Heir to the Leica IIIf
I admit that I bought the Olympus PEN-F with little to no expectations. I am not a big fan of small sensors and the “Micro 4/3” format was never my first choice. Most lenses offered in the range are garbage and cameras are sub-mediocre in options and performance. Mind you, my standard equipment is Leica M, a Nikon D500 (macro only) and the Sony RX1rii (for travel)… as some of you might have realized, when one gets used to this kind of quality all other things get rated according to those standards. That is not always a good thing since one automatically ends up evaluating any equipment to Leica M & Summilux 50 standards… the truth is that not much will hold up to that comparison. Sorry.
So why, having all bases WELL covered, did I get the PEN-F in the first place? Answer; It looked good and I am a sucker for buttons! As simple as that…
So once at home, I started playing with my new toy and… wow, impressive. This little vintage looking camera has practically all features and settings (if not more…) than in a pro-DSLR. Incredible, practically anything can be set or modified to ones’ liking. On top of that, there are quick manual controls galore! Something we “old school” photographers can’t get enough of.
If there is one “term” that defines the Olympus PEN-F that would be; “the Swiss pocket knife” of cameras.
Ok. I admit that I am impressed. Now comes the shooting. Initially with the standard 17mm lens and soon after also the 12mm. Equivalent to 35mm and 24mm respectively in a full frame sensor. Here the results are as expected from a m4/3 sensor and small and reduced lenses. The sensor has a 20 mpx. resolution and is noisy (to my standards) even at its native 200 ISO. The noise is acceptable up to 1600 ISO (with the necessary LR corrections it becomes acceptable). Sharpness is good at the center but things get tricky at the edges and corners with standard and wide angle lenses. How do you fix these shortcomings? Easy:
- Go to the ISO settings and choose “Low ISO”
- Activate the in-camera stabilization as well as the anti-shock shutter settings to compensate for the loss of speed
- Shoot in RAW mode to maximise file edition possibilities and flexibility when editing
- Use some “old school” acquired skill to maximise image quality like always having the sun behind you…
- Some basic Lightroom RAW editing skills
The results should be more than acceptable even for the most demanding photographer.
Soon after y purchased their M.Zuiko 60mm Macro. Surprised again at the versatility and fun with this lens. In fact, it has remained on the PEN-F for the whole summer and I had a great time! Very sharp and accurate. The only shortcoming is that unlike the other premium lenses of the brand it does not have the quick manual focus ring setting which for a macro lens would have been bliss! Here some samples of the M.Zuiko 60mm Macro during this summer:
Now, can I make the statement that the Olympus PEN-F is the “heir” to the mythical Leica IIIf? Absolutely. Such flexibility and almost pro-options in a camera that size reminds me without a doubt what the Leica IIIg must have been when it was introduced in the beginning of the 50’s. Pocketable with pro-DSLR options.
As stated, the PEN-F is small, extremely versatile and an ideal tool for travel. To make it perfect I only wish it had a larger sensor with better ISO performance. I also miss more lens options and superior glass in the 16mm to 50mm range. Other than that the PEN-F and four lenses are a VERY interesting choice for those that want great portable quality at an affordable price.