Olympus Pen EF Half-Frame Camera

Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera

Olympus Pen EF

Olympus Pen EF, Top Front
The Olympus Pen EF, a cute and squarish half-frame 35mm film camera, was the last in the series of Pen half-frame film cameras that was manufactured by Olympus.

Launched in 1981, the Pen EF was a true point and shoot camera, with selenium metered automatic exposure system, a fixed focus G Zuiko 28mm f/3.5 lens with a focal range from 1.4 meters to infinity, and a programmed lens shutter mechanism range from F3.5-1/30 sec. to F22-1/250 sec.

Exposure is controlled by the EE meter, and the shutter release will be locked if the camera detects underexposure, and this is indicated by a red warning pop-up flag displayed in the bright frame viewfinder.

Oly35mm Review - Pen EF

Build and Design

A unique feature of the Pen EF is that it is only available in black, adorned with white lettering, and comes with the addition of a small built in flash, powered by a single AA battery.

For flash photography all you need to do is to pull the flash tab on the front of the camera down to release and charges the flash, shutter speed is set to 1/30 sec. and you are now ready for flash photography. The flash recycling time is approximately 7 seconds, and you may get up to 180 shots with a single AA alkaline battery (original manufacturer's claim).

Film speed range is ASA 25 - 400, adjusted by aligning the red mark of the outer of the lens ring to correspond to the film speed or ASA you are using.

Battery For Flash Unit

The camera needs a single AA battery only to power the flash. You can still use it without the battery if you are not using the camera with the flash mode on.

The Half-Frame Film Format

The film format for half-frame cameras is 24 x 18 mm on a regular 135 film, which is half the size of a normal 35mm frame of 24 x 36 mm.

With a half-frame camera, one can shoot and capture twice as many images on a standard roll of film - 48 shots on a 24-exposure roll, 72 shots on a 36-exposure roll, and so on. Film framing for half-frames is in the vertical or portrait orientation, much like if you are using a mobile to shoot vertical images, rather than the horizontal landscape format, which is more often the norm for photographic imaging.

The 35mm film cartridge that we know today was first introduced in 1934 with the Nagel Retina camera, which later became the Kodak Retina. The 35mm film is also called 135 films because that was the number Kodak assigned it. The standard 24mm x 36mm frame uses 864 square mm of film surface.

Exposure Readout

Olympus Pen EF, Exposure lock
The Olympus Pen EF does not provide much in terms of exposure readout. The viewfinder is a clean and plain with only the frame bright line showing. The shutter, however, will lock and a red flag warning will be displayed in the viewfinder if the camera detects that there is insufficient lighting to illuminate the subject and its ambiance which will render the image under-exposed.

You can always use the exposure lock trick if you want to bypass the under-exposure lockout and continue shooting. To do this you first need to point the camera to a brighter light source, which will not trigger the red-flag lockout, half-press the shutter button, then only you go back to frame the image you want to capture and release the shutter fully.

Portrait Framed Images

Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera, Image 01
One interesting aspect of the vertical film framing of the Olympus Pen EF is the ease of using the camera for portrait framed shots. This is simply done with the camera held normally in its horizontal position.

Portrait framed images are not only commonly used for portraits (but of course), but is equally adept with architecture themes especially of tall buildings, and which might be a bit of a surprise, nature, and landscapes.

Using the Camera

For the point-and-shoot photographer, using the Olympus Pen EF to capture images is a fairly straightforward. The Pen EF is fully automatic, one of the easiest to use, and does not offer any control over shutter speed and aperture.

Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera, Image 02

The one setting that you have to remember is to properly set the camera to the film speed (ASA) that you are using. Do this by aligning the red mark on the external side ring of the camera to the ASA number engraved on the lens mount bracket. The Pen EF will accept film speeds (ASA) of 25 to 400.

Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera, Image 03

There is no LCD panel, of course, you have to bring the camera up to your eye level, frame the image in the bright-line viewfinder, hold the camera steady, and press the shutter release. Turn the film advance knob to move the film to the next frame and you are ready to shoot again.

Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera, Image 04

Sample Images

Sample images 02 to 04 above was originally shot in color (Fujifilm Superia 200), scanned, and post-processed on Olympus Viewer 3 (OV3) for image edits including black-and-white conversion.

Resource Links:
Olympus Pen EF | Arran Salerno
Review - Olympus PEN EF Half Frame Camera

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