Olympus Pen EE-3 Half-Frame Camera

Olympus Pen EE-3 Half-Frame Camera

Introduction and Overview

I already have the Olympus Pen EF in my collection but it didn't stop me from going all out to find on Olympus Pen EE-3 that I can look over, play with, and write some about it. I ended up with a pair at the time I wrote this review.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Front Right
The Olympus Pen EE-3 is the last of the built-like-a-tank 35mm half-frame cameras that came out of Olympus. Introduced to the mass market in 1973 as an upgrade to the selenium cell powered fully automatic exposure Pen EE-2 camera and the rest of the point-and-shoot EE clan, and came fitted with the same fixed focus 28mm f/3.5 lens the others have.

Easily recognized by the selenium meter window around the lens, the EE series does come with a variation, the S-versions (PEN-EES, Pen EES-2,...) which are fitted with 30mm f/2.8 zone-focusing lenses.

Olympus PEN EE-3 - Introductory Review

Olympus Pen EE-3 Half-Frame Camera

The Olympus Pen EE-3, in production from 1973 to 1983, is a fully automatic exposure 35mm fixed focus half-frame viewfinder camera fitted with a D.Zuiko 28mm f/3.5 lens. The camera has a shutter of 1/200 or 1/40 second which is selected automatically when the camera is used in its auto mode.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Front Left

For normal use (by setting the film speed), the selenium meter sets the f-stop and the shutter speed is fixed at 1/200. Film ISO speed if from 25 to 400 and manual lens opening is from f/3.5-f/22. Focus range if from 1.5 meters to infinity.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Red-Flag Pop-UpThe slow shutter speed of 1/40 second is automatically deployed in a low-light situation when the camera is used with a compatible flash unit or when the film speed/aperture dial is set to aperture opening. When used with a matching GN14 flash, the flashmatic system allows a correct aperture value to be set by manually matching the aperture ring setting to one of the estimated distances (1-4m) engraved.

Film ISO speed range is 25 to 400, the camera has a built-in hot shoe, and takes 43.5mm filters. When the film speed/aperture dial is set to film ISO speed setting a red pop-up flag is activated and the shutter locked when the camera detects that the ambient light is below the threshold for a proper exposure. You can override this and shoot manually by setting the film speed/aperture dial to an aperture setting or by using a flash unit.


Basic Camera Features

As mentioned earlier, this built like-a-tank camera is a real tough nut. Given a proper look after, I am sure that this all metal and glass construction camera will outlast any later production cameras you have out there, except maybe for a couple of tough makes. Petite as it is, the camera weighs in at around 350 grams. The Pen EE-3 has a chrome finish but were said to be available with black or grey leatherette, or a gold commemorative model.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Front

Sharing the same design identity as the rest of the EE Series, the front of the camera is a simple affair of the selenium cell cover surrounding the diminutive 4-elements in 3-groups 28mm f/3.5 D.Zuiko lens, with the flash synchro terminal located on the lower part of the front, and the viewfinder window on the upper part. The lens mount also houses the film speed/aperture dial which is fully rotatable to either the film ISO, flash or aperture opening settings.

The EE-3 can only take 43.5mm filters which will cover the whole of the selenium metering cells. 22.5mm lens filters, which can previously be used on other EE-models, cannot be fitted to the EE-3.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Top

The top plate has the film rewind crank on the left, a hot shoe, shutter release button, and the self-resetting frame counter dial to the right.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Back

The back of the EE-3 is equally plain with just the hinged film back, a thumb wind for film advance and shutter cocking, and the viewfinder window.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Bottom

The bottom plate carries the tripod socket and the film rewind release.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Film Box

The film box, opened by a pull-down latch located on the lower part of the film spool side of the camera body, is the standard configuration of film spool, film guide rails and exposure half-window, film forward sprocket, and easy-load take-up spool. Film loading is the standard 2-blank shot, after the film back is closed, to move the unexposed film to Frame 1.

One thing you might notice is the light seal materials which are needed to make the film box light tight. Aside from the normal strip to seal the hinge side of the film back, a fairly wide one is also used at the latch end, something not seldom seen on other cameras.

Do get the seals replaced or refurbished if they are dry and flaked and you will end up with a camera with light-tight film box that is as good as new.


Viewfinder Readout

Olympus Pen EE-3 Viewfinder Readout
Viewfinder readout on the luminous bright frame finder of the Pen EE-3 is as plain as can be, with the image composed within a pair of half-cut frame lines.

When the subject is too dim for a proper exposure, the shutter will be locked and what you see instead is a pop-up red flag which will be displayed at the bottom of the frame.

In low-light situations you can of still shoot manually by adjusting the aperture opening or shooting with a flash unit attached. The EE-3 is configured with flash distance scales for use with the GN14 flash unit. When using the flash, set the film speed/aperture dial to Object distance (1 to 4 meters) and the Flashmatic system will do the aperture exposure calculation automatically.


Fun In The Sun

With a half frame camera, you will have access to 72 shots on a standard roll of 36 exposure 35mm film. Whilst the tradition of using a film camera is to shoot each frame individually, half frame camera users do have the luxury of these extra shots and many have gone beyond this norm with creatives in the likes of paired shots, diptychs, and triptychs, pseudo-panoramic multi-frames, or even turnarounds.

Olympus Pen EE-3 Front Oblique

I have yet to through my first test roll and will probably post them here later once the film comes back from the lab. In the while, I must admit that the Olympus Pen EE-3 is a delight to use. What I like most about the camera, besides its compact size and solid construction, was the crisp and sharp shutter actuation which relays the feel that the camera is still working, despite its age, in perfect condition.

I will not hesitate to recommend the Olympus Pen EE-3 as one of the better options to look at if you are on the lookout for a half-frame camera.



Resource Links:
Lomography - Olympus Pen EE-3: The Pen-o-tastic Half-Frame Camera
My Photographic Time Tunnel - Olympus Pen EE3

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