4 Reasons why I switched from the E-M5 II to the PEN-F

Last month, I bought an Olympus PEN-F and then sold my all black E-M5 II earlier in March. I was pretty impressed by my shutter count, 14,813 – until I read more from other photographers. I had hardly spent any time with my camera in comparison. Even still, this was a major upgrade from my Olympus PEN E-PL5 and took my photography from amateur to enthusiast.

Almost alien
San Diego Convention Center | Olympus E-M5 Mark II

I don’t consider the Pen F an “upgrade”. Spec-wise, there are some features that are indeed upgrades, but there are just as many that are on par. Worse, there are a few downgrades, such as lack of weather sealing.

Anyway, here’s why I switched from the Olympus E-M5 Mark II to the Olympus PEN-F.

The PEN-F makes me want to go out and take photos

Seriously – look at this beautiful camera:

Olympus PEN-F
Olympus PEN-F | Shot with Lumix G9

Well yes, I’m still in the honeymoon period with the camera, but the PEN-F looks and feels like an accessory – not just a tool. I’ve been so inundated by facts and spec-sheets by the most popular YouTube channels but the PEN-F brings me back to reality – I am not a professional photographer. I am an amateur. This is my hobby. My gear should feel fun.

I am not a professional photographer. I am an amateur. This is my hobby. My gear should feel fun.

The PEN-F makes me want to bring my camera with me everywhere I go – and what do you know? It’s pretty much always in my hands, backpack, or sling.

With the E-M5 II, I felt like it was a chore to bring it everywhere with me. Not because of it’s size (it’s as portable as the PEN-F), but because it never felt like a “fun” and every-day camera for me. It was probably all in my head but the PEN-F just feels more like a social camera.

Happy Birthday brunch!
Cheers to capturing memories!

The PEN-F’s build quality

The PEN-F has a metal build which makes it cold to touch – I’ve never handled another camera with the same characteristic. It reminds me of the cold touch when you pick up your idling Macbook Pro. As a result, it also feels weighted in a luxury sort of way.

Olympus PEN-F & 17 mm f/1.7, head-on
Shot on my Lumix G9

Monochrome profile #2

The first time I started reading review on the PEN-F, most reviewers pointed out two things about the creative dial: (1) they were lukewarm towards it but (2) they really like the second monochrome profile. I’ve never shot black and white film (yet…) but apparently the out-of-camera jpeg brings back nostalgic feelings black and white photography.

High contrast doggo
High contrast doggo shot on PEN-F & Olympus 45mm | As of this post, this was listed a one of my top-five photos

The profile focus on high-contrast photos with some added grain. It really allows you to focus on your use of space and light. It didn’t take long to see this as a creative challenge and I’ll sometimes find myself clicking to the second monochrome profile.

In addition, the dial itself feels clicky in a very mechanical and audible satisfying way.

Twenty versus sixteen megapixel sensors

Olympus E-M5 Mark II
Olympus E-M5 Mk. II sports a 16 MP, micro-four thirds sensor

I’ve owned the Lumix G9 for nine months and its 20 MP sensor gave me the flexibility to crop in. With the 16 MP on the E-M5 II, I pretty much kept only straightened out photos. I would at times print up to two-page prints in a 10×10 book and the smaller resolutions would be noticeable.

What I’ll miss

The E-M5 II had a two-piece grip: HLD-6 and the HLD-8G. It gives three ergonomic profiles to choose from. Without either accessory, the E-M5 II is a compact mirrorless. By adding the grip, it keeps the camera small but now benefits from a grip with a better placed shutter button. Finally, the third part is a vertical-battery grip which adds another vertical shutter button. This gives us a grand total of 3 shutter buttons on the camera. Anyway, this just makes it a very versatile camera and helped reduce costs between owning the two different bodies I carry now.

I’ll miss the weather-sealing to an extent. I could throw on the Olympus 17 mm f/1.2 Pro and have a lens-heavy kit for the day, but I could get away with something weather resistant that was relatively small. The PEN-F doesn’t sport weather sealing which means I’ll need to be a bit more mindful.

More photos

If you want more example photos from the PEN-F, check out my slowly growing, PEN-F album on Flickr.