Olympus PEN-F Review
Olympus PEN-F video quality doesn’t match the photos, though it’s not bad. Naturally, the HD video isn’t as sharp as competitors’ 4K and there’s quite a bit of edge crawl, especially on fine lines in the background, plus there aren’t any presets to control the video’s color or curve. But low-light video doesn’t look as noisy as you’d expect and the in-camera audio recording is surprisingly full-sounding.
The PEN-F’s JPEGs are clean through ISO 800, and you can start to see just a little smearing at ISO 1600. There are few more false color artifacts than usual in the fine details, though.
Note the significant drop in sharpness between ISO 80 and ISO 200. Up through ISO 6400 you can see smearing from the noise reduction, but it retains a reasonable amount of detail in the in-focus areas. Olympus’ High Res Shot mode, which combines multiple, slightly offset images to produce a high-resolution photo, does produce much better, more naturally resolved detail. Olympus’ Hi Res mode looks nice and sharp at actual size. Unfortunately, you really need to use a tripod for best results.
The PEN-F has excellent, accurate white balance and colors, and its default Natural color settings do a fine job. It does have a problem preserving details in bright, saturated reds, however. Starting at about ISO 1600, you can do a better job preserving sharpness and texture by processing raw files.
The camera’s quite fast, a little more than most similarly priced cameras. Startup is slightly sluggish, typical of mirrorless models, but not onerously slow. Otherwise, the autofocus is snappy and accurate, and image processing never held me up.
The camera doesn’t support continuous autofocus in its high-speed mode, but at the next level down it sustains a continuous-shooting rate of 5.6 frames per second for more than 30 frames in its hidden Super Fine mode, with very good autofocus accuracy. That’s more than enough for typical action shooting.
As with most cameras, complete autofocus doesn’t make the right choices, but it’s more consistent . Though it doesn’t support Olympus’ hybrid stabilization, its sensor-shift works very well.
With the exception of the lack of grip, I really enjoy shooting with the PEN-F, maybe because in a lot of ways it’s designed for control freaks, with features like four custom settings modes on the dial. The viewfinder is large, comfortable and sufficiently high-resolution for manual focus without focus peaking.
It also features novel capabilities like 4K Time Lapse ; Live Bulb, for continuous preview of long-exposure shots; Live Time, which is essentially the same thing except for the way you control the length of the exposure; and Live Composite, which takes multiple exposures of varying duration and combines them in such a way as to keep from blowing out brightly lit areas while still capturing dimmer lights, with continuous display of the cumulatively updated image.
Other drawbacks include a nonstandard USB connector and the SD card slot in the battery compartment. Plus, it’s not sealed against dust and weather, which it really should be given its price tag.
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 has the same sensor and similar specifications, but offers 4K video and a tilting EVF. It lacks the hipster retro vibe of the PEN-F, but it’s also cheaper. So while I would recommend the PEN-F in general, it’s not a great value for the money compared with some other mirrorless models. Its size advantage without sacrificing photo quality does confer some benefits over a comparable dSLR, though.
|Body type||Rangefinder-style mirrorless|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||20 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||22 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||80|
|White balance presets||7|
|Custom white balance||Yes (4 slots)|
|Image stabilization notes||5-axis|
|JPEG quality levels||Super fine, fine, normal, basic|
|Optics & Focus|
|Number of focus points||81|
|Lens mount||Micro Four Thirds|
|Focal length multiplier||2×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Articulated LCD||Fully articulated|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Viewfinder magnification||1.23× (0.62× 35mm equiv.)|
|Minimum shutter speed||60 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/16000 sec|
|Manual exposure mode||Yes|
|Subject / scene modes||Yes|
|Built-in flash||No (external flash included)|
|Flash modes||Flash Auto, Redeye, Fill-in, Flash Off, Red-eye Slow sync (1st curtain), Slow sync (1st curtain), Slow sync (2nd curtain)|
|Continuous drive||10.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 12 seconds, custom)|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||1920 x 1080 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p)|
|Format||MPEG-4, H.264, Motion JPEG|
|Videography notes||Choice of ALL-I, APB codecs|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|Remote control||Yes (wired or via smartphone)|
|Battery description||BLN-1 lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||330|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||427 g (0.94 lb / 15.06 oz)|
|Dimensions||125 x 72 x 37 mm (4.92 x 2.83 x 1.46″)|
|Timelapse recording||Yes (video)|