Olympus PEN-F vs OM-D E-M5 II vs E-P5 vs Panasonic GX8

January 28, 2016

Olympus PEN-F new vs old camera side by side

In this article I’ll compare the Olympus PEN-F versus four other Micro Four Thirds cameras, the PEN E-P5, OM-D E-M5 II and Panasonic GX8. It’s interesting to see how the redesigned classic is compared to other popular Olympus MFT cameras. We’ll start with an intro, where you’ll get to know about the PEN-F key features and important specs, and move on to the comparison itself.

PEN-F Price Comparison

Before we start digging deep into the PEN-F features, let’s first take a look at how the PEN-F stands against the other cameras price wise.

  • PEN-F: ~$1200
  • PEN E-P5: ~$800
  • OM-D E-M5 Mark II: ~$1000
  • Panasonic Lumix GX8: ~$1200

* rounded up prices via amazon.com as of January 27th, 2016, body only. Visit amazon.com for updated prices.

As you can see from the above pricing list, the PEN-F is the most expensive camera among the four. That’s relatively high entry price, and it’s interesting to see if it also offer a good value and is a well worthy upgrade for any of the other cameras.

Olympus PEN-F Key Features

The new PEN-F carries an overall design similar to the half-frame SLR classic, PEN F, which was released on May 1963 and was the world’s first half-SLR camera. The PEN F is the fifth model of Olympus PEN cameras which started with the PEN in 1959, followed by PEN EE (1961), PEN EES (1962) and PEN D (1962). But although it’s inspired buy the classic camera, it’s full of digital innovation.

Olympus PEN F from 1963

Olympus PEN F (1963) - The original

Here’s the new Olympus PEN-F, a digital camera with a film camera soul, or the other way around, depends how you look at it.

Olympus PEN-F camera

Olympus PEN-F camera (2016)

The new PEN F is the most powerful among all Olympus’ PEN camera, and it’s certainly a beautifully designed camera to look at. Many enthusiasts have already fell in love with Olympus’ PEN cameras that brings up some nostalgic memories from the film days. That being said, the new PEN F camera continuous Olympus’ tradition to not just make beautiful cameras, but ones that are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art digital imaging technologies Olympus has to offer.

The PEN-F features a newly-developed 20MP Live MOS sensor and uses the TruePic VII image processor, which isn’t new and it’s the same processor found on the E-PL7, OM-D E-M1, OM-D E-M10 and OM-D EM-5 Mark II. This sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, which should give you super sharp results and capture the finest details. It’s also Olympus’ highest resolution sensor to date and the largest among the other three cameras we’ll compare here.

The camera design is unique, in a way that it has a more boxy design, so it’s less rounded and look more like a classic film camera than a modern digital camera. It has not hand grip at the front and at the front you’ll notice the unique ‘Creative Dial’, which you can use to access four different creative functions. The camera has a mode dial and exposure compensation dial at the top, including a rear dial to easily change settings and use to control the  UI. There are two function buttons at the rear of the camera and a 2.36 million-dot OLED EVF with 100% field of view and 0.62x magnification (35mm equivalent). This innovative viewfinder has a Simulated OVF (S-OVF) mode, that provides photographer with a viewing experience which is similar to that of an optical one.

The new PEN camera also features Olympus’ well-regarded 5-axis VCM Image Stabilization mechanism that was found to be effective up to 5-stops. It has 1/8000 sec shutter speed (up to 1/16000 using the electronic shutter), Silent Mode, Anti-Shock Mode (to prevent shutter shake), touchscreen vari-angle display.

Among its other features are 81-point contrast detection AF system (800 points in manual selection using the Magnified View Mode), Multi-Exposure shot, 324 zones light metering sensor (-2 – 20 EV detection range), HDR bracketing, Art Filters, Scene Modes, Full HD video recording in either IPB or ALL-I compressions, Photo Story mode and up to 10fps burst (unlimited JPEG, up to 16 shots RAW buffer, 5fps with continuous AF, 20fps with electronic shutter). The PEN-F also has a unique 50MP shots mode where the camera combined 8 shots into a single image by utilizing the sensor-shift movement.

There isn’t anything revolutionary about the camera, but it’s an excellent choice for those among you who search for a camera with classic design appeal and one with very good overall performance. It also has built-in Wi-Fi to make it easier to transfer and share your photos. It looks like a very good camera for street photography and travelers, but the alternatives aren’t than the PEN-F for that purpose also.

The PEN-F seems like a good camera overall, abut I would be more satisfied if Olympus had put a phase-detection AF, a new processor and weather-sealing. The camera looks very nice indeed, but for me it seems like an overpriced camera. I think that many enthusiasts are searching to buy a camera that has more substance. I think that many photographers might find it attractive when the price drops, and between us, that price is pretty high for a PEN camera. I don’t think that Olympus can only rely on the external design, because it’s just an easy meal for the other companies, which will focus on more innovative features. It’s seems that it might not be enough to convince people to pay a premium price for it, as it lacks many of the professional features that people are expecting a camera of this price to have.

PEN-F vs E-P5 vs E-M5 II vs GX8

Now to you’ve got a good knowledge of the PEN-F key features, it’s time to see how this new MFT cameras is compared to two other popular Olympus MFT cameras, the PEN E-P5 and OM-D E-M5 Mark II, as well as compare it to a Panasonic MFT camera, the GX8.  The Lumix GX8 costs about the same as the PEN-F, so it’s interesting to see how the PEN-F stacks up against it in terms its features.

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The PEN-F was kind of a mixed back for me. No doubt that it’s a beautiful retro-styled camera, but when you look at its price, you probably expect it to have features that will make it stand apart compared to the competition. It costs around the same as the GX8, but the GX8 has several advantages, including weather sealing, the advanced DFD technology (optimized for Lumix lenses for faster AF), more accurate light metering, large viewfinder, 4K video recording,mic, Panorama mode,  NFC and built-in grip and a tiltable viewfinder among its unique features.

The PEN F on the other hand has its unique retro body design that many photographers love and a smaller body compared to the GX8, ISO 80 (Low), more AF points,  the innovative 5-axis IBIS, the ability to choose video codecs, 6 bracketing mode compared to only two on the GX8 modes, it has its unique Creative Dial at the front which you can use to switch between different color and effect modes (e.g. Monochrome Profile Control, Color Profile Control, Art Filters and Color Creator), 50MP HighRes capture and more creative control options in most part.

I love the PEN-F because it’s relatively small, it has IBIS, it has a unique classic design and it’s got the 50MP HighRes capture feature. I am disappointed with the PEN F lacking weather sealing, especially considering that it’s currently the most expensive camera Olympus has in its lineup.  The GX8 also lacks an Electronic First curtain Shutter (EFCS), in fact as far as I recall, all its models lacks it. The EFCS helps reduce vibration in the camera body which can help improve image sharpness under certain conditions, but it’s recommended to turned it off for high speed photography and when using large apertures. So there are cons and pros for each of the two cameras as you can clearly tell.

The E-P5 is the cheapest among the three, and it’s the least impressive among the four. That being said, it’s not in any way a bad camera. For some of you it might be offer the best value. It does lack a viewfinder, which I found to be a big disadvantage, some of you might disagree on that.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II still remains an excellent choice with excellent durability and weathersealing, large EVF, wide range of video capture options and the excellent 5-axis stabilization (5EV compensation).  I have to admit that I was expecting a new model to have more unique features, but because it’s a PEN camera, I can understand what Olympus didn’t want it to overlap its OM-D cameras.  So that in mind, for a PEN camera, it has very good features.

Did Olympus convince you with the PEN F, or you find it lacking? Share your opinion in the comment section below and thanks for reading.

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