Comparison of the Olympus Pen-F Monochrome Profiles

I’ve been shooting pictures with my new Olympus Pen-F camera this week. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) You can read my First Impressions of the Olympus Pen-F Camera, and see some sample photos.

Today, the weather was very nice, so I went outside to take some photos in my village. I wanted to compare the three different monochrome modes in the camera, because I very much like black and white photos, and it’s a feature that I plan to use a lot.

You can set up the camera to bracket photos, and if you do this with the Art filters, you can choose the three different monochrome modes. To do this, go to the menus, then the second shooting menu. Choose Bracketing and turn it on, the go to the right and choose ART BKT and turn that on. Then go to the right again and select the presets you want to use (and deselect those you don’t want). You can have lots of presets automatically applied to any shot, these aren’t additional shots, like when you bracket for exposure or aperture, but it’s all internal processing from your image. I shoot RAW + JPG, so when I do this, I get four photos.

Here’s just one example of the different monochrome profiles. The first shot is the color shot, then the three next photos are monochrome profiles 1, 2, and 3. I haven’t made any alterations to the photos. Note that I’ve turned off grain for all three profiles; by default a couple of them have grain on.

Olympus describes the first profile as neutral, and it is, soft and smooth. The second is the high-contrast profile, modeled after Tri-X Pan film, and in some shots the contrast is excessive, but here it looks fine. The third shot is meant to look like infrared film; in some photos it does have that look, but not so much here. However, the clouds contrast well with the sky, as if there’s a red filter.

Of the three photos here, I prefer the house in the second profile but the sky in the third. It would be possible to combine these in post production, and since they’re exactly the same photo there’s no problem aligning them. But I find the first photo to be very well balanced, with a softer look.

These black and white profiles are one of my favorite features of this camera, and the ability to bracket all three – together with a RAW file – is very useful. I’ve yet to tweak the profiles, other than turning off grain – I’m not a big fan – but I’ll look into that soon.

Sample Photos Shot with the Olympus Pen-F Camera

Earlier today, I posted my First Impressions of the Olympus Pen-F Camera. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) At the time, I hadn’t taken many pictures with it, because the weather was terrible. So when the rain stopped, and the clouds cleared up a bit, I went out in my garden to shoot some photos. All these photos were taken with the Olympus 25mm (50mm equivalent) f 1.8 lens.

All the following photos were shot in aperture priority mode, and the color photos were converted from Raw by Apple Photos. The black and white photos are all the JPEGs from the camera. I haven’t made any adjustments to any of the photos, other than cropping some of them, and scaling some of them down so they’re not too big. I’ll explain why for each one.

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First Impressions: Olympus Pen-F 20 Mp Camera

Yesterday, I got a new camera: the Olympus Pen-F, a 20 Mp micro four-thirds camera. I bought just the body, as I was upgrading from an Olympus OM-D E-M10, and have a number of lenses. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Pen f1

I started taking pictures back in the early 1980s, using an Olympus OM-1, and when I bought the OM-D two years ago, I was, in part, seduced by the retro film SLR look. But it also fit well in my hands; I was familiar with that style of camera, and I never really cared for the big Canon and Nikon DSLRs, that are unwieldy. The micro four-thirds standard allows these cameras to be a bit smaller, lighter, and makes them less obtrusive.

The Pen-F is an improvement on the E-M10, having 20 Mp instead of 16, and having a raft of in-camera shooting features that make it a more flexible camera. Its rangefinder-type viewfinder makes the camera lower on top – the pyramidal viewfinder on the E-M10 does take up space – and the dials are laid out in a manner that seems more intuitive.

Pen f2

I can’t deny that I’m attracted to this vintage camera look, and in my hands, it feels better than the E-M10. It’s a tad wider (6mm), and lower (10mm, because of the different viewfinder), but the main part of the body is higher than the E-M10. And, while it’s 9mm thinner, it feels like it’s thicker. At 427g, compared to 396g – body only – it feels heftier, but in a good way. It feels more balanced, more evenly weighted than the E-M10.

There are a number of features that make the Pen-F an improvement on the E-M10, such as a higher-resolution viewfinder, which makes a big difference in the way I look at what I shoot. I rarely use the back-panel LCD to take pictures, and the Pen-F has an articulated LCD that you can shut, showing a faux leather back that looks more like on old film camera (and stays out of the way, and uses less battery).

One interesting feature is the front dial that lets you quickly switch among color modes: you can go from natural color to one of three monochrome modes, and you can use a number of artistic filters. I’m not a fan of the latter, but I do like shooting black and white. All the reviews I’ve seen highlight not only the quality of the monochrome renders, but suggest that you don’t even need to shoot RAW, since the camera’s JPEGs are so good.

The 5-axis image stabilization is an improvement on the E-M10’s 3-axis version, but the biggest difference I find in my first photos is the shutter. It’s softer, requires less push to actuate, and the camera moves a lot less. It’s also quieter; the E-M10’s shutter is fairly noisy.

The camera may not be the easiest to hold, as the front right of the device has no protrusion, and I might get a grip. Olympus sells one, of course, at a high price, but there are third-party grips. (Such as this wooden/aluminum grip, which is quite nice, but overpriced here in the UK. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)) I’m not that worried about dropping it – I always use a strap – but it might be a bit easier to use in odd positions. There is, however, a curved thumb grip that is more prominent than that of the E-M10, which helps keep the camera stable.

Unfortunately, given the very bad weather yesterday, and Apple’s WWDC announcements – which I had to watch for my day job – I haven’t had time to shoot much more than a few indoor test photos. I did spend a lot of time setting up the camera. While I’m familiar with the hermetic menu system of Olympus cameras, the Pen-F was a bear to tweak. The manual is horribly written, and it was very hard for me to figure out, for example, why some of the information displays changed and why I couldn’t find how to change them back.

I look forward to some better weather, and the chance to try out the Pen-F in my garden, photographing flowers and cats, and getting some landscape shots in the coming days. For now, I’m quite satisfied with the Pen-F. It’s a nice upgrade from the E-M10, and it feels just about right.

Here’s a quick shot I took in natural light, with my 17mm lens at f2.8. I tweaked it a bit, because the light is especially gray today, but you can see nice detail and depth of field.

P6060002

Update: Here’s an article with a number of sample photos I shot with the Pen-F.

Shooting for a bit shows just how good this camera is. The shutter is buttery smooth, it’s fairly quiet, and the viewfinder is extremely fast. It’s easy to shoot a number of photos in succession manually, and the auto-focus keeps up very well.

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