Mirrorless Interchangeable-lens Camera Thorough,
The Olympus PEN-F made history in 1963 when it was introduced as a half-sized single-lens reflex camera. And now, a half-century later, the new Olympus PEN-F has launched as a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera inspired by the original masterpiece. While the PEN-F has similarities to once-predominant film-type cameras, it is far from a simple digital copy of its predecessor.
Created for the pure joy of using a camera
When we started developing the PEN-F, we decided to create a camera for thorough, precise, subtle photography; one that could capture the joy of a breeze, a sudden sound, or a feeling in the air that is experienced as the shutter is released.
The OLYMPUS PEN-F is not a mere remake of the original film-loading PEN F. In fact, we initially did not plan to use the same name. But once we were well into the design process, we realized that this was a camera worthy of bearing the honored name of the PEN series' flagship model.
In terms of design, the PEN-F is certainly inspired by the PEN F. Indeed, even after the release of the first digital PEN model, the E-P1, the PEN F has continued to serve as a blueprint for the series. The PEN F, the world's first half-sized single-lens reflex camera, embodied numerous innovations as an easy-to-use, easy-to-carry and affordable SLR. Such concepts have come to define the PEN series, and the legacy remains alive and well in today's digital era.
Form contains the essence of what a camera should be
Cameras in the days of film were exquisite devices. They had shutter buttons, dials, rewind knobs and an array of fittings for attachments, mostly incorporated into an intricate top cover that some said resembled a battleship. The PEN-F embodies this traditional style, reflecting the history and essence of a "real" camera.
For example, its top cover and corners slope gently and the body thickness narrows decidedly on the shutter-button side — traditional design profiles that express the PEN series' distinctive appearance.
Nowadays, for increasing the image of toughness, many cameras come with a flared grip that is grasped by the right hand for stability. To emphasize its hobbyist personality, however, the PEN-F retains its traditional camera profile without a grip. But to ensure that the camera can be grasped firmly, we developed the Thumb Rest, a notch on the back corner into which the thumb fits comfortably to hold the camera securely. Of course, this spot on the camera is a where various controls normally are located, so our design, manufacturing and other departments jointly innovated ways to free up this "prime space" and ensure that the PEN-F's design offers both practicality and visual appeal.
This is the first PEN series camera to be equipped with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) for thorough, precise, and subtle photographs. Incorporating this unit, however, required us to extend the height of the camera. To avoid ending up with a tall, ungraceful design, we succeeded in dropping the lens to the lowest position of any camera we make, which created a space the required space for the EVF. The innovative solution was created through a close collaboration between our design and architecture teams.
The feel of quality in one's palm
One of our aims in developing the PEN-F was to produce true value based on uncompromising, high-precision design. The PEN-F's top cover is made of magnesium, the camera's front is a combination of magnesium and high-quality synthetic leather, and the bottom cover is aluminum. The magnesium top cover strikes a balance between weight and intensity, since magnesium weighs barely half as much as aluminum, yet still offers ample strength.
The top covers of previous PEN models were manufactured with a press process, but this would have been difficult in the case of the PEN-F's sophisticated profile. Instead, we chose to use the die casting method to mold molten metal.
The camera's bottom panel is the part paid most of special attention in the smallest details. For example, boasts an unprecedented design that bears no visible screws and features just one tripod stand hole and one integrated cover for the battery and memory card. The PEN-F strikes an elegant profile from any angle, top to bottom. In addition, rather than using a conventional sticker, the serial number of each PEN-F is etched into the underside with a laser (was another reason for the aluminum bottom panel, since magnesium is unfit for laser marking). It was not an easy decision to avoid using screws on the bottom because of the impact is not only on design, manufacturing but also maintenance. A number of departments, united by their shared passion to produce a camera unlike any before, collaborated in a successful effort to resolve all related issues.
The PEN-F adopted the vari-angle liquid crystal display method, which enables it easy to take shots with the camera held off-angle. Another reason of the display is it also can be closed entirely to use the PEN-F like a traditional camera by looking through the viewfinder and adjusting dials before releasing the shutter. The display's back can be closed to reveal a beautiful synthetic leather cover, a luxury rarely found in today's camera designs.
The top and bottom covers are finished in the same special coating, so both covers feel the same even though they are made of different materials. The PEN-F comes in two color variations, black or silver, each with its own character. Incorporating various coatings for accentuation, the silver version is silky, calm and elegant, while a Leather Tone coating in the black version creates a subtly rugged and poised charisma.
Precision detailing down to the dials
It's truly a pleasure to hold the PEN-F and operate its precision-crafted controls. Dials, small as they may be, are a significant feature of any camera and their design requires great time and effort. Particularly with a reduced-size camera like the PEN-F, everything had to be planned meticulously, including perfectly sized and positioned dials to ensure fast, easy and unobstructed operation.
Each dial is carved out of solid aluminum. It's a more costly solution, but it ensures that you'll experience the joy of high precision and luxury every time you rotate one of these comfortably balanced, precision-manufactured dials. You'd never get that feeling with plastic.
The dial edges are knurled with twill lines for a positive grip. Vertical lines are common these days, but we decided that classic twill lines are better suited to the PEN legacy. However, simple twill patterns can resemble those of common tools, so we adopted fine twill lines to match the PEN-F's dignified design. Attractive horizontal grooves further accentuate the Mode and Exposure Compensation dials.
The dials are colored with an alumite treatment and processed with a diamond-cut method to make them sparkle when light shines upon them. When a dial with alumite treatment is rotated at high speed and a special blade applied to it, coatings are spattered. Where coatings are chipped out, the original color of the aluminum emerges, shining like a mirror.
We even paid attention to design features that might go unnoticed. The Front and Rear dials are positioned with the priority on maximized ease of use. This means, however, that the Rear dial is close to other dials, so we gave it a sloped conical shape prevent the thumb from brushing against its side. Also, to maintain the same feeling when turning either dial, the rear dial requires slightly more force because it is operated with the thumb. At Olympus, we spend the time required to address even minor design details such as these, because we care.
The Creative dial on the front face embodies the Olympus philosophy of innovation. A simple one or two-finger twist of the dial shifts between Color, Mono and other photo modes as desired. But as convenient as this dial may be, it was not easy to design. If it were to have a true cylindrical shape, it would look like an ellipse from head-on because the body is curved. So, much like M. Escher did with his illusory images, we inclined the dial base slightly to make it appear like a circle when viewed from the front.
The PEN-F is the embodiment of Olympus' dedication to contributing to society based on the company's "Social IN" philosophy of integrity, innovation and involvement. Working from this perspective, the Olympus design center strives to make people smile by responding to their fundamental yearnings for health, safety and fulfillment.
Furthermore, every Olympus product incorporates the cross-disciplinary expertise of designers specialized in the company's core fields of Medical, Scientific Solutions and Imaging.
The innovative PEN-F, having been created in a crucible of diverse technologies and know-how broadly spanning the entire Olympus group, is now poised to inspire all-new creativity in Olympus products yet to be designed.