Expectation and reality don’t always converge. You could probably deduce that it’s a consequence of being either wildly deluded or a being some poor sod that is always on the receiving end of the law of the sod’s.
I’ve always loved the old Olympus Pen F – it’s a smallish half-frame SLR (the world’s first in fact) that uses 35mm but uses half the usual space – a beautiful camera that was symbolic of Olympus’ innovation in design. The OM and Pen were fantastic creations, now considered classics and rightfully so.
With digital cameras, it’s always good to look to the future but yet at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with wistfully harking back to the good ol’ days and how things were better back then. The fact that the OM-D and other classically styled cameras like the Fuji X-series cameras are so successful is proof that there are plenty of people who still prefer having one foot firmly in the past, even though a significant number of them are hipsters who were no more than a glint in their father’s eye back in the good ol’ days.
The trouble with the new Olympus Pen F is that it doesn’t seem to quite have its foot firmly in the past or the future.
1 It Doesn’t Look Like a Pen F
When the Olympus E-P1 first came out, I was awe-struck. Not to an extent that it made me buy one but I understood why Lok pre-ordered one immediately. It was a beautiful design and a cool concept. At that time, I was thinking that this was a modern spiritual successor to the classic Pen F: compact, interchangeable lenses, less than full-frame (quarter frame in fact). Let’s not forget that it was the E-P1 that essentially started off the craze for mirrorless cameras.
But here we are now, six years later, and Olympus has released a camera that is only a Pen F because it is called Pen F. It’s hideous-looking for a start. I mean, it looks like someone glued an iPhone camera onto the front of the camera for a start, and I could go babble on for as long as the battery lasts on it (330-shots).
The problem I have with the Pen F and the OM-D is not that they are bad cameras, because they are decent enough. The problem I have is how much hamming up they do with the products’ association with a product they used to produce in the past. The WHO says too much ham will kill you, and Olympus should take note.
2 It’s Not Innovative
What’s the big new feature? It has 4-megapixels more than the OM-D E-M5 II. Oh, and now it has a knob on the front for people who like the feeling of changing art filters while fiddling with their knob.
3 Smaller Viewfinder
The lack of a mic socket is easy to forget about seeing as no one would want to use the Pen F to shoot video despite the really rather good Olympus 5-axis stabilisation. Olympus is slowly improving the video mode on their cameras, offering 1080 60p video shooting at 77Mbps but it’s not up to the standard of Panasonic’s cameras.
However, when they offer a smaller viewfinder (1.23x magnification) than the E-M5 II (1.48x magnification) it feels like you’re getting a little short changed for a camera that costs more.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a decent, big, bright viewfinder to help with your framing. You need the detail. There is nothing worse than looking through that tiny peephole and squinting, trying your bestest to work out what it is you’re actually looking at. Photography tends to work better when you do know what you’re photographing.
4 Weather Sealing
I don’t know any Olympus users who take their cameras into any harsh weather conditions other than severe sunshine. But, nonetheless, the weather-sealing is an appealing feature to say that you have. If you want it, then you might as well stop considering the Pen F now because it doesn’t have any.
You won’t know what you’re missing until you’ve got it. Or perhaps you won’t know what you’re missing until you’ve spilled your coffee on it.
5 There Isn’t a Fifth Reason
The problem is that there aren’t enough interesting things to talk about the Pen F. That’s why it’s a dull as dishwater disappointment.
Mind you, I think the real problem here is that when they release a camera called “Pen F”, it raises the expectations too high. It’s not enough to appeal to the people who loved the classic nor does it have enough new features to make it a great new digital camera. The OM-D cameras looked stupid but at least they met the expectations of the modern photographer.