June 27th, 2024

A little more on the PEN-F

A cat.
Newt, taken with the PEN-F and Olympus 25mm/f1.8

Well, the PEN-F has been a minor revelation. When I went mirrorless, it was with a Fujifilm X100S, then onto the ILCs with an X-T2. I knew of Micro 4/3, but hadn't really processed the move to mirrorless as a move to mirrorless so much as "I find dSLRs sort of alienating and haven't liked the last three I could afford, and I love the X100S for itself, not because of the system it represents."

So what I knew about M43 was "something something APS-C something M43 something something."

So I'm calling the PEN a minor revelation, because in the process of learning about it, I've learned about the entire M43 ecosystem—that's interesting—but I've also seen more of what Olympus (now OM) has been up to for a while now.

Going back and reading reviews and lining up time periods, it's pretty clear to me that the Olympus E-M5 II, which is sort of the parallel version of the PEN-F in the "dSLR-like" branch of the OM family tree, would have been pretty compelling. I probably would have balked over the control scheme, but the weather resistance and cost might have gotten me to relent.

A lot of M43 people are still hoping that Olympus will do a digital PEN with some minor updates: USB-C instead of Micro USB, weather resistance, and some interface improvements that I am not really clear on.  Yeah. You know, I'd be tempted, too. As a Fujifilm person, I live a two-body life: The X-T series for the versatility of interchangeable lenses, and the X100 series because I love the compactness and relative stealth when I'm around other people. An updated, WR PEN-F with a WR 17 or 18mm pancake would more or less be an X100VI, just a little more versatile, and I'd be down to one body.

I'm sure there are people who'd point out the discrepancies in specs and capabilities  between whatever went into that body and the most recent wave of APS-C sensors. Apparently, for instance, there's nothing in the M43 world exceeding 25 megapixels? Sure, okay, fair.

I'm not sure it matters to me. Really, I'm almost positive it doesn't matter to me, but have yet to take the PEN out on a real night shooting expedition, where I understand an M43 sensor will tend to be noisier owing to its smaller size. I'll just have to see.

I also don't have anything on a par with my Fujifilm 50mm/f1.2 portrait lens for the Pen-F, so I can't evaluate the differences in the most extremely shallow depths of field between APS-C and M43.  I do have the Olympus 25mm/f1.8 (see that cat picture above), and I think the differences in sensor size means there's about a one-stop difference, so that 25mm/1.8 is roughly equivalent to 35mm/f2 on an APS-sensor. I so happen to have one of those, so I guess I could do a comparison if I cared to.

I sort of don't? I just don't get the sense that it's going to matter in practice. It takes pictures good, for sure, and has its own profound charms as just an object. Last night while we were walking around on Belmont I paused at a street corner to grab a shot, and it was the first time Al heard the shutter. She noticed what I had a few days earlier: It sounds really nice. Very satisfying and shutter-like, as opposed to the X100's discrete "tick."

I guess the thing that kicked off this entry was this very helpful blog post about key settings in Olympus cameras. It's not for the PEN-F specifically, but a lot of the settings and menu locations are the same, and it has been helpful for understanding what everything means and how to think about it.