A bus stop below a combined highway and railway bridge. This is a most unpleasant place, but I have to wait there for the bus at least weekly on my way to Carinthia. What can I say, this is the second image that I was able to make there. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever bother you with a third one though 🙂
Image quality. On the PEN-F we see a moderate increase from 16 Mpx to 20 Mpx. That’s not bad, but most competitors made the jump from 16 to 24. If we take the smaller sensor area into account, we can expect that all current cameras of about the same price segment have about the same pixel sizes with about the same per-pixel quality. I can’t verify my expectation, but the fact, that most of the sensors involved originate with Sony, supports my expectation. Obviously different sensor sizes make for a difference in resolution.
When working with images, I frequently look at them on pixel level. The higher the resolution, the smaller the part of the image that I see, but while I am at pixel level, resolution is not a criterion for image quality. Noise is one. I know how it looks like on pixel level. I know how it looked on the D200, D300, the LX5, E-P2, OMD E-M5 and finally on the twins OM-D E-M1 and PEN E-P5.
There was a distinct quality gain from the D200 up to the D300. There was an even bigger step back to the LX5. The E-P2 was worse than the D300 and maybe about equal to the D200. The OMD E-M5 was a big step over the E-P2 and it also surpassed the D300. The last two didn’t make much of a difference, their advantages were elsewhere.
The PEN-F? Maybe slightly better on pixel level, but it is close. Therefore the relevant difference is again the number of pixels.
Does it count? My logic would say no (or only slightly), but working with the pictures, I’d say the difference is significant. I try to frame precisely, but I still find myself cropping or rotating or skewing. Doing so, I always have to sacrifice a few pixels, and having more of them to begin with, definitely helps.
Is it worth the few annoyances? Yes, I think so. At least I wouldn’t want to go back. The PEN-F is it, and if I find enough common sense, I’ll put the E-P5 up for sale within the next days 🙂
Is it worth the money? Do I recommend you sell your E-P5 + VF-4? That’s a tough question. As a recommendation, I’d say no. At least you should try to look through the PEN-F’s viewfinder first.
And what if you have only the E-P5 without VF-4? Well, I’d probably still recommend buying a used VF-4.
And if all that is like I said it is, why, you ask me, did I buy the PEN-F at all? Good question, I’d say. I suppose it was mostly for the looks and because I could afford it. It also was for the integrated viewfinder, a feature that I like, but if I think of why I like it, it’s probably also mostly for the looks.
Interestingly enough, the most useful feature of this camera over its predecessors is the dedicated exposure compensation wheel. And I guess that’s it.
I have not yet sold my E-P5. When the PEN-F arrived, I removed the battery and the SD card, and then I put the camera into a closet. Today I took it out for a comparison.
What can I say? I miss the big viewfinder! Yes, the VF-4 sticks out from the E-P5, it mars the beautiful design, it just doesn’t look that classy. Looking through it makes a world of a difference though 🙂
It’s really like the difference between APS-C and full-frame. You notice the change and it’s a big one.
I’ve tried the same with the E-M1, and of course as it shares viewfinder specs with the VF-4, the result is the same.
Then I noticed something interesting: both the E-M1 and the E-P5 were pretty much off colorwise and they were also darker. The PEN-F on the other hand was incredibly accurate in reproducing what I saw.
There was also another change. Exposure parameters blended into the viewfinder image had some amount of transparency. Or had they? Now that I try to reproduce it, I find that I can’t. That’s funny, because I’ve already noticed it another day. I don’t think I’ve just imagined it.
Yes, indeed, I’ve just checked, there is an slight amount of transparency in the overlay. It’s still fully readable, but it is slightly less intrusive.
Another slight annoyance is, that with the position of the eye sensor on the PEN-F, stray light easier enters the sensor, especially when the sun comes from the back. If that happens, the EVF blanks out. This doesn’t happen when I hold the camera properly to my eye, but sometimes I don’t. I suppose it also may happen when you wear glasses.
Basically this all boils down to the fact that I like the new viewfinder better (if it is indeed the viewfinder and not just changes in metering and white balance accuracy), but that the lower resolution hurts. I’d like to call it a draw, but it isn’t really.
Is this a reason to switch back to the E-P5 and sell the PEN-F? No. If there were no other advantages but the better design and the convenience of the integrated viewfinder, I’d say yes. Fortunately there’s more to this camera. We’ve already discussed the exposure compensation wheel, and tomorrow we’ll talk about image quality.
Outside of the center, Vienna’s “Underground” lines tend to rise above ground, and sometimes quite high above. On the right side you see the building of such an “Underground” station.
On the left side, you see a building that 20 years ago would have been impossible here in Vienna. The distance between it and the tracks is maybe ten meters at maximum.
I remember having seen train tracks go so near to aparment buildings when I visited Paris for the first time, maybe 35 years ago. Then I was shocked. How could you possibly sleep in such a place? Of course I also remember having seen American movies with Subway trains in New York passing near apartment windows. But here?
Well, yes, here, and obviously it’s good business. Politics seem to have given up protecting people, and if there’s space, someone will build on it. It’s not even cheap.
Again this is no image taken with the PEN-F. There won’t be any until mid-winter. But we can talk about it. Let’s see what else is interesting.
The viewfinder is a step back from the VF-4 that I bought with the PEN E-P5. No denial, it is smaller. It does not stick out from the camera though. In fact the whole camera looks smaller and much more retro.
Instead of a Gariz case (like for the E-P5) I bought the original Olympus metal grip instead. It has the same huge price as the very elegant Gariz leather half-case, but it gives better hold. Both have an opening in the bottom plate that allows access to the battery and (theoretically) the SD card.
Why I say theoretically? Well, it does so, but you’d have to have very small fingers. I could get the SD card out of the E-P5 in the Gariz case, but I can’t get it out of the PEN with the Olympus grip.
That’s stupid. I mean, it would have been perfectly possible to make the opening big enough for the door to the battery/card compartment to open wider. They didn’t. It’s hard to imagine that nobody had issues with that during testing, but even if so, they must have chosen to ignore it. For a $130 piece of alumunium this is unacceptable. What do I? I’ve put a pair of pincers into my bag. Problem solved, albeit in a most embarrassing way 🙂
My new PEN-F has a 20 megapixel sensor, and while I can’t complain about its quality, it is only a very incremental change up from the E-M1.
On the other hand it is incredible how much of a game changer DxO is. This image has been taken with the PEN E-P5 (same sensor as the E-M1) at ISO 6400, f4 and 1/6s. I’ve shot it at night in a very, very dark part of the street. It looks like, well, maybe ISO 800. And it’s not only the lack of noise, it’s also the purity of colors. Buying DxO has given me the equivalent of maybe eight years of sensor development. That’s incredible.
OK, that’s just to put the improvements of the PEN-F into relation 🙂
From time to time an image of our cats simply must be acceptable 🙂
Oh yes, silver! Reminds me of my new PEN-F. I write this Sunday evening on an overly crowded train to Vienna. The weekend was rainy, and when it didn’t rain, I was working at my father’s house. Insted of retiring, he began building it at 60 years. He never finished it, my mother never wanted to change places so late in their life, and therefore it has been standing empty for years. We’re currently trying to find a tenant, but there are still a lot of things lying around all over the place. You wouldn’t believe how many creative ways there are to stow away tools 🙂
Therefore, instead of taking lots of photos with my new toy, I spent the time sorting other people’s stuff, and when I didn’t, I looked out of a window into the rain.
Still, I have some first impressions. Remember that I recently complained about having to tag images taken with a lens without electronic contacts? Remember the manually maintainable “list of lenses” that I wished for? Well, that’s exactly what the PEN-F has 🙂
The other big difference to any Olympus camera so far is the dedicated exposure compensation wheel. It’s a big change, and here’s why:
Normally I use aperture priority mode and have the front wheel set for aperture. The back wheel is set to exposure compensation. In manual mode, the only other mode that I regularly use, the back wheel is set to shutter speed. In aperture priority I use auto-ISO, in manual base ISO. If light is too low, I manually increase ISO, for instance via Olympus’ “Super Control Panel”.
Now, with a dedicated wheel for exposure compensation, I have the back wheel set to ISO. This is awkward (because I am not used to it) and relaxing as well. It’s relaxing, because as soon as I use the back wheel, the manually set ISO overrides the automatic, and basically what was aperture priority, becomes kind of a manual mode, where I can easily dial ISO for an acceptable shutter speed.
On my E-M1 (and all other Olympus cameras) I can’t do that. The best thing I can do is to switch a mode lever and then the two wheels change to ISO / White Balance. That’s not the same though. I always tend to forget the state of the lever, and while theoretically I could be faster, I end up being slower than when I take the camera off my eye and do the adjustment via Super Control Panel.
So, that’s a fine thing, but I am not sure how much I want to rely on it. After all, the E-M1-MkII may not have that extra wheel, and then switching between cameras will be awkward, and besides, the E-M1-MkII is a few months away anyway.
By the time you read this, I will have the PEN-F for a week, by the time I’ll write the next post, I will have used it for half a week. I guess I’ll be able to give you at least a first impression in tomorrow’s post.
What will I do with the PEN E-P5? I have no idea. The original plan was to sell it, and I might still do that, but then, it’s also a beautiful camera for sure.
Of course the problem is, that I don’t even need two bodies, and therefore much less three. We’ll see 🙂
Keeping everything in focus is essential to this image. Again here’s a typical image where a smaller sensor helps.
I’m much nearer to the overhead contact line than the line is to the building crane in the background. It must be a factor of 50 or more. Not the best circumstances, but f8 on MFT did the trick, and that’s an aperture where diffraction does not set in yet.