Olympus e pen

Olympus PEN E-PM2 Review

16MP | Micro Four Thirds | $499 £403 (street price)

Olympus introduced the first Pen 'Mini', the E-PM1 in late 2011. Where most interchangeable lens cameras fall somewhere on the spectrum between a point-and-shoot and a full-fledged DSLR, the E-PM1 skewed decidedly toward the compact camera side of the scale. Unlike its Digital PEN predecessors, it offered no external mode dial and relatively few physical controls, exchanging these features for the smallest and lightest footprint of any Olympus ILC.

The Olympus E-PM2 follows suit, building on the previous model's specs by adding a 3.0 inch touch screen, two more buttons and a small built-in grip on the front panel. It shares the same essential 'guts' with the Olympus E-PL5, which was introduced at the same time.

Olympus E-PM2 key specifications:

  • 16MP CMOS Four Thirds sensor
  • 3.0 inch touch-sensitive LCD with 460,000 dots
  • ISO 200-25,600
  • In-body image stabilization
  • Up to 8fps continuous shooting (fixed focus and exposure with I.S. off)
  • 1080 HD video at 30p
  • TruePic VI processor
  • 12 Art Filters
  • Raw image capture

Click here for full specifications, user reviews, sample images and more...

The E-PM2 and E-PL5 borrow the Olympus OM-D E-M5's proven 16MP CMOS sensor, a class-leader in image quality. Coupled with a TruePic VI image processor, a fast rate of 8fps continuous shooting is possible. Twelve Art Filters are available to the shooter, with a number of Art Effects ready to be applied on top of these processing modes.

A rechargeable BLS-5 lithium-ion battery is included, rated at 360 shots per charge (CIPA standard). Also in the box is an FL-LM1 clip-on flash unit, external battery charger with the necessary cable and a copy of Olympus Viewer 2. The E-PM2 stands a good chance at delivering excellent image quality with the inclusion of the E-M5's highly capable 16MP sensor. Enthusiast photographers and beginners alike will find a lot to like in its lightweight, portable form factor.

Compared to the E-PM1

Compared to the E-PM1 the new Pen Mini is about the same size, but its more generous handgrip makes a real difference to how it feels, moving it away from the 'bar of soap' feel of the earlier model. From the back, the E-PM2 is similar to its predecessor but offers up a different operational layout. Most obviously, playback and delete buttons have migrated to the upper left of the camera (into an area which was wasted space on the E-PM1). The E-PM2 also offers a more practical thumbrest 'nub' of thick rubber at the upper right.


When your phone camera disappoints, grab the Olympus E-PL9

It’s hard to argue against the convenience of using a smartphone as a camera, a concept that hasn’t been lost on camera manufacturers. But making a dedicated camera that can rival the portability and simplicity of a phone is no easy task. Even if the image quality is much better, just getting people to pick it up and use can be a challenge.

The Olympus PEN series is about as close as interchangeable lens cameras get to smartphone size, and that alone is worth giving the series some credit. The PEN E-PL9 is the newest in the series, a beautiful, entry-level model that sits alongside the older, but more premium PEN-F. Based around the same 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor as the E-PL8 with the same 3-axis in-body image stabilization, it doesn’t offer any huge quality or performance gains. It does offer some modest upgrades in other areas: Burst rate has seen a slight bump to 8.6 frames per second from 8.5, while autofocus density has increased to 121 focus points from 81 — both impressive numbers for this category. 4K video is also new; a nice touch, if not a huge selling point for the casual user.

But, as refined as it appears on the spec sheet, the $599 E-PL9 (body only, $699 as tested with kit lens) finds itself in a sort of awkward middle ground. No matter how you shake it, it’s not as convenient as your smartphone for casual photography, but it also flounders under more serious use as its beginner-friendly controls make manual operation more difficult. Rationally, this is the camera you want to recommend to your friend looking to boost the quality of their Instagram feed, but deep down you can’t help but wonder: Will they actually use it?

Form over function

If we could score a camera on looks alone, the E-PL9 would receive a 9.5 (we’ve got to save that extra 0.5 for the meticulously styled PEN-F). The physical changes over the E-PL8 are minimal, but the new angled grip gives it a slight ergonomic advantage. Paired with the impossibly small 14-42mm retractable kit lens, it’s a great looking piece of kit. Our review unit came wrapped in white faux leather, but brown and black are also available, along with a special edition blue that’s new to the E-PL9 and looks absolutely droolworthy in photos. Yes, we know, a pretty camera doesn’t mean it takes pretty pictures, but like it or not, this might help people take it out and use it more often, so that’s something.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Beneath the surface, Olympus says the body is built using “premium metal construction,” and while it certainly doesn’t feel bad, it doesn’t feel as well made as the likes of the PEN-F or the OM-D E-M5 or E-M1 series cameras. More importantly, it is not weather sealed, so while this is otherwise a fantastic travel camera, you will need to think twice before taking it out in the rain. (For the record, we decided to risk it by taking the camera into a river to photograph a waterfall, and it handled the mist just fine. We kept a safe distance, though.)

If we could score a camera on looks alone, the E-PL9 would receive a 9.5.

New to the E-PL9 is a built-in, pop-up flash. As always, on-camera flash should be used judiciously, but when you need it, it’s certainly more convenient to have it built-in than having to attach a small external unit, as was required for the E-PL8. More interesting, that flash also enables wireless flash control of up to three groups of remote flashes, a surprisingly high-end feature for an entry-level camera.

Of course, the E-PL cameras have always been about the casual shooter, and the E-PL9 is no different. The LCD screen is unchanged, measuring 3 inches and able to tilt just shy of 90 degrees up and a full 180-degrees down for low-angle shots and selfies, respectively. It is touch-sensitive, and responsiveness is quite good, even if it’s not immediately clear which onscreen elements can be accessed via touch and which require using the physical controls.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

There is a single command dial, and this is where things can get a bit confusing for experienced photographers. In program auto, shutter priority, or aperture priority, you can hit “up” on the four-way controller to toggle exposure compensation (in manual mode, this will switch from shutter speed to aperture control). However, if you are using the touchscreen to select an autofocus point (inarguably the easiest way to do so), this more-or-less locks you out from being able to toggle exposure compensation, as hitting “up” now simply moves the focus point. To get back to exposure comp (or aperture control), you first need to press “OK,” which then reverts the focus point you just selected on the touchscreen back to wherever it was before you touched the screen.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Compared To

There are two ways around this. First, you can opt not to use the touchscreen to set a focus point, instead pressing “left” on the four-way pad to bring up the focus array and select your desired point with the directional buttons. When you then press “OK,” it will now lock in the selected AF point, rather than revert back to the default. Second — and this is our preferred method — you can dive into the settings menu to reassign exposure compensation to the function/magnifying glass button (located just behind the on/off button). Now you can access your exposure controls and touch autofocus together, but we wish it didn’t requiring jumping through hoops like that.

For more immediate results, you can also just turn on touch shutter, which will focus and take a picture with a single tap on the screen. This actually works quite well, although we prefer separating the focus and shutter actions, not to mention using the physical shutter button — call us old school, but it just feels better.

User experience

We spent two days camping with the PEN E-PL9 in the lush wilderness of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Minus the lack of dust- and splash-proofing, it’s the perfect camera for day hikes, riverside gatherings, and campfire cooking. You can toss it in jacket pocket, purse, or other small bag and it’s light enough that you’ll barely know it’s there. Battery life is rated for 350 exposures, which is low enough to be considered “bad,” but it was still plenty for our excursion.

This is the camera you want to recommend to your friend looking to boost the quality of their Instagram feed — but will they actually use it?

There is one other advantage of using a camera like this: It helps you blend in, even when you’re just trying to blend in with your own friends. You can easily shoot from the hip, and when you’re not holding a camera in front of your face, you feel much more a part of the action and other people act more naturally around you. It’s great for street photography, particularly with the compact lens.

But, while we were setting up at the base of a waterfall with tripod and neutral density filters in hand, we encountered a depressing reminder of the futility of our efforts when a group of three young people showed up and began posing for each other for what we can only assume was a very important Instagram photoshoot. They spent no less than 45 minutes trying to get the perfect pose, angle, and moment in front of the rushing waterfall — and the entire time used nothing but their phones. This went far beyond “casual” photography, yet apparently a phone was just fine.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

And that’s the thing: No matter how much more technically proficient a camera like the E-PL9 is, and no matter the effects of a long shutter, shallow depth of field, or other creative advantages it offers, it won’t make your butt look better, your muscles bigger, or your experience any more real. If those are the things that matter in your photography, then you really don’t need a dedicated camera. (And we get it, phone cameras are really good now.)

But those with at least a passing interest in actually learning photography owe it to themselves to invest in an interchangeable lens camera, and the E-PL9 seems like the perfect introductory model — at least, at first. The issue here is that it doesn’t leave much room to grow into. This is a camera designed to be shot in automatic mode, and while some people will undoubtedly appreciate that, those are the same people likely to just stick with their phones.

Of course, you can’t escape the phone completely. Like nearly all cameras today, the E-PL9 can pair with a phone to upload shots to social media. Perhaps that isn’t convenient, but at least your Instagram shots will look great.

Image and video quality

Even though it’s not built on the latest and greatest tech that Olympus has to offer, you can still throw a high-quality lens on the E-PL9 and get great results. In addition to the kit lens, we tested it out with the premium 17mm and 45mm F1.2 Pro lenses, and you’d really have to study the images up close for any sort of tell that they weren’t shot on the $1,700 E-M1 Mark II.

That said, you still have to contend with the inherent limitations of Micro Four Thirds sensors, which are physically smaller than APS-C and full-frame sensors found in other mirrorless systems. Even at the base ISO of 200, images have a noticeable amount of noise in the shadows. You won’t see this if you’re just outputting to social media, but if you want to view your images up close on a monitor or make large prints, this is one area where a larger sensor will produce better results.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

However, a larger sensor would necessitate a larger camera and optics. When you take into account the size advantage of Micro Four Thirds — in particular the half-pint stature of the E-PL9 —  we really can’t complain. Add to that the built-in image stabilization, and getting a good photo is just about as easy as it gets with this camera.

As with other Olympus cameras, the E-PL9 also has a host of scene and “art” modes for creative in-camera effects. Many of these are borderline gimmicky, but the high dynamic range (HDR) and panoramic modes work very well and can be quite useful. Olympus’s implementation of HDR is pleasantly restrained, yielding a low-contrast JPEG that’s great for editing. (You can also use HDR mode 2 for punchier contrast.) Additionally, there’s the AP (Advanced Photo) position on the mode dial which is basically automated versions of advanced techniques, like focus bracketing and multiple exposures (you can also find HDR and panorama here again, which is a bit redundant and confusing).

Olympus has made the best possible camera for the smartphone generation, other than an actual smartphone.

As for video, it’s nice that Olympus bumped up the quality to 4K (at either 24 or 30 frames per second), but Panasonic GH5S this is not. Detail is sufficient, but the sharpening is a bit excessive, leading to halos around edges when viewed at 100 percent. Still, it looks noticeably better than the 1080p on other entry-level mirrorless cameras, such as the Canon EOS M6, and casual users should be happy with it.

The E-PL9 also offers two different stabilization modes when shooting video. The default is a hybrid of sensor-shift and electronic image stabilization (EIS), while the second uses just sensor-shift. EIS slightly crops the image, but otherwise does not incur much of a penalty to image quality (likely because fine detail is already somewhat obscured by the heavy sharpening). For this reason, we’d recommend leaving it on for any handheld shots that involve camera movement — whether that be walking, panning, what have you — while using just sensor-shift stabilization for stationary handheld shots where the added stability of EIS isn’t important. If you use a tripod, you can also turn stabilization off completely.

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Our only complaint about the video modes, from the perspective of a novice user, is that it’s not immediately clear how you access 4K. The quick menu only shows 1080p and 720p; the main menu has no resolution options at all, only frame rates and bit rates. For 4K, you need to turn the mode dial to movie mode and select “4K” rather than “Standard.” Why Olympus chose to bury the feature like this is beyond us.

Our Take

With the PEN E-PL9, Olympus has made the best possible camera for the smartphone generation, other than an actual smartphone. It’s pretty, compact, fast, and simple to operate — great for someone ready to jump into the world of interchangeable lens cameras. As an entry-level model, we have no real complaints, but we’re back at our original question: Will people actually use the thing?

This really is a fantastic little camera for travel, kids, pets, and any other type of casual photography. So, we certainly hope so.

Is there a better alternative?

For beginners, there are a number of cameras in the same ball park, but none with the combination of styling and performance of the E-PL9.

However, if you have even an inkling that you’re going to move beyond casual photography into the realm of the hobbyist or enthusiast, then you’re likely better off with the O-MD E-M10 Mark III (or even stretching your budget for the APS-C Fujifilm X-T20). The E-M10 is essentially the same camera as the E-PL9, but with an electronic viewfinder, more advanced control layout, and five-axis stabilization. Thanks to current rebates, it also costs just $599 (body only) or $699 with the same 14-42mm kit lens, so you’re not out any extra cash. Sure, it’s not quite as compact and you don’t get all the cool color options, but it’s the better buy.

How long will it last?

While not weather sealed like Olympus’s higher-end cameras, the E-PL9 is still well made. Again, our concern with its longevity is more about who you are as a photographer: You will quickly outgrow this camera if you plan to learn and use manual exposure. If you’re okay sticking with automatic, the E-PL9 is probably your best bet for a camera that you might actually use in place of your phone.

Should you buy it?

For casual photography, the E-PL9 is a great choice, but aspiring enthusiasts should look elsewhere. This camera excels in ease of use for beginners, but, somewhat ironically, that same simplicity is what makes it painfully frustrating for advanced users. If you just want a no-nonsense camera to leave in automatic 90-percent of the time, then you’ll be happy with the E-PL9.


Olympus PEN E-PL9 review

Learning to use to a ‘proper’ camera after just using a smartphone can look intimidating, but that’s the market Olympus is targeting with the PEN E-PL9. It has some interesting features for experienced photographers too, but it’s really designed to appeal to nervous first-timers who want to step up to the bigger sensor, better quality, more powerful features and interchangeable lenses of a mirrorless camera.

It follows the standard format for a beginner-friendly compact system camera. It doesn’t come with a viewfinder – you’d need the OM-D E-M10 Mark III for that – but the rear screen does have a tilting mechanism which lets it flip upwards and downwards. In fact it swings out on a hinge which offers a full 180-degree downward flip so that the screen faces forwards for selfies.

It’s got a touchscreen display too, so that if you’re only experience of a camera so far is a smartphone, you’ll feel a little bit more at home.

Clearly designed with a fashion-conscious audience in mind, the E-PL9 comes in white, black or brown editions with an attractive silver and leather-look finish. You can buy it body only, but it’s best to get it as a kit with Olympus’s neat 14-42mm EZ ‘pancake’ zoom lens.


  • Art Filters and Advanced Photo mode
  • In-body image stabilisation
  • 4K movies

Sensor: 16.1MP Micro Four Thirds Live MOS 

Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds

Screen: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots 

Burst shooting: 8.6fps 

Autofocus: 121-point AF 

Video: 4K

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Battery life: 350 shots 

Weight: 380g

Olympus has designed the PEN E-PL9 so that it’s easy for novices to pick up but has a full range of manual controls and features for when you’re ready to start taking control.

In full Auto mode you can leave the camera to choose all the settings automatically and just use simple sliders on the touchscreen display to change the look of your pictures, with adjustments for color saturation, brightness, warmth, background blur and more. It side-steps the usual jargon of photography to show camera adjustments in less technical terms.

Alternatively, you can switch to the Scene position on the mode dial to tap on the subject you’re shooting, like People, Nightscapes or Motion, or use the PASM (program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual) modes for direct control over the shutter speed and aperture settings.

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But Olympus adds in two more key features: Art Filters and its Advanced Photo mode. With new Bleach Bypass and Instant Film effects, there are now 16 different Art Filters, each with their own adjustable parameters. These go well beyond the sometimes cheesy and crude image effects seen on other cameras.

The Advanced Photo mode, meanwhile, includes features usually found on more advanced cameras, including Multiple Exposures, HDR, Sweep Panoramas and Focus Bracketing. They also include three Olympus specialities – a Keystone Compensation mode for correcting converging verticals in shots of buildings, a Live Composite mode for ‘light painting’ at night and a Live Time mode for watching long exposures build up ‘live’ on the rear screen.

It’s not all about stills photography, either, because the E-PL9 also offers some smart video features

It’s not all about stills photography, either, because the E-PL9 also offers some smart video features, including a standard video mode with the option of adding Art Filters and Movie Effects, a 4K video mode, a short Clips mode capturing 4 second videos (you can change the clip length) and an HS mode for slow motion playback. The E-PL9 has a contrast-based autofocus system with 121 AF points covering most of the frame area, 3-axis in-body image stabilization (not the more advanced 5-axis system we've seen on other Olympus cameras) and maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600.

It can also communicate directly with your smartphone via an always-on Bluetooth LE connection that can ‘wake’ your camera and Wi-Fi for full resolution image transfer and camera remote control.

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Olympus PEN E-PL9 first look Review

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is the latest offering in the company’s established range of mirrorless cameras. It follows on from the Olympus PEN E-PL7 and Olympus PEN E-PL8 models, and is designed to be popular with fashion-conscious photographers searching for a stylish yet functional interchangeable lens camera that’s small and lightweight.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 features a small pop-up flash and a tilting screen

Supported by a large range of Micro Four Thirds lenses, the Olympus PEN E-PL9 will also appeal to users looking to jump from smartphone photography to a camera that produces superior image quality and allows better creative freedom with its manual controls.

Other types of user Olympus is keen to target include bloggers and storytellers, whose lifestyle demands a camera that can fit into a small bag and produce great images with minimal effort.

When it hits the shelves and online retailers in mid-March, the Olympus PEN E-PL9 will be sold for £579 (body only) or £649 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens. If the all-black finish doesn’t take your fancy, it will also be available in white or brown.

Related: Best Cameras 2018

Olympus PEN E-PL9 – Features

To make the transition from smartphone to mirrorless camera less daunting for new users, Olympus has equipped the PEN E-PL9 with a tilt out and down touchscreen and a selection of creative auto settings.

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An Olympus mirrorless camera wouldn’t be complete without the company’s Art filters, and there’s a total of 16 from which to choose. These include Bleach Bypass and an Instant Film effect, giving a nostalgic nod to the exaggerated colours of early instant cameras.

The PEN E-PL9’s screen folds below the camera for selfie shooting

Up on the top plate, the PEN E-PL9 introduces an Advanced Photo (AP) mode for quicker access to creative photo modes. Unlike previous PEN cameras, it supports touchscreen activation of Art Filters, Advanced Photo (AP) and Scene (SCN) modes for easier and faster selection.

Another difference between this latest model and the Olympus PEN E-PL8 is its combined Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, which provides an ‘always on’ connection for faster and simpler image transfer to mobile devices. There’s 4K 30P video recording, too, with the option to extract 8-megapixel still images direct from movie footage.

The Advanced Photo (AP) mode offers direct access to the creative photo modes

Internally, much of the specification is the same as the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III. You get the same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, which teams up with the TruePic VIII processor used within the company’s flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera.

To suppress handshake and blurry shots in low-light, the PEN E-PL9 comes equipped with Olympus’ effective 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IS). This will also prove handy for smoothing out handheld video footage to give movies an almost Steadicam-like look.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 (left) and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III (right)

Another feature the Olympus PEN E-PL9 inherits from the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is its 121-point autofocus system. The screen can be tapped to reposition the focus point in an instant, and the focus area covers practically the entire frame.

Elsewhere, Olympus has created a new set of ‘How To’ guides hosted on the company’s free OI.Share app. These are for beginners and offer useful tips on how to get the best out of the camera and its advanced functionality.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 – Body and design

The design of the PEN E-PL9 hasn’t changed greatly from what we’ve seen before. It combines a faux-leatherette finish with smooth and well-formed plastic body sections. The noticeable difference is the grip, which is larger than the thin strip  offered on the PEN E-PL8. It feels more secure in the hand than its predecessor, and the small thumb rest at the rear is a little more pronounced.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 offers a larger grip around which to wrap your fingers

The layout of buttons is much the same as the Olmypus PEN E-PL8. However, the mode dial on the top plate is fractionally bigger and clearer. There’s a new button above the screen to manually raise the pop-up flash – a feature absent on the PEN E-PL7 and PEN E-PL8.

There’s no viewfinder on the E-PL9, indicating that Olympus clearly sees this as a camera for those who prefer to compose shots via the screen than raising it to their eye. The good thing about the older PEN E-PL8 is that it gave those who liked the idea of using it with a viewfinder the chance to do so with the VF-4 optional electronic viewfinder (£200).

The layout of buttons at the rear is identical to the PEN E-PL8.

Unfortunately, the E-PL9 doesn’t feature an accessory port directly below the hot shoe – and, as such, can’t be used with a clip-on viewfinder. This feels like an oversight and is likely to drive anyone who wants a viewfinder to the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III instead.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is also similar to the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III in lacking a stereo microphone jack or headphone socket. Photographers searching for these features from an Olympus camera will need to look at the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and pair it with the HLD-8G external camera grip, which is equipped with a headphone jack.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 – Opening impressions

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 gains a pop-up flash, looses the facility to attach an optional electronic viewfinder, and has a similar internal specification to the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III.

The newer TruePic VIII processor should see the camera deliver better low-light sensitivity, for improved overall image quality in a wider range of lighting conditions. It’s very much geared towards newcomers who prefer to shoot in auto before progressing to more manual control.

It isn’t a camera that will excite many photo enthusiasts, especially when the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III can be picked up for just £50 more. Nevertheless, it’s likely to get a warm reception from the growing market of bloggers and beginners who want a stylish camera that puts in a superior performance to a smartphone.

With the price of the Olympus PEN E-PL8 falling to £369 body-only (£449 with the 14-42mm EZ pancake lens) since its launch in 2016, I expect the body-only price of the Olympus PEN E-PL9 to drop close to £500 fairly quickly.


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