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Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review

Read our updated review of the new Olympus PEN E-PL9, with a 16mp sensor, 4K video, and numerous shooting modes.

| Olympus PEN E-PL9 in Mirrorless Cameras

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 White (3)

Quick Verdict

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is a stylish mirrorless camera, that delivers excellent image quality, with numerous shooting features, and a wide range of lenses making this a great choice. With recent price reductions, this camera is even better value for money, and offers a lot for the money, including 4K video with in-camera image stabilisation.

+ Pros

  • Stylish colour options
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • 4K video recording
  • Great JPEG results straight from the camera
  • Excellent noise performance
  • In-camera image stabilisation
  • Improved user interface

- Cons

  • Main (setup) menu system could be improved
  • Does not feature 5-axis IS of E-M10 III


Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Black (13)

Olympus’ latest PEN camera, the E-PL9, updates the E-PL8, and now features 4K video recording, 3-axis image stabilisation, a built-in pop-up flash, and Bluetooth. The 16mp Micro Four Thirds camera is available in white, light brown, and black.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Features

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Brown (2)

The camera features the same 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor as the E-PL8, but with a new image processor (which is said to be the same as the flagship E-M1 Mark II). This should mean there’s an improvement in noise performance and image quality. The camera has 3-axis sensor-based image stabilisation, like the E-PL8.

The 3inch tilting touch-screen tilts up and down, with it possible to tilt completely down and forwards for selfie shots. You can view a dual-axis electronic level on the screen.

The camera records 4K video at 30/25/24fps, and the 3-axis image stabilisation will help keep videos steady and smooth. Stereo microphones are built-in.

There’s built-in Wi-Fi, and this has been joined by low-power Bluetooth so that you can connect to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth. Here's a quick comparison of the main differences between the two cameras:

4K Video FullHD Video
121 AF points 81 AF points
2 new Art Filters -
Bluetooth + Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Advanced Photo Mode -
Built-in Pop-up Flash External flash
- Accessory Port (EVF)
Updated Grip -


The shooting modes available have been updated, to include Advanced Photo (AP) mode, which is designed to make it easier to use some of the more advanced shooting modes, of which there are many, including Live Composite, Live Time, Multi-Exposure, HDR, Silent, Panorama, Keystone Compensation, AE Bracketing, and Focus Bracketing.

The scene modes have been updated with a new graphical user interface, and you can use the touch-screen to select the scene mode you want. These have been designed to be easy to use, and the Nightscenes including "Light Painting" and other night scene modes that you can use, without advanced photographic knowledge.

There's an Auto mode, with easy on-screen controls, P, A, S, and full manual controls. The number of AF points has been updated, with the camera now featuring 121, compared to 81 on the E-PL8.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Black (9)

Key Features

  • 16.1 megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor
  • Micro Four Thirds lens mount
  • 3-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation (up to 3.5 stops)
  • 3inch tilting touch-screen, 1040K dot resolution
  • 4K video at 30/25/24fps
  • FullHD video recording at 60p, stereo sound
  • ISO100 to ISO25600 (extended)
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 8.5fps continuous shooting
  • HDR, Focus Peaking
  • 31 Art Filters
  • Available in black/silver, white/silver, and brown/silver

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Handling

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Black (1)

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 features a mostly plastic bodied camera, and on top, the metal dials and shutter release button give the camera a more premium feel. The front grip has been improved over the E-PL8.

The rear grip for your thumb is quite small, and some of the buttons seem quite small, but they are clearly labelled, and the 4-way controller around the OK button gives quick access to some of the key controls.

The rear touch-screen looks good, with a decent resolution of 1040K dots. The frame surrounding it is quite large, and it would be nice if Olympus were able to slim this down in future models.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Screeens (2)

Advanced Photo mode was first seen on the E-M10 Mark III, and is designed to make it easier to access some of the more advanced features on the camera. There’s also an updated Scene modes menu, with quick access to settings. These can make the camera easier to use, however, the main setup menus on the camera are long overdue a good update and can be quite tedious when looking for a specific feature.

Use of the Super Control Panel can make it easier to access settings and controls so that you can avoid having to use the menu system. The back (top) Function (Fn) button, can be customised. The camera doesn't have an accessory port, so you can't add an electronic viewfinder to the camera.

Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth means you can connect to the camera from your smartphone or tablet. The Olympus O.I. Share app is available for Android and iOS devices. It’s easy to set up a connection, and from there you can remotely control the camera, import photos, edit photos and add Geotag (location) data to images.

On the side is a MicroUSB connection, and an HDMI connection.

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Camera Review: Olympus PEN EPL9 Black (10)

Battery Life is rated at 350 shots, which is the same as the E-PL8, and the camera uses the same battery (BLS-50), which is shared with a number of other Olympus PEN, and OM-D E-M10 cameras making it easy to find spares.

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Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN E-PL9

GullBlackpool at NightStarlingWild CrocusWild CrocusTabby Cat DylanChristmas ShopTabby Cat Playing with ToyTabby Cat DylanWater DropRag Doll CatDylan .Blackpool.Evening TramTabby Cat DylanTabby Cat

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altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
7 Feb 2018 9:48AM
I don't really understand why manufacturers keep bringing out expensive cameras with no viewfinders.
Screens are next to useless in bright sunlight.
alan53 Avatar
alan53 16 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2018 10:31AM
Agreed, and they’ve even dropped the port to add the accessory EVF! Well, they keep offering us cameras without the features we want, no surprise that sales are dropping. Effectively they are saying buy our top of the range if you want an EVF and 20Mp. Obviously there are cheaper alternatives if we give up on the format and choose APS-C, so this is a really puzzling marketing strategy, n'est ce pas?!!??
franken Avatar
franken Plus
21 5.8k 4 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2018 10:59AM

Quote:I don't really understand why manufacturers keep bringing out expensive cameras with no viewfinders.
Screens are next to useless in bright sunlight.

I agree and will never buy one without a viewfinder.
ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 17 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2018 12:25PM
I think the manufacturers would say the entry PENs and the Panny GF series are mainly aimed at those thinking of upgrading their photography from a smartphone. I'm often surprised by the number of people who will frame shots on an LCD back rather than a VF, even when the camera has one [particularly outdoors].

These sorts of models are naturally not going to find much interest with traditional or more seasoned photographers who know the benefits of using a viewfinder. But the OEMs would say we're not the target buyer in any case.
DABarwick Avatar
7 Feb 2018 3:52PM
You state (in various places) in this hands on review the new EPL9 has 5 axis and 3 axis image stabilisation, surely it must be one or the other, not both?
Nice sleek looking body, otherwise a very predictable, uninspiring and expensive upgrade to 4K.
greyowl750 Avatar
8 Feb 2018 3:58AM
I left when I was thousands into the 4/3's system...have never looked back and never will.
Paul Morgan Avatar
Paul Morgan 22 19.9k 6 England
9 Feb 2018 3:15PM
This camera`s at least from the EPL7 up were really targeting the selfie video market, loosing the option for an additional evf is no great loss, if push comes to shove you always add a plain old glass optical viewfinder.
gabrielm82 Avatar
4 Mar 2018 5:22PM
It's the philosophy of PEN Series, entry-level compact-style cameras, If you want a similar camera with EVF you should buy the new EM10 Mark III, it's a cheaper option than buy EPL camera + VF accesory.
derekd Avatar
derekd 17 23
31 May 2018 10:46AM
I agree I use an omd 10 mk2 and a stylus 1 which are excellent cameras, I think it sad that Olympus dropped the Stylus 1 and 1s but bring out very expensive pen bodies without viewfinders.
ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 17 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
31 May 2018 12:32PM
This article seems to have comments from older iterations of the EPL series.

I dare say this is a decent enough camera, but its direct competition is more like the GX800 - same resolution, 4k shooting and no EVF - it does lack IBIS, but then you can pick it up for under £300. In light of that I find it incredibly difficult not see the EPL-9 as woefully overpriced. Essentially it's an entry level camera for the price of a decent mid-range one.

If these reviews are meant to be honest buyer's guides I think it's important to highlight something so significant. It rarely seems to happen and I think it unfortunately somewhat undermines your credibility.
BDDavies Avatar
3 Jun 2018 9:50AM
started to read this article, realised I had no idea wht the hell all the tech stuff really meant. The more clever stuff they add the more I find myself drifting back to the more basic camaras I learnt on. Not sure wifi, Bluetooth etc is really a selling point or really important, but maybe I've missed a meeting somewhere. nice looking camara though..
CorradoTopi Avatar
4 Jun 2018 9:26PM
Dear Joshua Waller,

You forgot to consider the XT20, your editor's choice, as one of the most valid alternatives!!!!

Best Regards
Flymoman Avatar
Flymoman 10 2 United Kingdom
5 Jun 2018 7:38PM
Pretty pointless release. Another nice camera but it's hardly changed since the epl 7.
aitchess3 Avatar
aitchess3 9 6 United Kingdom
6 Jun 2018 4:54PM
Thanks for this enjoyable review. One thing I'd like to point out is that the E-PL9 isn't actually metal-bodied as stated, unlike its predecessors such as the E-PL8. The dials are of course metal as the review notes, but the silver areas of the bodywork are actually a very well-finished and convincingly metallic-looking painted plastic. I own an E-PL9 (curiosity got the better of me!) and there are the telltale fine plastic moulding lines at the ends of the top cover, whilst the surface of the camera when cool is far warmer to the touch than the previous metal models. In this respect, the E-PL9 is similar to the E-M10 Mark III, which also has this constructional change compared with its predecessors, and the same positive comments about the appearance of that model's finish also apply.

Regarding earlier comments posted on the review, the IBIS in this model is still 3-axis, like the previous two models (E-PL7 and 8) - I suspect that perhaps the 5-axis version as used on the E-M10 Mark III needs a taller body to house it.

Another commenter said that the E-PL9 has hardly changed since the E-PL7, which isn't really the case at all. That was true of the E-PL8, which had just a couple of very tiny firmware changes compared with the E-PL7, albeit coupled with a significantly restyled appearance, but the E-PL9 differs from its predecessors in many ways - there's the plastic body, a considerably simplified (Olympus may say streamlined) user interface including more graphical elements and - significantly - the new AP mode which presents advanced features in a simplified format, plus 4K movie recording, a built-in flash, the unfortunate loss of the Accessory Port and thus no compatibility with accessory EVFs such as the VF4, the first appearance in an E-PL of a silent shutter mode (albeit in limited form inside the AP mode, like the E-M10 III but better than not having it at all, as before in this line) and lots of other features arising from the inclusion of a version of the processing engine used in the E-M1 Mark II, such as more AF points and the slightly odd S-AF-only cluster AF mode, which again it shares with only the E-M10 Mark III in the whole range (the E-M1 Mark II offers it in C-AF mode, which makes much more sense).
fishone0 Avatar
6 Jun 2018 11:55PM
I just got mine living in Arizona I was afraid of how the camera would work without a view finder--well in the bright sun of the desert it is fine had no trouble seeing the LCD moniter
Greynerd Avatar
Greynerd 4 3
26 Sep 2019 10:48PM
The big problem with the camera is there is no control of white balance for all the functions that have been dropped in to the in the AP mode. In artificial lighting the WB is not particularly well implemented so this is my main disappointment with the camera.
The menu does look very much like work in progress also. They could have brought so more stuff in to the almost empty Camera 1 menu.
Possibly the Advanced Photo Mode would be better called the Dumb Photo Mode.
Also Keystone Correction seems to not have any metering type choice now it is in the AP mode.
I was going to buy a Mk III EM10 just to have the same menus but quickly changed my mind and bough a Mk II which is a much more flexible beast.
The E-PL9 is OK as a backup camera but there are a few issues with this new menu and there was not much wrong with the old menus given its flexibility though reviewers always struggled with it.
I hope the EM5 Mk III has steered clear of this new thinking as that should be what the people preparing for this new machine should be fearing more than any physical changes.
Greynerd Avatar
Greynerd 4 3
26 Sep 2019 11:00PM
Another word of warning is if you buy the brown version you get a white strap!

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