Olympus hasn’t completed a lot to alter the tech of its entry-level mirrorless digicam over the previous few years. The E-PL sequence sometimes will get an annual replace, and the newest iteration, the E-PL9 ($599.99, physique solely), is not a lot totally different from the E-PL8 we reviewed final 12 months. The most important additions are an in-body flash, an improved picture processor, and 4K video seize. It is a stable starter digicam, however not our favourite within the class. We proceed to suggest the Sony a6000 as our Editors’ Selection.
The E-PL9 follows the design cues of earlier fashions within the sequence. It is a slim mirrorless digicam and not using a built-in EVF or an add-on possibility—if you need an EVF, purchase a unique digicam. It does have an in-body flash, which is not obtainable on older fashions. The flash is mounted on a hinge and may be tilted again and pointed up for softer bounce illumination.
The PEN measures 2.7 by four.6 by 1.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 13.four ounces and not using a lens connected. It’s completed in silver, with a plastic exterior and your alternative of black, tan, or white leatherette. The grip is a little more substantial than the one on the E-PL8, enhancing ergonomics with out including any actual bulk to the physique. Olympus has churned by way of quite a lot of grip designs within the E-PL sequence, together with a fleeting experiment with interchangeable grips, however this one, extra much like what we noticed with the E-PL7, is an effective design.
Along with the body-only possibility, which we’re reviewing, Olympus sells the E-PL9 in a package with its primary 14-42mm energy zoom lens. The package comes at a $100 premium, a stable worth when you think about that the 14-42mm EZ is priced at $299.99 when bought individually. The package additionally features a 16GB reminiscence card and carrying case.
The highest plate homes the aforementioned pop-up flash and a scorching shoe to mount a bigger exterior flash or wi-fi set off. There isn’t a accent port, so you possibly can’t use the clip-on flash included with older PEN fashions, nor are you able to add an EVF, exterior microphone, or any of the opposite equipment that Olympus supplied for earlier PEN fashions. I am unable to blame Olympus for dropping the accent port now that there is a flash in-built, however I’d have preferred to see a normal Three.5mm microphone included to make up for its absence.
As an entry-level mannequin, the E-PL9 is not rife with on-body controls, nevertheless it does have sufficient so that you can take management over settings whereas making images. The Mode dial is subsequent to the new shoe on high, and it is joined by a mix management dial/shutter launch and the On/Off button to its proper.
Rear controls embody the Shortcut/Zoom Out and the Fn/Zoom In buttons, each angled above the rear thumb relaxation. Under the thumb relaxation you get a devoted Report button for movies, together with Delete, Menu, Information, and Play buttons. On the heart of these is a directional pad, with OK within the center and directional presses to set the drive mode, publicity compensation, flash settings, and the main focus space.
The E-PL9 dietary supplements its bodily controls with a number of totally different on-screen shows. Urgent OK whereas capturing brings up a menu to shortly regulate the file format, focus mode, ISO, JPG settings, video decision, and white steadiness. The Shortcut button brings up a extra detailed on-screen show of settings that relate to publicity and autofocus—there’s some overlap between the 2 on-screen menus, with the Shortcut display screen diving into extra element and including changes to issues like face detection and the metering sample.
That is not the one factor Shortcut does. Set the Mode dial to AP (Superior Pictures) and you should utilize it to alter between Stay Composite and Stay Time (for lengthy publicity work), and choices like a number of publicity, HDR, silent capturing, in-camera panoramas, keystone distortion elimination, and varied bracketing choices.
The addition of in-camera panorama stitching is a plus for photographers who wish to shoot a fast, extensive shot. You simply want to maneuver the PEN from left to proper, with an on-screen arrow as a information, as its digital shutter captures the scene. As with all multi-shot panorama modes, you may wish to keep away from topic motion to get the very best shot.
The PEN additionally has a ton of Artwork filters, accessible by way of the Artwork setting on the dial. You possibly can set one and shoot with a Bleach Bypass or different stylized look. Should you shoot in Uncooked format the filters may be utilized after the actual fact from the playback menu. The picture above reveals 9 totally different filter results utilized to the identical picture.
The LCD is a Three-inch, 1,040k-dot design with contact help. It is shiny sufficient to make use of on a sunny day—crucial for a digicam with out an EVF—and might tilt to face up, down, or all the best way ahead. The hinge may very well be a bit higher designed; you must push straight down on the LCD in an effort to angle it downward. It is easy when you get used to it, however not probably the most intuitive design I’ve seen.
Selfie followers are going to be shocked to see that the display screen flips underneath the digicam, moderately than above it, when dealing with ahead—so you possibly can nonetheless see the body when the flash is popped up. I am not an enormous fan of the design because it limits your choices when vlogging from a tripod.
Throughout capturing you possibly can faucet part of the body to set the main focus level (or, in case you favor, focus and hearth off a shot) and to navigate menus. The display screen works throughout playback too; you possibly can swipe by way of photographs or pinch to zoom out and in of a photograph. The interface is as responsive as a flagship smartphone, an enormous plus for photographers shifting up from a telephone digicam.
Connectivity and Energy
The E-PL9 provides Bluetooth, absent from the E-PL8, nevertheless it would not do so much to enhance the wi-fi expertise. Establishing the digicam is straightforward—the rear LCD reveals a QR code and also you it along with your smartphone. On my iPhone I used to be prompted to put in an (unsigned) Wi-Fi profile to avoid wasting the E-PL9’s SSID and password in my telephone, in addition to full the Bluetooth pairing course of.
As soon as arrange the digicam works like some other trendy mannequin with Wi-Fi. You join your telephone to its community to view a dwell feed from the lens and management it remotely, or to switch photographs (both at full decision or downsized) and 1080p movies (4K is sized right down to 1080p to hurry up the switch course of).
It is implied that the digicam can use Bluetooth to switch images robotically—you simply must flag them first, utilizing the Report button within the playback display screen. However that did not work for me. I acquired an error message that instructed me to attach the PEN to my telephone by way of Wi-Fi for the automated transfers to go. Wi-Fi is quicker, however much less handy. At press time Nikon has the very best Bluetooth file switch expertise with its SnapBridge system, which is included in its least costly SLR, the D3400.
The E-PL9 solely has two knowledge ports—micro HDMI and micro USB. It doesn’t help charging by way of USB. As an alternative Olympus features a battery charger with a detachable AC energy twine to replenish the battery. It’s rated for 350 photographs or about 80 minutes of video recording per cost.
Efficiency and Autofocus
The E-PL9 is somewhat sooner than its predecessor. It begins, focuses, and fires off a shot in about zero.Eight-second. It locks focus in zero.05-second in shiny gentle and zero.Three-second in dim gentle. The E-PL8 begins in about zero.9-second and requires zero.1-second to lock focus in shiny situations, however matches the zero.Three-second market in dim gentle.
Burst seize can be sooner, by about 1fps. The E-PL9 shoots photographs at Eight.5fps, and might sustain that tempo for 10 Uncooked+JPG, 11 Uncooked, or 31 JPG pictures earlier than slowing down. Buffer clear instances are fast, about 5 seconds for a Uncooked burst and three seconds for a JPG, so you will not have to attend lengthy to start out capturing once more. I examined the digicam with a Sony 300MBps reminiscence card, though the E-PL9’s reminiscence card slot can’t take full benefit of that velocity—you may be positive utilizing a extra inexpensive 95MBps card.
The highest velocity is simply obtainable with focus locked on after the primary body. If you wish to maintain shifting topics in focus you may want to modify to the low-speed drive mode. It is also improved from the E-PL8, now clocking in at four.4fps (versus Three.5fps), and delivering fairly good, however not good, accuracy in testing. If you would like an inexpensive mirrorless digicam that does a greater job monitoring topics, look to the Sony a6000—it tracks at 11fps.
There’s an digital shutter possibility for silent capturing, nevertheless it’s solely obtainable by way of the AP dial setting. Meaning you do not have handbook publicity management, simply EV compensation adjustment, when utilizing it. In normal modes the mechanical shutter is used. If you’re involved about blur from shutter shock there are a variety of anti-vibration settings obtainable, and due to the small sensor and mirrorless design the mechanical shutter is fairly quiet in its personal proper.
Imaging and Video
The E-PL9 might look glossy and fairly on the skin, however its picture sensor is exhibiting indicators of age. The 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor lags behind the extra trendy 20MP design that each Olympus and Panasonic use in pricier fashions, however remains to be the usual for entry-level choices. Examine this with competing mirrorless techniques that use the APS-C sensor measurement and have (for probably the most half) standardized on 24MP—the Sony a6000, Fujifilm X-A5, and Canon EOS M100 all boast 24MP decision.
The sensor boasts Three-axis stabilization, a uncommon function in cameras at this worth level, so any lens you connect advantages from stabilization. When capturing JPGs the PEN retains noise underneath 1.5 % by way of ISO 6400, which is a stable outcome for low-light pictures, however noise discount does minimize into picture high quality when pushing the digicam that far. In follow you possibly can seize photographs by way of ISO 1600 with little or no lack of high quality. There’s somewhat smudging of element at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. You will wish to keep away from capturing JPGs at ISO 12800 or 25600, settings at which images present a little bit of blur, however you will not have to fret in regards to the digicam ranging that far by itself. Whenever you allow Auto ISO management the PEN will not vary above ISO 6400.
If you wish to take extra management over photographs you possibly can shoot in Uncooked format and both course of images in digicam or utilizing desktop software program—we use Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. When capturing in Uncooked the digicam would not apply noise discount to photographs, so excessive ISO pictures present extra element, but additionally extra grain.
Element is stronger on the excessive ranges of the Auto ISO vary, and I might really feel snug choosing ISO 12800 if wanted. Grain may be very heavy at ISO 25600, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a viable possibility in very dim gentle. Most photographers who choose to shoot in Uncooked are going to take a look at extra featured fashions, nonetheless, and can be higher served shifting as much as one with a more recent sensor. Within the Micro 4 Thirds world the 20MP Olympus PEN-F and Panasonic GX9 are each stable choices on this kind issue.
The E-PL9 provides one new trick to its video toolset—4K seize. However, as with the current E-M10 Mark III, the function is inexplicably buried, to the purpose the place you won’t notice it is even there. It’s essential to set the Mode dial to its Film place in an effort to shoot in 4K, and likewise faucet the Shortcut button to alter to 4K mode. The footage is robust, with 24, 25, or 30fps seize choices and the crisp decision you get when every body is 8MP, however you are restricted to in-camera audio as there is not any approach to make use of an exterior microphone.
In different modes the digicam is proscribed to 1080p seize, though you possibly can push the body charge to 60fps if you would like. When capturing on the decrease decision you possibly can apply Artwork filters and the prefer to video, one thing you possibly can’t do at 4K. The footage is kind of good, for 1080p, however at simply one-quarter the decision of 4K, it would not have the identical quantity of pop.
I am being a bit kinder to the E-PL9 than I used to be to the E-M10 Mark III, which I reviewed earlier this 12 months and gave a decrease score. Worth is one issue, because the E-M10 is $50 extra. Market is one other; the PEN’s enchantment is to entry-level shooters, whereas the E-M10 competes with barely up-market cameras as a result of its ergonomic design and built-in EVF. Plus, I do give Olympus some credit score for including the in-camera panorama stitching and Bluetooth, neither of which have been included within the E-M10.
That mentioned, the PEN E-PL9 is simply a modest enchancment over final 12 months’s E-PL8, and the yearly replace cycle performs a component in that. (The E-M10 sequence sometimes goes about two years between new fashions.) It is somewhat bit sooner to focus and shoot burst photographs, and there is 4K video now, although you do have to leap by way of a hoop to entry it.
I might prefer to see Olympus push the boundaries a bit additional as to what to anticipate from entry stage. A extra trendy, 20MP sensor can be a superb step, though even with the older 16MP chip you may get pleasure from a major improve over the very best smartphones. The in-camera Artwork filters are one thing Olympus has lengthy included and are a particular plus for the Instagram crowd, as is Wi-Fi functionality.
And there are many lenses obtainable, although first-time shooters have a tendency to stay with the package lens. Olympus has quite a lot of compact, inexpensive prime lenses that pair nicely with the digicam, and the PEN can use Micro 4 Thirds lenses from different manufacturers together with Panasonic and Sigma as nicely.
The Sony a6000 has been our Editors’ Selection within the entry-level mirrorless class for near 4 years. Its efficiency moved boundaries in 2014, and a mix of 24MP imaging, 11fps picture seize, and built-in EVF nonetheless make it the very best purchase within the class immediately, particularly once you consider its $500 (body-only) worth. However it’s exhibiting its age, primarily as a result of an absence of a contact LCD, in-body stabilization, and 4K video. If these options are excessive in your need checklist, or in case you’re already invested within the Micro 4 Thirds system, it is not the very best match.
For a bit more cash I just like the Panasonic GX85, which boasts 5-axis stabilization and an EVF, however is $150 extra. There’s additionally the GX850, which is smaller and omits stabilization, however sells for $550 with a lens. On the finish of the day the Olympus PEN E-PL9 is an effective digicam, one that may please snapshooters, vacationers, and household documentarians, nevertheless it would not do a lot to face out from the gang.