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Olympus PEN-F versus Olympus E-M1 II

The Olympus PEN-F and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in January 2016 and September 2016. Both the PEN-F and the E-M1 II are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 20.2 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus PEN-F vs Olympus E-M1 II

The physical size and weight of the Olympus PEN-F and the Olympus E-M1 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the PEN-F – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus PEN-F vs Olympus E-M1 II
Compare PEN-F versus E-M1 II top
Compare PEN-F and E-M1 II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 II is notably larger (35 percent) than the Olympus PEN-F. Moreover, the E-M1 II is markedly heavier (34 percent) than the PEN-F. It is noteworthy in this context that the E-M1 II is splash and dust-proof, while the PEN-F does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the PEN-F gets 330 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the E-M1 II can take 440 images on a single charge of its BLH-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus PEN-F» 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M1 II« 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus E-M10 III« » 4.8 in 3.3 in 2.0 in 14.5 oz 330 n Aug 2017 649 i i
Olympus E-M10 II« » 4.7 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 13.8 oz 320 n Aug 2015 799- i
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i
Olympus E-P5« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 14.8 oz 330 n May 2013 999- i
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i
Panasonic GX85« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 15.0 oz 290 n Apr 2016 799 i i
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i
Sony A6500« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i
Sony RX100 IV« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 280 n Jun 2015 999- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The PEN-F was launched at a markedly lower price (by 40 percent) than the E-M1 II, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus PEN-F vs Olympus E-M1 II

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus PEN-F and Olympus E-M1 II sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 20.2 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the PEN-F and the E-M1 II have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-M1 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the PEN-F, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

Both cameras have the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting the sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

PEN-F versus E-M1 II MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the E-M1 II has a markedly higher DXO score than the PEN-F (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus PEN-F» Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
Olympus E-M1 II« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
Olympus E-M10 III« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p----
Olympus E-M10 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
Olympus E-P5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671
Panasonic GX85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.912.666271
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675
Sony A6500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the E-M1 II provides a better video resolution than the PEN-F. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the PEN-F is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus PEN-F vs Olympus E-M1 II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The PEN-F and the E-M1 II are similar in the sense that both feature an electronic viewfinder, which is helpful when framing images in bright sunlight. Moreover, their viewfinders offer an identical resolution of 2360k dots. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus PEN-F and Olympus E-M1 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus PEN-F»2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M1 II«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y
Olympus E-M10 III« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.6 Y Y
Olympus E-M10 II« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-P5« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 9.0 Y Y
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y
Panasonic GX85« »2765 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Sony A6500« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y
Sony RX100 IV« »2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 2000 16.0 Y Y

Both the PEN-F and the E-M1 II are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The E-M1 II replaced the earlier Olympus E-M1, while the PEN-F does not have a direct predecessor.

Review summary: Olympus PEN-F vs Olympus E-M1 II

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus PEN-F better than the Olympus E-M1 II or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:

  • More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 134x91mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 147g or 26 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).


Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (440 versus 330) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (7 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 II emerges as the winner of the match-up (7 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

PEN-F 04:07 E-M1 II

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the PEN-F and the E-M1 II in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus PEN-F»-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M1 II«HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus E-M10 III« »Rec80/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2017 649 i i
Olympus E-M10 II« »HiRec80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 799- i
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i
Olympus E-P5« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999- i
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i
Panasonic GX85« »HiRec82/1005/54.5/55/5 Apr 2016 799 i i
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i
Sony A6500« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i
Sony RX100 IV« »HiRec85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999- i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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