Olympus PEN-F Full Review : Performance

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Olympus PEN-F Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response <0.05secs
17mm - Focus / Shutter Response  0.125secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.0secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.5secs (MF)
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
10fps (37 shots)
10.5fps (42 shots, silent high speed)
4-5fps continuous AF with tracking
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 10fps (27 shots)

There's also a silent high speed 11fps continuous shooting mode which uses the electronic shutter, and the camera can shoot at 5fps with continuous AF activated, and we managed between 4-5fps with continuous AF with tracking active. 

Olympus PEN-F Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colour is very pleasing straight from the camera. For portrait shots the face detection with eye-detection means the camera will focus on the subject's eye(s) which makes portrait shooting much more successful than with some other camera systems that do not have this feature. Exposure is reliable, and dynamic range is good. Dynamic range can be expanded using the HDR shooting mode that combines a number of shots at different exposures, in camera, and you can use this mode handheld. 

Olympus PEN-F Lens test images

Lens Performance - Using the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens gives a 34mm equivalent, and is available with the Olympus PEN-F as a kit, the camera provides sharp detailed images, and focus is quick and snappy. The lens has a manual focus ring that you pull back towards you in order to switch the lens into manual focus mode. If you're not aware of this, then it can be easy to wonder why the camera won't focus, but a quick check of the lens soon resolves this. Image quality is very good, with the camera delivering high levels of detail, and lens distortion such as barrel and pincushion distortion is automatically corrected in camera. The 5-axis image stabilisation system makes it possible to take photos at much slower shutter speeds than would normally be possible, and we've been impressed with the results.

Olympus PEN-F ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Despite the increase to 20 megapixels, noise performance is very similar to the 16 megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, however, there is a slight increase in Chroma noise (coloured speckles), and this will be most noticeable in shadows or darker areas. However, saying that it's only slightly higher than the E-M5 Mark II, and noticeable when viewing images at 100%. Detail remains good up to and including ISO1600, with a drop off in detail at ISO3200. At ISO6400 noise is slightly higher than the EM-5 II at the same setting, although detail is still visible. ISO12800 noise increases further and detail drops, and at ISO25600 noise is at it's highest, however these results are slightly better than the E-M5 II. The PEN-F also has improved noise performance (and image processing) compared to the GX8 with JPEG images straight out of the camera. There are noise reduction options of Off, Low, Standard and High, and these shots were taken with the default setting of Standard. 

Olympus PEN-F White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs very well under tungsten lighting, and the camera has the option to "Keep Warm Colour" under tungsten lighting, so you can have either very accurate white balance, or maintain the look and feel of warm tungsten lighting. AWB performs very well under fluorescent lighting, as well as under mixed lighting, and the fluorescent preset is best avoided, as this gives the image a magenta colour cast. 

Olympus PEN-F Digital filters

Creative Dial options: Mono - This lets you adjust shadow and highlight curves, as well as apply a black and white (colour) filter to the image with adjustable strength, and apply a vignette (adjustable between white and black), and if you go into the menus you can adjust contrast, sharpness, film grain effect (off, low, medium and high) and monochrome colour (Sepia, Blue, Green, Purple). 

ART Filters - The Olympus PEN-F goes further with most filters now having 2 or 3 versions directly accessible, for example instead of just Pin Hole, there is now Pin Hole I, Pin Hole II, and Pin Hole III. With some of the filters you can also add a vignette, or frame, and with black and white filters you can apply a yellow, orange, red or green colour filter as well as choose whether the monochrome image should be sepia, blue, green or purple toned. With some of the other filters you can add a blur effect to the top and bottom or left and right of the image.

Olympus PEN F Mono Filters
Olympus Pen F Art Filters
Art Filters
Olympus PEN F Colour Profile Control
Colour Profile Control
Olympus PEN F CRT
CRT - Colour Creator


Colour Profile Control - You can adjust the saturation of all colours, or adjust the saturation of individual colours from a choice of 12, as well as adjust curves. 

CRT - Colour creator lets you alter the colour tone of the whole image as well as the saturation.

Video - The camera records full HD video, and the 5-axis image stabilisation sensor shift system is active when recording, which means even handheld videos will be steady and smooth, which makes the camera great for impromptu videos. You can select 60, 50, 30, 25, and 24 fps for FullHD video recording, without having to select whether you are in an NTSC or PAL region. It'd be nice if other camera manufacturers followed this (*cough* Sony). You can also record high speed video at 120fps at a reduced resolution of 640x480. Sound quality is also good.


Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN-F

RollingAdjusting ShadesAuthentic Indian RestaurantMargateStrange MeetingLakesideBrick Wall 4Brick Wall 3Paving StonesBrick Wall 2Brick Wall 1Garage DoorsHit List?Blossom TreeThe Secret is Out

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ElSid 11 9 United Kingdom
27 Jan 2016 3:15PM
I hope the production cameras can produce better image quality than the examples shown here...

All seem to be very noisy, soft with some unpleasant bokeh around defocussed edges and lacking in fine detail - almost phone/compact camera quality...Sad

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dannyr 9 46 United Kingdom
28 Jan 2016 3:52PM
Good looking camera, with good features but far too expensive and no weather sealing! I'll take the GX8 over this one, I feel its still the more rounded camera.
ChrisV Plus
12 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
29 Jan 2016 11:19AM

Quote:Good looking camera, with good features but far too expensive and no weather sealing! I'll take the GX8 over this one, I feel its still the more rounded camera.

Yeah, it's the obvious comparison and whilst the Panny can't compete with the superb IS of the Olympus and doesn't have the multi shot hi-res facility [or the 'art filters dial which I can't help but feel is a bit of a gimmick], it beats it on just about everything else - and now it's been out a month or two, at a much lower price point. To say it's a *better* camera is perhaps meaningless as ultimately these things are a bit subjective.

But I do feel the attention this model is getting is to some degree down to its styling and links to an old classic. Good luck to anyone who this suits - your satisfaction is no skin off my nose. But I bet the coverage is a bit frustrating for Panasonic's marketeers...
swa 7
30 Jan 2016 4:11AM
I appreciate the preview article, but have a couple of questions and a suggestion.

First, I would like to know if the LCD is fully articulated so that it can close against the camera back with the screen protected. That capability can make for a better shooting experience that spares the LCD of skin oil when the camera is pressed to one's face for stability. It can also protect somewhat against the elements.

I would also like to know if ephotozine captured the included images with a pre-production Pen F received last fall, perhaps before finishing touches were put on the processing engine. The reason I ask is because in one of the sample images, there are both green and yellow leaves on a tree. Green leaves can be seen in the background in another image.

Lastly, when previewing a new camera and presenting sample images, it would be very helpful if image captions would include information about any art filters and/or post-processing correction (sharpening especially) and manipulation that were applied, or else say the images were straight out of camera. First impressions can be lasting ones, and the impression many of these images convey is of not being ready for prime time. ElSid notes excessive noise and softness. I suspect my elderly but still spry E-PL1 could do these scenes as well or better.

I find it hard to believe Olympus would debut a camera at this price level, with as much care in development and design as the Pen F appears to have had, that produces such lackluster image quality. If it's not a case of a processing engine that needs work, I suppose there's a chance the provided Pen F could be a faulty sample. Any additional information you can provide would be appreciated.
31 Jan 2016 11:11AM
You can buy a full frame, Sony RX1R with a Zeiss lens (and digital zoom if you must) on the web today for the same price. The PEN might be prettier. But, unless you prefer to exhibit your camera rather than your pictures, I think that choice is a no-brainer.
joshwa Plus
8 872 United Kingdom
1 Feb 2016 9:49AM
Hi swa,

In answer to your questions: Yes it's full articulated:


Images in the galleries: "ISO" and "General Article Images" were captured with a production PEN F, the others were provided by Olympus and I would think they were on pre-production models, and information on what filters or settings were used were not provided, although you could download the high res images and see if there is any information in the EXIF data.

Hope this helps. When we have a camera in the office for review, we will be able to upload additional images.

8 Feb 2016 5:03AM
I don't much care about the "retro looks" or whatever that gimmick is, but I do own both Oly's and Panny's. I like the IS system on the E-M5 MK II much better than Panasonic's. I am a 46 year Pro and between my arthritic hands and drinking too much coffee, I really need Olympus's superior IS for hand held shots. I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, E-M1, GH3 and the GX-8, and they are all fine cameras. Since I now shoot mostly just for myself, I have retired my 5x4's and 10x8's and my complete Canon system, and just shoot micro 4/3 equipment. If you haven't tried the MFT system, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. You can do a search for Nat Geo Photographer Ira Block's test of the GH3 in the Idaho Desert (stills only). He got some beautiful 5ft enlargements that look as good as some shots form much larger sensor cameras. I shoot NO VIDEO, so I can only comment on stills. I can easily hand hold 1/2 sec shots, even with my poor hands. Yes, the high ISO photos are noisier than those from a full frame, but since there are so many fast fixed focal lenses available, I rarely need to shoot above iSO 1600.
joshwa Plus
8 872 United Kingdom
25 Feb 2016 10:53AM
Full review now live
Bantu 5 7 1 India
25 Feb 2016 2:16PM
Photo quality is more important rather than style.
18 Mar 2016 2:02AM
Photos look OOF, soft, blurry and I can do all those 'art' effects in post production. I live in Japan and got to do some test shots with the Pen F at Yodobashi Camera along with several lenses. Head shot with the coveted 75mm at ISO 200, 1/250s - soft looking, not very sharp. My DP2 and DP0 Q easily blows away the 'high resolution 50mp' mode, no comparison.

The battle is heating up among these micro 4/3 mirror less compacts. Olympus can do better than this.

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