Olympus Pen EE 35mm Half-Frame Cameras

Olympus Pen EE Half-Frame Cameras

Film Camera Review:

Olympus Pen EE 35mm Half-Frame Cameras

'A quick look review at the Olympus Pen EE, EE.S, and EE.S (EL), the first consumer market 35mm half-frame film cameras'

Introduction and Overview

My interest in a small and compact fixed-focus automatic exposure 35mm film cameras pointed to the way of the half-frame Olympus Pen EE series as one of the options to look at. Taking into account the cost and shipping charges, and my status as a newbie in this interest, the decision to go for the Olympus Pen EE was simple and straightforward.

Olympus Pen EE, View

Introduced in 1959, the original Olympus Pen EE was the first 35mm half-frame camera introduced to the mass market. The camera is one of the smallest cameras to use regular 135 cassettes and images were captured on an 18mm x 24mm film frame, half the size of the regular full-frame image.

The fixed-focus camera, which was fitted with a 4-elements in 3-groups D.Zuiko 28mm F3.5 lens, was powered by a selenium cell automatic exposure system. Images were captured at 1/40 or 1/200 second with the aperture opening ranging from f/3.5 to f/22.

The original Pen EE has a film ISO speed range from 10 to 200 with click stops at 10, 25, 32, 40, 50. 80, 100, and 200. Film back is a clam-shell design that is removed completely for film loading and unloading.

Some cool things about Olympus Pen EE (1961)

I go over some neat parts inside the Olympus Pen EE and how you might go about disassembling and repairing it.

Olympus Pen EE Flash Barcket
For flash photography, the camera is set to the slower shutter speed and a fixed aperture opening based on the flash-to-subject distance calculation. This is done by turning the film ISO selection dial to the aperture opening dial setting with non-click numeral indicators at 3.5, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22.

You might also notice that the Pen EE does not come with a flash shoe. Adding a flash unit for use on the camera is by means of a cold-shoe bracket that straps over the camera back while being attached to the tripod socket.

Basic Camera Features

As a mass-market product, the design and use of the point-and-shoot Pen EE were made to be simple, fun, easy to use and convenient to carry around in your purse or pocket. The camera is normally available with a plastic hand strap and a nice faux-leather pouch.

Olympus Pen EE, Front

A plain and simple front, with only the lens and lens housing mount, a flash sync socket on the lower left of the lens mount, and the viewfinder window integrated into the right of the top nameplate decal.

The lens itself is surrounded by the selenium cell screen, and at the base of the mount, the film ISO speed and aperture opening selector dial.

Olympus Pen EE, Top

Noting sophisticated with the top plane either. The film rewind crank is on the left, the shutter release button towards the front right of the top plate, and on its right, the frame counter dial with a manual knurled frame counter arrow on its axis.

The shutter release button is threaded for shutter release cable, the film frame counter has to be reset manually to the start of each roll of film loaded.

Olympus Pen EE, Back

At the back of the top plane is the viewfinder window, and the film thumbwheel crank. The film back section is removed completely for loading and unloading the film canister.

Olympus Pen EE, Bottom

On the bottom plate, the film back lock, tripod socket, and the rewind release button within a feature circular recess.

Olympus Pen EE, Film box

The film box, with the original version of the silver sprocket wheel and film tab slid-in take-up spool.

Model Variations

Olympus Pen EE-S

The Pen EE.S, launched in 1962, is of the same mold as the EE but is fitted with a Zuiko 30mm F2.8 lens fitted with a 3-zone focus ring, an advancement that comes with the by the wider aperture lens.

Olympus Pen EE-S, Lens focusing ring

Focus zones you can set the camera to were Close - for portraits (1.2 meters), Group (3 meters), and Scene (15 meters). The closest focusing distance is 0.9 meters.

Though the zone focusing system, which is rather fiddly and tends to be an inconvenience at times, as you have the tendency not to remember forgot that it is there, do provide you the opportunity for some good bokeh shots.

Olympus Pen EE-S (EL)

The two models were modified further in 1966 with the Pen EE was modified to Pen EE (EL), and the EE.S to Pen EE.S (EL). The modification was the introduction of the EL (Easy Load) take-up spool spindle and multiple film end tab slots that makes film loading easier.

Olympus Pen EE-S (EL), Easy load spindle

Designated EL models are identified by a small label marked EL stuck on the top front of the camera. A look at the take-up spool with the camera back open will also tell you the difference.

Viewfinder Readout

The viewfinder is a simple bright frame finder with a luminous image frame line.

When activated, the red-flag pop-up for underexposure will be displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder.

Lens Equivalent

The F3.5 28mm lens is equivalent to a 40mm focal length on a 35mm full-frame camera.

The wider apertured F2.8 30mm is equivalent to a 40mm full-frame lens.

Depth of Field

For a fixed focus camera such as the Pen EE, the tip at getting the best sharpness across the depth of field means taking the shot with the smallest aperture available on the camera. For automatic exposure camera, the Pen EE is one, this also means that you should go for the highest film ISO speed possible.

Film Winding, Loading and Unloading

Film winding is by a thumbwheel located at the top right corner of the camera back. The film is loaded by first taking the film back out completely by a quarter-turn of the film back lock located on the bottom plane of the camera.

Rewinding the film back into its canister is done by first pressing the rewind release button on the bottom plate of the camera and by pulling out and turning the fold-down rewind lever clockwise until the film roll is completely wounded back into the film canister.

Using The Camera

The main advantage of a half-frame camera is in the number of shots you can get out of a roll of film, which is double the normal count. Yes, you will get 48 frames out of a 24 frame film roll, and 72 frames from a 36 shot roll. The image frame is, however, orientated in the portrait format, or in the 3:4 image aspect ratio.

Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 01
Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 02

The frame size, at 18 x 24mm is almost the size of an APS-C (22.2 x 14.8mm Canon and 23.5-23.7 x 15.6mm for others) digital camera sensor. When photo printed, images may be enlarged up to 10R (254x305mm) size. Optionally, auxiliary lenses for the Pen EE are also available. These lenses will enable close-ups shots in the 1-meter range.

Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 03
Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 04

The original EE version, a straightforward point-and-shoot is definitely the easier one to use and have fun with. To get the best out of the upgraded EE.S version, do spend a bit more time with its zone focus setting for the right focus distance between the camera and subject.

Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 05
Olympus Pen EE-S, Image 06

These images were shot on the Pen EE.S with the film lab-processed and scanned. Post-processing was done on the desk-top with Olympus Viewer 3 (OV3).


Film Camera Sale, Malaysia:

35mm Half-Frame Cameras, SLR and Lenses

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