The FInger Bits

on March 22, 2016

This may seem like a repeat of a previous post on the new Olympus Pen F camera but bear with me - it's the first time I've gotten the thing off the shelf and into the hand undisturbed - and the first time that I've gotten a clear studio light into some of the bits.

I've used all sorts of cameras and lenses with all sorts of controls - all the way from a Russian wooden plate camera with brass helical track for focusing and wooden plate holders through the range of roll-film and 35mm cameras to the plastic button land of digital cameras. I've poked, prodded, twisted, slid, revolved, and flapped to control focus and exposure and done far worse to change the film. Some cameras were a symphony of elegant ease and some were songs of pain. I can say that I have never flung a camera into the fire but I have put some down and never picked them up again.

The controls on the Pen F are as cleverly worked-out as those on a modern jetliner. The reason is the same - a human has to operate them with some ease to make the thing work. And in the case of the Pen F camera that human also has to buy the thing in the first place - that means the Olympus company have to entice them rather than compel them.

Well, it is enticing to see black leather and chrome plating. Brushed aluminium and paint also play some apart in the visual aesthetic but the designers have to be a bit careful with them - there have been some awful cameras in the past that depended upon these two finishes too extensively and suffered some shabby results when they aged.

I doubt that this will affect the Olympus Pen F. The construction is excellent and the places where your pokey finger goes or your twirling thumb runs over the thing are pure metal and unlikely to wear out. They have been wise in providing a way to turn the LCD screen into itself to stop scratching - if you are the sort of shooter who checks it only infrequently this is a good way of preserving the finish. As the LCD also acts as a control surface with the touch-screen, it is also nice to be able to keep this away from inadvertent use.

The brilliance of the on-off switch and the positioning of the colour control wheel have already been mentioned.

Note as well the attention to detail in the viewfinder area - of course there is a small sensor screen that sees when your face is pressed to the eyepiece and cuts off the LCD image. But note the addition of the rubber guard for the eyepiece - a welcome thing in these days of plastic spectacle lenses - and the calibration dial for the diopter adjustment. other makers just put an small plastic dot for this - Olympus make it look good.

I will admit to a certain reserve about the manner in which Olympus have positioned the four control wheels, two release buttons, and a toggle switch so close together there on the right. I has somewhat the air of a French Ironclad - a mass of superstructure. But at least the different functions are well-defined and are at different levels - the digits get used to the positions.

Time will tell whether this becomes as great a classic as the original Pen F...but it certainly has the potential to do so.
The Olympus Pen F is available now to order through our website.