Goondu review: Olympus Pen-F

October 9th, 2016 | by Wilson Wong
Goondu review: Olympus Pen-F
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I will be the first one to say that the Olympus Pen-F is one of the most handsome cameras out there. Modelled after the old Olympus Pen F of the 1960s, the new digital Pen-F has all the looks that its film-based predecessor possesses and then some.

Looking at the exterior, like the Pen-F control mechanism, you get the sense that this is basically a photographer’s tool.

Other than the on-off switch that requires you to use your left hand, the Pen-F can be manipulated just by using the right hand. One-handed operation is crucial for professional photographers.

And there are two scroll wheels that control the aperture and shutter settings of the camera. Much like the Olympus E-M1 and E-M5, the design lets you quickly set up the camera for a shot.

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The electronic viewfinder or EVF is also very responsive and I didn’t feel hampered by it at all during my tests.

Getting the image in focus with the Pen-F’s 81 selectable autofocus points using the delightful 25mm f1.8 lens is a fast affair. The focus is also accurate.

The micro four-thirds 20.3-megapixel sensor is also capable of producing very good images helped by the 5-axis in-body image stabilisation when in good lighting conditions.

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Much as I love this camera, on thing baffles me though. The presence of the art mode on the front facing dial is hard to understand.

This dial can be better utilised as an ISO dial for a faster changing of settings and can be a great asset to the user.

The camera is not perfect, to be sure. If you are an into video capture, the lack of 4K video and an audio recorder jack will be deal breakers.

I also find Olympus 50-megapixel High Res Shot Mode more gimmicky than practical. For one, the camera and the subject have to be very still to have the image produced (read my previous experience with this on the E-M5 Mark II)

The Pen-F certainly has improved in terms of image quality. However, I am still not a fan when it comes to shots taken with higher ISO settings. Even with ISO 800, there are traces of ISO noise where the competition has much ‘cleaner’ images at the same settings

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Furthermore, the neck strap lug is placed close to the right hand in such a way that it sits between the middle and index finger making it very uncomfortable after holding the camera for an extended period of time.

There’s no doubt the pricey S$1,798 camera (body only) will perform well in the hands of a good photographer when matched with the appropriate lens.

One thing to note is to try out the controls at a shop, to see if they are comfortable before making a purchase.

You should also compare this Olympus system with others in the market. For example, a 7mm-14mm f2.8 lens (US$1,299 or S$1,780) is needed for astrophotography and would make the total price of the system quite expensive.

Its portability would still be its greatest selling point. That’s especially if you don’t mind paying a premium for it.

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