olympus pen f

Olympus Pen F

For wholly emotional reasons I’m now the proud owner of a copy of the Olympus Pen F. Well, that and the fact B & H Photography had an open box copy marked down about $300 from the standard MSRP. In other words, money and emotion conspired together to convince me I needed a copy. Whatever. It arrived Monday 31 July and I’ve been bopping around with it since it was delivered. Even though it was an open box sale from B&H, it was in superb like-new condition.

So far the camera has been a real pleaser of a camera, in so many ways both small and large. Where to start?

  1. I spent a little extra and got the ECG-4 to go along with the body. Once attached it’s been on ever since. There’s a big hole at the bottom over the battery/memory card door that allows easy access for me. Holding the whole assemblage, my right index finger tip falls perfectly over the top angle, while the rest of my hand wraps comfortably around the right side. My right thumb tip fits perfectly on the back.
  2. The fit and finish are immaculate. The exterior paint coating is a satin finish. With a contemporary µ4:3rds black lens affixed to the front it looks gorgeous. It’s the kind of camera that begs to be use for photography.
  3. I worked for an Atlanta camera store in the mid-1970s called Wallis Kamera Haus. The owner, Bill Wallis, sold high-end bespoke Nikon, Rollei, and Leica cameras. Especially Leica. I was a darkroom rat developing and printing customer’s Leica exposed B&W film (primarily Ilford, and printed on Ilford papers). When I could come out I used to handle some of the Leicas in the store to see what all the fuss was about, M-2s and M-3s primarily, and when they began to show up, early M-4s. We also had a few of the CLs on the shelf. I certainly wanted to own and use a Leica (and the petite, jewel-like 35mm f/2 Summicron) but I wasn’t earning enough to buy any of what was being sold. The Pen F strongly reminds me of those M-4s and the CLs, both in looks and in overall quality.
  4. And since we’re writing about past cameras, it brings back pleasant memories of my first 35mm camera, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN from the early 1970s, and my first Olympus digital camera, the FourThirds E-300 from 2006. All of that is a Good Thing.
  5. The shutter is divine. I trip the shutter and I can barely hear it, such a quick light snick. My E-M5s sound more drawn out and louder by comparison.
  6. Focusing. Regardless of what lens I attach, focusing seems more precise and quicker. Coupled with the “light” shutter, I believe the Pen F is producing very sharp images, perhaps even sharper than the E-M5 (and the E-M5 is no slouch in this area).
  7. Image quality. I can’t honestly tell after such a limited time if the extra four megapixels of the Pen F’s 20MP sensor makes a visible difference over the E-M5’s 16MP sensor, but I have noted that the colors seem, well, more “natural” coming straight out of the camera.
  8. WiFi communication with Olympus’ OI.Share is considerably faster than with the E-M10. When I pair my iPhone 7 Plus with the Pen F and open the OI.Share, the thumbnail listing of Pen F exposures is almost instantaneous. Moving images across to the iPhone still takes a while. Overall workflow of moving images from camera to phone is much faster, but then, I expect that due to the more recent refinements in the Pen F.
  9. Size. The overall size, with the grip, is slightly larger than the E-M5. And that’s not bad. It’s certainly not heavy to hold. The size adds to the pleasure of holding it.

I know I’ve written (and ranted a bit) about the cost of the latest cameras, primarily because I couldn’t justify spending that much money no matter how much I wanted (as opposed to needed) that camera. But there’s a hard lesson to learn in all of that recalcitrant behavior:

You deserve what you stick with.

There is a marked, noticeable increase in capability and quality of the Pen F over the original E-M5, just as there was a marked, noticeable increase and quality of the E-M5 over my E-P2. By sticking with a given level of capability you make the choice to live with it’s strengths and its weaknesses, whatever they happen to be. You also give up the advantages of advancement over time. The decision not to update can have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is time spent in a given workflow. As a software developer I’ve always pushed every project I’ve been a part of to keep up with the latest software releases, especially compilers and tools, because every release incorporates bug fixes, performance increases, and new and improved features. All this makes the software development workflow more efficient, more robust, and creates a better product all around. The same thing applies to photography, especially digital photography. In a given two-to-three year cycle all cameras wind up with better sensors being handled by better software running on faster silicon inside the body. The result, everything else remaining equal, is better quality photography. With perhaps the notable exception of the Canon 6D Mark 2.

Bottom line, I’m glad I purchased this camera. I should have purchased this camera sooner than later, but I had to get here first.

Eating Crow

Back in 2013 I wrote a snotty opinion about the M.Zuiko 75-300mm II zoom lens. I now have a copy (after it came down $100), purchased along with the Pen F. After handling the lens a bit, I’d like to say I was very wrong and to offer a formal apology. It might be mostly plastic (like so many lenses these days) but my copy is one of the most tightly assembled and well made zooms I think I’ve ever owned, and I’m including my old FourThirds lenses in that sample group. It is so well made that even with the barrel extended to 300mm there is absolutely no play in the extended lens barrel. Considering both the quality of its construction as well as its operation on the Pen F it’s worth every penny I spent on it. Well done Olympus.

One thought on “olympus pen f

  1. What a nice camera, Bill – congrats! Oh, and I used both Ilford film & paper as well when I was younger. Our bathroom was the dark room…

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