How the Olympus Pen F Stole This Photographer’s Heart

I had to catch my breath when I looked at the photos.

I remember when I was introduced to the Olympus Pen F before it was officially announced. The Olympus PR reps sold the black and white photo rendition to me very hard. So I shot RAW+JPEG with it just in case. But as the trip went on, all I cared about were the stunning black and white photos. As the Editor in Chief of a photography blog, it’s my job to test products how they’re meant to be used. Tech publications won’t usually do that. But this was the first time I saw even the editors of tech publications be surprised by the image quality. Paired with the beautiful Voigtlander 17mm f0.95 lens, it felt nearly impossible to take a bad photo with the Olympus Pen F.

compact cameras Olympus Pen F

This gem of a camera used the 20MP Four Thirds sensor. In my opinion, this delivers gorgeous colors that remind me of Kodak Portra VC film. You only get this with the right lenses though. But that’s more of a reason for the Pen F to be an incredibly fun camera for photographers. When Micro Four Thirds first launched, photographers bought them up and adapted all their old vintage glass to the cameras. The Olympus Pen F realized that. With its classic rangefinder-style body, this camera also lacked a joystick. So the best way to use it was with adapted lenses and focus peaking activated. I remember peering through the viewfinder and believing I was seeing a person’s soul each and every time I shot a photo. Black and white photography just does that to you sometimes.

If you’ve read this blog for the past decade, you’ll know I’m a rangefinder guy. Put a Leica in my hands and I’ll be smitten for hours. It’s why the Fujifilm X Pro 3 is currently my favorite camera. The Olympus Pen F is no exception to that rule. When you pick it up, you embrace nearly a century of design. The industry has been making cameras in this shape for obvious reasons. There are tons of little, beautiful details too. The switch on the top right resembles the old film rewind spool knobs. And as your right-hand wraps around it, you’ll encounter the knob on the front. This harkens back to certain shutter speed and ISO dials. Meanwhile, pressing your thumb to the ergonomic rest will remind you of old film advance levers. I really wish that they made more cameras this way.

But by and large, the most remarkable thing about the Olympus Pen F is the image quality. You can customize the look of the black and white JPEG settings. And yes, there are lots of Olympus Art Filters. But they’re not put front and center the way the Black and White specific settings are. The culture of photography is to always shoot RAW. Then and only then, do lots believe that you grind away for hours in post-production to get the perfect images. But the Olympus Pen F was the first camera to make me feel like that’s not the case. You can shoot with this camera and genuinely be content with the JPEGs. And I think that’s an incredibly beautiful thing. It’s a serious camera that reminds us that you can be a passionate photographer who shoots JPEGs. Of course, I’m not telling you to not shoot both RAW and JPEG, but you can genuinely spend more time shooting with the Olympus Pen F than back at your computer. And that’s what photography is about. It’s about being out there and experiencing life. We should have adventures–not be tethered to computers sharing photos on social media because we need self-validation. I mean, what happened to shooting for yourself? Why are we only legitimate if we satisfy the masses?

These are some of the questions the Pen F made me ask. And it taught me an incredibly valuable lesson. The 2020 Pandemic is creating a brand new generation of photographers buying the most expensive gear and hoping for the best results. But many of them aren’t shooting to just be happy. The Olympus Pen F is genuinely a special camera that help you find happiness. You can sit there and stare at the black and white images all day and night. And when you share those, you’ll be delighted. And your friends will be too.

The Olympus Pen F was unlike any other camera that Olympus made. It’s the pinnacle of their Pen cameras. And more than anything else, it’s held its value. This camera has a cult following. It lacks the weather sealing of the OM-D series cameras, though. But luckily, Olympus has had one of the best sensor cleaning technologies for a few years. So as long as you’re not taking it out into the rain, you’ll never have a problem with the Olympus Pen F. But, I encourage you to delve into it more. The Olympus Pen F was a very highly rated camera and for a good reason.

Please enjoy the photos below and show a bit of love for MPB, where you can get lots of beautiful, used gear from a retailer you trust. We’d love to hear your stories about this camera in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with MPB. Be sure to check out the Olympus Pen F and more for quality used camera gear.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.