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Impressions: Olympus PEN-F


Andrew L (gryphon1911)

Yes, I know...call me what you will...hypocrite, lucky, stupid, smart....whatever....I have an Olympus PEN-F in my possession.

 

Long story short, some gear trades ended me here.

 

Got a call yesterday from my local camera shop. PEN-F was in. Silver model.

 

Made my way down to the store today on my lunch hour.
Most of the guys that I talked to that handled the demo were impressed with it. They are mostly Sony and Fuji users in the mirrorless sector, but found the PEN-F intriguing.

 

I've only had the thing in my hands for the last 30 minutes, so I'll just address what I can for now and get into more details later.

 

Front Dial:
I've heard from others on the internet that the front dial is sharp and cut into their hands. I'm a big guy with large hands and my fingers do not even come close to the front dial. Like the Nikon Df, the PEN-F needs to be held with a slightly different grip. I'm not going to hold it like an EM1 or a D700.
Yes, the edges of the front dial have some bite to them, but nothing I would consider "sharp". However, that is a subjective matter and each person should decide that for themselves with a hands on.

 

Grip (or lack there of):
The thumb indent on the back seems adequate for me. The front is of a grippy like material. I had no issues holding the camera one handed. It will most likely be an issue with the larger lenses like the PRO lenses or the 75-300/4.8-6.7 II.
My primary intention of using this camera is going to be with primes, so I don't consider that much of an issue.

 

"Rangefinder-esque" Styling:
I've never been one to prefer an "OVF hump" or side set EVF. I just require there to BE an EVF. For those that like built in EVF, this one does not disappoint.

 

LCD Rear Screen AF Point Selection:
One of the things that I envied of some of the Panasonic bodies was having the EVF be used as a way to select the AF point while looking through the EVF. We have that now and it makes for quick selection. After getting used to it, I can see where this would be great for quick changes while doing street photography.

 

That's about all I had time to get to at the moment, and did not have a lens in which to test it outside the camera store.
Aesthetically it is pleasing and I look forward to getting to know it better.

 

More updates to this thread as I am able. I've got a 4 day sunrise to sunset event to shoot starting tomorrow, so it could be a few days before I have anything to report.

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Lucky fish! Enjoy it, Andrew and do keep us informed on what you're using it for. 

 

I must confess to being unmotivated to look much at the specs of this Pen, but are you saying that it has eye tracking in the EVF? That's pretty cool. I used to have an EOS that did that. I think it was the EOS 33 or EOS 30. Can't remember. I was young back then... :) 

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Lucky fish! Enjoy it, Andrew and do keep us informed on what you're using it for. 

 

I must confess to being unmotivated to look much at the specs of this Pen, but are you saying that it has eye tracking in the EVF? That's pretty cool. I used to have an EOS that did that. I think it was the EOS 33 or EOS 30. Can't remember. I was young back then... :)

 

No, not eye tracking, but you can use your finger on the LCD while looking through the EVF to select a focus point.  I believe that there are some models in Panasonic m43 that have done that for some time.

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The Panasonic GX8 has that feature and it can be useful. However, if you are left-eyed, as I am, it is an annoyance. More often than not, your nose touches the rear LCD when using the EVF, setting the focus point where you do not expect it (and usually do not want it).  I have turned off this feature on my GX8 because of that.  I suspect that left-eyed users of the PEN-F will encounter the same problem.

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The Panasonic GX8 has that feature and it can be useful. However, if you are left-eyed, as I am, it is an annoyance. More often than not, your nose touches the rear LCD when using the EVF, setting the focus point where you do not expect it (and usually do not want it).  I have turned off this feature on my GX8 because of that.  I suspect that left-eyed users of the PEN-F will encounter the same problem.

 

That is an excellent point.

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Congrats Andrew! I can already predict the Pen's Monochrome 2 setting will be your favorite ... Looking forward to your impressions and comparison vs the E-M1 and E-M5.

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Ditto from me Andrew.  With the E-M1 MkII alledgedly just around the corner, your comparison will make for very interesting reading.

 

P.S.  I hope that you did NOT get caught by your wife whilst smuggling the new Pen-F into your house.  :D

 

Congrats Andrew! I can already predict the Pen's Monochrome 2 setting will be your favorite ... Looking forward to your impressions and comparison vs the E-M1 and E-M5.

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Ditto from me Andrew.  With the E-M1 MkII alledgedly just around the corner, your comparison will make for very interesting reading.

 

P.S.  I hope that you did NOT get caught by your wife whilst smuggling the new Pen-F into your house.  :D

 

No smuggling necessary, since there was no exchange of monies, only gear for gear!   :D

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as long as the gear you exchanged is not something she owned ... :)

 

lol....no, camera gear only and she is not and has never been interested in taking pictures with anything other than her cell phone.

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At the moment the ability to trade gear at good prices is better than it has been for years - I'm still financing all my new gear acquisitions purely from selling off previously owned gear - even my current outfit's retrieval rates from gear I bought for it seem to be holding value really well, courtesy of both the AU$ slump against the US$ compared with when I bought it originally, and fierce competition amongst manufacturers to sell new gear themselves.

 

For instance my Fujinon 14mm achieved just $170 less than current new price for me (and $120 less than I originally paid for it), which was an extremely favourable "rent" rate over three-plus years of ownership (and that includes the agent's commission on the trade-in sale).

 

Earlier in my career when equipment wasn't in the flux it is now trading-out equipment usually was done at considerable loss and actual dollar input on the replacement gear.

 

My biggest regret is still the absurdly low cost I sold my Hasselblad gear for - two Hasselblad bodies, spare magazines and four lenses didn't even pay for a single Nikon D3 body, whereas the original equipment, even second-hand, had cost considerably more than that single body in the order of more than twice in dollar terms just before the current better exchange value situation developed.

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Are you noticing any differences with the extra 4MP? 

 

I'm about to find out!  :D

 

Quick update.  I just got back from my 4 day event and images/video are downloading.

 

Last minute, I decided to be crazy and brought the all Olympus kit.  EM1, EM5 Mk II, and the PENF.  EM1 and PENF for stills and the EM5 Mk II for video.

 

I've about 2000 images and around 40 video clips to wrestle with.

 

Still shooting performance wise, the PENF seems as capable as the EM5 Mk II, but with the added bonus of the mono mode.  As some have predicted, the Mono2 is a dandy of a setting for me.

 

Experiments with that mode will be shared once I can get into them.  

 

The power switch was a lot nicer to deal with than I thought.  Easy to flick on with the left hand, just slightly beating out the EM1/EM5Mk iI power lever.

 

I had the Oly 17/1.8 on the PENF for the whole weekend.

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The mono mode 2 stuff is a bit too contrasty and the grain is too big for my personal taste. I would rather push up the ISO to 12800 to get that natural Olympus "grain" and then apply a B&W filter in post. This is obviously just a taste variance from me though. Others may like this filter. 

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If I remember correctly there are three "digital grain" levels Low/Medium/High which can be selected with the Monochrome 2 setting. I don't know which setting was used by Andrew for these images but I suspect High. Great series Andrew!

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If I remember correctly there are three "digital grain" levels Low/Medium/High which can be selected with the Monochrome 2 setting. I don't know which setting was used by Andrew for these images but I suspect High. Great series Andrew!

 

Might have been.  Not sure what the default was.   I was mucking about with it and then just started shooting away.  Lots of options, so I will have some experimentation to do.

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So, I looked at the mono mode 2 settings.  It is +-6 on the tone curve and the film grain was set to high (there are 4 settings off, low, medium, high).  I also had the green filter on.

 

Not sure if film grain high is the default on mode 2, but I do intend to turn it down to low for the time being.  

 

I suspect that in the future, +-6 on the tone curve might be too aggressive, even for me.  I think I'll be more happy in the +-3 or 4 area and perhaps pop a little of the mid tones as well.

 

I'm even considering setting up the crop to be 1:1, perhaps do that in mode 1 or mode 3.

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The next GR for street?

Intense scene. Well shown.

 

Thank you.

 

It very well could be.  I'm thinking that I am going to shoot monochrome mode on this camera with RAW+JPG, so I can get the best of all worlds.

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More observations:

 

  • I like the inclusion of the screw in wireless shutter release.  I can use the same on I got for my Nikon Df on this guy!
  • There is a ring around the video record button.  This will help from accidental recording of video.
  • I'm starting to like the dedicated magnification button.  When in shooting mode, it zooms in on the live view to check focus and what not.  In playback mode it zooms in to your predefined zoom setting.
  • I just found the H+ Silent mode, which allows for 20fps continuous shooting.  I'll need to look into this more and see what we are dealing with.   Could be interesting depending on it's limitations.

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Hi Andrew, my Pen F arrives on next week.  Primarily as 'my Olympus' while my wife and son are shooting their EM1s.  I foresee some weekend trips with just the Olys.  I'll probably use the 17 1.8, 25 1.4 and 45 1.8 quite a bit and the silent shooting was one of the plus points.   I'll obviously play with the B&W settings.  I bought a new , secondhand. My wife has been using it with the small 14-42 EZ while she is in the UK.  Unfortunately she likes it :( .   I'll probably grab it first out of the suitcases instead of some of the new VM lenses for the a7Rii.

Look forward to more of your images and settings for B&W.

All the best,

Tom

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    • By Dallas
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      Design & Handling
       
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      This is a bit of a problem for this lens. It flares very easily, even when the sun isn’t in the frame but where strong light hits the front element directly. I picked this up in many of the shots I took, indoors and outdoors. I am by no means an optical engineer, but there is something else I am seeing happening with this lens in that situation that makes me think that maybe Olympus have tried to correct more for the side effects of the flare than worry too much about the typical element ghosting we see in flare situations. Normally with lens flare the first thing that happens is you lose contrast. No so with this lens. The images retain a terrific amount of punch and colour doesn’t seem to be degraded at all.
       

       

       

       
      A few days later I took the 7-14mm down to the beach for a short stroll to see what I could find. If you look at the two shots above you will get to see the difference in the angle of view between 7mm and 14mm. Also notice that the perspective you get changes dramatically from one end to the other and this can make for some interesting creative effects given the right foreground / background subject relationships. I would love to have used this lens in a live concert where I could get right behind the singer and show the crowd in the background.
       

       

       
      In these two shots I have tried to illustrate the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm end, as well as show how the flare issue is more apparent in the first shot, but not in the second.
       

       
      Towards the end of December one of my cousins’ son was Christened at a local church and in-between shooting the actual event I managed to grab a few shots to illustrate how useful an extreme wide angle can be to show the inside of an expansive space. You can really get some interesting looks with this view. however, take note that the window light has once again caused the lens to flare, even indoors.
       

       
      The actual Christening (this is an Anglican Church) took place in a small vestibule near the entrance and using the wide part of the lens again I got some shots showing pretty much the entire room while I stood in the doorway. As far as distortion goes I didn’t find anything too objectionable in the bricks, but the head of the lady in the bottom right has been stretched ET style. That’s something you can’t get away from with rectilinear wide angle lenses like this. You’ll get it on every ultra-wide angle lens. Avoid putting people near the edges and the problem goes away.
       

       
      This next shot I took on 2 January at a gorge not too far from where I live (about 30-40kms by road). You can’t really appreciate the width of the shot but my intention was to try and show as much of the surroundings as possible without plunging headlong down the 70m or so to the bottom!
       

       
      This is one of the last images I took with the lens and it was just after an actual job I did a couple of weeks ago involving the Natal Sharks rugby team who were doing a signing session at a shopping mall. This shot gives you a good indication of how things get stretched with this lens design. You can fit a lot into the frame but don’t expect it to look “normal”.
       

       
      Here is the world famous Moses Mabhida football stadium. It’s probably one of the finest sports stadia in the world and has been host to many international matches, including the FIFA 2010 World Cup Semi Final. This isn’t my finest shot ever, but again you can see where a lens like this can come in useful. Also note that again we have flare spots appearing in the frame.
       

       
      The last shot I have to show you here is taken shooting directly into the morning sun and here you see a different sort of flare problem in the top right of the frame. A talented Photoshop user will easily get rid of these annoying ghosts, but I thought I would show you what happens when you shoot into the sun with the 7-14mm, seeing as I already showed you what happens when you don’t shoot into the sun. I don’t think it’s that bad.
       
      Overal Impression
       
      So that’s a look at the performance of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO in the field. It’s certainly capable of producing fine results, but you will need to be constantly aware of the flare, even when shooting indoors with a bright light source in your frame. This might be an issue that precludes it from being used as an architectural lens, particularly for interiors where dealing with bright lights from windows is a constant. I think that a less extreme lens like the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 would be a better option. I do sometimes use the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 for that type of work and I have not had any issues with flare. It would be nice to get wider than 9mm for interiors, but it’s not essential.
       
      In another thread on Fotozones we were discussing this very thing and I personally would have no problems with Olympus developing a slower, wider fixed focal length lens that I could use for this kind of work. Something like an 8mm f/4.0 rectilinear lens would be a lot smaller than this enormous 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and might actually work better for architectural photography since most of it is done on a tripod anyway. Also, consider that when shooting architecture you’re seldom going to need f/2.8.
       
      So for me the 7-14mm is not likely to find its way into my working kit any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one, but everything I buy these days has to have a practical and measurably positive impact on my business as a photographer and unfortunately a lens this expensive falls squarely into the “nice-to-have” category. I don’t need it as much as I want it.
    • By Greg Drawbaugh
      A few weeks ago "AirVenture 2018" better known as Oshkosh took place in where else, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  2018 marks my 11th consecutive year in a row to visit and photograph this monumental event.  The scale and scope of this event is hard to imagine unless you have visited it in person.  For the over week-long event, over 600,000 visitors, 5,000 volunteers, 10,000 aircraft arrivals, almost 20,000 aircraft operations, almost 3,000 show planes and over 40,000 campers in 12,000 sites on the airport.  For me, it is one of the few airshows I attend and photograph, so it always takes a few days to re-learn my airshow photography techniques.  I tend to want shots a bit different than some of the other airshow photographers seek out, and I also like to push the envelope in my post-processing for some different looks.  I am pleased to present a sample of the 5500 photos I took during my week in Oshkosh.  My eleventh trip to the event also marked my very first air-to-air photography experience.  Please take a look and see what you think, constructive comments are always welcome.  I will continue to add photos as I continue to process photos.
       
      Saturday morning marked a monumental event in my modest photography life.  I was able to take a flight in a 1940s Vultee BT-13 trainer along with another Vultee BT-13.  I occupied the rear seat (including strapping on a parachute) in the BT-13 named "Lucky 13" piloted by Hunter Reiley.  All I asked was "please do not humble me" as I just want to take photos and not lose my camera (and a very light breakfast!).  Hunter was very smooth and gentle with me, and I think we captured some great photos of his friend Kelly's BT-13.  E-M1 mkII and Olympus 12-100 Pro
       

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