Review: The 2018 Olympus E-PL9

Olympus has just launched a new addition to their PEN line-up, the E-PL9. I had the opportunity to shoot a review unit for about a week before the launch. Looking at the compact form factor, stylish design and inclusion of a selfie screen, the E-PL9 is clearly targeted towards the entry level market – particularly smartphone users who need better image output and performance but are not keen on carrying larger and heavier DSLR cameras. However, there is no shortage of entry level system cameras now, both from the mirrorless and DSLR camps. In this E-PL9 review, I explore the capabilities of the small PEN camera that allows it to stand out from the crowd, as well as the compromises that were made to keep the compact form factor.

Some quick disclaimers, as usual, before we dive into the review. Neither Ming Thein nor I are associated with Olympus in any way and the E-PL9 was on loan solely for review purposes and has since been returned. This review is based on my user experience and may be subjective. I am not a video-centric reviewer, so I will skip the video capabilities of this camera. All images were shot in RAW and post-processed in Olympus Viewer 3, since there was no compatibility working with any other software alternatives at the time. For larger samples of all images shown here with full EXIF data, please visit the online gallery here.

The E-PL9 carries on the tradition of PEN-Lite series of being small and light. Based on the specifications, the E-PL9 is very similar to the OM-D E-M10 Mark III in terms of imaging capabilities. They both have the same 16MP image sensor, Truepic 8 image processor, UHD 4K video, identical AF-points navigation, layout and performance. The E-PL9 does not have a built in electronic viewfinder (EVF) and unfortunately Olympus has decided to remove the accessory port that allows attachment of an external EVF. Unlike the predecessors E-PL7/E-PL8, the E-PL9 now has a built in pop-up flash, which negates the inconvenience of carrying an external clip-on flash. The E-PL9 has 3-Axis in-camera image stabilization which, according to Olympus, offers up to 3.5 stops of stabilization. The LCD touch screen can be tilted downward 180 degrees for selfie taking purposes (something you will never see me do here). In terms of wireless connectivity to smart devices, the E-PL9 is the first Olympus camera to have low power consumption Bluetooth in addition to Wi-Fi. For full product specifications, visit the product page here.

The removal of the EVF attachment was an unexpected move but, in hindsight, necessary to further differentiate the PEN from the OM-D series. However, most photographers place significant value on an EVF. If an EVF is important to you then there are other cameras from Olympus and other manufacturers. While I can understand the exclusion of an EVF, I cannot quite comprehend why the E-PL9 has Wireless Remote Control TTL Flash. If Olympus is truly making the E-PL9 an entry level model by stripping away the EVF attachment, why include the wireless TTL flash and at the same time not include the wireless TTL on the higher end OM-D E-M10 Mark III? This did not make any sense to me at all.

The E-PL9 is an extremely well built camera. The body is made of solid metal and feels robust and reassuring. I welcome the addition of the slight bump on the right side of the camera body as it allows for more secure handling. I was not particularly happy being limited to a single control knob, but that is usually the case with most entry level options out there. The ergonomics are good as long as you keep the lenses you use on the camera as small as possible.

Just like the E-M10 Mark III, Olympus has reworked the menu system which doesn’t necessarily improve the user-friendliness at all. They have over-simplified the customization options. There were two customize-able function buttons which did not include the settings that I critically need: ISO and a quick shortcut to default AF center point position. Unlike the E-M10 Mark III that has one of the arrow pad buttons assigned to direct ISO control by default, there is now no way to control the ISO via shortcuts on the E-PL9. You have to dive into the menu to change ISO, thus is a huge step backward, even for an entry level camera.

I was provided the Limited Edition Blue E-PL9, which was totally awkward at first but it grew on me as I continued shooting with it over the course of several days. For this review, considering the entry-level user demographic, I used the M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens and 40-150mm F4-5.6 R lens. I used the prime F1.8 lenses only in extremely low light conditions.

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/50, 42mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/1000, 18mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F4, 1/800, 14mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/160, 14mm, ISO200

The E-PL9 produces the exact same image output as the E-M10 Mark III. Therefore, for my detailed assessment of image quality (sharpness, color, high ISO performance, etc) please refer to my full E-M10 Mark III review here. 

Olympus did the right thing by not crippling the imaging performance of their lower end cameras. In fact, the E-PL9 is just as capable as the E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II, and only falls behind their flagship – the E-M1 Mark II. The 16MP image sensor may be dated but in combined with their latest Truepic 8 processor, it can still deliver sharp, detailed results with beautiful colors and optimized high ISO noise handling. The image quality is sufficient for most hobbyists and enthusiasts. I tested the E-PL9 in an extremely challenging low-light situation and even at ISO6400 the images are useable. For optimum image quality however, I highly recommend not exceeding ISO1600.

The default JPEG engine does an excellent job at preserving highlights while maintaining shadow details. I did minimal post-processing for all the images shown here, and I had to add more contrast to deepen the shadow area for a punchier look. I did not tweak the colors at all. The default color profile was very close to what my eyes saw in real life and the auto white balance engine worked very well most of the time. I particularly love the skin tone rendering from the Olympus JPEG.

MZD14-42mm, F6.3, 1/100, 38mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F4.5, 1/40, 14mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F6.3, 1/160, 14mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/400, 42mm, ISO200

I found the autofocus (AF) performance to be as fast and efficient as the E-M10 Mark III. When I saw a moment unfolding in front of me, I reacted instantaneously by pointing the camera in the right direction and clicking the shutter button. The camera responded immediately, and I managed to nail shots that required critical timing. The touchscreen AF also helped significantly considering you’re limited to a LCD screen at all times. Changing AF points across the screen was easy with just a tap on the screen.

I was impressed that I was able to do what I can with E-M1 or E-M5 Mark II in a much smaller camera, both in terms of image quality and AF performance. Yes, the OM-D cameras have weather-sealing, more powerful 5-Axis IS, better handling and EVF but when it comes to the core imaging capabilities, the E-PL9 is just as capable.

I have always mentioned that Olympus makes great kit lenses. I was reminded of this as I reviewed my images shot with the 14-42mm pancake lens and 40-150mm R lens. I have used kit lenses from many other manufacturers and nothing comes close to replicating the sharpness, contrast and overall technical flaw controls (CA, corner softness, distortion, etc). To maximize the advantage of using a compact E-PL9, it is best coupled with small lenses. Of course if you wish to create shallow depth of field effect (bokeh) then you will have to upgrade to 45mm F1.8 or 25mm F1.8 lenses. I intentionally decided not to use my prime lenses and I was not disappointed with what the kit lenses can do.

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/30, 42mm, ISO500

MZD14-42mm, F6.3, 1/30, 42mm, ISO500

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/125, 42mm, ISO500

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/25, 26mm, ISO200

After shooting on the streets with the E-PL9, I put on a different persona and became the social media influencer wannabe. Hence, I needed a small yet capable camera to take beautiful images for my Instagram feed. You know, images of my Rice Bowl with Salmon and Avocado, overpriced coffee at hipster-themed cafe and a funky purple looking crispy pancake with fried chicken on the side. Then I went all out shooting images of my food at the most awkward angle (thank goodness for the tilt screen), doing flat-lays and placing the dishes next to a window for that warm morning sun-glow. No, I wasn’t chased out of any restaurants or cafes, but I did come away with a thicker skin.

The E-PL9 is more than adequate to perform these tasks. You are not seriously going to recommend your Instagram celebrity friend buy a D850 and a Zeiss Otus to shoot that avocado toast, are you?

On a more serious note, the availability of the low power consumption Bluetooth connectivity is a huge plus for E-PL9. The camera can be switched off and you can still transfer images out of the camera via the low power Bluetooth when you have paired it to a smartphone via the new Olympus O.I. Share app. I have witnessed the pain of losing battery power while transferring images via the old WiFi method. Though it was fast, the battery drain was a huge compromise. I am glad Olympus has solved this issue.

MZD40-150mm R, F5.1, 1/60, 108mm, ISO3200

MZD40-150mm R, F5, 1/100, 102mm, ISO6400

MZD40-150mm R, F5, 1/100, 100mm, ISO6400

MZD45mmF1.8, F1.8, 1/320mm, ISO3200

MZD45mmF1.8, F1.8, 1/400, 45mm, ISO1600

MZD45mmF1.8, F1.8, 1/200, ISO1600

MZD40-150mm R, F4.9, 1/100, 92mm, ISO6400

Any camera, even smartphones can do well when shooting on the street or at overpriced cafes. The true torture test for the E-PL9 came in the form of a dance and theatrical performance on a dimly lit stage.  Special thanks to KL Performing Arts Center (KLPAC), I was able to secure a good seat and was granted permission to shoot this beautiful stage performance. I was shooting Mak Yong Titis Sakti, a modern take on a traditional form of dance-drama from the northern states of Malaysia.

The Olympus E-PL9 confidently locked focus as I half-pressed the shutter button. There were many quick action shots which I did not anticipate and almost missed. An example was the actor who suddenly leaped toward the actress and clapped his hands in front of her face. I saw the leap and reacted out of instinct – the camera responded immediately and I got the shot! The E-PL9 did not let me down.

My ISO varied from 1600 to 6400 as required. When I was using the 40-150mm R for reach, I needed ISO6400 to achieve sufficient shutter speed to freeze movement. I had low expectations from the high ISO images but the noise suppression by the new processing engine worked very effectively. I tuned my Noise Filter setting to “Low” and managed to get a good balance between noise control and preservation of details. For a full gallery of images taken with the E-PL9 from the Mak Yong Titis Sakti stage performance, check out the online gallery here.

MZD40-150mm PRO + MC14 TC, F4, 1/125, 210mm, ISO200, Partial Lunar Eclipse on 31 January 2018. I missed the Bloodmoon/Full Eclipse due to extreme cloudy skies. Image is heavily cropped.

MZD14-42mm, F5.6, 1/640, 27mm, ISO200

MZD14-42mm, F6.3, 1/1600, 25mm, ISO200

On the whole, I was pleased with the Olympus PEN E-PL9 as a compact mirrorless camera, which can perform serious tasks when required.

Pros: Latest Truepic 8 image processor, superb JPEG, similar imaging and AF performance as higher end OM-D cameras, great build quality with robust metal body construction, new low-power Bluetooth connection and having a compact form factor. The camera survived my torture test, shooting a dimly lit stage performance.

Minus Points: No EVF and no ability to attach an external EVF, stripped down customization options (no ISO shortcuts) and honestly, no significant upgrade in comparison to E-PL8/E-PL7.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is not a camera I would recommend for DSLR users looking for a mirrorless replacement or a second small body to work with, considering the lack of EVF and shortage of direct controls and customization options. Any camera from the OM-D line up should satisfy those needs better.

For new-comers to photography, smartphone users who want to step up their photography game and travelers who want to pack light, the E-PL9 is a compelling choice to consider. I cannot imagine a scenario in the world of a casual hobbyist photographer where the E-PL9 cannot successfully deliver.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 will be available for Pre-Order from B&H

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Comments

  1. I’m another grateful reader of your well-written review, accompanied with lovely images (refreshing after reading reviews by folk who don’t know how to compose a basic image in their sample shots!).

    I accept your summary in regards to who this Olympus PEN E-PL9 is aimed for, including your own criticisms for anyone who expects to customise the controls. Yet I disagree with your remark that this wouldn’t be suitable as a second body, because I think this will suit me just fine as such.

    You see, I enjoy street photography, and after my Olympus XZ-2 died on me (will not recognise a fully charged batteries!), I tried using my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II as my primary always-carry camera. Fail: just that much too big and heavy in my coat pocket. It ended up in my backpack, which killed the ability for me to respond whenever I saw an image that I wanted to capture.

    This Olympus PEN E-PL9 is compact enough to keep in my coat pocket, with a very good default M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens. Plus, like yourself, I can interchange my other M.Zuiko lenses.

    So I think that I will go for it and may come back to let you know how I get on.

    Thanks again for your review, the most thoughtful one that I’ve read on this camera.

    • I agree that Robin has some of the nicest photos you’d see in any review (even more enjoyable if you have a knack for SEA), and other reviewers are clearly mere technicians with no photographic ambition whatsoever. Robin’s snaps are good showcases anytime (even if he disliked a gear, he’d take and post attractive photos taken with that gear, i guess).

      I believe that Robin does edit his pics before posting them, which is not totally unquestionable within a camera review. But i know it now, and it might enhance the viewing pleasure.

  2. These beginner cameras once came with room to grow. If you wanted an eye level viewfinder, the option was there. If you wanted to learn about off camera flash, Olympus made it fairly easy. All this seems to have been simplified away. The only advantage I see to this camera is the excellent default JPEG output, which will allow the beginner to concentrate on the buts and bolts of basic photography without too much setting up.

    • Jason, not only simplified away, but should one really regard a £649 UK price, including kit lens, as an entry level camera? Is this the price consumers face for there being no genuine point and shoots as of old? This model, as by all accounts it does not greatly improve on earlier models in the same series, clearly shows that Olympus is harking back to a model structure whereby models were superseded with little actual improvement.

      • Yes, the launch price makes it particularly uncompetitive. I find the Panasonic GX80 and Canon EOS M100, for example, are both easier to recommend. That said, while I don’t see too many E-PLXs when walking around Manchester (where the OMDs are quite popular), I understand they continue to sell well in the Far East.

  3. sorry if I missed it …a) does have cluster AF in single image capture mode ?
    b)does it have touch to shoot option ?

    thanks
    regards

    • Yes, you have the cluster AF. Sorry I did not mentioned that, and honestly I did not have anything to test it on to (but you can read my experience with it in E-M10 Mark III, same behaviour). And yes, touch shutter is still available.

      • psshuklaps says:

        thanks for responding …yes I did read your OM 10 mark 3 review…I am delighted at it’s usability ….
        does one have to aim and use the cluster AF facility at a time when one anticipates a cessation of movement (just for a moment )..or is it prompt enough to capture a restless toddler?
        regards

        • Robin Wong says:

          I cannot speak for children photography, but assuming you have enough light (not too dark) it should be no problem shooting as the child moves, making sure your shutter speed is sufficiently fast.

  4. Re. changing ISO. The Oly camera’s I’ve had in the past had something called a ‘Super Control Panel’ (SCP) which allowed an array of settings, including ISO, to be accessed at the press of 1 button. I.e. you press that button, and they the LCD shows a bunch of settings that can be individually highlighted/selected and then changed. I found that pretty convenient (though not as convenient as a dedicated button). Is the SCP gone from the EPL9 as well ?

    • Super control panel is still around, but it is not as quick as one button. You need to press “OK”, then select the “ISO” menu with the arrow pads (or touch it via the touchscreen), then you can adjust. Basically, you need to LOOK at the super control panel to adjust. Whilst with the direct ISO button I can just press it directly once, and dialed in immediately. Yes, it is one or two steps less but it makes a whole world of difference to my shooting.

  5. As an entry-level and or blogger/selfie camera, I am surprised that the camera screen flips downward when facing forward. That prevents the user from using the forward facing screen and a tripod at the same time. They really should have made it flip upward above the camera.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Their principle of doing this is to allow more natural looking selfies (there is a long explanation, which I will not go into). I understand the tripod and video logging use.

  6. As usual. A stunning photo and great review. But got to admit I kind of worry about recent Olympus decision with their new cameras. Reduced feature and ability in EM10mkiii and removal of EVF port in this EPL9 made me questioned what will they do with the next EM5mkiii, EM1mkiii, or PEN-Fmkii? (please let the PEN-F mkii happen faster, so that I can afford the first gen 😁).

    On a side note…damn the results from that pancake zoom are AMAZING! More reason for me to use that lens again, particularly as I’m experimentint on shooting with 28mm (FF equiv) focal length.

  7. Thanks for the review, Robin. Is that really true? No ISO-button and no ISO on function buttons? ISO control only via diving into the menu? It seems to me, Olympus tries hard to prevent people from buying this product. With ISO button and the tiltable VF-4 viewfinder this camera would be a gem.

    • Joerg, exactly. Except, perhaps, with my Fuji X-series where I do like to play around with the film types, quick access to ISO is crucial as I always try to keep the value as low as I can get away with and so find myself adjusting this quite regularly, too. But at this price point, having to rely entirely in the rear screen, really is a shot in the foot by Olympus. Try using it with the sun behind you! Unlike the vast numbers of smartphone users who don’t really care and are happy to hold their phones at arms’ length, photographers do care.

  8. scott devitte says:

    I have a simple question. I find the 42mm lens to be unique in the lens world and am currently using it with the Gx85. In your experience what m4/3 camera uses this lens to it’s maximum potential? The smaller the body the better.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Are you referring to 45mm F1.8 lens or 14-42mm zoom lens? Both lenses work fine and should be performing optimally in any Micro Four Thirds camera. If you want the best performance (image quality wise) go for either Olympus E-M1 Mark II or Panasonic G9

      • scott devitte says:

        Sorry, the 45mm 1.8. I find it unique in it’s rendering, love it’s size and want the smallest, best body for it alone, no other lens considered. Both the ones you mentioned are large for an m4/3. Is there anything the size of the gx85 that is better? thx.

        • That lens goes really well on the Pen-F which has the better sensor of the two Robin mentioned.

          • Robin Wong says:

            I do not personally find the PEN-F doing better than E-M1 Mark II. I have done exhaustive side by side comparison to come to this conclusion but you may choose to differ in your opinion.

            • I found the Pen-F images quite a bit better than the EM-1 Mk1, both in quality and cropability. Part of the improvement may have been due to the other Pen-F advantages in the much better customisability of the colours and monochrome settings.

  9. Thanks for this review! I understand that you limited your lens selection this time deliberately to less exciting lenses and thought that the resulting photos also looked less exciting than in your usual splendid KL spreads.

    Did i understand you correctly that the E-PL9 has one customizable physical button less than its two predecessors?

    You said the image quality didn’t change compared to predecessors. I thought your ISO 6400 images here from the theater looked very clean (after enlarging them) and thought that my (now broken) E-PL7 wouldn’t have delivered as well at ISO 6400. Or maybe you already did some noise-removal.

    As for the bluetooth connection between camera and smartphone – i wonder if you can set the image resolution to various values, from original 16MP to 2MP or so, and also for raw files I’d certainly would want an option to transfer full-res images incl. raw automatically (aware of the disadvantages), but i believe some apps only transfer low-res versions of what’s in the camera.

    Can the cam be charged by USB adapter?

    Please don’t worry if you can’t answer my remarks, these are just thoughts.

    And lastly, pancace with fried egg and chicken is something else indeed.

    • Robin Wong says:

      hi Henrik,

      E-PL9 has two Fn-buttons that can be customized, but the functions are limited to just a few, and did not include ISO and AF-home point selection, both that I use very often.

      The image quality is not that different from the predecessors. However, bear in mind the E-PL9 is using Truepic 8 engine which is the same in the flagship E-M1 Mark II. That is why i also mentioned the core imaging qualities in E-PL9 was not crippled, and is very capable.

      Even in the older O.I. Share app (without bluetooth) you can always change the image sizes for transfer.

      No, there is no USB charging, unfortunately.

      And yes that pancake and fried chicken was the bomb!

  10. Bhushan Barve says:

    Amazing! Nice shots for higher ISOs like 3200 and 6400 for M43 system!

  11. Thank you for this very intersting review (I liked how you emphasis on the use of the camera itself rather than the technical aspects).
    However I’m not sure to understand your conclusion : you seem quite positive about the camera but then you write that there’s no significant upgrade when compared to the epl7 & epl8. Does that mean the previous iterations are as good as the new one?
    Also, a bit off topic, do you know if there will be a succesor to the E-P5 ?

    • Robin Wong says:

      No new about the E-P5, though I love it and I am using one myself.

      I was merely discussing about a concept that MT has explained previously about “Sufficiency”, and as a camera that is targeted to entry level audience (selfie screen, no EVF, simplified controis) the E-PL9 has similar core imaging capabilities, (AF performance and image quality) as E-M1/E-M5 Mark II. It produces the same results as the higher end OM-D models, and just as fast in focusing.

      However, it is also not a huge improvement over the older E-PL7 and E-PL8, having similar image sensor, 3-Axis IS and basically everything else, except some feature upgrades such as 4K recording and bluetooth wifi.

  12. Jonathan Hodder says:

    Still holding out for either a Panasonic Lx200 or a new GR with better ISO, but I must say that is one dangerously adorable little camera.

    • Robin Wong says:

      How are you so sure that the LX200 and new GR will have better high ISO? I have also demonstrated that in extremely challenging situation the high ISO for E-PL9 is more than sufficient to get the job done!

      • I suspect he means he would prefer to have either an LX200 or new GR if they they were to be released and had better ISO performance than the current models.

        • Robin Wong says:

          And I was arguing about something more solid: what we have now, the E-PL9 which is clearly more than sufficient to get the high ISO shooting done. At least for most people that should be enough. If you are a pro/serious enthusiast that demand the best of the best, obviously the E-PL9 isn’t for you.

          • Robin no offense, but what we have now here is a camera at a somewhat high price that while fantastic, is not much more fantastic than an EPL-7 or EPL-8, has incredible competition from Fuji A-5, and the Ricoh GR II of *today, right now* is pretty darn amazing.

            Given that, I can understand someone waiting on something of a bigger leap taking into account they may have one of the older cameras that perform similar. It’s time for Panasonic and Olympus to either really retire that 16MP sensor, bring the PenF sensor down (hey, YI MI is doing it at half the price, true Sony sensor PenF that), or a new 16 MP sensor that moves forward the status quote of m43rds entry level.

            The EPL-9 looks capable, but it will be more challenged in other high contrast situations that some APS_C competitors do better. Mix in that this is the year Nikon starts serious on mirrorless.

            So yes, this camera is sufficient and capable, just like several in the rest of the market that are as sufficient and often more capable. That’s the issue.

            Olympus needs to really re-work their usability also. It’s gotten more and more complicated. They really need to rework the touch – AF mode with a visible focus square at all times, and dynamic squares that light up when shooting in CDAF. Many competitors have done this now for years.

            • Robin Wong says:

              If I were to make a direct comparison between the E-PL9 and say, an APS-C, like Sony A6500 or Canon M6 (which I honestly have), I do not see the advantage that much. Yes, the dynamic range may be slightly better, but it was in practical situation, negligible. If you want the next step up in terms of image quality, the only way is to go Full Frame, and the price point itself is enough to separate the system entirely.

              I have no issue with the focusing box. I can see the box clearly every single time I shoot. Why can’t you?

              • The A6500 certainly has notably better color sensitivity, ISO, DR. These show up when “playing in more extremes.” But forget that, look at the new announced Fuji A-5. Phase detection, cheaper price, new good little zoom lens. That’s what the EPL9 is against today. In the very near future we will see Nikon finally entering the fray with their mirrorless solution.

                No, I don’t buy that from m43rds to current APS-C the difference is negligible. I have also made the comparison (Olympus PenF, Fuji X-E3). Though to be clear, I think Olympus did a fantastic job with the PenF sensor/its data. You had mentioned in the OMD EMIII review a note of puzzlement on why Olympus restrains the sensor use to the best in the line, what happened to that very correct line of thinking? 🙂

                On the focusing box- I don’t know if Olympus changed the UI options (like they finally did for the EM1 MKII), but when shooting on the LCD, the marker box (OMD Em5, PenF) is a semi transparent alpha blended mark that is virtually impossible to see at night shooting, and hard to see on the LCD in daylight. Maybe they changed it for the EPL9 – that I don’t know, but if it’s the same as the PenF then the issue to me stands.

                The fact Olympus allows you to change the color of it for the EM1 MKII admits the problem. A problem that Panasonic/Sony/Pentax/Nikon/Fuji don’t have because they use a marker that is far more clear in the same situations (and again, at night… ). But again, maybe they changed it for the EPL9, so you tell me- if it’s the same of the PenF or not.

                And here’s the other problem- on the PenF and previous to EM1 MKII if you enter the touch square focus where you can place by touch the AF square, then you get a nice visible green square. This is what I would love to see for the regular mode. The problem with this mode is that it is indeed a special mode that you have to (1) enable when you turn the camera on/off and worse – (2) it’s a mutually exclusive mode to bringing up the control panel. This means every single time you need to bring up the super control panel this mode gets away and you have to tap twice to bring it up, then tap again on screen or magnify button (PenF) to bring the square mode back.

                You don’t have to do this in the competitor’s cameras. And again, they provided (finally) a UI work around on the EM1 MKII. If they provided such on the EPL9 kudos, then the problem is finally solved.

                As for “AF squares that blink” I am referring to Olympus lack of not showing you the squares that are in focus when you engage AFC (not sure if the EM1 MKII has this issue or not, haven’t tried there).

                Going back to S-AF – If you have an EVF and you use it, then the issue of the hard to see AF square goes away in daylight though it remains to some degree at night. This is super solvable, but for some reason, Olympus hasn’t solved it for the PenF. You tell me -can you change the color with a setting, like on the EM1 mKII, on the EPL9? If so, then great, it’s a solved issue for the EPL9.

                • For goodness sake, the EPL9 is intended to be for entry level users. If you have all these complains it clearly shows that the camera is not for you. If the camera does not suit you, it does not mean it won’t be for its intended audience. You may simply walk away to your “superior” choices out there.

                  I am reviewing the EPL9 from an entry level user perspective. That 16MP is plentiful for even myself, in this regard. You seriously want this to be on the same level as the flagship E-M1 Mark II? Some reality check maybe?

                  • Hi Robin- the things I indicated about UI issues date back to several Olympuses both entry and high level (OMD EM5 MKII has these issues also). It’s not an EPL9 entry level issue, it’s an issue that Olympus themselves have. A quick example: how come the competitors I mentioned, even entry level do not have the issues I pointed out? Look at the Panasonic GF9/GX850 or GF10. Look at the entry level Fuji A-5.

                    That’s on the UI side of things. On the sensor side of things, most competitors have moved on a bit. It’s not that the EPL9 is bad, but for current Pen owners doesn’t seem to offer much and for newer owners, it puts itself in a position where there’s comparison shopping to be made.

                    Remember again, what you said yourself about the sensor of the OMD EM10 MKIII- you and I are saying the same thing on that comment. That’s all. It’s not like the EPL9 is bad per se.

                    Hope that clarifies where I am coming from a bit better. Thanks for reading, I like the shots you took with this camera.

                  • Robin, Ricardo has a point in that I don’t think one should look at the camera in isolation. I have no doubt that it would satisfy the audience you describe, but that does not make it good value. The X-A5 has more resolution, more DR and better high ISO performance (I don’t want to say whether it is a meaningful difference as I haven’t compared them, but with the larger sensor there is some difference), phase detect autofocus and two control dials – for less money. So I think it is fair to say the Olympus lags behind the competition, also for an entry level user. That doesn’t not mean it won’t do the job, but I can see why people feel that should be mentioned.

      • Jonathan Hodder says:

        Hi, was referring to GR / LX200 ISO capabilities in comparison to their respective predecessors. Regards

  13. Robin, another good outing for the latest Olympus products and it is good to see that sensor performance and IQ doesn’t seem to have been compromised for this entry level product. The smartphone crowd will probably not miss an EVF at all, but it is a pity that the option has been removed for one to be attached as those used to one will undoubtedly find the camera less than useful now.

    • Robin Wong says:

      The only reason the accessory port for EVF was removed, was to clearly differentiate the PEN vs OM-D crowd. I would have hoped that without the EVF port, the PEN would be marginally smaller in size, but the size remained the same. Too bad, now there is completely no way to use the EVF on the PEN E-PL9. I do love the E-PL9 for what it can do.

      • Robin, I suspect many will see this differently. To remove a feature such as the EVF/stereo mic port that has been there ever since the E-PL1 (a combo I have for this very feature and its weak anti-aliasing filter for very sharp images) just to differentiate it from the more expensive OM-D crowd smacks more of a way of increasing revenue. Cynic I may be, but that is the way I see it.

  14. “Unlike all other PEN-Lite cameras before, the E-PL9 now has a built in pop-up flash”. Not completely true, because the E-PL2 from 2010 already had a built-in popup flash.

  15. Half the time, I shoot on AUTO ISO – it saves me from grabbing one parameter. I guess this camera is designed for that audience. Fab shots, I love your work with Olympus JPEG / Oly Viewer. I will quietly say I don’t like the Capture One colour not because it is bad but because I can see it is not Oly colour. And you nailed it on the food shots. I was just on a forum discussing with another member who wanted to “upgrade” to Sony or Fuji from E-M5 Mark 2 because of food photos and landscape work. I wasn’t saying those other cameras aren’t good (they are) but it’s not an upgrade in hardware you need for food photos, it’s skill and attention to detail. Now I can show her your food photos. 🙂

    • Robin Wong says:

      I never relied on auto-iso, mainly because the camera is always quick to select higher values than necessary. Shooting discipline, as beautifully explained and emphasized by MT, is something I am very strict about in my own shooting too, which also means I care about getting the best I can in every shot, using the lowest ISO numbers possible for each situation.
      Well, when you get back to KL, lets hit some of those fancy food spots! Need to get yourself hipster-fied. I have friends I can bring along to help you with that haha.

      • Good point Robin on the auto-iso vs fixed iso. I think it is always true that when we see the highest technical quality shot (“why are Robin Wong’s photos always that sharp” people ask about camera setting and camera gear.

        We miss the simple and clear fact that each shot is already planned and crafted with concentration and care to each and every setting.

        Of course we can relax and let some settings be general and/or automatic, in which case, each relaxed parameter has allowed the photo technical quality to be one step worse. Explicit decision on a parameter vs indecision, so “let it be” decreases technical photo quality too. Food for thought.

        The food? Can’t wait!

  16. Good to know as i fell twice, with my Nikon DSLR, and ruined a lens the first time and then ruined the camera body the second time. So I am in the market for a new camera.

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