After my initial setup of the Pen-F I took it out on my normal testing route with the Olympus 14-150 f4.0-5.6 II mounted on it. I also have the original version of this lens and have used it extensively when I've been travelling. I've noticed lately that my original has become de-centered on one side and is quite noticeable when looking closely at the images. The question was, get it repaired or purchase the second version. After careful consideration I chose the latter.
Version II on the left. It does look a little bigger but dimentions say otherwise.
I must admit, it does look very nice.
Can't complain about the size. Feels very nice in the hand.
After every initial setup there are always functions in the menu that need changing, especially on the Olympus cameras as the menu system is quite extensive. However, after I've got everything set up as I need it, I rarely go into the menu system to make changes. This has it's good points and bad. One bad point about this is you don't really get to know the camera all that well or you can't find what you're looking for when wanting to try something new out. Maybe I should change the way I do things . With a new camera comes new firmware with new functions etc and the Pen-F is no exception.
So, off I went on my bike for a couple of hours, stopping now and again for a snapshot. I normally take a photograph of familiar sights and buildings as I can compare images from one camera/lens combination with another. By now, I know what a sharp image of of my normal motifs look like so that method has it's advantages for me. I can tell at a glance if the lens is good or not. Same goes for the camera of course as each sensor is slightly different. The way each manufacturer tweaks the processing engine for different cameras is also visible.
I can only concur what a lot of reviewers have said about the Pen-F after using it for only a couple of hours. It's just fun to use. Bonding with a camera is an important aspect of photography. If you can't bond with a camera, get rid of it and get another one. The more fun you have while using a camera the better.
One thing I did notice immediately with the Pen-F, more so than on other Olympus cameras is the keystoning function. Having enabled this in the menu I noticed a real shot-to-shot delay and it is a couple of seconds before the next shot can be taken. Tip: If you don't require this function just turn it off and you're back to normal again. I immediately turned this function off. Keystoning I can do in PP.
I am also very impressed the 5-axis image stabilisation. Olympus really do this very well and are the best in the business as far as I'm concerned although systems from other manufacturers are good, they just can't seem to beat Olympus at this. I have a feeling Panasonic are catching up pretty fast though.
It is quite a small camera and I can see where people with largish hands will have problems using it. I think the extra grip would come in handy here although I'm not certain it's large enough for some people. Personally I don't have a problem with the size as my hands are on the small side. I'd actually go as far as saying the camera has an ideal size for my use.
I'm no great friend of the Creative Dial on the front of the camera. I think the only time I'll be using this is when I want to "see" in black and white. Since I'm a raw shooter this won't have much influence on my shooting habits but I can see where the jpg shooter might appreciate it.
This camera seems ideal for use with those lovely small Olympus prime lenses like the 12 f2, the 25 f1.8 or the 45 f1.8 and I plan on using those quite a bit. The pro zooms might be a little large but since I haven't tested those yet I might be surprised on how well they work. More on those Pro lenses in a future post.
The Pen-F has the new 20MP sensor inside but to be honest I can't see much difference in image quality. Bigger yes, but apart from that, no difference really. It will allow for a little more cropping but that's it. A hike from 16MP to 20MP isn't something to write home about. If they had put a 24MP sensor in there, I think things might have become a little more interesting.
The EVF with it's 2.36 Million dot OLED is really, really nice. I don't think we can complain about any camera on the market today concerning the EVF. They are all really good. We've reached a point where there is no excuse whatsoever about implementing a bad EVF. That would be a really bad decision by someone and the camera just wouldn't have a chance in today's market. Saying that, I wish Panasonic had put a slightly better EVF in the GM5 because that is really a brilliant camera when paired with the small lenses specially designed for it.
I don't really use the special features on the Olympus cameras such as time lapse, live time or live composite but one thing has me really intrigued, and that's the High Resolution Mode. This will give me a 80MB (50MB jpg) file that should be rich in detail and would allow me to crop a number of different images from one file. The icing on the cake here will be when Olympus develops this function for hand-held use. A tripod is needed presently, even for the E-M1 II.
Something that bothers a few users is having the On/Off lever on the left hand side of the camera. Things like this don't bother me at all. It is what it is and I just adapt myself to it.
One thing I do prefer about the E-M10II over the Pen-F are the knurled control dials. On the E-M10II they're slightly raised and have a better feel to them. I find I can reach them better than on the Pen-F. That's probably a personal point though and many may find the controls on the Pen-F better for them. I find they look better on the E-M10II.
Great knurling on the E-M10II knobs
The 14-150 f4.0-5.6 is the second iteration of this popular travel zoom lens. For me it's an ideal lens when travelling offering a range of 28-300mm in FF terms. Couple this lens with a 7-14 from either Panasonic or Olympus and you don't need anything else really except maybe a fast low light lens. Birders may feel differently but as a landscape photographer 300mm is plenty for me. The lens isn't the sharpest on the market but the images do sharpen well in post processing. I find the contrast is not as good as the first version (again correctable in PP) but the images are sharp enough from corner to corner when used at f5.6 or f8. One advantage it has over the original version is its dust and splashproof. It can actually take more than a couple of drops as I've had it out in a downpour without any problems. It's 5gms heavier than the original and the lens dimensions are the same although it does look bigger.
See examples taken with this lens below. Not masterpieces but the images do show the image quality you can expect from this lens.
Taken with the lens set to 14mm
Same shot as above but with lens set to 150mm
One last thought. I got thinking about two different systems after I posted the images above. If I was asked which camera I prefer to use, the Olympus Pen-F or the Fuji X-T10 I would be hard pressed to give an answer. However, I just love the X-T10 with the 18-55 f2.8-4.0 lens as it's an exceptional kit lens.
I don't usually use any kit lenses from Olympus because I think they offer better lenses but Fuji seem to have gone in a different direction. They haven't brought all that many lenses onto the market, but what they have brought, are very good indeed. That 18-55 is the only kit lens they have and they've made sure it's a bloody good one too.
So, if I had to choose between the two at this stage I would really go for the X-T10. One reason is the ability to convert the Fuji files to monochrome. I haven't seen better files for this so if you like converting your colour files to monochrome in PP you will not find a better system than the Fuji system.