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Olympus PEN-F versus Sony RX100 V

The Olympus PEN-F and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in January 2016 and October 2016. The PEN-F is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the RX100 V is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (PEN-F) and an one-inch (RX100 V) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 20.2 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 20 MP. 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 Sony RX100 V

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus PEN-F and the Sony RX100 V. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures 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 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus PEN-F vs Sony RX100 V
Compare PEN-F versus RX100 V top
Compare PEN-F and RX100 V rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony RX100 V is considerably smaller (34 percent) than the Olympus PEN-F. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the PEN-F nor the RX100 V are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX100 V has a lens build in, whereas the PEN-F is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can find an overview of optics for the PEN-F and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the PEN-F gets 330 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the RX100 V can take 220 images on a single charge of its NP-BX1 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
Sony RX100 V« 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 220 n Oct 2016 999 i i
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 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-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 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-P5« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 14.8 oz 330 n May 2013 999- 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 RX100 VI« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.7 in 10.6 oz 240 n Jun 2018 1,199 i 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
Sony RX100 III« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.2 oz 320 n May 2014 799- i
Sony RX100 II« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.9 oz 350 n Jun 2013 749- 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 RX100 V was launched at a lower price than the PEN-F, despite having a lens build in. 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 Sony RX100 V

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus PEN-F features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony RX100 V an one-inch sensor. The sensor area in the RX100 V is 48 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 2.7. The sensor in the PEN-F has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the RX100 V offers a 3:2 aspect.

Olympus PEN-F and Sony RX100 V sensor measures

With 20.2MP, the PEN-F offers a slightly higher resolution than the RX100 V (20MP), but the PEN-F nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 2.41μm for the RX100 V) due to its larger sensor. However, the RX100 V is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the PEN-F, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the PEN-F has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the RX100 V, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

PEN-F versus RX100 V MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the PEN-F has a notably higher overall DXO score than the RX100 V (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.3 bits higher color depth, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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
Sony RX100 V« 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.458670
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277
Olympus E-M10 III« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p----
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
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-P5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
Panasonic GX85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.912.666271
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675
Sony RX100 VI« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----
Sony A6500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170
Sony RX100 III« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.412.349567
Sony RX100 II« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.512.448367

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the RX100 V provides a better video resolution than the PEN-F. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus PEN-F vs Sony RX100 V

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under consideration are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the PEN-F offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the RX100 V (2360k vs 2359k dots). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus PEN-F, the Sony RX100 V, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, 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
Sony RX100 V«2359 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 24.0 Y Y
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n
Olympus E-M10 III« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.6 Y Y
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n 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-P5« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 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 RX100 VI« »2359 n 3.0 1229 tilting Y 2000 24.0 Y 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
Sony RX100 III« »1440 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y
Sony RX100 II« »- n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y

Both the PEN-F and the RX100 V are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The RX100 V replaced the earlier Sony RX100 IV, while the PEN-F does not have a direct predecessor.

Review summary: Olympus PEN-F vs Sony RX100 V

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus PEN-F better than the Sony RX100 V or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN-F:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 2000/sec) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (330 versus 220) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 1037k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (24 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the PEN-F necessitates an extra lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (102x58mm vs 125x72mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens build in (unlike the PEN-F).
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a build-in lens.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the match-up finishes in a tie (10 points each). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

PEN-F 10:10 RX100 V

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the PEN-F or the RX100 V. 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed 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
Sony RX100 V«HiRec83/1004/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 999 i i
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i
Olympus E-M10 III« »Rec80/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2017 649 i i
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 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-P5« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999- 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 RX100 VI« »-83/100--- Jun 2018 1,199 i 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
Sony RX100 III« »HiRec82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2014 799- i
Sony RX100 II« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jun 2013 749- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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