At First Glance: The Olympus Pen F

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Like the retro Nikon Df, Oly’s Pen F was unveiled to controversy. Even Olympus fanboys complained about the price ($1,199.99 body) while others complained about its performance. Everybody loved the cameras looks but affection for the camera itself seems fickle. Olympus calls the Pen F “the digital update of the original PEN-F.” Options include an External Metal Grip ($129.95) that lets you replace the battery without removing the grip.


The Pen F has a 20-megapixel sensor and TruePic VII Image Processor combined with 5-Axis Image Stabilization that compensates for up to five stops of shutter speed and a 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The sensor’s low-pass filterless construction delivers a low sensitivity mode equivalent to ISO 80. There’s no built-in flash but comes with a Barbie’s own-style mini speedlight, similar but better (it has tilt/bounce capability) than what Oly includes with the EM-5 series.

The top and front covers of the body are magnesium and the metal dials (along with the casing) are aluminum. There are customizable buttons and dials along with an Exposure Compensation dial. A Creative Dial on the front lets you accesses black & white and color profiles and the Art Filters hated by purists. The camera’s Monochrome Profile combines photographic effects such as Color Filter, Shading, Film Grain, Monochrome Color, and Highlight and Shadow Control. There’s also Classic Film Monochrome for a monochrome film effect with high contrast and Classic Film Infrared you know I’m going to try.


Like the EM-5 Mark II, there’s a High Res Shot Mode that captures 50 megapixel equivalent images that should make landscape, architecture and still life shooters happy. Even Olympus’ Viewer 3 Ver. 2.0 software has been updated to process High Res Shot RAW images.


The PEN-F has a 0.044 seconds shutter-release time lag and its 1/8000-second, high-speed mechanical shutter should help capturing fast action. You can shoot action at 10 fps with the mechanical shutter, 5 fps from its (criticized) C-AF, and 20 fps in Silent Mode. It’s Focus Bracketing captures multiple shots, each with slightly different focus depths for Citizen Kane deep-focus effects.

The PEN-F is available in silver or black and I’ll be testing the black model but like the silver because it’s so retro. The 20.3-megapixel Lumix GX8, I was lukewarm about was also priced at $1199 at launch now sells for 997.99. So maybe we’ll see a similar price drop for the Pen F but I’m not betting on it. One of the reasons I didn’t love the GX8 was its clunky feel; not so with the Pen F which is the best industrial design I’ve seen applied to cameras in a long time. It even has a really, really nice strap. And yes, it is expensive but it feels expensive too.

Look for Part Two: Field test: Shooting the Olympus Pen F real soon now.