THE NEXT STEP: Olympus PeN e-PL9
The PEN cameras from Olympus are very compact and light. They are also stylish cameras with which you are happy to be seen. Except for the PEN-F, the PEN models do not have a viewfinder. So they are cameras with which you make full use of the screen on the back, like you use a smartphone. The PEN models are actually the logical next step for photographers who are looking for more possibilities and better image quality than their smartphone offers. The Micro Four Thirds sensor of the PEN models is one of the smaller sensors in system cameras, but it is a number of times larger than the best sensors in smartphones. This ensures better dynamic range and much better performance in low light. With the PEN-EPL9, you also have a choice of more than 20 M.Zuiko lenses. From fisheye to extreme telephoto and from macro to very bright, you’ll find it all at Olympus. And a large number of these lenses are very compact. A set with the PEN-EPL9 and a number of lenses can easily be spread over two coat pockets. You do not even have to take a bag with you, if you don’t want to.
Olympus PEN E-PL9 VERSUS E-PL8
The PEN-EPL9 is the logical successor of the EPL8. Compared to the EPL8, the EPL9 has been given a number of extra options, without the body becoming much larger or heavier. It gained a millimeter in height and depth and two millimeters in length, and the weight increased by a good 20 grams to 380 grams. For that, you now have the ability to film in 4K and a built-in flash. That built-in flash is next to the hot shoe. If you want to put a larger flash unit or other accessories on the hot shoe, you can still do that. The EPL9 can now also maintain a connection via Bluetooth with a smartphone or tablet, even when the camera is off. This allows you to transfer photos quickly and easily to edit or share.
Olympus PEN E-PL9 versus cOMPETITORS
In Micro Four Thirds, the Olympus PEN E-PL9 has competition from the Panasonic GX9. It has a slightly newer sensor with 20 megapixels and a viewfinder that can be folded out. However, the GX9 is not a camera that you can use for selfies, because the screen cannot be flipped around. If we look at APS-C cameras where this is possible, you will end up with the Fuji X-A5 and the Canon EOS M50. We recently tested the latter. The M50 has a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel AF that works well with video and the screen turns and tilts. For vlogging, the M50 is a better camera than the E-PL9. In terms of styling, they are incomparable. The EOS M50 looks much more like a classic SLR and lacks the panache of the E-PL9. Another important point to consider is lens choice. For the EOS M50, only a limited number of EF-M lenses are for sale, and there are few lenses with which you can see those extra 8 megapixels in your shots. Those who want that will have to resort to much larger, heavier and more expensive EF or EF-S lenses and use them with an adapter. For the PEN E-PL9, there are a lot of good, compact lenses available with which you realize the maximum image quality.
Olympus PEN E-PL9 Body
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 looks almost identical to its predecessor, the E-PL8, and that is not a bad thing. The E-PL9 is a beautiful camera with a retro look. In addition to the usual black, it is also available in white, brown and blue. And certainly in color, it looks extra special. A nice camera to wear with a trendy outfit. The camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and built-in image stabilization. The design has been further refined compared to the E-PL8. The grip is now very nicely integrated into the design.
SCREEN AND VIEWFINDEr
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 does not have a viewfinder but does have a screen that can be folded down 180 degrees. If you do that, the screen is facing down, with the image side facing forward. You can then see what you get in the picture when you are standing in front of the camera. You can thus vlog very well with this camera. The only drawback is that you can hardly see the screen when you screw the camera onto a tripod or a selfie stick. The screen has a resolution of 1,040,000 pixels. Because the camera has no viewfinder, the dimensions are pretty good, at 3 inches or 7.6 centimeters. The screen is touch sensitive and can be used to move the autofocus field.
Menu AND OPERATION
Not much has changed about the operation compared to the E-PL8. The E-PL9 has more or less the same buttons in the same places. On the top side is a large dial for selecting the shooting mode and a rotary knob with which you can operate the aperture or the shutter speed. A small push button is also for turning the camera on and off. A blue light comes on when the camera is on. The menus are typical Olympus: a vertical list with tabs on the left and lots of options for making the camera do what you want. There is also a quick menu that you can call up and that appears in your frame on the right side for setting things like autofocus, white balance, ISO and shooting speed. And if you put the camera on film, for example, then you get the choice to shoot in HD, 4K or high speed.
The 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor has been around for a while. The processor, though, is of the latest generation. That combination delivers image quality that is still good. Shots with this sensor are very detailed, especially at the lower ISO values. Of course, it can be a bit better, with the 20-megapixel sensors of the PEN-F and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, but for the average consumer, 16 megapixels is more than enough. Of course, APS-C models with 24 megapixels should have a strong advantage, but the Micro Four Thirds system has a great trump card up its sleeve, and that is that even the simplest lenses perform well, virtually without exception, to the corners and over the entire zoom range. And that contributes more to good image quality than a few megapixels more or less. If you are switching from a compact camera or a smartphone, you will see a big increase in quality.
The Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus have always had good dynamic range, and the E-PL9 is no exception. The dynamic range is not as big as that of the very best APS-C cameras, but that is no surprise. What is more striking is that there is little to no difference from average APS-C cameras. And that’s good news for the E-PL9. You do not necessarily need a bigger sensor to benefit from good dynamic range.
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 has a Micro Four Thirds sensor. That is a bit smaller than the APS-C sensors, which have a number of competitors. Because the E-PL9 also has slightly fewer pixels, there is no direct difference in noise at pixel level. At the lowest ISO values, the picture is excellent, and even up to ISO 1600, you will not see any difference from the competition. ISO 3200 is also still usable, although of course you already see noise then. Above that, the noise increases rapidly, and cameras with an APS-C have the advantage, although the difference is not very large. In jpeg, the standard noise reduction is a bit on the heavy side. It effectively removes the noise, but that is also at the expense of the details. Fortunately, you can also lighten the noise reduction, or turn it off completely. And in RAW, you can of course adjust the balance between noise reduction and sharpness yourself.
One of the new features of the PEN E-PL9 is 4K video in 24P, 25P and 30P. The quality is excellent. Besides 4K video, you can of course also shoot in full HD at the same speeds. If you want faster, you can do that in HD, 720×1280 at 120 frames per second. The E-PL9 then automatically plays back the films more slowly. Naturally, the camera does not record sound.
The PEN E-PL9 has built-in image stabilization like all other Olympus models. The stabilization of the E-PL9 is three-axis, where that of the more expensive models is five-axis. Those two axes do make a difference, but in everyday practice, the image stabilization of the E-PL9 works fine, and you can easily work with pretty slow shutter speeds. Thanks to this built-in image stabilization, every lens you use on the E-PL9 is stabilized, even if you place older lenses with an adapter on the camera.
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 has more autofocus fields than the E-PL8, no fewer than 121. The fields cover a larger area than with the E-PL8, which gives you more creative possibilities. The autofocus works quickly and accurately, at least as long as you use S-AF. In C-AF, the autofocus has slightly more difficult following moving subjects. The E-PL9 achieves a highest shooting speed of up to 8.6 images per second, but that does not make the E-PL9 a sports camera. Also, in video, the AF sometimes has some trouble following moving subjects perfectly.
The PEN-EPL9 is the logical successor of the EPL8. Compared to the EPL8, the EPL9 has been given a number of extra options, without the body becoming much larger or heavier. It gained a millimeter in height and depth and two millimeters in length, and the weight increased by a good 20 grams to 380 grams. For that, you now have the ability to film in 4K and a built-in flash. That built-in flash is next to the hot shoe. If you want to put a larger flash unit or other accessories on the hot shoe, you can still do that. The EPL9 can now also maintain a connection via Bluetooth with a smartphone or tablet, even when the camera is off. This allows you to transfer photos quickly and easily to edit or share. The free app from Olympus, Ol.share, not only offers the ability to operate the camera remotely, but now also has ‘How-to’ videos so you can learn how to get the best out of your camera. The well-known Art filters from Olympus have been extended to 16 on the EPL9, so you can easily give your shots a particular look in the camera. The advanced functions such as Live Composite are no longer ‘somewhere’ in the menu on the EPL9 but are now directly accessible in Advanced Photo mode. Lightpainting, HDR, Multi Exposure and Focus Bracketing can now be quickly chosen by choosing the right icon on the screen. Sweep Panorama has now been added to the Advanced Photo options, for capturing vast landscapes or very large subjects.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Olympus PEN E-PL9
- Stylish looks
- Light and compact
- 4K and highspeed video
- Good image stabilization
- Handy pancake zoom
- Vlogging with the camera on a tripod is difficult
- C-AF in video could be better
- 16 megapixels is significantly less than APS-C competition
- Built-in image stabilization is only three-axis
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is a nice camera for beginning photographers, vloggers and anyone who likes to use a stylish and compact camera instead of a smartphone. The compact pancake zoom lens, the built-in image stabilization and the extensive choice of creative filters make the E-PL9 a camera that you can easily take with you and with which you can quickly take unique photos. The addition of 4K and a screen that folds all the way down ensures that this is also a great camera for capturing yourself in high resolution. The 16-megapixel sensor has less resolution than a number of direct competitors, but on the other hand, the Micro Four Thirds system has a lot of selection in compact and affordable lenses with very good image quality. And if you are looking for a camera that is also very stylish, then the choice is very limited, and the E-PL9 has the kingdom (nearly) to itself.