thanks, Ming. There has been discussion about some m43 bodies that lose up to a few stops of DR when shooting with a totally electronic shutter. I did not know if that was the nature of the best or just particular to those bodies (a few Panasonic bodies IIRC).



        • I know the GM1 did, but I haven’t shot with any of the other new bodies for long enough to twll

        • The older generation Panasonics that introduced the e-shutter – G6 and GX7 – did not have any quality reduction (full 12-bit RAW files) at the expense of a slower ~1/13s readout speed and hence the presence of greater rolling shutter artifacts. To mitigate this for more video focussed use, the newer bodies (GM1, GH4) have faster readout speeds (~1/30s for the GH4) but in order to achieve this with the same sensor, reduced the bit-rate to 10-bits for e-shutter RAW files. I believe that Olympus bodies have used slow readout speeds closer to the 1/13s side of the spectrum for their e-shutters, so likely they would retain full bit rates, but I don’t have experience with them.

          The GX8, by contrast, with its newer 20MP sensor is able to achieve full 12-bit raws with close to ~1/30s readout speed, so the slow march of progress is leading to fewer and fewer compromises in this respect. I would anticipate that since the PEN-F shares the same sensor that it would be able to do the same, but I don’t know how much of it has to do with company specific signal processing which Olympus may not have as much experience with.

          tl;dr – quality should be same with or without the e-shutter, based on what we know so far.

          • Thank you for this detailed explanation, Andrew. It explains the design issues in implementing an electronic shutter, and it is especially helpful for me as I have a few m43 bodies besides my E-M1, like a GF7 (GX7 sensor/image pipeline?) that I use as an ultra-compact. I do not normally shoot with the electronic shutter, but I do want to know what issues I need to address and/or be aware of when doing so.



            • The GF7, from what I understand, uses the same ultra-compact shutter assembly as the GM1, so the e-shutter will reduce the quality somewhat if you are pushing the RAW files around in post-production.

          • The Olympus readout is 1/20 or 1/30 – this is the flash sync limit in high res mode, which requires the e-shutter. I believe it uses the same sensor as the GX8.

  19. I dropped the OMD – EM10 + Leica 15 for the GR so I’ve come to know how you feel about the format. Would you think that, despite having perfect tactile experience and “confidence to get the shot”, the downfall of Olympus m43 is firmware color science?

    • No, I think it’s actually price and size: it isn’t that much smaller and not any cheaper than the larger format options…and overall image quality definitely favours larger sensors.

      • What would be the ideal price ceiling for a m43 camera of maxed-out no-compromise performance?

      • Hi Ming,
        The Pen F is a darn sexy camera. However, I think I agree with you that it is a little disappointing in terms of size/price/performance ratio. Do you think there is any chance they may come out with a GR like camera with an EVF…? Any recommendations?
        I like RX100 (I have the mk1 non EVF version). However, it is a bit much to pay USD 1,000 for the RX100 mk4 with EVF…
        Bummer… A small camera with a large-ish sensor, manual controls and an EVF (or optical viewfinder)… how hard could it be?

        • Eric, based on your criteria, how about a Fuji X-E1? Unless you have an aversion to xtrans, it ticks all your boxes and has interchangeable lenses.

          • TerryB – Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve looked at the X-E1; however, I’m not too happy with it being stuck around the 16mp range. I know it is nitpicking… but the 20-24mp seem to give a tiny bit more breathing room. I’m a little bit hesitant about X-trans, based on the polarized reports I hear.

            It’s weird… the Fuji bodies are often discounted (after a time), but the lenses are quite pricey. Sony is similar. Cheap bodies… pricey lenses. The micro four thirds lenses are quite affordable; however, the bodies usually start in the $1k range. It seems that whichever way you add it up, both the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds Camera systems seem to start around the $1 to $1.5k range. I think I’d be happier with the price/performance/value ratio of micro four thirds, if the bodies started more around the $500 to $700 range. Then it would be a good “bang for the buck”.

            • Eric, you concerns about the pixel count could be assauged by a Mk. II version. The X-E camera is a paired down, but not by much, X-Pro. It retains most of the Pro features, but the main difference was the substitution of the hybrid v/f for a 2.35m dot EVF. Given this background one may expect a Mk.II version to come out shortly with the new 24mp sensor as used in the new X-Pro 2.

              That still leaves your concern abou X-trans. However, this is based on what you have read, and point out it has its adherents and detractors. So who do you believe and, more importantly, would it impact on your work? I was very curious about the sensor (and in particular about third party RAW converters) but being a sort of optimist, I based a purchase decision on the positive reports and reviews, and a few months ago bought a two-lens system with the Pro 1 which was being discounted on rumours of the imminent release of the Pro 2. I don’t examine my images under a microscope, nor do I print larger than A4, and so I haven’t yet come across any issues. The lenses, particularly the f1.4/35, are sharp and there is something about the overall colour rendition that I find very appealing, and which to me, looks less “digital”.

              I’m not advocating you get a Fuji as your end needs will be different to mine, but do try and see some images if you can. Other than your sensor concern, I am sure you would find the bodies lovely to use, and they are not over festooned with buttons either. No PASM mode button and which requires apertures and shutter speeds to be controlled via the menu. No, leave the lens aperture ring and shutter speed dial on A, and you have Program mode. Select an aperture with the shutter dial on A, gives Aperture priority. Leave the aperture ring on A and select a shutter speed gives Shutter priority, and moving them both to a set aperture and shutter speed and you have full manual. You can see what you have selected at a glance. I can not emphasise how simple and intuitive this is and, needless to say, I’ve fallen in love with this method of use.

              • TerryB, SF Murph and Ming – Thanks for your thoughts! I think I’ll keep my eyes open for an upcoming/future XE-2 mk2(?). However, those deals for slightly older models are rather tempting…

            • Well Eric, the original OM-D E-M10 is $549 for the body right now!

              I am surprised that there aren’t a bunch of largish sensor, fixed prime lens, with EVF cameras around. Didn’t the X100 show the way on this in 2010?

              • And the E-M5 (mark I) which is even more ‘original’ than the E-M10 is even cheaper still – and in many ways, a better buy because you get 5-axis stabilisation instead of 3, and a lot more controls. Not that much image quality difference between that and the E-M5II or E-M1, either.

            • There isn’t that much noticeable difference between 16 and 20; 16 and 24, yes.

            • There is one point (Olympus doesn’t market) that makes a difference I think. They’ve basically two lines of cameras. The cheaper options like the E-M10 and the older E-PL cameras that have a product cycle of about 1 1/2 year and get “only” bugfix updates and updates for lenses. And then there is the E-M1, E-M5 and the new Pen – F which have a 3 year cycle which includes features updates during that time. I think that’s a point we shouldn’t forget with the maybe slightly higher body prices plus the in body stabilization that some others don’t have.

              For some it might be worth it for some not. Here in Germany they sell used E-M1 for about 700€ now which is still a good option – especially now due to the latest firmware updates with the electronic shutter and such things.

        • Your guess is as good as mine.

  20. Too bad it doesn’t do 4K video. I would have bought it immediately if it did, and I know many others that are into handheld video production that would too. Olympus reluctance to give m43 videocentric users an alternative to Panasonic is very bad for its sales.

  21. Michiel953 says:

    Hi Ming! Even bearing in mind the constraints (conversion and pp workflow) of your limited time with the camera, you don’t appear to be overly enthusiastic… Correct?

  22. says:

    Very entertaining read, as always and outstanding images, though, as you have shown before, you’d be able to take outstanding images with an iPhone, if need be.

    Now, after heaving read these comments, the comparison to the Ricoh GR is always drawn, though the conclusion seems to be that the Olympus falls flat in the IQ department.

    My question now is, if there is a “compact” camera with a zoom that delivers equally nice or even better images than the GR.
    The OMD + 12-40 pro, or the Leica X-Vario spring to mind.

    Any comments are appreciated.

    • I don’t think it falls flat – but a larger sensor is always going to be a larger sensor…

      As for your question – no, it doesn’t exist. The GR’s lens is one of the very best…

      • says:

        Thank you very much for the reply, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to almost everyone.
        That last part saddens me though, since it means that I’ll probably continue searching for a compromise I can accept.

    • Iphone? So advanced. Ming’s images taken w an ancient Nikon P&S are more impressive…

  23. Ming, great review. One thing that I have not been able to tell from the various reviews is if the EC dial is customisable. I shoot primarily in manual mode and would love to have direct access to shutter speed, aperture and ISO. EC control in manual is of no use and would be a wasted dial. Is it possible to assign the EC dial to ISO when in manual mode? Thanks.

  24. Mosswings says:

    US Price is slated to be $1200. That’s D7200 / XT-1 territory. Of course, every camera manufacturer is kicking up the intro price of their new kit by about 20% to counteract diminishing sales volume, But I would have a very hard time justifying $1200 for this body style when I can get an EM-5II or EM-1 or a raft of DX products for a similar price. At the $1200 price point it needs to be an effective, well handling tool with whatever lens you put on it, and to do that with the PEN-F (or any Oly body except the EM-1, for that matter), you have to shell out another $200 for a grip that wipes out any size advantages the body might have.

    Oly is learning with its UI (though not its menus), but it still looks to me like it’s micro-niching essentially the same imaging chain by lifestyle rather than photographic mission. I’m actually more impressed by Panasonic’s offerings – they’re noticeably different, not just rehoused internals.

    Grump, grump, grump.

    • No question the price is ambitious, and probably too high given the overall package. Locally here, they’re looking at very nearly competing with the original A7 and D610/D750…which are a completely different class of camera.

    • “Of course, every camera manufacturer is kicking up the intro price of their new kit by about 20% to counteract diminishing sales volume………..”
      Pretty interesting. Don’t I remember from Economics 101, or Marketing that when sales slow down, you lower the price?
      Maybe cameras are a special case.

      • I don’t know about that. Reducing prices seems to be a race to the bottom, which is unsustainable anyway – there’s no margin left for R&D and everything eventually stalls anyway. Niche markets, small volumes etc. all inevitably result in high prices…

        • But there’s a sort of natural limit to how much you can raise prices without losing sales.
          I have two EM1 Mk 1s, and they work fine for me. If the MkII had been, say, 20% more, I would have bought one. But they nearly doubled the price, to $2000, and lost me as a customer. (I’m sure they’ll do fine without me.)
          It’s not that I can’t afford $2000, it’s that I don’t think that camera is worth that much money. They’ve pushed past my limit for how much I want to spend for something that, as far as I know, is only an incremental improvement over what I already have.
          I’m sure they did careful studies, projected how many sales they would lose at each possible level of increase, and decided that $2000 was the sweet spot.
          But I notice that today they’re giving away a $250 battery grip with each camera. So maybe they guessed wrong.

          [It’s been two years since my original comment, above. Kind of a long pause. But I just happened to be strolling by.]

  25. Cooperation from Olympus Malaysia? Hell has frozen over.
    Let’s see if it lasts after what looks like a fair, balanced review.

    • The previous MD left (or was asked to leave, who knows) amidst a cloud of internal scandal and rumour.

      I always aim to give a fair and balanced review 🙂

      Hell will really freeze over if I get cooperation from Canon (who demanded to veto my 5DSR review, which was purchased at retail) or Nikon (who told me ‘we only work with Japanese or western photographers).

  26. Hello Ming. Are the menus still the same than previous Oly cameras? In quantity with deep submenus? Thx!

  27. Karol Bulova says:

    Hi MT,

    in process of changing my two 3 years old EM5 cameras (normal and elite). What would you buy yourself, EM5 II titanium or this one? I don’t care much about the price (even though Titanium mk2 cost half of Pen-F) but more about ergonomics, viewfinder quality, stabilization, picture quality…

    seems I would be giving up way too much compared to EM-5 mk2 to end up with ‘poser’ camera like m43 rumours crowd call it… dust/water proofing is not there (I shot my old EM5 in really stressful condition even in cold rainy autumn of St Petersburg and never failed on me once), viewfinder seems not up to par with EM5 mk2 (which I find really one of the best out there for electronic one), stabilization is worse, ISO performance seems same (if not worse due to smaller pixels), and I loose lever knob of EM5 for some nice configuration (plus fixed exposure compensation dial seems odd on Pen-F).

    I just don’t see the reason to buy it as it also doesn’t seem to be smaller by any chance than EM5 mk2. I didn’t buy mk2 due to stupid articulated screen and waited for tilted one but since Olympus did same mistake with screen here, I will need your views to decide if it’s worth buying Pen-F instead of EM5 mk2 titanium limited version.

    Thank you

    • I prefer this screen because you can do waist level verticals easily – but that’s just me. Too early to judge image quality because there’s no easy way to do a direct comparison. I certainly don’t think the results are any worse from what I can see – in any parameter.

      Easy choice for you since you apparently need weather sealing, and the PEN F is not sealed.

      No point asking what I myself would buy since everybody has different needs/ usage scenarios. We have a couple of E-M1s for video, and that’s about all they get used for. I print large and detailed and need all the resolution I can get, for which M4/3 is not ideal.

      • Ming, did you upgrade the E-M1s’ FW to 4.0? And if so, has the FW been stable and has it resolved the shutter shock issue, or is that still lingering?


        • Ken, FW 4.0 is stable. The full electronic shutter fixes the shutter shock issue completely and you can shoot up to 11fps with it, but flicker of electric light sources starts to show around 1/60s and faster shutter speeds, so you will probably not be able to use it indoors. I recommend using the electronic front curtain indoors, it reduces the risk of shutter shock markedly. However, it does limit you to 6.5fps in continuous shooting, but that’s fine for most situations.

        • Yes, but we don’t use them for stills, so I honestly have not done any extensive testing. However it does appear to have resolved the issue (much like using EFC on the EM5II and PEN F – I wouldn’t dream of shooting it any other way).

        • Thanks Ming and Mikko. I am happy to use EFC, which I thought was introduced with FW 3.0, but I am not a fan of an all electronic shutter except in cases where it makes sense.


  28. Hi Ming,
    In your EM5II review, you described it as a camera that is: “…a good all-round choice of entry into M4/3, and despite of all its flaws, the E-M5II in fact delivers rather well on my original usage intention: handheld video for family and casual use, with an occasional still grab.” How would you compare the Pen F in this context…? Other than body styling and higher resolution, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of daylight between Olympus models. Any chance to try the video on the PEN F? Thanks!

    • The PEN F isn’t really optimised for video – it doesn’t have mic in or headphone out ports, making audio monitoring difficult. The EM5II is a much better choice that way. I think the PEN F feels a bit more usable for stills, though – mainly in small control differences like the AF point selection and side-finder so you don’t have to mash your nose into the LCD…

      • Fernando Cueva says:

        Hello, Ming.
        I am considering buying a pen-f. I am a jpeg shooter and I think that the “film dial” is a good idea to disengage the film mode from the menus. Also, now the C1..C4 “mysets” are more accesible and can easy and quickly be combined with film types. My favorite shooring modes and my favorite film modes.That, for me, promisis to be very useful. Nobody seems to be aware of this disengagement, and everybody critizises the film dial as a “non configurable dial”…..

        Also, my nose will live in free space and not mashed against the LCD display……I do not understand why the rest of EVILs still have the EVF near the center of the camera…..maybe the average photographer needs to have his/her nose mashed? It is a natural demand for DSLRs bur mirrorless cameras are free from that requirement…… Fuji, Olympus and company are not generally taking advantage of this, I think….

        My only questions are simple: is the pen-f a comfortable and fast camera when shooting in street?

        • Most of us aren’t jpeg shooters, which is probably why we think the film dial is a bit redundant.

          Fast? Yes. Comfortable? Yes, so long as you don’t feel your fingers are being scraped by the film dial 🙂

  29. That was a most enjoyable rainy afternoon read over a cup of tea, thanks! It’s an attractive camera in silver and black, especially with those chunky dials, but I’d be much more interested in the stripped-down version you posited, in case anyone out there is listening… 😉

    • It’s funny because I was talking to their regional head of product about the same thing; he agreed but added quickly that it got shot down at HQ because they didn’t think there was a business case. But then again, he also said that previous ‘retro’ cameras got shot down because they didn’t think there was a business case there either…so who knows?

  30. Yeah, Viewer is mainly good for replicating Jpegs on your desktop. I just compared the newest release (the one with the Pen F) to Lightroom using an EM1 file. Viewer applies a lot of NR even when the filter is in the “off” setting. Also, I think it might have some clumsy lens aberration corrections. Distant tree branches were smeary that looked fine and detailed on Lightroom.

    • Agreed, though there is no ACR support for this thing (still). Viewer is unfortunately the only converter we have at the moment. Interesting even the latest ACR update apparently has no PEN F support…

  31. Thanks for the review, Ming. As soon as I saw rumours for this, I was hoping you’d get a sample unit.
    You make a good point on the pricing. Right now, I plan on upgrading my current “take everywhere camera” (Fuji X-Pro1) as it’s clearly becoming old and slow. In Europe the Pen F is supposed to be €1199 body only, only €100 above the X-T1 and €300 below the A7II. The d750 is still nearly a grand more expensive (it’s closer to the d600/d610 in price) and not that portable compared to mirrorless options. The E-M1 and E-M5II also fall within the price range. The sub-€1500 market is a very saturated one and all have their pros and cons.

    I know you can’t fully Judge IQ yet but – would you say this is overall a higher performer than the EM5II/EM1 and Fuji X-T1?

    As always, the high res mode sounds pretty cool. I used to shoot a lot of stitched panoramas/landscape images during travel to print nice and large but with a solid tripod this sounds like the easier method and certainly makes moving to Olympus more attractive.

    • That’s strange European pricing for you. The rumoured body-only price in my part of the world is perhaps 15% shy of a D750, and similar to a D610 – that makes choices tricky indeed. And the EM5II is likely to be quite a bit cheaper, I think.

      IQ: I’m not seeing a massive gap between the 16MP M4/3 cameras, XT1 and this. There’s some improvement in resolution, but DR and noise look similar – again, hard to say without being able to put all files through the same workflow for a meaningful benchmark.

      You might find high res not that useful for landscape because of wind…

      • Yup, and thanks to the exchange rate it’s actually more expensive to order from states-based stores nowadays. D750 is still €1900ish unfortunately. D610 €1399… Of course there’s always the second hand route but prices new are pretty weird sometimes.

        I see you’ve been asked “how does it compare to X” a lot now, haha. I guess here it’s also largely a case of user preference and needs so I’ll just have to borrow/rent/test some of the options. M4/3 does sound good with the ibis and large lens stable. Fuji is catching up with quality glass, Sony I don’t know…

        • Fuji has very sensible glass options. Sony…somewhat, but more hit and miss in terms of quality control…but fortunately there are the Zeiss options, too.

          • The Zeiss glass does look good! I shoot a lot of analog (Pentax and Bronica) so manual focus is no problem and the Loxia 50 seems like a perfect day to day lens. The Zeiss’ are a little pricey compared to m43 glass unfortunately – for the price of a Loxia 50 you could also get 2-3 good m43 lenses (17.5 or 25, 45 and 60 macro)…

            Somewhat different question – have you printed from both Fuji and Olympus’ cameras, and have you noticed any significant differences between the two sensors in print quality?

            • Honestly, no – they both print about the same. Fuji artifacts are less noticeable in print than on screen because of inkjet dithering.

              • Oops, WordPress ate my reply it seems. Anyway, thanks for the insight! Time to borrow/rent/try some gear.

                Some more unrelated questions:
                1. What’s the largest you’ve printed with either system (or 16mp in general)/the largest you’d comfortably print? I’ve up til now printed a4 size mostly and it works fine. I’m guessing in the 16×24″ range?

                2. I’ve seen multiple comments regarding your enjoyment of this (and other) cameras. Are there any cameras at all that make you want to go out and shoot? Personally most cameras that make me feel that way are film…

                3. The EM5II and E-M1 are the same price right now. I guess there is little to no noticeable difference between the two in quality, save for perhaps the shutter shock on the M1 which it offsets with superior ergonomics?

                Again, thanks for your replies. I’m somewhat impressed you manage to reply to such an amount of comments at all!

                • 1. Depends on your threshold of acceptability for print quality and shot discipline. I’ve gone up to 3x5ft for 16MP, but that’s not for critical viewing and with low frequency subjects. For Ultrprinting, 8×10″ is already pushing 16MP. I don’t go much past 12×16″ for 50MP medium format (as a relative comparison).

                  2. At the moment, the Hasseblad V or Leica Q. The rest, no.

                  3. E-M5II is superior with the grip. I personally prefer the look and size of the E-M5II, too.

    • Haven’t had any time to post anything here recently, but thought I’d chime in on this one.

      I haven’t tried the Pen F, but as someone who uses both the E-M1 and the X-T1, I’m going to say that I do see a significant difference between the m43 files and the X-T1 files. 4/3 files appear somehow a bit “thinner”; which is to say lacking the same apparent sense of depth and richness … though admittedly some of this comes down to subject, light, ISO used, post-processing etc. The Fujis most certainly perform better in low light, however … and I see this time and time again when shooting. At high ISOs (1600+), 4/3 files begin to see details break down and some mushiness.

      The X-Pro2, on the other hand, leaves every m4/3 sensor well behind in any IQ metric you care to measure. It’s a solid step forward for the X-Series.

      • I would hope so – it’s a larger sensor 🙂

        • Here’s a great example of what I mean by m4/3 images looking somehow “thinner” or “flatter” in many types of light >>

          Take a look at her left arm, and the side of his neck (particularly where it meets the jawline). Notice that there is almost no retention of detail in skin highlights there, and that his jawline seems almost completely flat (there’s no dimensionality to the side of his face).

          • Agreed – this is a tonal transition thing: there’s simply less information gathered, leading to less ability to differentiate between subtle changes in luminance. It’s why all things equal, big pixels always win.

          • I’m not so sure guys. That looks like overzealous skin retouching.

            • You’re right, I think. Was looking at it on a phone screen earlier.

            • I’m not convinced you’d be doing THAT much retouching on his neck, or her arm, though I’ll concede some might have been done. But even so, it doesn’t account for the flatness of the file. More dimensional lighting would have made a huge difference, and I’ve seen outstanding work done with m4/3, but you have to work harder to get it, it seems.

              • Lighting has to be perfect – too little dynamic range and you don’t have enough information to push/pull afterwards. Too much and clipping ensues.

                • And yet, I frequently see outstanding work done with m4/3 as well…




                  And I must say, Robin Wong always seems to get good clean results.

                  btw: that Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 seems like a very strong performer.

                  Perhaps, for a great many applications, we’re all just getting too caught up in the subtle differences between these cameras/sensors, and every once in a while need to remind ourselves that it’s really about the content.

                  After all, a 5-year-old m4/3 sensor still delivers better overall results that anything we could have gotten out of 35mm film back in the day … with the possible exception of tonal range.

                  • Yes – which is why I keep saying the output intent is critical. You will see almost no difference at web sizes, even to MF. But print is quite another matter entirely.

                  • FWIW, I gave up my m43 system (E-M1, various Oly glass) after seeing a US letter size print from that camera using uncropped images. It looked a bit ragged and crunchy compared to a D810 which was much smoother in tonality. This was for B&W. From a brief experience with printing from the X100T, I’d rather use a 16MP XTrans for print output than m43: the Fuji’s sins were of omission and there is an almost painterly quality to fine detail that’s more pleasing to me, though you do seem to give up fine detail.

                    • The Fuji files look bad on a monitor because you’re trying to translate a diagonal array to a rectilinear one. However, because ink dots in print dither and has no precise ‘pixels’, this no longer matters (and may well help to improve the illusion of continuous further detail beyond eye resolution because rough edges feather out somewhat).

                    • That is an interesting and plausible explanation. Maybe Fuji’s onto something … if only more than a minority of people print!

              • Robert, I think what we are seeing here is some art filter either done by the in-camera image engine or in post processing. It sure looks like straight out of camera JPEG to me, judging by the aggressive noise reduction. In my experience skin does not look weirdly smooth like that in RAW conversions, unless you blow the highlights during exposure. The E-M1 blows highlights very easily, and they are unrecoverable, so using the highlight warnings are a must if you don’t want nasty surprises in post.

                The OM-D’s can’t compete with the heavy hitters like D810, but looking at how cheap the original E-M5 is now, it’s very good value for what you get. The E-P5 is even less, I bought one _new_ with 3 years warranty and paid 269 euros. That’s a bargain for a camera that does pretty much everything this new PEN-F does.

  32. Thanks for your review, Ming. Can you expand on your thoughts regarding lack of ‘confidence of getting the shot’ using the Sony A7RII? Maybe you’ve written an article about that already and I missed it.

    • I forgot to ask. Any plans to do an X-Pro 2 review?

      • Nope, sorry. Fuji won’t lend me cameras unless I give them a perfect review, and I don’t really have any interest in another x trans product.

        • L. Ron Hubbard says:

          You are saying that Fujifilm demands, absolutely demands that you give a glowing review to any camera they lend you?

          • Yes. You’ll never see a bad review come out of any of the Malaysian media, because otherwise they don’t get cameras. And I’m not paying for something I’m not going to use to have the privilege of dealing with unobjective and rude trolls and fanboys afterwards.

    • 1. It’s the slowest camera I own to power on.
      2. IS isn’t as effective as you might think, probably due to the weight of the sensor it has to move. It’s more like a stop or at most 1.5 stops gain, not the 4 stops they claim (or 3 stops the Olympuses actually deliver).
      3. AF is hit and miss.

      • Interesting. Point 3 really surprises me. I’ve read the exact opposite from many other reviewers/bloggers.

      • Gerner Christensen says:

        I echo all your 3 points Ming. Though not failing more with the AF performance compared to 810 AF in my case. The IBIS is rather disappointing since I have to shoot 4 x1/100 FL if I want to be 100% sure not not notice shake. 42 MP is sensitive to shake and I wonder if the IBIS in itself may add some pixel acuity artifacts?
        Olympus IBIS excels.

  33. Great review as always, Ming.

    It’s interessting to se the value proposition in this compared to the GX8. The GX8 is a tad cheaper, but it gives you weather sealing and 4K video recording. On the other hand, you lose out on the 5-axis stabilization(GX8 has IBIS, though) and the smaller build.

    I’m planning the jump to mirrorless pretty soon(before the summer, at least. My local store usually runs some decent deals in early summer), but I’m conflicted between Fuji or Oly. Fuji has better noise performance and overall IQ, but the Oly has IBIS and better video. Both platforms seem to have a great selection of lenses. In my case, it’s the Fuji X-T10 vs the E-M10 Mk. II. Both fit well within my budget(If I had a lager budget I would probably go with the GX8)

  34. Hi, Ming. I understand your explanation and I’m not seeing in these images much to get excited about, let alone that “Ming Thein” quality people have come to expect. It’s not your fault. :D)

    Over the past few years we’ve seen manufacturers get on the “retro” bandwagon as a tempter to boost sales to, presumably, all we old fogies who were brought up on film, and as if the retro bit by itself will make us better photographers. Some designs work better than others in this genre of camera with the Leica M’s naturally being true descendants of their film cameras. Outside of this, though, perhaps some of the Fuji X cameras, IMO, come closest to the retro look, although their X-Pro isn’t exactly unlike a Leica M! Just as Nikon attempted with that rather ugly dslr, I think Olympus has gone a bit too far in placing this in the mould of their iconic Pen F film cameras. This one is a travesty, with warts bulging out all over the body and doesn’t harp back to the clean lines of the original Pen. If anything, it looks too close to the Fuji X30 design.

    From this “downer” on my view of the design, something a little different. Has anyone spotted the optical illusion in your first image? If one centres it on the monitor screen and sizes it so it just fills the screen and uses the mouse wheel to scan quickly up and down, the block of flats on the right will appear to move right before your eyes whilst the block in the background remains still! The explanation must be similar as to why wheels in film and video can appear to be rotating backwards despite the car or carriage going forward.

    • Hah, interesting observation on the first image – it only works if your mouse scroll wheel moves by whole window increments, though – I suppose it’s screen magnification dependent.

      My gut feel is that there’s more to come from the sensor, but we won’t know til ACR supports it. Unfortunately the Olympus software basically replicates the quality of the JPEGs – don’t get me wrong, the JPEG quality is very good straight from the camera, but that’s not why we shoot raw, is it? 🙂

      • The effect is best seen if you simply centre the image then use the mouse to repeatedly scan quickly go up and down successively, it isn’t necessary to scan the whole image. This way, you can almost get a video effect and the side facing windows do seem to move in opposite directions to each other. The effect is strange, isn’t it?

  35. Since the GR was thrown in the mix, I wonder how the upcoming Fuji X70 would fair in this genre of small compacts. The lens is suppose to be the sharpest, easily beating the X100T

    • The X100T’s lens is nothing special. It was pretty weak wide open on the original X100, too. The X70 will have to compete with the GR, which does have an exceptional lens…I don’t see this one obviously going either way; you gain some manual controls on the X70 in sacrifice of quick overall settings changes on memory modes, but neither has a viewfinder or stabilisation.

  36. John MacMillan says:

    Many thanks for an excellent factual review Ming. I love your photos. I’m gob smacked that you and Robun Wong get better images from this little sensor than I get with my D810 ……. which I am selling by the way. At 72 years old I just can’t hump it around any more nor hold it steady for long so looking to move to Olympus or Panasonix GX8. I was hoping for an update to the EM 1 but I guess it’ll be the same sensor as the Pen F which doesn’t look like an improvement for higher ISO. Damn and blast. So many decisions.
    Loved your review and wish I had half your skill.

    PS My first ever camera was an 35mm film half frame Olympus Pen FT when I lived in New Zealand about the time of the dinosaurs.

    • Thanks. Shot discipline is really important once we get past a certain point in resolution – otherwise, there’s no visible improvement, or worse, blur is better resolved. The IS system in the Olympus cameras of course helps, too. It isn’t a replacement for clean high ISO when your subject is moving, but better than nothing.

  37. It is interesting, especially with the 8-shot high resolution mode. Wish they’d gone to a 4-shot quick resolution mode–and upgraded to a TruePIC VIII, whatever that might be.

  38. Gerald F. says:

    Though im still not ready to get rid of my EM5II yet, maybe a Pen for a backup. The major issue for me is lack of weather sealing for shooting here in the Vegas desert, but for most users I dont think it would be an issue.

    Also Ive found with my EM5II I had the same problems in high res mode, its hit or miss. But Ive found most of my artifacts were from shooting indoors with LED/FL lighting (or cheapo incandescent bulbs). For my EM5II to give me higher keep rate with the high res picture with out those diagonal artifacts I had to use natural sunlight. (maybe it has to do with the Hz cycling ??? and one of the sensor shifts catching the light flicker at the wrong moment, not sure).
    I hardly ever use the high res feature (as I have a 645z), but for times where its for fabrics where my Z has major trouble with moire its a great feature to have. (of course problem with the shift is I end up having to use a heavy metal Majestic geared head and stand since even my Induro tripods still dont seem to cut all the vibration).

    Oh, and thanks for the great reviews on your blog!

    • Fluro or LEDs definitely cause issues – it’s to do with the phasing and the electronic shutter. I’d suggest using continuous sources only for high res shot modes.

      The lack of weather sealing is a shame at the (guessed) price point – but it’s worth bearing in mind that seals are only as good as the weakest point, and lenses like the 75/1.8 aren’t sealed either, and I’ve not had problems with them in the past in less than ideal conditions. That said, I’d wouldn’t use them in a deluge, either!

  39. David baillie says:

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, you’ve always done some great stuff maybe you were having a good day or the camera inspired you by getting out of the way but these shots seem so much better than your other comparable stuff. Like, a lot. Great stuff 😀

  40. Beautiful shots Ming! I like to think sometimes I can see through your photos when you’re enjoying a camera. As lovely as the Pen F looks and performs I get the feeling fitting it with a 14mm still wouldn’t bring it up to the Ricoh standard. What will be interesting to see from a fellow 28mm fan is a your thoughts on the new fuji with the fixed 28mm equiv.

    • Thanks Ross. I agree – the GR is probably going to have higher overall ultimate image quality, but as much because there isn’t a really good 28mm-e for M4/3 (not tried the Panaleica 15, and 30 is noticeably tighter than 28) as anything else. However, in practice the M4/3 system may deliver better results especially once light falls and shutter speeds get marginal. You give up quite a bit of shooting envelope to a hypothetical Olympus + 15/1.7 – more than a stop on the lens, a stop by not having a viewfinder/bracing, and two to three stops from IBIS. I think that’s easily enough to make up the 1-2 stop advantage of sensor and superb lens quality (from what I’ve seen, you need to stop down all of the M4/3 28-e lenses a bit to match the Ricoh).

      As for that Fuji: it’s another one in the Ricoh mould. I don’t see any advantage over the GR, plus it’s not cheap and we may have some X-trans handicaps in workflow…if it had a finder of some sort it might be different, though.

      • The Pana-Leica 15mm f/1.7 can’t touch the Ricoh GR, even stopped down to f/2.8. The 12-40mm f/2.8 from Olympus is the best wide angle option I’ve tried for m4/3, given that you find a good copy. Some have centering issues. Haven’t tried the 7-14mm options, but I have serious doubts that any UWA zoom could come close to GR standards.

        I’ve pre-ordered the Fuji X70 for my wife.It will be interesting to see how it stacks up to the GR. It has features that should have been on the GRii, like touchscreen interface and PDAF. I find the GR has a high tendency to focus on the background in back-lit situations, so PDAF could bring some improvement in focus reliability. On the other hand, the GR is more pocketable, does not need a separate lens cover, has a great UI, plus the image quality is so far untouched in its class. I dislike the Fuji retro controls, it’s slow in actual use, but my wife will probably keep it in either shutter priority or program auto all of the time anyway, so it does not matter to her.

        • I can see situations in which the direct controls are advantageous, providing things like auto ISO have been well-implemented – I like the ability to instantly override settings with the Leica Q, for instance; I can easily dial in the degree of blur I want. It’s too bad the X70 has no finder or stabiliser, though.

        • I actually had the Oly 12 – 40 and 17mm 1.8 and the Panny 15mm 1.7 the 15mm rules them in image quality it def gives a Leicaish feel.

          • Well, I’ve had them all too and shot them side by side. The 15mm is better than the 17mm for sure, but the 12-40mm is sharper than either across the frame at f/2.8. The 15mm gets ahead only after you stop down to f/4 or so. The 12-40mm is known to have sample variation, so I’m sure others can get different results than I did.

  41. I’m a four third and MFT user for over 10 years now and Olympus has always take pride in producing quality product for their mid tier and professional tier product segment. Pen series line of products had always focused on versatility, lightweight and yet semi-professional series of cameras .. I think if the pricing of this Oly Pen-F is below (USD 800- $900) – it should have yield pretty good sales when launched – however it might only attract non-MFT users or perhaps existing EM users who are looking for a 2nd body.
    Any price higher than this will probably fare pretty badly in sales.

    Lately , I notice the number of EM1,EM5,EM10 users (irregardless of mark I or II ) has been increasing in numerous international photography forums , probably so as EM bodies are really getting slimmer and lighter as technology progresses , and their prices are getting cheaper by the days and flooding the resale markets. Again – that might pose a risk to attracting existing MFT users to commit to buying a new Pen F body.

    The lack of weather sealing on the Pen-F body is really disappointing and I’m sure it is a big drawback for many who owned weather sealed lenses. One of the other drawback (for me) is the position of the EVF on the extreme left. I see this might annoy some users , similarly to some negative feedback from GX8 and Fuji X100series bodies.

    From the description of the controls and knobs , I have to agree with Ming thien that the number of photographers who are using artistic filters / creative modes on the camera itself are getting lesser nowadays. it used to be a novelty. However, with the advent of mobile phones photography and the sheer increasing number of mobile apps that can process these on the fly and ability to combine multiple filters and post processing .. .. I would rather shoot raw or normal jpeg and apply these creative filters on IPAD or mobile phone or PC than to do it on the camera itself.

    nevertheless , I’m excited to see if the new 20MP sensor can bring the Oly and Panasonic Pro series lens (all the F2.8) series and the super bright primes to a new height in resolving resolution. My bet is all the newer EM series will be upgraded on the sensor as well.. that seems to be the approach taken by Olympus & panasonic nowadays.

    • I actually think it’s a price tiering problem that’s helping and hindering them at the same time: on one hand, it means you get a lot of bang for the buck; on the other hand, when one generation gets old, all models get old and devalue quickly because there isn’t much to choose between them.

      • Earlier I did some checks over Wikipedia and the Four thirds website. Here’s some interesting statistics and food for thought.. :

        Four third system era ( Started year 2006 – ended year 2011) – Duration of 5 years. Total number of camera bodies from both Olympus and Panasonic is 15 bodies.

        Micro Fourthird era ( started Oct 2008 – Current into 2016) – Duration of 7 years – Total number of camera bodies from both Olympus and Panasonic is 42 bodies !! – and NOT including this Pen F and many others coming into the market this year.

  42. Thank you for the honest review. I’m using the EM5 and have resisted the temptation to upgrade until we see a sensor with improved dynamic range. A leap like we saw with the EM5 from the 12mp sensors may be unrealistic but it sounds like there’s no real gain here at all in that respect, and we may have even lost shadow recoverability. Have I read too much into those parts of your review? Wait until you’ve had chance to process the RAWs ‘properly’?

    • This is the reason I’ve held off on commenting on image quality directly: there is no way to turn everything completely ‘off’ with the Olympus software, and it’s impossible to make a meaningful relative comparison with other current cameras (and their own) without a common raw converter. My gut says that image quality will be better than what I’ve seen in the review samples, but whether that’s a big step, small step or lateral move over 16MP remains to be seen…

    • upgrading 12MP body to 20MP body is a improvement of 65% in sizing.. which I doubt dynamic range is a huge difference but you get a lot of large size area files to help in cropping.. that I think is a big step of improvement.

      That being said , moving to this pen-F is another consideration as I’m sure other EM bodies will be 20MPs sensor, you have lots of choice subsequently to take your pick ! . Unless you really like the retro looking Pen F , which is one of “tribute” model to the film era Pen F.

  43. Patrick Kristiansen says:

    Enjoyable review as always, and the images are consistently impressive.

    I have learnt to read your reviews for what they are only recently, which always seem honest and accurate, but one needs to keep your frames of reference in mind versus ones own. You obviously have different output-needs than most, and compare attributes with cameras from the very top shelves. As the viewfinder-comparison in this review. Not to critize, but a thing to keep in mind for those who interpret your tone as overly critical:)

    Keep ut the good work.

    • I’ll take Ming the Merciless any day over the huff and puff you read elsewhere, and my budget is GR sized. In any case Ming’s regular validation of my budget camera choice always gives me a warm glow. But if Olympus would make ‘Son of OM-1’ instead of ‘Son of Pen’ (trade in all the gizmos for a big fat viewfinder) I’d be very tempted.

      • I got the impression that was what the E-M5, and more closely, the E-M5II were supposed to be – what I’d really like to see is a stripped down version with just a shutter speed dial on the top and none of the extra gizmos…

      • Not sure if intentional, but ‘huff and puff’ brings to mind a certain Steve XD

        • I couldn’t possibly comment………
          Regarding Patrick’s original suggestion that this blog might be slightly elitist. I’d say it’s rigorous, which is quite different and that will clarify your approach whatever equipment you use, indeed it is more relevant to users of basic equipment, with the limitations that imposes.
          As for the Pen…. It looks as if it was built in a shipyard for the boiler room of a steamer. It has more valves and pressure gauges than I could ever make sense of. A clear and accurate viewfinder along with uncluttered shutter speed and aperture dials will allow you to practice most, if not all, of the shot discipline described in this blog as well as being faster and more intuitive. Digital obviously gives you possibilities beyond those basic film requirements but it doesn’t have to get in the way. The closest affordable implementation I’ve seen of these ‘retro’ attributes is the X100T but the results I got from a borrowed example just did not have the sparkle you get from a GR at half the price..

      • Patrick Kristiansen says:

        I have been looking for a minimalist camera like the a digital fm2a or indeed om1 for quire some time now. Why is this such a far fetched thought if you don’t want to pay up for a leica? Good grip, the essential knobs with good tactile feel, good evf, good sensor with unpolluted output, a decent screen, and essential settings in menu. Done. IBIS, wifi and incamera raw could be bonuses.

        • I think you are not the only one!

          • I always thought about that too. Why the most expensive camera has the simplest UI, ie. Leica? Is it more expensive to strip down features?

            • I think they think there’s less of a market, so they price it higher to make the business case work…

              • Patrick Kristiansen says:

                You are probably right there. But as someone who has sold cameras in a physical store since 2002, I can tell from most of my customers feedback, that keeping things simple is a winning formula. If I ever go too deep into any camera´s features, most people are lost, and quickly. Most people buying cameras just wanna go shoot. Most people don´t opinions on photo forums complaining about formats, equivalence and this feature over that. I would claim a high quality, rightly priced minimalist camera would sell very well.

        • Patrick – Wouldn’t the Nikon Df fit that bill for you?

          • Patrick Kristiansen says:

            Ming: I would, if the manufacturers would listen to a local salesmanager. Not very likely, especially considering the managers in question would be from tiny Norway. We don´t represent much of a marketshare up here in the mountains;)

            Scott: Yea, I thought so when I saw the first pictures. They made my heart skip a beat. Then I saw the size of it, and the backside of it, and then I read about the fixed focusing screen, the awkwardness of the knobs and all the other issues.
            We have a saying here in Norway describing Nikons fumbled effort to design a cool, minimalist retro camera very well; it translates roughly into

            “Throwing out the baby with the bath-water.”

            Kinda sums up nicely…

            • Patrick,

              Throwing your babies out with the bath water? Is this what turns them into men? Only kidding, we use the same saying here in the UK.

            • They do here, because sales numbers are the one thing they listen to – users opinions on why you wouldn’t buy something aren’t.

              • Patrick Kristiansen says:

                Good point there, Ming. Maybe I’ll print out some salesfigures for the reps to crunch next time I see them. In my store, in the midrange/lower highend of cameras, the omd’s reign supreme in terms of sale. Nikon dominate low end, and Canon sells badly mostly due to terrible profit margins… Maybe Canikon will listen if they see they are losing ground, atleast in Sandefjord, Norway. Last time I saw the nikon-rep, he was worried. They even lost their biggest distrubitor, and still hadn’t found a solution a year or so later, leaving each shop to do their own imports… Not a good sign.

                Terry: I did not know that, I learned something there. Thanks:)

                • Patrick, so did I. Idioms don’t always transcend borders and remain unique to their country of origin, although other countries may use a different idiom unique to itself but which has the same meaning. Perhaps this one may be due to our having a common Viking ancestry? :D)

  44. With some past Olympus cameras, editing the metadata for the raw files to suggest it came from a previous camera was enough to get files to open in Adobe software. Though seeing as this is a first-ever application of this sensor (at least in Olympus cameras), that’s less likely to work here. Maybe worth a try.

    I get the impression that you don’t find the camera very exciting but are reminded how quick these Olympus cameras are to operate. In contrast to what you’ve been shooting lately — D810, A7Rii, Hasselblads — the Pen-F must feel like a go-kart.

  45. pete guaron says:

    Looks like a delightful camera, Ming and the photos are stunning quality – if I was kitting up now, I’d give this new Olympus VERY serious consideration.

  46. Trailblazer says:

    Seems to be a niche camera , saved only by the photographic talent of the reviewer.
    I don’t think this bodes well for the upcoming EM1 II.

    • No question it’s niche, especially at the estimated price point. As for the talent of the reviewer…well, that’s definitely the limitation in all cases 😛

  47. Great review as always. I definitely prefer a rangefinder design over SLR, so this would be my pick if I was going to get back into Olympus. Shame that the EVF isn’t better though.

    • The only units that are ‘better’ are the Leica Q and SL – agree, it’d be nice to have one of those, but this is just as good as the E-M1/ E-M5II – and I find ‘good enough’ most of the time.

  48. Gerner Christensen says:

    Another excellent and outstanding review from you Ming. How nice just to read about the essential and not being guided through the specs and part chapters of the user manual.
    I noticed you remark about the response of the camera and “‘confidence of getting the shot”. A feeling I recognize from using the EM1. The feeling is difficult to describe in words, but must be tried.
    I regret you haven’t had any opportunity to develop the RAW files in Camera RAW which would have resulted in a better reference to your usual WF and results. However you images are as always stunning.
    I am looking forward to see how much Olympus my up the performance of the coming EM1 successor. A camera I assume I could be a potential buyer for, should it deliver the juice.

    • It’s a really thick user manual, given the feature set…I’ll leave that to the other guys 😛

      There’s no ACR support yet, so a full assessment of image quality has to wait: all I know is I really don’t like their native software, nor does it do the camera any favours.

      • Peter Boender says:

        Off on a tangent here, but one can’t help but wonder why not a single manufacturer seems to be able to work with Adobe to have software (ACR) support available at around release. I always feel a product is released in a crippled fashion this way. Surely there’s a lot at stake for the manufacturers….

        • There is, though: anything that shoots DNG, or a legacy format. That means Leicas and Pentaxes, and oddly, Hasselblad seems to work fine on earlier versions of PS than the camera, too – I think it may be because their .3fr wrapper format hasn’t changed.

  49. I just purchased a Sony a6000 with the 18-55 lens with have along with my Ricoh GR because I wanted a zoom. Is it me or is this lens not too sharp. Am I spoiled by my GR? Do you recommend a sharper zoom to replace the 18-55? Thank you.

    • The GR is exceptional. The Sony kit lenses…er…less so. Honestly, the lack of consistency and QC amongst those lenses means it’s something of a lottery.

      • Father Raphael says:

        Thank you. I trust your judgement more than any other. You didn’t recommend a zoom which makes me feel I should have purchase a different camera already equipped with a better zoom. Correct?

        • I don’t think there is one that fulfils your expectations. The GR’s lens is at the very top of the peak in terms of performance; there aren’t many interchangeable primes that match it, let alone zooms.

  50. Hey Ming. Loved your frank and honest appraisal of the Pen F, I’m sure that over the next few days/weeks many a reviewer will toe the party line and sing the praises of this device and exclude any shortcomings. What was telling for me however was the information that you’ve provided re: workflow. I currently own the EM5 and rather than get excited about the latest releases (which is nice if one can afford it) I am more apt to investing in wisdom and knowledge in order to improve my composition skills amongst other things. I’m extremely happy that I got to read the first ever review via your site. Keep up the good work and thank you for your honesty and frankness.

    Regards D

  51. Your objective, no BS review as usual is always refreshing and appreciated (at least by this reader).
    I have a couple of immediate questions: How is the shutter sound, compared to EM5 II?
    I’m intrigued by the new element, the thumb hole. Does it help the handling?
    The bigger knob on the front, sigh..

    • Crisper, but that’s hard to describe qualitatively. Sounds fine to my ears, but there are EFC and totally silent modes, too. Handling is actually very good except for the knob on the front – it might interfere with your fingers, it might not.

      • Thx for the reply. Ya, after watching video ads, noticed it has a chirpy metallic overtone to the sound, more pronounced than EM5 II’s. Is the front knob, in monochrome mode, giving one control over whether to write RGB bits into the raw files?
        BTW, do you plan to review XPro 2? I’m not a Fuji shooter, but after spending a bit time looking at samples and outputs from DPR’s comparison tool, I’m convinced XPro 2 has made the progress that Oly, Pany should have made and need to make, i.e. it has got truly 1-stop improvement, managing noise/details balance far better than before. Love to hear your opinions on it. TIA again.

  52. In fairness, I think the original Pen F was more populist than photographer’s tool, too…

    Thanks for the review. As always excellent images–which speak as loudly as your prose. It’s an ‘any camera in the right hands’ situation, clearly

  53. Wow, the first review for the Pen F I’ve seen so far. (Natch on DPReview even). Though I find it surprising that Olympus decided to loan you one, considering their past practices (i.e. loans only for guaranteed good reviews). How much is the MSRP in RM? The links to BH and Amazon doesn’t list the Pen F yet.

    • Change of management 🙂 No price released yet here…

    • Most likely because mirrorless sales are up last year and Olympus had a horrible year with stocks dropping 16% and pre sales on the Pen F in the US don’t even place it in the top ten most sold mirrorless cameras. First few spots are taken by Fuji and Sony, no surprise. I think micro 4/3 has meet it max like 110 film, it just can’t resolve any more with such small pixels. Will become a small amateur or fun camera, although Panasonic was smart and saved itself with nice 4K video for utube or short films. Olympus needs to face the facts and lower its prices, they already have made their camera amatuer based with jpeg controls on the front of the camera. I’d buy the Sony a6300 for $100 less (raw photo) or the Fuji xpro 2 for $500 more if you like jpegs. Luckily I have the Leica Q and am happy with that until someone comes out with a interchangable lens version like it, maybe the xpro 2 will be but I haven’t tried it yet and it’s still apsc. And no the M is not the same as the Q, I enjoy the autofocus and set up of the Q much more, it’s a fun camera were great photos can be taken with minimum effort. That’s what I’d love to see in an interchangable mirrorless, not 42 megapixels with unusable menus and hidden buttons. My medium format is work enough that my fun camera shouldn’t be work.

      • John MacMillan says:

        Ouch!! … I’ve only recently discovered your blog site Ming and am absolutely gob-smacked with the superb photos you post from the little Olympus mft cameras. So much so that I have started leaning toward Olympus rather than Sony A6000/A6300 to replace my Nikon D810 system. I love the Nikon but now I’m 73 years old and just can’t cope with the weight and bulk so have been trying to find something smaller I might enjoy continuing my hobby with. The Sony A6000 body is small but it’s better lenses are bulky and quite slow compared to the Olympus/Pany choices.

        Looking at your comments about mft above I’m no longer too sure. You compare mft to the old 110 film and feel that mft may now be relegated to amateur use only. Of course I agree they are way overpriced (but to be fair the Sony RX100 mk4 is USD1,000 here in Vietnam)

        Oh dear ….. decisions, decisions.

        John Mak

        • Thanks John. Composition is independent of hardware, of course.

          I think you’ll honestly be disappointed with the difference between the smaller formats and the D810. I’d suggest looking into lighter lenses first (the 1.8G series are pretty darn light and small, not to mention cheaper than a complete system switch)…


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  5. […] and Hands-on: Dpreview (first impression). Robin Wong (part one review). Mirrorlessons. Ming Thein. Cameras.reviewed.  Pen And Tell (German). Park Cameras. Dpreview (hands-on). TheVerge. […]

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