Olympus Pen EF Half-Frame Camera

Olympus Pen EF Half-Frame Camera

Introduction and Overview

I was quite elated actually when the Olympus Pen EF finally came through the post as I have been watching and bidding earnestly for what I consider a 'fair' price for an item which is not listed too often on the auction listings.  The Olympus Pen EF, which I have been interested in over a period of time, is a small and squarish half-frame 35mm film camera, the last in the series of Pen half-frame film cameras manufactured by Olympus.

Olympus Pen EF, View
Introduced in 1981, the Pen EF was a true point and shoot camera, comes fitted with a selenium metered automatic exposure system (meaning that the camera does not need a battery for its electronics to function).

A fixed focus G.Zuiko 28mm F3.5 lens with a focal range from 1.4 meters to infinity adds to the capability of the camera, and a slide switch integrated flash unit which requires an AA battery to operate.

The programmed lens shutter mechanism range for automatic exposures from F3.5-1/30 sec. to F22-1/250 sec. Exposure is automatic, controlled by the EE meter, and the shutter release will be locked if the camera detects underexposure, which will be indicated by a red warning pop-up flag displayed in the bright frame viewfinder. Set the flash unit on at this point, and you are on your way again.

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.
Olympus Pen EF, Front
Olympus Pen EF, Top
Olympus Pen EF, Back
Olympus Pen EF, Bottom
Olympus Pen EF, Film box

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 then, 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.


Olympus Pen EF, Viewfinder readout
Exposure Readout

The Olympus Pen EF does not provide much in terms of exposure readout. The viewfinder is 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.


Exposure Lock Trick

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.


Olympus Pen EF, A Half-Frame Camera, Image 01
Portrait Framed Images

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 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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