Olympus announces rangefinder-inspired PEN-F

by | Jan 27, 2016 | News, Products

The new PEN-F is more than just an update to Olympus’ mirrorless PEN line. It shows a new design focus, fully embracing the looks of classic film rangefinders—it even has a threaded shutter button for a basic cable release. This may be a sign that Olympus is imitating Fujifilm in how it uses physical design to differentiate its camera lines: the rangefinder-inspired PENs and the SLR-inspired OM-Ds, with a flagship camera sitting atop each line.

What’s really interesting is how Olympus is marketing this camera, focusing less on the technology and more on its heart and soul. Words the company uses to describe it include “stunning,” “luxurious,” and “finely-crafted.” Knowing Olympus, I doubt this is hyperbole. Special mention is made of the fact that there are no visible screws on the exterior of the all-metal body, illustrating an impressive level of attention to detail.

This isn’t to say the camera lacks anything on the technical front. Far from it, the PEN-F includes all of Olympus’ latest tricks, like a 20MP Live MOS sensor, 5-axis stabilization, 1/8000s shutter speed, 10 FPS continuous shooting, and, yes, High Res Shot mode for 50MP images. While Olympus touts the PEN-F as a street-shooter’s dream camera, High Res Shot means it will be equally capable on a tripod. It’s a feature I absolutely loved when I first experimented with it on the OM-D E-M5 II, and I’m glad Olympus is starting to bring it to other cameras.

Olympus has taken great care to ensure the camera can be operated without taking your eye from the viewfinder, putting the mode dial, shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation all on the right side of the camera. The LCD screen also functions as a touch pad when using the viewfinder, so you can select a focus point by tapping on the screen. And of course, there’s built-in WiFi for sending pictures to your smartphone or using the app to control the camera.

All the emphasis on physical design and personal connection to the product is a welcome breath of fresh air in camera marketing. It shows that Olympus is dedicated to building a camera that doesn’t just capture great images, but captures the essence of the experience of making them. Even though its guts are digital, its soul is all analog. And that, I believe, is the real value proposition of the PEN-F.

Of course, no camera built for the streets would be complete without a gangsta rap-style typeface, like the one Olympus is using on its website. Or something. (Okay, actually, that’s the same typeface used on the original, film-era PEN F.)

The PEN-F will be available in March at a price of $1199.99. We are currently accepting preorders.

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