On The Pen F in Japan

Here are my thoughts immediately after the trip to Japan on the Pen F. This is written before the the bulk of the images are processed and is more about the experience using the camera for street photography than the results it produced. The camera was purchased for the two improvements in real photographic situations that it offered, not gimmicks of techie features.

I wanted to see some better technical benefits for landscape images through its electronic shutter and extra few pixels and some nice features for street shooting in the EVF and quetier nature of the camera.

I will 'fes up here and say that the reason I took the untried Pen rather than an OMD was not based on anything other than the lure of a tax break offered by the Australian tax office for people travelling overseas. No one really understands this process, but for years I have been claiming small items purchased near departure. This time the (self confessed) confused staff at the airport tax counter pretty much put the kibosh on that, so the whole exercise was wasted.

Never the less, the trip gave me the chance to push the Pen F into the role the OMD cameras have been filling for the last couple of years.

The good

   It was quiet. Both the normal and the electronic shutter were silent or near to and the shutter was gentle to press.

   Nothing failed or went wrong, always a concern with untested gear.

   The EVF is better for manual focus even without the aids engaged.

   The buttons had no mushiness like the OMD, but the camera is also not waterproof.

The same

   The AF was about the same speed and accuracy except the finer spot focus helped in some situations and would be a welcome improvement to the OMD EM5 (never gonna happen).

   The slight lags that the OMD has seemed no better. Turning on, lifting to the camera to the eye usually had a (minimal) wait for the EVF to fire up and the camera to respond, but I noticed it regularly. The EPM2 used as a backup felt faster! Note I used the EVF with the Pen not the rear screen and inverted the screen to make the camera less distracting-more old school. The EVF did not seem to speed up in that configuration as the OMD does with the auto EVF/Screen switch over disengaged.

The bad

   The shutter noise. The OMD shutter has been described as being like "a Bentley car door closing". The Pen is more like an Elf sneezing. I found it misleading when gauging the length of the shutter fire by ear. Where I can instinctively tell from an OMD how fast it has fired in Aperture priority, this was not the case with the Pen. It also seemed to vary at different shooting angles.

   The stabiliser. Either the cameras' weight, handling, the shutter or a combination of these affected my confidence with the stabiliser. It is meant to be better, but I was was not expecting leaps and bounds of difference, but at least as good. There seemed to be fewer "hail Mary" shots coming of, especially with the longer (75mm) lens to the point where I found myself taking more wasted multiples as I used to with Canon gear. 

   Handling and habits. For some reason I kept turning it off. The handy on/off dial proved too handy and I missed shots often because of this. Spooked by reports of short battery life, I think I started this early on, even before the trip, but could not get a handle on it. Other handling could have been improved with the optional grip, but I got by fine.

The exposure compensation dial is too stiff (just like the XT-1), requiring two fingers to turn it accurately as one finger tended to need too much force, offering too little control and the dial would often jump 2-4 settings rather than 1. I use this control a lot as the "what you see is what you will get" viewing promotes it. The OMD allows it to be placed on either the front or rear dials with just the right amount of resistance and it can be set to turn in either direction as you choose. Cameras need to be as invisible as possible in use and this one was a deal breaker for street.

There will be a follow up to this on the image quality, once I have played a bit more.