Olympus PEN E-PL9

The PEN E-PL9 is the latest mirrorless camera from Olympus aimed at those looking for a stylish but accessible upgrade over their smartphone as they look to take their photography to the next stage. 

Whereas the OM-D line of mirrorless cameras is targeted at the enthusiast and professional photographer, the PEN range has always been designed to appeal to the more fashion-conscious snapper, and those who want to take nice-looking images without getting too bogged down with a host of settings.

Features

  • Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 16MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

The PEN E-PL9 features a tried and tested (we could also say 'ageing') 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor that we’ve seen in numerous Olympus cameras in recent years – as we felt when reviewing the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, a boost in resolution to 20MP would have been welcome. This camera does, however, get the latest TruePic VIII processor (also used in the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II), with an ISO range running from 100-25,600. 

Rather than 1080p Full HD video capture, the PEN E-PL9 gets upgraded to 4K video capture at up to 30fps, while you can also shoot Full HD footage at up to 60fps.

There's no built-in electronic viewfinder (and there's now no accessory port to attach an optional one either), but there is a 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen. As we've seen on previous E-PL models, the E-PL9 uses a fairly unusual tilt-mechanism, with the display flipping out under the body, rather than above it. For those who love taking a selfie, this is supposed to offer the best selfie-taking experience – perhaps because you're looking just below the lens rather than just above, although we couldn't see massive difference.

To combat camera shake, the PEN E-PL9 takes advantage of the highly effective five-axis in-body image stabilization system we've seen on other recent Olympus cameras. The clever system has impressed before, and delivers a claimed four stops of compensation to reduce blur and shake in both stills and video.

Just as we've seen with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, there's also the new Advanced Photo (AP) mode. This is designed to make shooting creative images that bit more accessible, with easy access to settings like Live Composite, multiple exposure, HDR, sweep panorama and focus bracketing. 

There’s now a new nostalgic Instant Film art filter

Art Filters have become synonymous with Olympus cameras, and the PEN E-PL9 features 16 effects, including Bleach Bypass, which we first saw on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, and a new nostalgic Instant Film art filter, which should come into its own when used at night with flash – darker areas becomes green, and skin is given a warm glow. 

Like many new cameras, the PEN E-PL9 combines Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity to provide a permanent connection to your smartphone or tablet via the OI.Share app. The app also features a new set of easy-access 'How To' video guides to help get the best out of the PEN E-PL9.

Build and handling

  • Larger grip and mode dials
  • Built-in flash
  • Weighs 332g

The design of the PEN E-PL9 follows on from both the E-PL8 and E-PL7, but there have been some subtle tweaks. For starters, the grip on the front of the camera has been enlarged, and it certainly gives a bit more purchase. 

The mode dials on the top plate have been tweaked and enlarged compared with those on the E-PL8, while Olympus has also managed to shoehorn a small pop-up flash into the camera (older models came with a separate mini- flash). 

Despite these additions, the PEN E-PL9 is still pretty svelte at 117 x 68 x 39mm, while the supplied 14-42mm power zoom lens complements the camera nicely with its compact proportions. 

The finish is pretty good overall, with a nice leatherette material in black, white or tan covering the majority of the camera. However – and perhaps we've been spoiled with the magnesium alloy construction of the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – the PEN E-PL9 comparison felt a little plasticky in parts in comparison with that camera. That said, the quality is certainly in line with its rivals.

Autofocus

  • 121-point AF
  • Coverage across most of the frame
  • Face Priority AF and Eye Detection AF

The 81-point AF system in the PEN E-PL8 has been replaced by the newer 121-point system that's been used elsewhere in the Olympus range.

While there isn't the on-sensor phase-detection autofocus that other systems offer for speedier focusing, in our brief time with the PEN E-PL9 we found focusing to be quick and responsive in the lighting conditions we tried it under.

Early verdict

The PEN E-PL9 looks as though it'll be a sound option for those looking for a sleek-looking, easy-to-use mirrorless camera, although it's a little disappointing not to see a resolution boost, while removing the accessory port seems a bit of a backwards step. 

It's priced at £579.99 body-only and £649.99 with the compact 14-42mm kit lens (US and Australian pricing and availability have yet to be announced), which is only marginally less than one of our favorite mirrorless cameras, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – and for the small additional outlay you get a brilliant built-in electronic viewfinder and sturdy magnesium alloy body, making the OM-D E-M10 Mark III the better buy.

  • The 10 best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now 

Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake at twilight

Location: Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake is located 7.5 miles southwest of the summit of Mt. Hood in the state of Oregon. From Portland, the drive takes about an hour and a half and climbs around 3,600 feet in elevation. The 63-acre lake is surrounded by a mixed conifer forest and has breathtaking views of the 11,249-foot-tall Mt. Hood. There’s a campground on the east side of the lake, as well as day-use facilities. Located in the Mt. Hood National Forest, Trillium Lake offers ample opportunities for hiking, canoeing and biking nearby. Mt. Hood also boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America, so you could potentially shoot in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Government Camp is the closest town and has options for food and lodging.

Weather At Trillium Lake

The weather is relatively mild, with summertime highs in the 60s and lows in the mid-40s. Shooting in late spring and fall is slightly cooler but typically not extreme. Mt. Hood is completely covered in snow much of the year, but in the summertime months it can shed much of its snow cover. The campground is closed from Oct. 1 to the middle of May most years, but oftentimes the road is still open. Check with the Mt. Hood National Forest for road conditions prior to a visit. Make sure to bring warm clothes even in summertime; once the sun sets, the temperature drops quickly.

Photo Experience

This is a great location for wide-angle shots all the way up to moderate telephoto. On the southwest side of the lake, there are some fantastic rocks that can be used for foreground framing, and this area is often very calm for reflections. When shooting wide here, I try to stick around 18mm to 22mm so the massive peak isn’t diminished. As you move east along the shoreline, you’ll encounter some tall grasses in the water that can add depth to your shot. If the lake isn’t still, try shooting with a telephoto lens to isolate the peak and trees below. This is a perfect location for a “mountain portrait,” and there aren’t many locations where Mt. Hood looks more impressive. The wind and weather can change very quickly here, so make sure to watch the peak for any dramatic lighting, low clouds or incoming storms.

Best Times

The most idyllic conditions happen after one of the first snowfalls of the season while the lake is still open. Mt. Hood looks incredible when snow covered, and the conifer trees around the lake appear light and airy with fresh snow. The best chance for a shot like this is in early November, before the lake freezes. Early to mid-May can also be a very good time to shoot: the road is usually open, Mt. Hood still has its snow cover, and the area is very peaceful. During summer, the campground and day use areas can be very busy. If you decide to visit during this timeframe, I would suggest a sunrise shoot to get calm water on the lake, free of boaters and people. Sunrise and sunset both offer very nice side light on Mt. Hood, while twilight softens the contrast of the scene as the stars begin to twinkle above.

Contact: U.S. Forest Service, www.fs.usda.gov.


See more of Max Foster’s photography at maxfosterphotography.com.

The post Trillium Lake appeared first on Outdoor Photographer.

Best SSDs 2018: the top solid-state drives for your PC

For the longest time, there really was only one choice for computer storage: hard drives – you were essentially stuck with their spinning disks and slow speeds. Luckily, in 2018, there is a better choice. The best SSDs, or solid state drives, are speedy enough to free you from the shackles of the slow craw of mechanical disks with nearly instantaneous boot times and data transfers.

For some reason, a lot of people believe that you need one of the best PCs to take advantage of the blistering speeds that the best SSDs offer. However, that’s simply not true. The best Ultrabooks and the best SSDs are practically made for each other – the lightweight and compact design of these extremely portable laptops makes hard drives seem like relics of some lost age. You can even experience the best SSDs if you’re a console gamer – they’re a compelling upgrade for the console of your choice, you can just ask any PC gamer what it’s like to have nearly instantaneous load times. This flexibility is ultimately what inspired us to create this list of the best SSDs on the market in 2018.

There are tons of great SSDs out there, and the good thing is that even if your budget isn’t as large as you’d like it to be, there are still plenty of great choices out there. And we here at TechRadar have sifted through the masses of SSDs out there in order to find the best SSDs. We’ve tested, reviewed and ranked every SSD on this list, and we can assure you that they really are the best SSDs you can buy today.

This is the top SSD on the market, and with good reason. It's astonishingly fast, with up to 3200 MBps read and 1900 MBps write speeds. That's due to the PCIe interface, which allows light-years faster speeds than the already extremely quick SATA interface. On top of that, it's available with up to 1TB capacity. And it only requires 5.7 watts of power when active and a mere 1.2 watts when idle. 

Kingston's HyperX line-up is aimed squarely at gamers. Its headsets are known for being much higher quality than their price might hint at, and HyperX customer support is excellent. Its line of SSDs for gaming computers come in an M.2 form factor, but are also available with a half-height adapter that plugs into your PCIe like any other expansion card.

The NVMe standard is designed to maximize the strengths of solid-state drives, and the Samsung 960 Pro takes full advantage. With an M.2 form factor and ridiculous read speeds of up to 3500 MBps, these SSDs are already enticing, but the fact it's available as large as 2TB is incredible. All that storage doesn't come cheap, but if you need lots (and LOTS) of fast storage, it's definitely worth it.

If you're looking for plenty of options, the Toshiba OCZ RD400 series of drives come in 4 sizes and three different form factors: M.2, M.2 2280, and add-in card (AIC). Not all sizes are in all form factors, so if you're looking for a fast 1TB drive, make sure you have room in your computer case. 

  •  This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Samsung 960 Evo 

This M.2 SSD from WD comes with a 5-year warranty and boasts some pretty excellent read/write times, up to 2050 MBps read and 800 write on the 512GB model. Great for installation or OS purposes, but unfortunately the available sizes don't leave a lot of flexibility as far as storage is concerned.

If you want to save a few bucks, but don't want to sacrifice too much in the way of performance, the WD Blue SATA SSD is a great compromise. It nearly maxes out the bandwidth of the SATA 3 interface with its read/write speeds, and you can find the 1TB model in the wild for a pittance. 

The U.2 standard allows for bigger SSD capacities and uses your computer's PCIe x4 slot to send all that data back and forth. The Intel 750 series includes a cable so you can mount the drive in the bay on your case and still plug it into the PCIe slot on your motherboard.

The Crucial BX300 isn’t the fastest SSD you can buy, but it is affordable and chiefly reliable to boot. Sold in three different sizes, this SATA drive is aimed at users still hanging onto older desktops and laptops that might want their PCs to boot up at a rate more analogous to their phones. Plus, it’s a better performer than the pricier MX300, thanks to MLC NAND.

If you need an SSD that will last into your next computer, the HP S700 Pro has just what you need. Its life will far exceed its warranty, offering up 2 million hours of use and up to 650 terabytes written. This is one SSD that's in it for the long haul, but the SATA interface will slow things down somewhat in the read/write department, which technically helps it last even longer.

For the longest time, NVMe solid-state storage has been too expensive. However, with their 760p series of SSDs, Intel aims to change this. The 760p delivers performance that’s only slightly behind the Samsung 960 Evo, reaching speeds of 3,056 MB/s read and 1,606 MB/s write. But what makes the Intel 760p the best SSD you can buy is the spectacular price-to-performance ratio of this drive. Sure you can find faster NVMe drives, but you’ll be paying a premium that just isn’t worth it. This drive makes us excited for the future of flash storage.

Read the full review: Intel 760p Series SSD

Unless you have a laptop or desktop computer that employs the USB Type-C Gen 2 interface, you might want to reconsider your interest in the Samsung Portable SSD T5. Otherwise, with read/write speeds of up to 540/515MBps, respectively, this external storage device does its best to keep up with some of the more modest PCIe players, and the result is superb.

Read the full review: Samsung Portable SSD T5

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article