History Repeating: Olympus PEN-F Review (2023)

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Published Feb 24, 2016 | Dan Bracaglia, Samuel Spencer, Carey Rose, Jordan Stead


1 Introduction

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History Repeating: Olympus PEN-F Review (1)

The original Olympus PEN-F first hit the streets in 1963. Built around the half-frame film format, itquicklygained a following thanks to its beautiful, yet simple design and small size. Getting 70 images to a roll of film probably didn't hurt, either. Now, 53 years later the PEN-F is back.

The digital reincarnation of the 35mm film Olympus PEN-F does not replace the current digital PEN flagship E-P5, rather it slides in next to it as the 'premium' option in the PEN family. The reason being that unlike digital PENs before it, the F has something much more OM-D-like: a built-in 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The F also boasts the highest output resolutionof anyOlympus body to date, boasting a 20MP Four Thirds sensor (probably the same one we've seen in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8).

Released specifically to appeal to street shooters and the design conscious looking for a capable camera with retro-styling and rangefinder-like controls, the PEN-F has a lot going for it.

Olympus PEN-F features:

  • 20MP Live MOS Four Thirds format sensor
  • 5-axis image stabilization with automatic panning detection
  • 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Up to 10 fps continuous shooting (20 fps with electronic shutter)
  • Highly customizableinterface, twin controls
  • Fully articulating 1.04 milliondot, 3" LCD touchscreen
  • 50MP High-res Shot mode
  • 1/8000 sec top mechanical shutter speed (1/16,000 with e-shutter)
  • 1080/60p video recording

All of the above come packaged in a machined aluminum and magnesium body, with no visible screws anywhere. A faux-leather wrapencircles the PEN-F and the body itself is both well-weighted and has a very solid feel to it.

With many of the same guts as the OM-D EM-5 II and sleek rangefinder-style looks (reminiscent of Fujifilm’s X100 series cameras), the most direct Micro Four Thirds competitor to the PEN-F is the Panasonic GX8, which also uses a 20MP chip. Other close competitors include the Sony a6000, a6300 and the Fujifilm X-E2S - all of which are APS-C format cameras.Of course, the PEN-F also has to compete against alternativeswithinthe OM-D series as well.

To help us to better understand how the PEN-F fits into the market place as a whole, we chatted with Eric Gensel, a technical specialist with Olympus. He breaks down exactly how the PEN-F fits in Olympus' lineup, who the target-audience of the camera is and what went into the design process:

Compared to its siblings

Many of the highlightfeatures of the PEN-F aren’t new. In fact a lot of the key spec is shared withother recent Olympus releases. However, some functionshave been improved upon. For instance, thanks to its 20MPsensor, the PEN-F is capable of higher resolution in multi-shot mode compared to the OM-D E-M5 II, up to 80MP in Raw mode (50MP in JPEG). It also features a dedicated creative control knob on the front, as well as four customizable shooting modes, accessed viathe locking exposure mode dial.

It’s hard to see the PEN-F as alarge step forward given how many of its core features are inherited from other models, but it offers a handling experience that is unique in Olympus's lineup. Is the PEN-F more than just a pretty face? Let’s dig in.


Olympus OM-D

Olympus PEN E-P5

Pixel count20MP16MP16MP
Image stabilization5-axis5-axis5-axis
Stabilization (CIPA)5 stops5 stops4 stops
Max shutter speed

(1/16000 electronic)

(1/16000 electronic)
On-sensor PDAFNoNoNo
Continuous shooting
(without /with AF)
10 fps/ 5 fps10 fps / 5 fps9 fps / 5 fps
Pop-up flash
ViewfinderBuilt-in 2.36M-dot LCD
1.23x mag
Built-in 2.36M-dot LCD
1.48x mag
Optional VF-4 accessory EVF w/ 2.36M-dot LCD and 1.48x mag
Max video res/rate1080/60p1080/60p1080/30p
Max bitrate77Mbps77Mbps20Mbps
Mic socketNoYesNo
Rear screen

Fully articulating 3" touchscreen

(Video) Olympus Pen F Review (35mm half-frame camera)

3.0" touchscreen
Flip up/down
3.0" touchscreen
Environmental sealing?NoYesNo
Battery life (CIPA)330310330
Weight427 g469 g420 g
Dimensions125 x 72 x 37mm124 x 85 x 45mm122 x 69 x 37mm

Pricing and availability

The Olympus PEN-F will be available at end of February – early March 2016, and will hit the streets at a body-only price of $1199. It ships with the FL-LM3 flashgun seen in the image at the top.

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Olympus has released a major firmware update for twoof its OM-D cameras as well as the PEN-F. It adds support for Profoto's TTL flash system and alsobringsnumerous new features and bug fixes. Read more

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Is the Olympus PEN-F any good? ›

It offers excellent image quality, great performance, fast autofocus, and stylish build quality. In a decidedly retro-inspired camera, there are tons of modern amenities, too, including a crisp EVF and a raft of in-camera image processing features. There's not a lot to dislike about the Olympus PEN-F, to be honest.

Is the Olympus PEN-F still available? ›

One of the brand's most beloved cameras, the original Olympus PEN-F (opens in new tab) was apparently discontinued in February 2019 and has disappeared from many retail outlets.

Does Olympus PEN-F have image stabilization? ›

The Olympus PEN-F comes with a 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation (IS) system, which allows you to take sharp hand-held photos at slower shutter speeds than with cameras that lack this feature.

When was Olympus PEN-F released? ›

January 2016

Is Olympus PEN-F mirrorless? ›

Precise, Subtle Photography. The Olympus PEN-F made history in 1963 when it was introduced as a half-sized single-lens reflex camera. And now, a half-century later, the new Olympus PEN-F has launched as a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera inspired by the original masterpiece.

Is there a camera that shoots film and digital? ›

If you've ever dreamed of having a digital camera that can also shoot film, then you might want to take a look at the PONF camera. It's a modular “multi-back film and digital camera system” which, according to the developers, will allow you to seamlessly use the best of both the analog and digital worlds.

What type of camera is an Olympus PEN? ›

The Digital PEN series is a wide range of mirrorless interchangeable lens digital cameras made by Olympus. They use the Micro Four Thirds system, so they all have a 17.3 x 13 mm Four Thirds size image sensor and autofocus.

What is a half frame film camera? ›

A half-frame camera is a camera using a film format at half the usual exposure format. A common variety is the 18×24 mm format on regular 135 film. It is the normal exposure format on 35mm movie cameras.

How do you use the Olympus PEN in feet? ›

Olympus Pen FT - Shooting 35mm Half Frame! - YouTube

Does Olympus Pen F have a light meter? ›

One of the great advantages to the rotary shutter and mirror system besides the ability to flash sync at all speeds is that there is very little camera shake, making it easier to hand-hold at lower shutter speeds. The Pen F has no built-in light meter.

Who created the Olympus Pen F? ›

The Pen F is a half-frame single lens reflex camera introduced in 1963 by Olympus. It is designed by the highly respected and quite famous engineer Maitani Yoshihisa, who also has created the Olympus Pen point-and-shoot series, as well as the OM-1 and the Olympus XA.

What lens does Olympus PEN use? ›

Lenses manufactured for the Olympus Pen F System
TypeLens35mm equiv.
StandardG.Zuiko Auto-S58mm
H.Zuiko Auto-S60mm
TelephotoG.Zuiko Auto-T85mm
F.Zuiko Auto-T100mm
14 more rows

Does Olympus PEN-F have in camera focus stacking? ›

I have the Pen F and it does not have focus stacking. I do it manually using the LCD with camera on tripod. Yes, with static objects that works well.
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What is mirrorless digital camera? ›

As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras capture images without the use of a mirror in the camera body. This is different from DSLR cameras, which reflect images into viewfinders via mirrors. Instead, mirrorless cameras often use electronic viewfinders (EVF) to display images digitally.

Are film cameras making a comeback? ›

Yes, there is increasing usage of film in photography. Today, the old film cameras of a bygone era are more expensive than some of the full-frame DSLR cameras. As more folks buy up available cameras, the prices have steadily gone up for some camera models by 25-50% year-over-year.

What is the most film like digital camera? ›

Is there a digital camera that looks like film? Fujifilm X100 series, Olympus Pen F and Nikon 1 J5 are some great digital cameras that produce photographs that look like they were shot on film.

Why is a mirrorless camera better than a DSLR? ›

The DSLR offers a wider selection of interchangeable lenses, longer battery life, and better low-light shooting thanks to the optical viewfinder. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras are lighter, more portable, offer better video quality even in lower-end models, and can shoot more images at faster shutter speeds.


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