Olympus knows that the smartphone is muscling in on traditional camera territory, but it's also aware that the social media generation wants to be able to shoot eye-catching images without needing a degree in photography.
The camera-maker believes that by making the shooting experience as simple as possible, it can attract those customers who want to develop their photography skills, and tempt them away from their smartphones.
Here's what you need to know about the new Olympus PEN E-PL9…
- Read our hands-on Olympus PEN E-PL9 review
1. It's small and stylish
First things first: the PEN E-PL9 looks pretty cool. Olympus claims that it wanted to create a "good-looking camera" that makes buyers want to "take it everywhere and get creative". Taking it everywhere shouldn't be a problem, as the E-PL9 is small and light, weighing just 332g (body only) and measuring 117 x 68 x 39mm – it's a good size to slip into a bag, for example.
2. A touchscreen is easier than dials and buttons
Masses of buttons and dials can be a daunting prospect for someone new to photography, so Olympus has made most settings accessible via an updated graphical touchscreen at the rear. This screen can be tilted for live view snapping from a range of angles, and used to browse and activate a bunch of new Art Filters and Scene Modes, while it also drops beneath the camera for the ultimate selfie.
3. There are built-in filters aplenty
Social media has spawned a generation of amateur photographers who are obsessed with filters, and to appease these people the PEN E-PL9 has plenty of Art Filters built in; the updated touchscreen makes it possible to compare effects live on screen, meaning users can preview the results of a particular filter before committing. An improved scene mode also means users can look at example imagery on the rear screen and select the look that matches their artistic direction, with the camera automatically choosing the appropriate settings.
4. It's constantly connected
New combined Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity makes it easier to transfer imagery to smartphones, while it's now possible to remotely 'wake' the PEN E-PL9 via the OI.Share app, which means the E-PL9 can be left in a bag, and images can be accessed without the need to physically switch the camera on.
5. Advanced Photo modes master tricky photography techniques
Multiple exposure, HDR, sweep panorama and focus bracketing are now bundled into an easy-to-use Advanced Photo (AP) mode, bringing these features to the forefront of the PEN E-PL9's capabilities.
6. It packs some big numbers
The PEN E-PL9 sports five-axis image stabilization, a 121-point AF system and 4K video (up to 30p) with options to extract still images, while the camera is compatible with more than 20 M.Zuiko Olympus lenses (that's not forgetting the many Panasonic and third-party lenses also available), as well as numerous legacy lenses via select adaptors.
It's also packing the latest TruePic VIII image processor, although the PEN E-PL9 is found a little wanting in the sensor stakes, relying on a now-ageing 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor.
7. There's a built-in flash
The PEN E-PL8 came bundled with the detachable FL‑LM1 flash, which could prove bulky if you were traveling with a discreet but fashionable bag, or heading out with the camera dangling on its matching leather strap. This updated model keeps the hotshoe, but adds in a built-in flash.
The Olympus PEN E-PL9 goes on sale in mid-March, priced at £579.99 body-only, or £649.99 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake lens. US and Australian pricing and availability have yet to be announced.