Monday, February 01, 2016

Olympus PEN-F Review Part 2

Important Notes:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3 Version 2 (unreleased at this moment)
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.


This blog entry is a continuation of Olympus PEN-F Review Part 1, so please do read the Part 1 before proceeding further. 

In Part 1 Review, I have discussed about the improvements of the new 20MP LiveMos Image Sensor in the PEN-F, the image quality of the new sensor in terms of overall sharpness as well as high ISO performance with plenty of samples and comparisons with OM-D E-M10 Mark II, as well as general handling and comments on the camera ergonomics and design. 

In this subsequent Part 2 Review of PEN-F, I will explore the following items:
1) Effectiveness of the Olympus 5-Axis Image Stabilization System
2) 50MP High Resolution Shot feature
3) Color Profile and Monochrome Profile Control




Before jumping right into Part 2 review, I would like to address a few common questions raised from my Part 1 review. 

CUSTOMIZATION OF THE EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL

The most popular question was "can the exposure compensation dial be assigned to other function control, such as ISO?" The short answer is, no. There are only two assignable functions for the exposure compensation dial: 1) actual exposure compensation EV +/-, and 2) the FLASH exposure compensation to adjust the power output of the flash. Unfortunately there is no ability to customize this exposure compensation dial to adjust the ISO manually. 

For my choice of settings, I strongly prefer using the front control dial (twin dials) for my exposure compensation control, and to do so, I need to disable the dedicated exposure compensation dial. 

However, if you decide to leave the exposure compensation dial as is, you can assign any of the remaining two control dials to either ISO, Aperture, or Shutter (depending on which shooting modes you are at, P, A, S or M).

Exposure compensation dial can only be assigned to two dedicated functions: exposure compensation, or flash exposure compensation. No, you cannot assign this dial to control the ISO. 

The front and back twin dials can control the usual exposure parameters such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO. To use one of these dials to control exposure compensation instead, you need to first disable the actual exposure compensation dial. 



EXPECTATIONS ON PEN-F

It has come to my attention that generally many readers are expecting the PEN-F to be like an OM-D. I fully understand that in terms of specifications PEN-F is similar to any other recent Olympus cameras (eg, E-M10 Mark II and E-M5 Mark II), but you must also realize that the design concept behind PEN and OM-D are targeted toward very different crowds altogether. The absence of proper hand gripping area (though can be supplemented with additional add-on hand-grip accessory) and no weather sealing on the PEN suggested that for photographers who use the camera in harsh conditions and need better handling using larger PRO lenses are better suited with OM-D cameras. The last I checked, nothing happened to the OM-D cameras, the E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II cameras are still the same, and can be your choice if those cameras suit you better. However, just because a few OM-D features are absent in the new PEN-F, I do not think it is fair to be so quick to conclude that the PEN-F is less functional and not a better buy in comparison to the OM-D offerings. The PEN-F itself has so many uniqueness to it that the OM-D users may not necessarily want, or need in their photography needs. 

Remember how there were so many complains about the OM-D hump being unnecessary and ugly? Well, the PEN-F had a flat top. Remember how popular the built in EVF in PEN was a request? Now we have a built in EVF. Also, how almost everyone wanted a "rangefinder-esque" looking PEN model from Olympus, and how so many people actually do prefer manual control dials after raving about Fujifilm getting those manual controls right in their amazing line-up of cameras. Although I may not necessarily agree with all the popular comments (certainly not about those overabundance of dials, oh no please), the reality is that the PEN-F was created based on popular feedback. 

I do have to admit, the PEN-F is the best looking Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, yet. The craftsmanship of PEN-F is second to none when it comes to Olympus cameras. PEN-F is designed to look extremely good and yet, offering what Olympus has always excelled in doing: excellent imaging tool. It delivers sharp, detailed images rich in pleasing colours, has all the latest Olympus imaging technology such as 5-Axis IS, super fast autofocus, 50MP high resolution shot, live composite/live time settings, etc and yet all that were fitted into a small, light and incredibly beautiful body. 

No, in many ways, Olympus PEN-F did not surpass the previous OM-D cameras. Why should it? It is sitting right in its own category, and if you are not a PEN user (I am not, I am being frank here) then get an OM-D!


5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION TESTS

Olympus is always proud about their in camera 5-Axis Axis Image Stabilization system, claiming to have the world's most powerful and advanced IS system in the consumer market. 

After using the PEN-F extensively, I believe that the 5-Axis IS in the PEN-F is similar to the 5-Axis IS found in the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I can hand-hold my shots at incredibly low shutter speeds, which I normally do not use, but I did them for the sake of torturing the image stabilization. Taking things to the extreme, I have mounted much larger lenses, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, and even that 300mm F4 IS PRO lens onto the PEN-F, just to see how the image stabilization coped. 

The 5-Axis IS worked well in all shooting conditions, from wide angle shots to super telephoto. Remember that amazing 5-Axis Sync IS (utilizing both the in camera 5-Axis IS and also the lens 2-Axis IS inside the 300mm F4 IS PRO lens, working together in sync)? It is fully compatible with the PEN-F, and I found that exact same owl and pulled off a 1/10sec hand-held shot with the 300mm lens! It worked. 

1/100sec, F5, ISO200,40mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens, 

1/40sec, F4, ISO200, 150mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens 

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1/10sec, F7.1, ISO200, 300mm F4 IS PRO lens 
Testing out the new 5-Axis Sync IS with the 300mm F4 PRO lens. 

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1/3sec, F5.6, ISO200, 25mm F1.8 lens

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1/2sec, F6.3, ISO200, 12mm F2 lens

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50MP HIGH RESOLUTION SHOT

Just like the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, the new PEN-F is equipped with a sensor-shift multiple shots capability to create the 50MP High Resolution Shot. 

To understand the basics of the High Resolution Shot of Olympus (sensor being shifted by half a pixel distance, capturing 8 photographs and combined into a high resolution image) you may refer to my detailed explanations here and here. 

Previously in the E-M5 Mark II, the output from the high resolution shot was 40MP, and now due to the slight increase of megapixels in the new sensor (from 16MP to 20MP) we get 50MP high resolution shot. Considering the application of this technique requires use of tripod, which I shamelessly admit I did not carry with me during my shooting with the PEN-F, and shooting of non-moving objects only, I have limited opportunities to test out this feature. 

The biggest advantage of 50MP high resolution shot, is the high resolution. This feature is not created to replace true 50MP cameras, but it is there to give you an option to use if you need such high resolution in your images. And sure it is convenient to have and not difficult to execute if you fully understand and work within the feature's limitations. 

1/640sec, F5.6, ISO200, 12mm F2 lens

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50MP high resolution shot on the left, 20MP default output on the right

1/50sec, F2.8, ISO200, 25mm F1.8 lens

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50MP high resolution shot on the left, 20MP default output on the right

MONOCHROME PROFILE AND COLOR PROFILE CONTROL

Perhaps, the only new feature added to the PEN-F that was not seen before in any previous Olympus cameras, is the monochrome and color profile control. 

At the front of the camera, there is the monochrome and color profile control dial. This dial allows quick access to four distinct features: Color Creator, Art Filters, Color Profile Control and Monochrome Profile Control. Considering that Color Creator and Art Filters are already readily available in all current Olympus cameras, I shall skip them. In this blog entry I shall focus on both the monochrome and color profile control. 

MONOCHROME PROFILE CONTROL

Olympus has always had "monotone" option in the Picture Settings, creating Black and White images with limited control over the direct output on the camera. Also, in the Art Filter, there is an existing Grainy Black and White Film, which is a super high contrast output of a black and white image with excessive presence of course grains all over the image. 

The new Monochrome Profile Control basically is a new black and white control in PEN-F that offers tonnes of flexibility and controls over the look and feel of the monotone image output. These plethora of controls include:
1) Color filters and intensity adjustments
There is the ability to select from 8 separate color filters (yellow, orange, red, magenta, blue, cyan, green, yellow Green). This explicitly mimicks shooting black and white images with film and applying color filters on the front of the lens, yellow/orange to bring out the skin contrast and red to intensify the sky. Further to that, the intensity of the color filter applied can be adjusted based on 3 step increment (OFF, Level +1, Level +2, Level +3). 
2) Highlight & Shadow Controls
On top of the color filters, you can also adjust the shadow and highlight control to either increase the contrast, or flatten the image. 
3) Film Grain
Film grain can be added at 3 steps as well to achieve that "film look" (Off, Low, Med, High). 
4) Vignetting
Lastly, vignetting can be applied directly. 

There are three profile settings in the camera, Monochrome Profile 1, 2 and 3. The Monochrome Profile 1 is the option for you to fully customize. The Monochrome Profile 2 simulates a black and white film (Kodak Tri-X, maybe?) and Monochrome Profile 3 simulates Infrared Red Black and White film. 

Creative Dial at the front of the camera

Control Lever - quickly activates the important controls when the monochrome and color profile controls are used. Rotates between the color wheel for fine-tune adjustments and the highlight & shadow control. 

Color Filters selection (8 colors to choose, with 3 step intensity)

Film Grain control

3 profiles, with profile 2 and 3 being default built into the camera

I have not shot with film before (yes, I can hear some screams) so I shall not temper too much with the profile settings. 

For this review purpose, I have chosen to just use the default profiles. I have utilized both the Monochrome Profile 2 and Monochrome Profile 3 options. 

MONOCHROME PROFILE 2 
CLASSIC FILM B&W

Monochrome Profile 2

Monochrome Profile 2

Previous shot taken, but ordinary Monotone setting, without using the Monotone Profile setting. 

Monochrome Profile 2

Film Grain added instantly using the Monochrome Profile 2. This is Film Grain "high" setting. 

Monochrome Profile 2

Monochrome Profile 2

Monochrome Profile 2

Monochrome Profile 2


MONOCHROME PROFILE 3
CLASSIC FILM IR

Monochrome Profile 3

 Previous shot taken, but ordinary Monotone setting, without using the Monotone Profile setting. 

Monochrome Profile 3 with Vignetting
Oh yes, that bird was a real bird. I waited 10 minutes for this shot to happen. 
At least I did not Photoshop a gigantic commercial airline into the sky. 

Monochrome Profile 3

COLOR PROFILE CONTROL

The color profile control allows versatile control over how the color balance of photographs look. I would not be the best person to test this out, as I do very little color adjustments to my photographs, and I normally use default, almost natural looking colors, straight out of camera. 

There are three settings: Color Profile Control 1 which allows full customization, and can be saved, then Color Profile 2 which simulates Chrome Film Rich Color and Color Profile 3 that simulates Slide Color Film. 

Once you are inside the color profile control, you can further adjust the individual colors and intensity of each of the color. There are 12 colors to be controlled, and each color has 10 steps fine adjustments (0, Vivid -5 to +5). As usual, shadow and highlight control can also be used together with these color adjustments. Bear in mind that these color profiles are separate adjustments from the white balance, and you can still (in some situations, need) control the white balance settings separately. 

Color Wheel with intensity adjustments. 12 colors to choose from, with 10 step incremental adjustments each color. All colors can be adjusted individually. 

Three Profiles to choose from


COLOR PROFILE 1 
CHROME FILM RICH COLOR
Color Profile 2

Color Profile 2

Color Profile 2

Color Profile 2

Color Profile 2


COLOR PROFILE 3
SLIDE FILM

Color Profile 3

Color Profile 3

Color Profile 3

Default output from camera "Natural" picture setting, without color profile adjustments. 

Color Profile 3

Color Profile 3

Color Profile 3

Color Profile 3

CONCLUSIONS

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT PEN-F
The most beautiful Olympus modern camera. 
Top notch craftsmanship and build quality
Excellent looking low ISO output, clean with minimal sharpening artifacts, yet still maintaining high level of details/sharpness
New 20MP Image Sensor has slight improvements in terms of overall image quality
5-Axis Image Stabilization
Built-in EVF 
Feature packed: 50MP high resolution shot, monochrome and color profile controls, etc

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT PEN-F
I had higher expectations from the new 20MP image sensor, with higher jump in image quality (especially in high ISO shooting)
Handling was not as good as previous PEN cameras (eg, E-P5). However, this can be improved with the use of add-on grip ECG-4. 
Some questionable dial placements that actually gets in the way of shooting comfort
Short battery life (400-500 shots per charge). Why can't we get 800-1000 shots per charge?

I think PEN-F is quite an interesting camera. Looking at it as a practical camera, it does deliver and perform impressively under a wide variety of shooting conditions. Yes it shoots richly detailed, sharp images, and does considerably well in low light shooting conditions. The 5-Axis IS works like a charm each and every time, and the built in EVF was indeed a welcome. All that in a small and light-weight package, yet so gorgeous and beautiful classic looking camera. There really is not much to complain about the camera, and as a PEN, I think this is the best PEN yet from Olympus. 

However, there is NO perfect camera, and it is foolish to expect any camera to be. The biggest let down I find was the handling, which could have been improved, though I believe the design decisions were made in priority of looks rather than function here. While there is the new 20MP image sensor which is a minor improvement from the old 16MP one, I was hoping for bigger improvements especially when it comes to dynamic range and high ISO shooting. I do not necessarily expect the resolution to go much higher (in fact, 20MP is still plentiful), I think I speak on behalf of all Micro Four Thirds loyal shooters that we need to see higher leap when it comes to sensor technology. 

That said, the PEN-F does not disappoint, and consistently delivers beautiful images. Coupled with brilliant Olympus lenses (M.Zuiko, sharp prime lenses) the PEN-F can be quite a powerful photography tool. 

Who is this camera aimed for? I would think street photographers! The rangefinder-design, the small/lightweight setup with the prime lenses (17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8), super fast Autofocus, swivel screen for low angle and high angle composition, and all those Color and Monochrome Profile Control to simulate film look. 

If you want a small, incredibly sexy looking camera that is beautifully crafted and well-built, the PEN-F is the best looking Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera that can deliver beautiful images consistently, with all the latest imaging technology offerings from Olympus. 

More Sample Images

1/100sec, F3.5, ISO200, 150mm, 40-150mm F2.8 lens

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1/200sec, F2.8, ISO200, 150mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens

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1/15sec, F3.5, ISO6400, 12mm F2 

1/80sec, F1.8, ISO3200, 45mm F1.8 lens

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1/200sec, F1.8, ISO4000

1/40sec, F3.5, ISO10000

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1/2sec, F5.6, ISO200

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92 comments :

  1. Good part 2 review. Nice work.

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  2. there is something about your reviews that makes them ... readable.... that's it: they are not "user manuals" but subjective assessments of the camera. You seem to not hold back when YOU don't like something, no need to brown-nose, even if Olympus signs your checks :-)
    I find that very refreshing and honest, credible and gives me food for thoughts.
    And lastly your pix are incredible, over and over again. Others just have "sample" images with no life in the subject.
    Robin, you are by far the best reviewer for the PEN-F so far (and I am pretty positive that will stand).
    Now, if I really wanted to know what every single dial can do or can't I can access the online user manual. That's it if I was really interested in the camera...
    Keep up the incredible work.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Gnarlydog. I, like all other Micro four Thirds users, seriously want to see more improvements in Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras, hence I must be honest.
      I believe the real test of camera is of course, taking photos in real life situations! That is what I strive to do, and spend so much time out there shooting to get meaningful photos.

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  3. Hi Robin, repost my question at Part I: can you check how long takes to complete a High Res shot? assuming the shutter speed is fast enough(say >1/200) that does not factor into the total time. Oly has been talking about upcoming hand-held High Res shot, that'll be a truly ground-breaking feature. But unless Oly engineers can improve the full-sensor read-out speed by an order of magnitude this year, IMO it's mission impossible to shoot High Res at the speed of 1/30-60th as people expect. The current read-out speed would take at least 1/2.5 sec for a 8-shot High Res image. Very curious what Pen F can do at this point, any improvement over EM5 II that takes ~1sec. TIA!

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    1. The time taken to take a high res shot is similar with the E-M5 Mark II, about 2-3 seconds, and then a little bit of writing time to the card. No, there is no indication officially that this will be made hand-held possible, that is all merely rumors at this point.

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    2. You might have missed this interview: "According to Setsuya Kataoka, future OM-D cameras will be able to create multi-shot high resolution images in such a short time that photographers will be able to use the feature handheld. ... He went on to explain that he expected the R&D team to make rapid progress in the development of the High Res Shot feature and that in time Olympus will be able to create a system will take less than 1/60sec instead of the current time of about one second." -http://www.dpreview.com/articles/5476551037/interview-with-setsuya-kataoka-from-olympus-om-d-high-resolution-mode
      I just don't see it will happen in the near future, unless sensors have DRAM stacked in multiple layers.

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    3. Well, that is another evidence that I am not connected to the R&D at all, and I am in no position to answer such questions.

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  4. Thanks Robin, for this honest part 2 of your review. After a view days my love at first sight for this camera did not fade away. I could easily live with its shortcomings. No body is perfect!
    Except for the steep price, but that should be a matter of time. The small improvement on the image quality is noticeable (at least on my computer screen). The high resolution mode is stunning, but a strange aspect since this camera mainly was designed for stealthy street photography and not for still life studio work. That's a lot more convenient though than attempting to do stealthy street photography with a studio camera.

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    1. No worries Wolters, indeed it is the kind of camera that is designed to be carried out often!

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  5. I lolled! :D
    "Oh yes, that bird was a real bird. I waited 10 minutes for this shot to happen."

    Thanks for the review and your opinion Robin!

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    1. Got to admit that was quite a phenomenon in photography world for the past few days!

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    2. I laughed at this one, too!
      Another great review, Robin. Thanks for sharing.

      The Pen-F won't replace my E-M5II, but would be a great addition.

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    3. E-M5 Mark II is an amazing camera! Glad you caught the joke.

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  6. When MFT was new, we had fresh audience and owners - didn't care about conservative and nerdy requirements. The tech was still immature but we bought and kept on buying. Sometime after E-M5 through to E-M1, the MFT owners were joined by conservatives, obsessives, kiahsus (because MFT became mature and acceptable) - this and that model must have weather sealing, must have Dynamic Range equal to Sony A7R2, high ISO equal to A7S2, must have AF equal to Canon 7D - the cries are so loud that your ears bleed and eyes water. And the old rallying call - Olympus must spend all resources to make the camera specially and only for them. If they have an OM-D that looks like their old camera, Olympus cannot be allowed to make any other shape or spec that deviates. Sigh! Different people enjoy different things. But some people don't see that or allow that. Let's us moderates just enjoy what we get. :)

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    1. Well said Ananda. I think it is good that we have camera choices, and surely there is no one perfect camera that fits all!
      Looking forward to seeing you soon Ananda.

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  8. Hi Robin thanks for your excellent review. I am the happy owner of a PEN P3 which I use with panny 20 1.7, oly 12 2.0 and oly 45 1.8. I would consider upgrading to the PEN F given three conditions: 1) good integrated EVF, 2) significant improvement in low light/high ISO, 3) more accurate focusing (I find that panny 20mm is not always nailing it). Your thoughts? thanks!

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    1. Oh yes, PEN-F is a huge leap over E-P3, almost double the resolution, and surely, dramatically improved dynamic range and high ISO capabiliities. The EVF is as good as E-M5 Mark II or E-M1, just slightly smaller. I am perfectly happy with it.
      I never had issues with AF, it was always fast and accurate. However, I cannot promise anything with the Panasonic 20mm. It is the lens' issue, not the camera body.

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  9. It is sufficient, but I'm sure that you could take an E-P1 and make its photos look 95% as good and no one would be the wiser. :-)

    The high resolution shots make me think that the E-M1 MkII will be good but not amazing. Having recently had the shutter replaced, I'm thinking that I could wait indefinitely for a replacement for my E-M1.

    The film emulations are interesting.

    The sensor is only slightly better, as I've found with the Panasonic GX8. Instead of accepting photos of up to ISO 3200, I can accept up to ISO 3220. I've been comparing photos between the Nikon D7200 and E-M1 with ultra wide lenses and I'm wondering if the larger sensor size and file format's ability to record 14-bit vs. 12-bit color is enough. I believe that we've hit a wall.

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    1. I think in all seriousness, all cameras released today are all capable of delivering high quality images. It all comes down to specific needs and shooting preferences.

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    2. You're correct. It's all better than film, no matter how nostalgic people can be about film.

      If Nikon had been faster with their D500, I would have not bought the D7200. Equally, Pentax' K-1 might be a great substitute for a bit more money.

      I'm sure I prove every day that you can use micro Four-Thirds for hard core work in skate park sports.

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    3. Indeed you are a living proof that Micro Four Thirds can perform in such demanding areas of fast moving subjects! Thanks for sharing always.

      Delete
  10. "Why can't we get 800-1000 shots per charge?" That would be great, but is ANYBODY achieving that right now? I mean in a camera with similar power demands (full-time EVF or LCD, image stabilization, framing rates, etc.) and using a similar-size battery? It seems as if all the mirrorless cameras I use have roughly similar numbers of shots per charge.

    It seems as if the basic chemistry of lithium-ion batteries says you can only store so much energy in a battery of a certain size, so the only options for getting more shots per charge are to use a bigger battery or to scale back some energy-consuming features (but would consumers tolerate a smaller, dimmer LCD and EVF, slower image processor etc.?) Of course it would be better to invent a new battery technology or revolutionary electronic components that consumed less power, but that seems to be taking longer than everybody would like :-)

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    1. I understand that the limitations may be due to the technology and size, but hey, even if we can squeeze out 100-200 more shots, it would make a whole world of difference.

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  11. Given most of the previous m4/3 cameras see less than 350 shots per battery, 400-500 is a great increase.

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    1. 350 shots from the BLS cameras such as E-M10/E-PL7. I managed to get 400-500 shots shooting with E-M1, E-P5 and E-M5 cameras.

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    2. Olympus' rating for the E-M1 is 350 shots per charge. Whatever you were doing to get 400-500 shots out of a single charge, please share.

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    1. Thanks for this very helpful and honest review, Robin. Nice pictures too, which really show the possibilities in b/w and that
      was what I was looking for. I already own the OMD EM5 but this Pen F is tempting. It's a pity though that it has a swing out
      LCD monitor, I would have preferred a flip up/down screen like on my EM5. After all, that would have been better for the street
      shooters for whom this camera is said to be intended for, no? (and weather sealing would also have been nice for street shooters...)

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    2. I think we can expect more and more for the camera, but if tilt screen and weather sealing are important, then E-M1 is a good choice!

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  13. Thanks for this great review Robin, your shots really do justice to the huge possibilities of the PEN-F. I know Video is not your cup of tea, but did you shoot some samples ? In all PEN-F previews so far, there is hardly no clue if the new sensor allowed Olympus to provide better sharpness and less moire than with the E-M5 II & E-M10 II. Did Olympus ask the reviewers to concentrate on still shooting only ? I know video quality is not #1 priority for Olympus, but the latest bodies have made a nice leap in quality, it would be great to get the full potential of the new sensor (27fps full sensor readout).

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    1. Nope, certainly video is not my cup of tea and you are right. I am not the best person to do such tests, and I have been negatively commented previously on my sub-par video shooting skills. Lets just wait for more qualified people to do the tests.

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  14. Robin, I don't know how you are capable of such detailed photographs with hand-holding any respectable camera and lens, even with image stabilization. Should I need brain surgery I would hope the surgeon has your amazing hand-steadiness.

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    1. In contrary to that, I do not have steady hands. The image stabilization is indeed incredible and there is just no going back after experiencing PEN and OM-D cameras.

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  15. Thanks for the review, as always, Robin! Well done. I truly appreciate the honest feedback about your perceived shortcomings. Please continue to tell it like you see it. ONe thing that struck me about your review was the lack of enthusiasm about the color creative and monochrome modes. Do you see these as primarily a novelty and not a serious creative tool? I must say that for me, I love the monochrome mode especially. The renderings are beautiful, IMO. True, you can always shoot in RAW and PP with VSCO film emulations and achieve the same result. That being said, I do think there's something to setting the camera in monochrome or vivid color profile and getting in that mindset and shooting with that in mind. Maybe you haven't had the time to experiment with that mindset and get out of your comfort zone a little bit? I plan on doing just that with the Pen F and challenging myself a little bit by doing things I've never done with my OMDs. Just a thought.

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    1. I don't think I was lacking enthusiasm, I did put in tonnes of effort in finding the right subjects with the right monochrome or color profiles to use.
      I avoided myself from commenting too much, because these preset profiles are mimicking film looks, which I am not familiar with. I started photography in the digital age and have not used any film camera before. If I did try to discuss about film look I might have done mistakes, so I figured out the best way to go about reviewing this part of the camera, is to shoot as many useful photographs as I can and let them speak for themselves!

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    2. Thanks Robin! I find your honesty and restraint very refreshing. I personally try to acknowledge and respect what I don't know (which is a lot in photography!) and never pretend otherwise. Hopefully I'll listen to those that do know and learn something when the opportunity comes. Even with your expertise and skill with photography, you seem to be the embodiment of that!

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  16. Thks for this interestig report, Robin. What I find rather interesting is that - going by your samples - Hi ISO seems to have a much more homogeneous or smooth kind of noise-appearance. with my EM1 I could never get pictures at 10 000 as good as the ones shown here, and I am surprised how well the JPG-engine works ( at 100 per cent)

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    1. In direct comparison with E-M1, yes the high ISO noise profile is better, finer grain and holds more usable details.

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  17. Thanks for your review Robin, I always enjoy looking at your shots and reading your thoughts.

    I had a question, with the new colour controls, is it possible to ad a slight hue to the monochrome images. You see I enjoy a slight warmth to my black and white shooting but sepia is always too strong (and saturation doesnt work)... So is it possible to use the colour wheel while in monochrome to add the slight warm note to the black and white images?

    Thanks so much for your efforts reviewing these cameras.

    Ab

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. Yes there is a way to add color tint the image however, you cannot customize the exact color for the tint. I think the tints are green, blue, purple. Not very inspiring for Black and White images.

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    2. Thanks Robin. That is a pity... maybe a word with Olympus of there were to be any way of combining the color creator with black and white. .. one can dream :)

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    3. Thanks Robin. That is a pity... maybe a word with Olympus of there were to be any way of combining the color creator with black and white. .. one can dream :)

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  18. Dear Robin, following your blog for more than a year now I have to go to bat for the pen F in my first comment here. Indeed this camera is more relevant for me than any OMD available or coming in the next years. The reason for this is I love my e-p3. I love the size, the style, I love how it feels in my hand as well as in my pocket. I love to pull it coupled with the 17mm 1.8 from my sweater pocket at a party without beeing "the photographer" just as when it hangs on the thin leather strip around my shoulder at waist level. I'd love to have an upgrade for my sensor in resolution and Iso, I'd love to have an integrated evf and the worlds best image stabilisation, I'd love to have better control on filters as I'm using filters coupled with a raw shot for nice pics right out of the cam paired with any option for modificatins at home. With the Pen F i'm getting all that and even more when considering 50Mpix mode, electronic shutter option etc etc. This is the best PEN in style, function and picture quality I could imagine and it does not have to compete with any OMD out there as it is just different. Not sure how many guys like me are out there but I could imagine to have some soulmated just waited for this camera.

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    1. I am glad to hear that PEN-F is the camera that suits you! I strongly believe that the PEN-F has beautiful design that inspires us to just grab it and go out to shoot some nice photos. Indeed, it does not need to compete with OM-D, it is a great camera by itself.

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  21. Look at that owl shot, damn!

    Thanks for another nice piece.

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  22. Another question: do you know whether one can use a preset in Oly Viewer 3 to mimic the Chrome Color effect? The images from Chrome Color mode 3 are very catchy. TIA

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  23. Hi Robin,

    I follow your blog for a while now and this Pen-F is somthing I've been waiting for. After reading your 2-parts review, it really helps making up my mind. I am a long-time Olympus user since OM-2 and still use the OM-3 with all the Zuiko prime lenses. After purchasing the OM-D E-M1 (mouthful indeed), I've been looking at the PEN as a daily carrying-around 2nd camera. For me, the E-M1 is very powerful and I use it with the Pro lenses for travel/holidays and assignments/projects, whereas I would like to get a PEN mainly for the prime lenses I have (12mm and 25mm, thinking to get the 75mm). Now I think the PEN-F is the one I've been waiting for, well except price is a bit higher than anticipated. Nevertheless, I agree with you that the PEN-F is the most stylish design from Olympus ever. Will try it out once it is released in Hong Kong.

    Great work and enjoy your blog very much, full of inspiring photos!!

    Cheers,
    Shaun

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  24. Hi Robin
    Have you used the electronic shutter? Can you say anything about how it works with a moving subject, ex. sport or street photography.
    Are any of the pictures in this review shot with electronic shutter
    Thanks
    John

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    1. No, I did not use the silent shutter. It is not recommended to be used unless absolutely necessary. Not for fast moving subjects.

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  25. Thank you so much, good critics are very rare and you are showing: it´s possible do criticise a camera without beeing to harsh and unfair. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Tanks
    martin

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    1. Always a pleasure to do a review!

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  26. Thanks for the detailed review, Robin. I currently owned a EM-5, which serves me well. Does Pen-F has better 5-Axis Stabilization system than EM-5 ? I usually use my EM-5 for concert photography, with the 300 mm zoom lens. I have bad experience with Pen model before, so I am kinda apprehensive about getting a Pen (as an upgrade to my Em-5).

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    Replies
    1. The PEN-F has about the same IS performance as the E-M5 Mark II, at least based on my own experience.

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  28. Thank you for your fantastic review !!! Very useful indeed !
    One question : does the Pen-F have the live composite function available ?
    Thanks again and best regards from Switzerland

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    Replies
    1. Yes of course. All Olympus new cameras have Live Composite.

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  29. Great review. How does this compare with the original omd em5? Is it worth the upgrade? Thanks in advance!

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  30. Thank you for the review Robin, honest, easily read and sensible as always.
    So will you be replacing any of your cameras with a Pen-F?

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  31. Great review, I had an Olympus about 3 years ago, unfortunately I couldn't get past the digital noise. I was wondering if the digital artifacts and noise is improved on the new sensor or if it's similar to the 16 mp sensor. I personally feel the shoots look too digital and not natural but I'd love to find a smaller camera that produces cleaner images. I was thinking the pen F but based on posted images I've seen I'm not very impressed but the Fuji xpro 2 new black and whites and classic chrome show a little more promise, just a larger camera than I was looking for. I like my mamiya leaf credo and sometimes like my Nikon d810 but they are large and heavy for chasing kids and family jaunts. I wish the Leica Q was interchangable, the M is work and the SL is not my favorite layout or any lighter in weight. Any suggestions?

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  32. Hiya..Gr8 review..I loved this camera as soon as i came across it on the net. Love the style ect, This will be my next camera for sure.
    How would you think a Pana 35-100 2.8 and the 12-40 2.8 Pro would go on this body ?. Ive read so many good reviews about both of these lenses and and i would be reluctant to go for anything heavier due to the size ect of the Pen F.
    Regards.

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  33. Excellent well thought out review and very detailed. I AM a pen user! I absolutely love the E-P5 and am on my second one (dropped the first one). Anyway, you can clasp your right hand with your left which leaves the lens resting between your left thumb and index finger. This is how I hold my rangfinder style cameras and it works. just in case anyone is wondering about options with that....

    I do agree on the ackward shutter button position- should be moved over a bit more:)

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  34. Hi Robin,

    Great review! Thoroughly enjoyed it and I appreciate how you try to stay as objective as possible, despite working for Olympus :).

    I did want to ask though, was your camera a production model? I just recently purchased one and comparing the rear LCD to my OMD EM5II, it seems as if the PEN F has warmer tones throughout the camera (even in settings, where the sections A-K are color coded). I'm wondering if I just got a defective model with a bad LCD or if it was intentionally made that way to go with the retro look (or am I missing a setting that adjusts the screen temperature color?). I matched my settings with my EM5II and they both are set up the same... When I take a photo with both cameras and upload the photos, the photos look identical in terms of WB, though the EM5II shows a cooler temperature on its LCD than the PEN F.

    I know you may not have the camera anymore, but I'd appreciate it if you could provide me with any leads on this. The PEN F are hard to come by right now and the last thing I want to do is return it!

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  35. I would love it Olympus went to 24 on the pixel. That would be a good place to stay for a long while and STILL keep the lenses small. I don't like trending toward larger. Messes up the entire concept. Also, even though I have the OMD-EM5 MkII, I really see the "good enough" language that was used when Olympus started this line of cameras. I can actually see a VERY SLIGHT difference in photos from the full frame Sony A7 (former owner), the D600 (former owner) and even the Canon 5D (yes, former owner). But the difference is only on great shots with 80-100% crop. Not just normal photos. I WILL buy the new Pen F. I will sell me OMD-EM5 MkII first.

    Good Review.

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  36. Interesting review Robin, thanks! Film user here mainly RF but also SLR and very interested in this Pen F with a couple of lenses (12 or 17 and 45 maybe) to have in the bag beside my film cameras when traveling. I imagine 100 iso film and use the Pen when I need higher iso like in interiors.
    Just defining what high iso means, in my analog time it was 800/1600 ! So if I can shoot at 3200 it's perfect to me!
    I had opportunity to handle the Pen F yesterday in a shop and yes, this could really be the camera I was looking for since a long time. The only point I do not like so much is the 3/4 ratio but I guess with 20 MP I can easily crop without loosing too many data.
    Thanks again for your review
    robert

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  37. This review is one of the best I've ever seen. Well done. And those are some beautiful images you've taken for this review. Thanks for posting!

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  38. Not sure if it is really the case that when I plug with my 4/3 14-150 lens it only support single target fixed point AF and cannot switch to full target AF. Do you get the same?

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  39. I don't know if anyone here would know this, but I have been of Pre-Order with B&H Photo for this camera for the last 3 weeks and they are still taking Pre-Orders. Does anyone have a clue when we will see any shipped to the United States?

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    1. Some stores here in the US have them in stock, Hunts photo & video, Ritz ...

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    2. I wonder what went wrong with B&H with this camera. I have been waiting for weeks for it to ship from them and I have two weeks to go. I could have bought it from Ritz and others days ago. Any thoughts?

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  40. the 1/10sec, shot of the owl defies @F7.1, ISO200, of the 300mm F4
    Defies the laws of what is possible.
    Don't tell me it is hand held. (mind blown)

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  42. Hi Robin, I'm Serj from the Philippines. I finally got my Pen F last Saturday, which i do love. But I'm experiencing some overheating issue on the thumb grip side (menu area battery side) after a couple of minutes of usage (10min). It's not that hot to the point that I can't hold it but it's a bit annoying. Is this normal or do i got a defective unit? This never happened to my em5, em1 and epl5. Please advise... thanx!

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    1. I just got a PenF yesterday, & I notice mine got warm as well. I did have mine freeze up once and had to remove the battery, only had taken a few shots...less than 10. Did not do it again...hopefully a freak thing...camera card fault???)

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  43. Thank you so much for your 2-part review. This is an incredible amount of work and it is appreciated!!! It was extremely helpful as my workhorse, the original Oly OM-D E5 is needing a replacement. I'm reading all the reviews and I've found your website via DPReview forum and found that this was one of the best reviews available. I am a studio photographer that focuses on animals, and after your review, the Pen F is not what I need. I've been collecting Olympus half-frame Pen Cameras for some time. The design of those mid-20th century cameras are wonderful. I often pick them up and play with them. Almost all of them are still in good workng order. I've been a lifelong Olympus fan as they not only produce a great product put also spend time making their product look good as well.

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  45. I assume the 50mp high res file from the sensor shift technology option works with raw files. I am curious how the image quality from these hi res files compares to larger aps or ff sensor image qualities even if their mp count is lower?

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  46. Nice review. Would love to see what the 4 custom settings you used as your images have well balance colors and sharpness, looking natural. Having very small hands have not had a problem with the creative dial on front, but even I would like the grip.

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  48. hello,
    Can AE bracketing be used together with monochrome profile ?
    thanks
    G. Rhinn
    www.photo-landscape.com

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  49. Is it good for food pictures?which one is better for food pictures?olympus pen f or olympus epl 7?

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  50. Is it good for food pictures?which one is better for food pictures?olympus pen f or olympus epl 7?

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