My resolutions to post more often on this web site have not been kept I’m afraid. Just at the moment I’m suffering a bad attack of ‘flu, so as I’m even less mobile than usual I thought I could at least update the site, and the topic is my collections of Pens – the Olympus variety!
The photo above shows the collection – from the top left, clockwise, the first of the digital versions, the E-P1 (with the 17mm lens and the optional optical viewfinder for that lens), the E-P3, the Pen D (film, the first version with a selenium cell meter), the new digital Pen F and the one that started it all, the original Pen film camera. I’ve owned all of these cameras from new, the original Pen dating from 1962 (I think). At that time my main camera was a Pentax S1a, but I loved the Pen for its compact size and superb lens – even though the negative was half-frame, it produced excellent quality images. The first digital Pen was bought when they were first launched – I had bought a Panasonic G1 when that was launched, the first micro four thirds camera, though I had been using Olympus four thirds cameras for a while before that. I really do MUCH prefer to have a proper viewfinder, so when the E-M5 was launched I moved from the Pen range to that, but the introduction of the new Pen F with a proper finder prompted we to buy one.
I haven’t had the new Pen F long enough to reach any firm conclusions, but a few early observations follow.
The Pen F is certainly an attractive camera, and it feels right in the hands as well, apart from the absence of a grip. I think they probably left the grip off to retain more of the appearance of the original film Pen F, but from a handling point of view I certainly think the grip is almost essential, even if it does detract from the appearance of the camera, and add over £100 to the cost of the camera, and also adds to the size and weight. Incidentally I think that the very small grips on the OM-D E-M5, both the original and Mk ii versions, are a mistake as well – as with then Pen F you can buy a grip, but this adds considerably to the size and weight (and cost), and actually an OM-D E-M5 (both versions) with the added grip is bigger and heavier that the E-M1, which has a proper grip as standard!
I really like the controls on the Pen F – the extra dial for exposure compensation means that in the usual aperture priority mode one of the main control dials (I use the rear) can be set to control ISO, and I change ISO very frequently, and using the dial for this is much easier and less confusing than using the mode switch on the back of the OM-Ds, and then forgetting to put it back to the normal position afterwards!
The control on the front for setting ‘film’ modes/art filters etc is a good idea, though as I normally shoot RAW it’s not essential. However, it does allow them to provide 4 custom settings on the main mode dial, and these are very useful. Overall I’ve not found the ability to switch the ‘film’ mode especially useful, though it is interesting to try this and see the results. Personally, since I can do B&W conversion, alter tone curves etc using the RAW files and Lightroom/PS in post anyway, I would rather they had provided a way to modify strength of the more imaginative art filters – I find these can be interesting to play with, and the effects are much less easily recreated in standard editors in post. But those art filters are all too extreme for me in the form supplied, and I actual have a preset stored in LR called ‘Reduce Dramatic Tone’, which I use to try to make that art filter more acceptable (of course it is then working only on a JPEG, so there is loss of quality in the image).
At present none of the standard RAW converters can handle the files from the Pen F, so I’m using RAW+JPEG mode, and I’m processing the JPEGs and keeping the original RAWs until I can conveniently process them. Olympus Viewer can of course process the RAWs, but I really want to continue to use my familiar work flow.
I’ve been more than satisfied with the results from the Pen F so far, even though the ability to use the front mode dial is less useful than I’d hoped, and just at the moment I can’t process the RAW files conveniently. Other features which are perhaps a bit disappointing are the rather high price (not unusual when a camera is first launched) and the lack of weather resistance, though the latter point is not all that critical, and it’s amusing to see such a thing being criticised in the light of the fact that weather resistance used until recently to be something that was only found in more expensive cameras which were classified as Pro or semi-Pro models.