A ‘retro’ camera packed with modern day functions

by Goh De No
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The Olympus PEN series of micro four third (M43) cameras is by far my favourite of all M43s around. They look amazing, and take great pictures, they’re lightweight, and did I mention how great they look?

My Panasonic GH3 is fast approaching four years old, and that’s the bane of buying a really good camera, they are really good even after five years, so I can’t shop for a new one.

The Olympus PEN-F was first launched in the 1960s, built as a half-frame film camera. The Olympus PEN flagship at the moment is still the E-P5, with the lower specced E-PL’s sliding below it. But now, we have the new PEN-F, 50 or so years later, looking as old-school as the original, but with all the goodies that you would expect in a modern day camera.

The all new Pen-F mirrorless camera from Olympus. Image courtesy of Olympus.

PEN-F features the largest resolution of any Olympus body, with a 20-megapixel Four Thirds sensor, it has a 5-axis image stabilisation, and up to 10 frames per second continuous shooting.

There is a 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, where you get a 100 per cent representation of the actual frame, which is great. If I ever buy another M43 camera, I think that will be one of the key points, because having a 95 or 97 per cent image in the viewfinder do get some items you want in the screen cut off. There have been instances where details I want in the shot end up not being in the actual shot.

With the mechanical shutter, you get a maximum 1/8000sec shutter speed, but only 1/16,000 on the electronic shutter.

The body is a machined magnesium body, and has an extremely solid feel but instead of leather, it is actually textured plastic. Sadly, the camera isn’t weather-proofed, which I think falls short of satisfactory on this point.

One of the attractive features of the PEN-F is the 50-megapixel resolution multi-shot mode, which can do up to 80-megapixel in RAW, all thanks to its 20mp sensor.

Its fully-articulated screen will help you take artistic shots at any angle, providing more versatility to the camera, which also allows it to protect the camera’s screen from scratches when travelling.

On the front, similar to the original PEN-F in the 60’s, there’s a dial that switches creative modes, such as Mono, Color, Art and CRT. Which isn’t really the best use of a dial, making it more like a prop or decorative tool, more than something that is absolutely useful.

There’s a nice dial up top which gives four custom options. And the usual P/S/A/M and video mode. Below the dial is a two-way toggle, which changes the JPEG’s curve-tone.

There are 81 auto-focus points, and you can adjust the point by hitting the left button on the four-way directional pad. What I really like is even if your eye is on the finder, and the screen goes off, you can move the point around with your finger.

The new Pen-F from Olympus is stylish especially in black. Image courtesy of Olympus.

In terms of video, the PEN-F is not great, firstly, because there is no microphone jack on this camera to shoot sound. Audio is one of the most important things of your video (ironically), so the lack of the mic jack is a deal breaker for videographers. The second is that the camera doesn’t have auto ISO during video filming.

There are good parts for video, like having filters applied to a video, and that it can shoot 52Mbps bitrate at 1080/60p or even better, 77Mbps if you do 1080/30p.

The continuous auto-focus also works on video, but serious video shooters wouldn’t want that on at anytime.

With that said, the PEN-F is the best looking camera around, regardless of size or format. The still capabilities of the PEN-F is as good as the camera looks, making it absolutely irresistible!

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