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Sony A7 versus Olympus PEN-F

The Sony Alpha A7 and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and January 2016. Both the A7 and the PEN-F are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (A7) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A7 and the Olympus PEN-F. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. 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 A7 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Sony A7 vs Olympus PEN-F front
A7 versus PEN-F top view
A7 and PEN-F rear side
Body view (A7 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Sony A7. Moreover, the PEN-F is markedly lighter (10 percent) than the A7. It is worth mentioning in this context that the A7 is splash and dust resistant, 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (PEN-F). 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.

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 no 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 49 mm 404 g 400 YES 2016 999discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 298 g 280 no 2015 999discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 no 2014 549 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2012 2,799discont. check

The listed 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 29 percent) than the A7, 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 Sony A7 features a full frame sensor and the Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the A7 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A7 and Olympus PEN-F sensor measures
Sensor size

With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the PEN-F (20.2MP), but the A7 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 3.34μm for the PEN-F) due to its larger sensor. However, the PEN-F is a somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 3 months) than the A7, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 A7, 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).

A7 versus PEN-F MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the A7 provides substantially higher image quality than the PEN-F, with an overall score that is 16 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.7 bits higher color depth, 1.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.1 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.4 13.7 1437 85
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 22.8 12.6 591 70
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 1080/60p 23.9 13.2 3702 87
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.8 12.7 1347 80
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.1 14.3 2534 93

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

Feature comparison

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 A7 offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the PEN-F (2400k vs 2360k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A7 and Olympus PEN-F in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. 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
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting no 4000 11.0 6 no
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1228 tilting no 2000 16.0 10.2 YES
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 921 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 6.0 4 no
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no

The PEN-F is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A7 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7 was succeeded by the Sony A7 II.

Summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7 and the Sony A7? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 1037k dots).
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2013).

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Arguments in favor of 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.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 127x94mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (29 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 3 months of technical progress since the A7 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (9 points each). 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.

A7 09:09 PEN-F

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7 and the PEN-F in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. 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. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 999discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2015 999discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 549 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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 comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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