Olympus PEN-F: A personal performance on Rainey Street

Chelsea Performs at the Bungalow, Rainey Street - Austin, Texas

Chelsea Performs at the Bungalow, Rainey Street – Austin, Texas

I played with the Olympus PEN-F, for several weeks before its official introduction, and I wanted to share one more story. This is the last of a three-part series on the Olympus PEN-F introduction. You can start with my detailed Olympus PEN-F Review and part 2 is my experience shooting the PEN-F on 6th Street.

It was a quiet Monday night and I’m with Charles from Olympus at a small bar on Rainey Street. 6th Street in Austin is famous for night life, and I shoot there often, but most of it’s low-rent college kids and tourist stuff. In other parts of the city, you find a different vibe. Rainey Street is quieter and more upscale. Not in a pretentious way, rather it’s like being invited to a friend’s party, at their house. A block full of small converted clapboard houses, until recently a residential neighborhood, has turned into a hot alternative.

Charles and I had a drink at the aptly named “Bungalow”. Even on a usually slow Monday at 9pm, I was surprised that we were the only customers. In the corner, a woman performed solo, enthusiastically, to a nonexistent crowd. We had our new PEN-Fs to test and the-low light bar scene would nicely test its capabilities. Naturally, the lone performer would make an interesting subject.

Bungalow Details
Bungalow PEN-F Details
Bungalow PEN-F Details

You can tell from my previous PEN-F posts that I’m totally enamored with its film simulations. I keep switching back and forth between the Monochrome Profile 2, which renders a grainy film look and Color Profile 3 which gives a deep saturated look. The simulations are a new feature of this camera, as is a quick, front control dial that makes changing profiles, effortless.

Unlike my other PEN-F posts, however, I have post processed these images ever so slightly. I’ve lightened the shadows on the black and whites and cropped, mainly to fit the formatting of this story. With experience, for dark scenes, I’ve learned to add +2/3 exposure compensation to my black and whites, in camera. That gets me the look I’m after without post processing.

I often think of how much dedication it takes to perform in front of people, especially when there’s no audience. What do they think of when they sing their hearts out and no one is there to listen. Is it disheartening? Or is playing music so rewarding that it doesn’t matter? I guess that’s a dilemma many creatives face, like a photographer, artist or writer that has a limited audience. But for a musician performing live, it must be extra challenging.


These film simulations can be applied to videos too, in real-time. I haven’t played much with the PEN-F video, and in my review, I said this camera is targeted primarily to the still photographer. But as you can see, it does a solid job, especially for anyone creating casual videos. The 5 axis image stabilization does an admirable job for a steady-cam type feel. I used autofocus, which works well, though you do notice the occasional refocusing. Serious videographers would certainly focus manually to ensure rock steady and consistent sharpness. But again, with the lack of microphone and headphone jacks, this camera probably won’t appeal to the serious video crowd anyway.

For me, as a completely casual video shooter, it does the job. Perfect for capturing those vacation moments or even a performance in a dark bar. The vivid chrome film setting, used here, renders the scene with more saturation and contrast — which I like. You can make grainy black and white videos too, just select the Monochrome profile.

Chelsea Portrait #1 - Austin, Texas
Chelsea Portrait #2 - Austin, Texas

Charles and I struck up a conversation with Chelsea and we did a photoshoot in the backyard. Nothing fancy and certainly the dark conditions and inadequate lighting was far from ideal. But we had fun, sort of like we do at the Drink and Clicks that I talk a lot about on this blog. The musician with guitar composition is certainly nothing original, and all the camera effects is not going to make it a masterpiece.

It’s a snapshot, really, one aided with technology but with no real creative vision. But talking about camera tech, it’s worth noting that I shot this at f1.8, at ISO 4000 and at 1/15 of a second, handheld. Something unheard of in the film days, and even for digital, something that’s only possible recently.

Chelsea Portrait #3 - Austin, Texas
Chelsea Portrait #4 - Austin, Texas

Finally, here’s two more of Chelsea. I’ve always liked the large, fish tank like window at this bar. The transparency and reflections make these images, perhaps, a bit more original. There is a certain casual-ness to all the images. They capture the that night, the mood of the place, freeze memories and provide visuals for a story.

The PEN-F is fully modern and capable of creating serious images — the kind that serious pro photographers labor over. But for me, these are the kind of everyday scenes that I love to capture. A little extra saturation or film-like monochrome grain — echoing a long past era — and the latest technology to enable easy shots like these. Images to document the stories of my life, some exotic but mostly mundane.

I’m happy to report that but 10pm, the bar began to fill up. The night scene in Austin started to spin up, on cue, even on a Monday night. But before the crowds, Charles and I got to hear a personal performance and attempt a little creativity of our own. It was fun to meet Chelsea and a nice way to enjoy the evening.


If you found this post helpful and entertaining, consider using my affiliate links to make any purchases, anything, not just cameras. You get the same prices and I get a small commission.

Where can you get the Pen-F? There’s always Amazon. (here is my Amazon link). Better yet, if you live outside of Texas, get the camera tax-free from Precision Camera. (here is my Precision Camera link) They are a great local Austin camera store and their prices for the Pen-F should be the same as the big guys. If you’re from Texas, get it from Precision anyway and visit the store when you’re in Austin.

Please support this blog by clicking on my Amazon Link before buying anything.

9 thoughts on “Olympus PEN-F: A personal performance on Rainey Street

  1. The color doesn’t do anything for me but I do like that monochrome setting. Kudos for giving Chelsea some exposure on your blog. I’ve played gigs like that before. Is it disheartening? Yes. Every artist wants an audience. One of the hardest part of being one is grappling with the fact that maybe nobody will look or listen. I don’t play out live much anymore but I have those struggles with my blog/portfolio site. The visitors are few but I do it anyway. Not for the pursuit of adoration but because I have to share my art..for me. It’s not easy. Stopping seems like it would feel worse though.

    1. I figured that’s the case. I guess as creatives, we ultimately have to create and perform for ourselves, but it would sure be nice to have a larger audience. And have people appreciate what we all do.

  2. I enjoy your enthusiasm Andy! Some good examples of what the Pen F is capable of and an interesting story with Chelsea performing for two people. I’ve ordered my Pen F and can’t wait for it to arrive, early March has been quoted. Flickr is my creative outlet and I’ve never lost my enthusiasm for photography in nearly 50 years of shooting, 37 of those as a newspaper photographer, which I think I mentioned. An old quote before the days of autofocus –ƒ8 and be there! That meant set your wide angle lens at ƒ8 and use the hyperlocal distance on the lens scale to be in focus in news situations, you wouldn’t have to worry about focusing within the range you were working at. Cheers, John

    1. Thanks John. Wow, hope you enjoy the PEN-F as much as I did. I’ve certainly heard the old mantra, F8 and be there. Because of the micro 4/3 sensor, we can be be at f4 and be there. Much better for lower light situations.

      1. I know I’m going to enjoy the Pen F, not a shadow of doubt in my mind! I read Steve Huff’s Pen F review, he’s enthusiastic too about this great new camera but I couldn’t believe how many negative responses there were to his review. I think many people have nothing better to do than whine, they haven’t seen or used the camera and they’re shredding it. Oh well, their loss.

      2. I haven’t looked at the comments on Steve Huff’s review but there’s certainly enough negativity on the Net to go around. I believe that what makes the PEN-F special is the stuff beyond the specs, that’s way I don’t concentrate on the numbers on my review.

        It’s about feel of the camera and the way it makes the photographer feel using it. It about getting a certain look or color, right out of the camera, without post processing. Some will appreciate this, others certainly won’t.

        The technician within me pulls me towards the specs but the creative in me doesn’t care. As I mature in photography, I’ve learned, increasingly, not care about the technical details.

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