Olympus' street-photography-focused PEN-F is the latest in the company's line of enthusiast mirrorless interchangeable-lens models, the first of its cameras to use the 20-megapixel Four Thirds sensor and a departure from the PEN line's viewfinderless design. It's also the best thus far with respect to photo quality and performance, and is a terrific option in that sense. It lacks a grip, which always irks me, the back navigation control is more suited to a cheap point-and-shoot and Olympus has yet to match the rest of the pack for video quality, but it otherwise delivers an enjoyable and streamlined shooting experience that doesn't disappoint when you get home and look at your photos.
I have a soft spot for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras. The smaller sensor doesn't deliver quite as good photo quality as some APS-C-based models, but given the significantly smaller lenses, it tends to be worth the trade-off when the ability to toss several fast lenses in a bag without breaking my back outweighs the slightly increased depth of field (less background defocus) and slightly crunchier look.
At $1,200 (£1,000, about AU$1,800), the camera is more expensive than its nearest competitor, the, but with a slightly less impressive feature set.
I'm quite impressed with the photo quality from the PEN-F. (Keep in mind, however, that I lab-tested with an excellent lens, the 12-40mm f2.8, rather than the cheaper kit lenses, which can make a big difference.) It delivers excellent white balance, a noise profile that rivals recent APS-C equivalents through about ISO 3200 and the tonal range you'd expect from a camera of its price.
JPEGs look clean through ISO 800 and decent through ISO 3200, but beyond that they look somewhat smeary from the noise-reduction artifacts. If you shoot raw you can push that a little more.
Olympus' video quality doesn't match the photos, though it's not bad. Naturally, the HD video isn't as sharp as competitors' 4K and there's quite a bit of edge crawl, especially on fine lines in the background, plus there aren't any presets to control the video's color or curve. (You can use Color Creator and trial and error.) But low-light video doesn't look as noisy as you'd expect and the in-camera audio recording is surprisingly full-sounding.