Fuji X-Pro2 and Olympus PEN-F: Premature comparisons
Is the PEN mightier than...
WOW!!! There's a LOT of EXCITEMENT in the Olympian camp at the moment!!! This is engendered by the imminent arrival of the new PEN-F. Now, as new babies go, this one is quite handsome. It's clearly been clobbered with the retro stick, resulting in design cues and controls that echo the OM SLRs of the past, the 35mm fixed lens film rangefinders such as the 35SP and even "Barnack" LTM Leicas with that mode dial on the front. Don't be fooled, however; it is state of the art for micro four thirds with every touchy, tilty fancy bell and whistle possible wrapped within that svelte chrome and leatherette shell.
The biggest change from its predecessors is that the PEN-F comes with an inbuilt EVF, à la Fuji X-E2. Back in the day, I had an E-P1 for a time. I took it to Lisbon alongside a Leica D-Lux 4. It was a pretty little thing, but one of the most frustrating cameras I ever used. Slow in every possible way, more hesitant than a deb at her first ball, and with focusing restricted to an auxiliary EVF or the rear screen. It drove me nuts. I know that there have been many iterations between then and now and that the new boy should not be directly compared to the original, but it's worth a look in anyone's language.
Now, there are those who appear to be intemperately comparing the PEN-F to the recently-announced Fuji X-Pro2. Well, no. I can see that it might be possible for those of an EXCITABLE!!! disposition to get carried away by the hype, but the two are not in the same ball-park in design, construction, features, sensor size or anything else that matters.
Crucially I suspect that they are aimed very much at different demographics. The PEN-F is a jpg-shooter's wet dream, with direct control of colour modes via that dinky dial on the front and a new monochrome mode that seems to have some people very excited indeed. What it is not is a pro-spec, take anywhere, use anytime, picture-taking machine like the X-Pro2. Those who want an OVF will go for the Fuji. Those who want weatherproofing will go for the Fuji. Those who want more megapixels will go for the Fuji. Those who want a nice leather case will go for the Olympus. The nearer equivalent in my view, if comparison has to be made, would be the X-E2.
Now it may sound like I have a downer on the new kid on the block, but please bear in mind that the first "serious" 35mm camera I ever owned (as opposed to an instamatic or a shudders disc camera) was an XA2. That little clamshell marvel gave me a taste for photography that is still with me to this day.
Over the years I have owned a number of Oly... Olympussies... Olympii - other Olympus cameras - including XA, Mju II, OM2 and 4, an innovative integrated zoom thingy that I can't even remember the name of (editors note—Bill means an L1) and, when micro four thirds was not even a thing, an E1, then an E400 and a 520 with a complete set of 4/3 lenses.
Nothing to worry about
I have nothing against Olympus and wish them well but I remember their heyday when one of my great photographic heroes, Yoshihisa Maitani, was designing for them. He was responsible for the original half-frame PEN series, the delightful OMs, the XAs and the original Mju—every one a camera of note. I cannot help but feel that if he were around today and was handed the new PEN-F he might sigh with recognition whilst at the same time lamenting the lack of originality. It is one thing to learn from the past, it is another to repeat it and the PEN-F—fine camera that it no doubt will prove itself to be—is more pastiche than pro. Fuji has nothing to worry about on this score.