Topic – Another Half-Frame Olympus PEN-EE

Oh, those negative formats. My large format camera takes up to 13×18 cm sheets, my smallest – a russian Чайка I – 18×24 mm. Last year I found another one at the smaller end of things… this time an Olympus PEN-EE, more precisely a PEN- EE.S.

Apparently the PEN-series of cameras started in the ’60’s, they were all half-frame i.e. two shots in about the same space as one ordinary 24×36 mm frame. The negative size is 18×24 mm and in a vertical orientation.

Compared to my previous Чайка the PEN has much better finish and tolerances. Superior craftsmanship by the japanese already back in 1962.

PEN-EE 1 My PEN-EE is the S-version identified by the red stylish “S” on the upper right metal. The maximum aperture is f/2.8 and the focal distance is 30 mm (equivalent to some 43 mm “full frame”). The lens can be rotated for three different distance settings, “close”, “normal” and “far away”.

The first problem when the PEN arrived in the post was… How do you open the bugger?? I spent more than ten minutes trying all sorts of methods until i succumbed and had a gander at the internet for instructions. Embarrassing, yes, but I did not want to destroy or bend anything before even having used the camera. So I let it take some time and voilà: You don’t open the camera. You remove the back entirely. This is done by sliding the back downwards after turning a winged screw half-a-turn.

PEN-EE 3 At the bottom plate is situated the half-turn screw for loosening the camera back. In the picture above the tab has been pulled out for demonstration. This is the “locked” position, half a turn later is the “open” position. The little pin on the left is for rewinding the film into its canister as usual. It has to be pressed during the entire rewinding process.

PEN-EE 4 In the “open” position the back can simply be pulled off. It is easy when you know it!

Using the camera is a breeze: 1 Point and 2 Shoot! It is really that simple. For general photography the distance setting can be left at the “three persons”-mark. There are also marks for “single person” and “two mountains” for more special situations. Apart from the occasional change of distance there is only a ASA-setting and you’re off. Neat!

The ASA-setting is “wide” but strangely un-useful. It maxes out at 200 ASA but has markings for 160, 100, 80, 64, 50,32 and 10! The film in those days must have been really slow! For Fomapan 100 the setting is easy and the light sensor also seems to correct after all these years. For flash the aperture can be forced just like on the Olympus Trip 35 to values between f/2.8 and f/22.

PEN-EE 2 From above the only setting apart from distance is the ASA. Here it is 100 but it can also be set at 200, 160, 80, 64, 50,32 and 10. This is, by the way, how clean the top came out after a few minutes in the ultrasound cleaner.

In use the camera is small, really small, and simple to point-and-shoot as mentioned above. Since the negatives are so tiny they contain less information than usual and my Canoscan 9000F is not ideal for scanning the results.

I imagine a fully chemical process will give reasonable results, the scanner does not. Some sample shots will appear in a separate blog entry.

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