Olympus PEN-F Review

February 24, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 8Mb.

The Olympus PEN-F produced images of outstanding quality during the review period. It produces noise-free images at ISO 100 to 1600, with limited noise starting to appear at ISO 3200. ISO 6400 exhibits quite visible noise and loss of fine detail, and the fastest settings of ISO 12800 and 25600 are even noisier but still usable for small prints and web use.

The images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening level and ideally require further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting if you don't like the default results. The Art Filters produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom. The image stabilisation system works excellently for both stills and video, even when hand-holding the camera at very slow shutter speeds.

Noise

There are 9 ISO settings available on the Olympus PEN-F. The base sensitivity is ISO 200, but there is an expanded low sensitivity setting equivalent to ISO 80.

JPEG RAW

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg
   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg
   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg
   

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg
   

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the Olympus PEN-F include Normal, Fine and Superfine for JPEGs, and you can also shoot in Olympus’s proprietary ORF raw file format. Do note that the Superfine setting must first be enabled from the menu in order to appear among the selectable quality options.

16M SuperFine (100% Crop) 16M Fine (100% Crop)
quality_superfine.jpg quality_fine.jpg
   
16M Normal (100% Crop) 16M RAW (100% Crop)
quality_normal.jpg quality_raw.jpg

Sharpening

The out-of-camera JPEGs are fairly sharp at the default setting but you can of course add some sharpening later in a program like Adobe Photoshop if needed. Here are two pairs of 100% crops – the right-hand images have had some post-capture sharpening applied.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Night

The  Olympus PEN-F offers exposure times as long as 60 second in a metered exposure or up to 30 minutes in bulb mode, which is excellent news for anyone seriously interested in night photography. Live Bulb mode allows you to view the progression of exposure during a bulb exposure in real-time and a live view histogram shows how the exposure is built-up across all points of the image. The following picture was taken at a shutter speed of 15 seconds, aperture of f/8 at ISO 200.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Image Stabilisation

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. The following 100% crops are taken from images taken with a 17mm equivalent focal length with and without IS. The image stabilisation system also works during video capture, producing steady hand-held footage most of the time.

Focal Length / Shutter Speed

Off (100% Crop)

On (100% Crop)

17mm / 1/15th Second antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Art Filters

The Olympus PEN-F offers 28 so-called ‘art filters’, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it. Art filters are easily accessible via a dedicated setting on the mode dial on the front of the camera.

Off

Pop Art I

art_filters_01.jpg art_filters_02.jpg
   

Pop Art

II

Soft Focus

art_filters_03.jpg art_filters_04.jpg
   

Plae & Light Color I

Plae & Light Color II

art_filters_05.jpg art_filters_06.jpg
   
Light Tone Grainy Film I
art_filters_07.jpg art_filters_08.jpg
   
Grainy Film II Pin Hole I
art_filters_09.jpg art_filters_10.jpg
   
Pin Hole II Pin Hole III
art_filters_11.jpg art_filters_12.jpg
   
Diorama I Diorama II
art_filters_13.jpg art_filters_14.jpg
   
Cross Process I Cross Process II
art_filters_15.jpg art_filters_16.jpg
   
Gentle Sepia Dramatic Tone I
art_filters_17.jpg art_filters_18.jpg
   
Dramatic Tone II Key Line I
art_filters_19.jpg art_filters_20.jpg
   
Key Line I Watercolor I
art_filters_21.jpg art_filters_22.jpg
   
Watercolor II Vintage I
art_filters_23.jpg art_filters_24.jpg
   
Vintage II Vintage III
art_filters_25.jpg art_filters_26.jpg
   
Partial Color I Partial Color II
art_filters_27.jpg art_filters_28.jpg
   
Partial Color III  
art_filters_29.jpg  

Picture Modes

Olympus' Picture Modes are essentially pre-set combinations of saturation, contrast and sharpness, except for the i-Enhance mode that aims to optimise each photo individually. You can tailor each Picture Mode to your needs. The following examples demonstrate the differences across the available Picture Modes.

i-Enhance

Vivid

picture_modes_01.jpg picture_modes_02.jpg
   

Natural

Muted

picture_modes_03.jpg picture_modes_04.jpg
   

Portrait

Monochrome

picture_modes_05.jpg picture_modes_06.jpg

Multiple Exposure

The Olympus PEN-F has a Multiple Exposure feature allowing you to combine multiple exposures to create a composite image in-camera.

multiple_exposure.jpg

HDR

In High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, the camera takes a number of photos in rapid succession, at different exposure settings, and combines them into a single high-dynamic-range image. There are two options, HDR1 and HDR2. In our experience, HDR1 usually yields a credible image but HDR2 tends to produce flat, unrealistic results.

Off

HDR1

hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg
   

HDR2

 
hdr_03.jpg