Week 10, 2016: Digitizing vinyl and cassettes, Olympus PEN-F


Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 10, 2016

Q. I have been digitizing my cassettes using Audacity. After the cassettes, the LPs are next. What is the best way to store and listen to these treasures? I don’t want to burn any more CDs. Is iTunes the best way to organize and play these files?

-Jim Hild

A. Though I do not like iTunes nearly as much as I used to, as a Mac user I still find it the best option. I am open to ideas if any readers have other suggestions.

What I do recommend is you pass on Audacity for digitizing the vinyl and use AlpineSoft VinylStudio ($29.95) instead. I like it a lot more than Audacity and though it is optimized for converting records, it works with cassettes as well. VinylStudio is available for Mac and Windows systems. www.alpinesoft.co.uk

Consumer Electronics Show report: Olympus has two lines of Micro Four Thirds cameras. The OM-D series cameras have an SLR form factor and a built-in electronic viewfinder. The live view PEN series cameras are styled like rangefinder cameras, but until now lacked an integrated viewfinder.

With the integrated viewfinders, advanced capabilities and high value equation, the OM-D line tends to get the most attention from both the media and from consumers. That may change with the new Olympus PEN-F. I was shown the PEN-F at a private press meeting at the electronics show, and several weeks later was able to spend two weeks taking pictures with one. The PEN-F is easily the best Olympus PEN camera yet, and one of the most satisfying cameras you can buy.

The PEN-F’s premium construction and vintage rangefinder styling remind me of a Leica M camera when I hold it. Among its many features are an electronic viewfinder, a new 20 MP sensor, five-axis image stabilization, 50 MP high resolution mode, and a front-mounted creative dial that allows you to quickly choose between Olympus Art Filters, different color profiles and film modes that duplicate the look of classic black and white and color films.

The PEN-F offers a tactile experience unmatched at the price. The great feel, combined with the classic form factor and array of creative controls really makes photography fun and rewarding. Using it reminded me of my initial experience with the first Olympus digital PEN, the E-P1. I posted the original column about the E-P1 on my site so you can see the similarities.

The only quibbles I have are the time needed to wake the viewfinder from sleep mode, and the video capabilities are behind some competitors. If video is a priority you will be better served with Panasonic’s excellent DMC-GX8, given its advanced video capabilities and 4K video. I will have more about the GX8 in an upcoming column.

Though it can use zooms as well as any other camera can, if I was setting up a new PEN-F outfit for myself I would buy the camera with three prime (non-zoom) lenses, notably the Olympus 12mm/f2, 25mm/1.8, and 45mm/1.8 lenses. This lens ensemble would recreate the classic rangefinder experience, providing tremendous imaging power in a lightweight outfit that fits in a small bag. It would cost $2,697 at list prices, and you could certainly get it for less on sale or at the Olympus Outlet. The cost of the Leica equivalent? A mere $18,627. Though the PEN-F is a premium product with a premium price, it is still a good value for those who want something special. www.getolympus.com