Olympus PEN EPL9: My First Thoughts

Posted on 8 min read
Olympus PEN EPL9 review
Dismissing the fact it feels like we’re in the 50th week of January, it’s almost been one month since I unwrapped my Olympus PEN EPL9 on Christmas Day. Unaware and taken aback. My Grandma trying to play-act about a mysterious final present in the boot of the car parked outside. Three pairs of eyes and a knowing smile pinned upon me. It’s definitely up there with the most unexpected but unsurpassable gifts of all time!

I’ve had my eye on the Olympus PEN EPL9 for a while. Not even because it’s the staple device essential for every cliche contemporary blogger and their mum but because of how practical it both looked and functioned. I was well aware of the trio of models, heard about the EPL7 and 8 in their all the rage prime and I can’t say I’m in the well informed position to compare the three but I did have an intuition that the Olympus PEN EPL9 would be my soulmate camera.

And I was right.

I’ve had more than enough time now to test drive the machine masterpiece to its full potential and even then, I’ve probably not utilised all the features to its maximum performance but I did want to talk about how much I love it, how I feel it’s going to propel all the enterprising creativity my brain is packed with, and how it’s (hopefully) gonna be my lifelong accomplice in a (hopefully) fulfilled content producing journey.

Olympus PEN EPL9 review

Fetching Design

The stylish design is absolutely beaut! It comes in three colours, four if you’re including the exclusive stunning blue colour. I’ve been lusting over that model since it was first showcased but the next best is most definitely the subtle brown and it once again goes to prove just how well my mum knows me. It has a lovely vintage feel to it, like those old school cameras you’d see preserved on a mount in a museum. I’m very much thinking about upgrading the strap to match!

The metal body isn’t particularly as light as you’d think by first appearance but certainly a big switch from my hefty heavyweight Nikon D3100. Although it’s been my reliable, all purpose DSLR for a good few years, the Olympus PEN EPL9 is much more slick, compact, and convenient. Easy to pop into your handbag instead of the bulk breaking your back – and with a sturdy grip, too.

The Olympus PEN EPL9 is so complex but not in that overwhelming, panicky ‘I have no idea how to work this’ way. In fact, I picked up the mechanics pretty swiftly. It took me a while to get to grips with all the fancy bits I’d never come across before but once I’d cracked it, it activated the advantages and got me geared up for how I can play around and put these into practice.

There’s 9 Modes To Choose From

I’m still yet to venture into purely manual shooting and part of me wishes I’d just take the plunge and really study the basics, practice the ins and outs, and master the technique of adjusting the aperture/f stop and shutter speed operates solely freehand but for now that’s something I’m going to use as future reference when I teach myself the functionality with my fresh new baby by my side (or should I say in hand).

Thankfully, A mode is ever present on the Olympus PEN EPL9 and that’s what I’ve settled with, for now. But you are spoilt for choice with 9 different modes to explore!

AUTO – Your typical point and shoot. All settings will be selected without you having to do a thing.

P – In-between Auto and Manual. Selects most conducive shutter speed and aperture but allows you to be in control of exposure via the wheel.

A – The mode I was raving about! You are in charge of adjusting the aperture and the camera alters the shutter speed for optimum results. There’s freedom on all other settings and most importantly it allows you to modify the background blur.

S – Shutter priority. Which means it’s the opposite way. You decide the shutter speed and the camera chooses the aperture. Works exactly like A mode for everyday shooting and moving subjects.

M – It’s all on you. In manual mode you set the shutter speed and aperture to balance the two together in a way that suits your personal photography desires. Leaves you in full control of your images!

SCN – Short for scene, obviously. You’re able to access the user friendly guide to whatever is the topic of your subject and the camera will choose the best suited settings. There’s the main 6 (as shown) and then further specific sub-options such as portrait, landscape, macro, children, fireworks, etc.

AP –  Advanced photo mode. A super handy, resourceful option. You can access 9 advanced photography methods: Live Composite, Live Time, Multiple Exposure, HDR, Silent, Panorama, Keystone Compensation, AE Bracketing, and Focus Bracketing.


ART – Here you can pick between 16 filters to add some colouring to your photos. As you’re testing you can see the effect live on screen in real-time which is fantastic for getting a vibe of what you’d like. My personal favourite is the new instant film filter which adds a warm, grungy look and fits in with my theme!

Stand Out Features

The Olympus PEN EPL9 doesn’t just stop there. There’s many multi-facets which make it effective for everything you want in a camera; whether that be simple or artistic.


There’s the adjustable exposure wheel in the same place you’d rework aperture but using the buttons to select the exposure meter instead. You can increase or decrease it making your snaps brighter or darker. You just have to be careful to not go too overboard, especially as it can slow down the shutter speed.

There’s the flip up screen. Something I can’t get enough of. It’s probably just the customary norm for those with Olympus PEN’s but to me it’s basically life-altering. It means I can actually have the image frame reflecting back into eye view which is necessary to snap that perfectly awkward flatlay or shameless selfie or anything else I fancy mustering up from scratch. The Olympus PEN EPL9 also has a flip out screen which manoeuvres upwards and then outwards. Highly snazzy and extremely neat!

There’s the touchscreen. Another nifty little feature. You can alternate with the green square in the corner, depending on whether you prefer to use with or without. I’ve used it mainly for focusing, zooming, and actually taking photos and it’s a fast fab way to get the most out of your photo shooting session.

There’s the built in flash. Just flips up at the flick of a button. Albeit I don’t think I’ll be using it much as I prefer the natural light but it’s there for when you require it.

There’s the super control menu which on the Olympus PEN EPL9 is automatically programmed so is all laid out for you! By pressing the OK button you have immediate, quick access to all the settings you need such as ISO, White Balance,  Face Priority, AF Area, Format, Ratio, and so on. Just a heads up, I usually persist with auto ISO and WB, auto focus with framing, and I shoot in raw at 4:3 screen size.

There’s the built in wifi and bluetooth which can easily be connected with the Olympus Image Share app meaning I can import my photos straight to my iPhone in just a couple of minutes. It’s one of the greatest, most facilitating parts, I reckon. Especially for bloggers on the go. Once you’ve finished your shoot you can upload them, have a browse through, and even get a cheeky feel of how they lay out on your insta grid. The app also has a remote control and you can operate your camera’s shutter speed and bring a live view directly to your smartphone screen. I’m yet to try this, though!

Finally, there’s the 4k movie video. Something I’m super excited about as my aim for 2019 is to dive into video based content and really up my Instagram creativity game. Whether that be gifs, hauls, styling vids, and even the odd vlog. The supreme quality recording emphasises to that wished upon glossy effect – and there’s also an option for high speed video which can be played back in slow motion. How cool?!?


Another bonus with the Olympus PEN EPL9 is the interchangeable lenses. My camera came intact with the standard pancake zoom lens 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 AND the 30mm 1:3.5 macro as apparently there was an epic deal on where you received that free when purchasing the normal kit!

The pancake lens is one I’ve heard so many positive reviews about and some of my all time favourite bloggers shoot their beautiful imagery with this so my hopes were high and they’re yet to be dampened as I continue usage. It’s a brilliant starter lens as the wide angle and optical zoom allows you to capture as close and far away as you want. In my beginner eyes it’s the standard point and shoot which covers the main areas: flatlays, outfit pics, room interior etc. If you’re close enough to the subject area you can also form blur so it really is the sustainable combo of versatility and value.

I’ve only used the 30mm lens once and that was for portraiture which I believe is most beneficial for, along with outdoor nature and the odd product shot. For a maximum aperture of 3.5 it’s reasonably sharp! The powerful 2.5x image magnification and close focus point is also a huge plus!

I’m more than happy with these as all round lenses but eventually I do want to invest in more; obviously within my budget and the priority being a lower aperture wide lens focal length. I’ve been doing some research and the 17mm and 45mm are looking like the most favoured preferences. Now all I need to do is get on with advertising and selling my old camera!

I will be sad to let my Nikon go, don’t get me wrong. It’s helped me develop photography skills, shaped my style over the years, and there’s some sentimental memories that have been shot on that camera, but our time has come to an end and there’s a newer, better, badder bitch in town.

Now, I don’t hold an expert opinion that’s for sure but I really can’t fault the Olympus PEN EPL9 and actually, I’ve grown attached already. I’m an eager beaver. My motivation has plummeted. I’m just so much more satisfied with how my photos are piecing together!

The high tech durability. The make up of the model. The extensive components. To me, it’s like a superior transition from a smartphone. These days you can take relatively good photos from your phone, but this is like the additional boost which takes you from a grain of sand to gold dust. It’s more than suitable for everybody, to be honest. The beginners, the more advanced photographers, and the in-betweeners like me.

I’m so keen to just work with it all the time! Aside from a couple of test runs over the Christmas and New Year period I had my first ~official~ full outfit shoot on Sunday and managed to smash it in just ten minutes with a whole batch of photos I was chuffed with; and I didn’t complain or go in a sulk about them, once!!

Olympus, honey, me and you are gonna get on well.

Are you an Olympus PEN owner? Do you have a favourite element to the camera or have any tips for me to register and take on board? If you do, please do send them my way! I want to learn EVERYTHING.