Olympus Pen F

After several years of using the Olympus OMD E-M1 as my photographic tool, I was due for a replacement.  The E-M1 Mark ii was recently introduced but it’s priced at a $500 premium over the cost of my “old” E-M1 when it was released back in 2013.  It seems as though the E-M1 Mark ii was designed for true professionals…..which I’m not.  I think I would more accurately be described as an advanced enthusiast.  So while the new camera is nice, I couldn’t justify the $500 premium.

When the Olympus Pen F was released last year, it immediately caught my attention.  It is a beautiful camera with sleek retro lines that are a throwback to the past much in the same way the Ford Mustang was when it was introduced with a new retro style back in 2005.

Though the Pen F is a nice camera, I’m seldom an impulsive buyer, so I held off on buying it because I already had my E-M1 and it, too, is a nice reliable camera that produces excellent images.

The E-M1 has served me well, but after three years, it was time for a replacement, and since the Pen F does everything the E-M1 does plus more, it was a good time to pick one up at a discounted price off Amazon.

The Pen F comes in two colors:  silver and black.  Silver gives the camera a classic, nostalgic look while black makes the camera look more elegant.  I went with the black since the silver doesn’t have any nostalgic appeal to me.

After the camera arrived in the mail.  I took it out and started playing with it.  I looked through the menus and familiarized myself with the controls.  The Pen F is similar to the E-M1 in it’s technology but it feels quite different when shooting.  It’s easiest to hold and the most fun to shoot with if you use it like you would’ve used the original Pen F from 1963.  By that, I mean it’s best to put the viewfinder to your eye and grip the camera with both hands wrapped around the body.  Holding the camera that way makes it difficult to use the back screen to frame a shot or even review a picture after you take it, but I’ve found that to be the easiest way to hold the camera steady when shooting.  Likewise, it’s best to load the pictures onto your computer and review them after you get home……much in the same way you would’ve had to do in the 1960s when cameras were all film.

With my new camera in hand, I set out to see what it can do.  Since eating is one of my favorite hobbies, I took it with me to several restaurants and eateries around the Los Angeles area.  I went with Rick to El Compadre like we always do, and I went with Khanh to hang out at Fiesta Cantina in West Hollywood.  Similarly, Khahn and I had dinner with his partner, Tom at Plan Check Kitchen & Bar and Prova Pizza for dinner….among other places.

The Pen F is a nice fashion accessory.  It is so retro and such a throwback to the 1960s that the waiter at Fiesta Cantina who I gave the camera to so he could take a picture of us automatically started trying to manually focus the lens because he said it looked like that is how it was supposed to work.  I guess to designers at Olympus succeeded at what they were trying to accomplish.

Tortilla Soup from El Compadre Mexican Restaurant
Strawberry and Coconut Margaritas from Fiesta Cantina


Short Rib Port Roast from Plan Check Kitchen
Burger from Plan Check Kitchen

Mushroom and Pepperoni Pizza from Palermo Italian Restaurant

Margherita with Mushrooms and Red Onions
Tiramisu from Bossa Nova - West Hollywood, CA
Tiramisu from Bossa Nova

In my spare time, when I’m not at work, I spend a good amount of time just driving around and taking streetscape or landscape shots.  I took several shots in and around Los Angeles and Hawaii with the Pen F to see the kinds of images it produces compared to the E-M1.  The images are good overall, but I wouldn’t say they are substantially better than those of the older camera.  Of a particular note, with the additional hand grip installed, the Pen F is reasonably comfortable to hold with larger lenses.

La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Griffith Observatory with a Fish Eye Lens
Griffith Observatory with a Fish Eye Lens
Rick's Apartment Through a Fish Eye Lens
Rick’s Apartment Through a Fish Eye Lens
Old Airport Beach Park, Hawaii Island
Old Airport Beach Park, Hawaii Island
Kailua Bay, Hawaii Island
Beach 69, Hawaii Island
Beach 69, Hawaii Island

My only vice about the Pen F is that it’s not weather sealed like my E-M1.  In over three years of using the E-M1, I think it got wet twice…maybe three times.  But it was nice to know that it COULD get wet and still work after.  The lack of weather sealing is not a deal breaker for the Pen F, but given it’s cost, you’d think something like that would be included.

Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend it for everyday casual shooting, but maybe not necessarily for extreme sports where there is lots of movement or in environments where weather can get the best of it.

Overall, the Pen F is a very nice camera and a pleasure to use.  I look forward to using it for the next few years.


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