Some Thoughts on Two Cameras: Fujifilm X100F and Olympus Pen-F

I upgraded my photo kit last year, buying two cameras. First the Olympus Pen-F (, Amazon UK) then the Fujifilm X100F (, Amazon UK). Both are compact mirrorless cameras, very different from the big, bulky DSLR, and both are excellent, though each has its pros and cons. They’re about the same size and weight – though the weight of the Pen-F depends on which lens you have on it, and they cost about the same (for the Pen-F with a lens).

In recent months, I’ve been wondering if I should decide on one brand, but I can’t justify the change for a number of reasons.

You can read my first impressions of the Pen-F, and other articles I’ve written about that camera, and my review of the X100F, and other articles about that camera. You’ll notice that I’ve written more about the X100F, because I find it a much more interesting camera.

X100F Pen f

The X100F has a 24 Mp sensor, and is a fixed lens camera, which can be a good thing. It has both an optical and electronic viewfinder, along with a hybrid mode, making it a sort-of-rangefinder. I love shooting with the optical viewfinder, where I can see what’s around me, rather than look at it through the intermediation of a tiny screen. I’ve grown to know how to expose with this camera, so I don’t need the precise display that you get with the EVF.

I love the way the controls are laid out on the X100F; it feels natural, a bit more than the Pen-F, and all the dials turn smoothly, whereas on the Pen-F, they have more resistance. That handling is minor; the main difference is the compactness of the X100F. With its fixed lens, you can stash it in a (largish) pocket.

I find that I can pick up the X100F and shoot much more easily; I don’t worry as much about settings (I generally shoot in aperture priority, with shutter speed and ISO automatic). It focuses well, the lens is sharp, and pictures are excellent. I like the little joystick on the back for changing the focus point, and the Q menu, which gives quick access to a number of settings. And I especially like the Fujifilm film simulations; presets for JPEG processing that mimic the company’s analog films.

There are two features that the X100F lacks, which the Pen-F has: in-body image stabilization and an articulated LCD. I generally keep it closed on the Pen-F, but when I want to use it – often to shoot near the ground – it’s easy to flip open. Unfortunately, it articulates to the side of the camera, which is a bit impractical; I’d rather it open up directly behind the camera.

Aside from those features, the Pen-F benefits from solid construction, a front dial to switch between different processing profiles (different colors, art filters, monochrome, etc.), and, of course, interchangeable lenses. It’s only 20 Mp, but that doesn’t both me much for the photos I shoot.

As for weight and size, the Pen-F with the Panasonic 20mm (40mm eq) lens is about the same size as the X100F, and just a tad heavier: 565g with a filter on the lens, compared to the X100F which is 535g with a filter and lens hood (which is the way I usually use it).

The X100F is a great camera for certain types of photography; you can buy two converters, which change the lens’s 35mm equivalent focal length to 28mm or 50mm, but they are bulky and unwieldy.

It’s worth noting that both cameras are very attractive (in black; the right color for each of these), and that’s certainly a big selling point for each one. They have a retro look, and don’t look like the bias DSLRs that you see so often, with their large, rounded handgrips and their long lenses. I think the Pen-F is better looking, however; it seems to be designed with more care, and more references to Olympus cameras of old (including the original Pen-F from the 1960s, and an older Leica camera).

Overall, I prefer the X100F, especially because of the film simulations, so I was considering selling my Pen-F – and the half-dozen lenses I have – and buying the Fujifilm X-Pro 2, which is a camera similar to the X100F in size, with a hybrid viewfinder and interchangeable lenses. But here’s where Olympus really wins out. Fujifilm only has a limited number of prime lenses, and they are very expensive. For example, the company 35mm (52mm eq) lens is around $400, for the f 2 model, and $600 for the f 1.4. With Olympus, you can get a full range of inexpensive primes, such as the $350 25mm (50 mm eq) or the 45mm (90 mm eq), a wonderful lens for portraits, for less than $300. And Olympus lenses are smaller and lighter: the 45mm weighs 116g, compared to the Fuji 50mm which weighs 318g. Add to that the fact that the micro four-thirds format – the Olympus is that format – also includes cameras and lenses by Panasonic and others. So there are more options in price and size than there are with Fujifilm. (Also, Olympus has cash back promotions on its lenses every year, generally in spring and before Christmas. They’re not all on sale, but many of the basic lenses are.)

The X100F could be the sole camera for certain people; you’ll often hear people say it’s great for street photography. It’s also great for landscapes, because of its 35mm eq lens. But it’s not great for portraits – without the heavy TCL converter – and the lack of image stabilization means it’s really not great for video. But aside from its focal length, it’s pretty close to being the perfect camera (granted I’ve never used a Leica).

It can be a bit confusing at times working with two different camera brands; it’s easy to forget how one of the cameras works for accessing or enabling specific features or settings. It also means that to really use the cameras, I have to do twice as much work learning about their settings and quirks.

For now, I’ll stick with the two brands; I can’t afford the cost of a full set of Fujifilm cameras and lenses, and the range available for the Pen-F is superior, because of cost and size. If money wasn’t an object, then I might consider moving entirely to Fujifilm, but I’d want a camera with image stabilization, and, while they have a new model with this feature, the X-H1, it’s more like a DSLR, and is not as compact as the Pen-F or the X100F. The Pen-F is a great camera, and is more versatile, but the X100F has a few features that set it apart, notably its film simulations. I’d love to have the best of both worlds, but we never can have everything.

(Note that I paid for all the gear I discuss. I am not a “brand ambassador” for either Fujifilm or Olympus; in fact, if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to discuss the two brands in this article.)

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