These are descriptions of my growing collection of old film cameras together with my experience of using them. The descriptions are entirely based on a particular camera that I have before me rather than just on Interweb research.
Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Olympus PEN EE (Marque 2)
I have been keeping half an eye out for a PEN for some time and this one came up on Ebay. It is the second marque EE made in March 1966 (the date of manufacture can be found by removing the film pressure plate. There is a two digit code there. The first digit is the year, the second digit is the month. The code on mine is 63 which could be 1966 or 1976 but the EE was only made until 1966 so the manufacture year must be 1966). This is my third Olympus camera, the others being a Trip and an OM10.
The camera is surprisingly heavy – it has an all-metal construction with the main body being cast from aluminium alloy. The EE (Electric Eye) can be distinguished from other PEN cameras by the ring of the exposure meter around the lens. The camera is small – 105 mm by 65 mm and 45 mm thick. There are two strap lugs and the camera comes with a plastic wrist strap. It also comes with a leatherette bag which is a very tight fit. I think mine might have shrunk. The price was £25-5-0 in old British Money or £26.25 in modern British money. This equates to £848 in 2020 values.
The shutter is a Copal shutter with two speeds – 1/30 and 1/250. Normally, the camera uses the 1/250 shutter speed, the 1/30 being reserved for flash use. There is a manual over-ride of sorts in as when you attach a flash gun, you need to set the aperture according to the guide number of the flash. This sets the shutter speed to 1/30 and disables the automatic exposure system. You can use this without the flash for use in poor light. 1/30 for a shutter speed might seem a bit on the slow side for a hand held camera but the focal length of the lens is 28 mm and the recommended slowest shutter speed for 35 mm photographer is the reciprocal of the focal length so the minimum speed here is 1/28 .
The lens is a D. Zuiko 28mm f3.5 lens. The ‘D’ prefix indicates that there are four elements (pieces of glass) in the lens. This suggests that this is a Tessar copy. The standard lens for a camera is taken to be the diagonal of the negative (or sensor for digital cameras). The negative is 18 mm by 24 mm so the diagonal (using Pythagoras’s Theorem) is 30 mm. This means that a standard lens for this camera will be 30 mm so the 28 mm lens is very slightly wide angle. This lens takes two different filter sizes. The smaller filter size is 22.5 mm and the filter fits over the lens but inside the exposure meter sensor. My PEN has a UV filter in this place. The lens also takes larger, 43.5 mm filters which fit over the exposure meter sensor which means that the camera automatically takes account of light adsorption by the filter.
The viewfinder is a bit strange at first use. It is vertical (portrait format) rather than the more usual horizontal (landscape format) viewfinders on other cameras. This is because the camera is a half-frame camera – only half a normal frame of film is exposed at one time. This means that the pictures are vertical in the roll of film. This doesn’t really matter – it just means you have to turn the camera on to its side for landscapes rather than for portraits. In use, it really doesn’t matter.
This camera is very easy to use. It is small enough to use entirely one handed – ideal for street photography – the shutter release and wind-on wheel both falling naturally under the fore-finger and thumb respectively, even with my large hands. The wrist strap keeps the camera near enough tom the hand that it can be picked up one handed. Being a one-handed camera, turning the camera for landscape is so easy. Once the film is loaded, there are no setting to make – or, indeed, possible. This is strictly a point and shoot camera.
The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue:
I now have a test film from this camera developed and scanned. Here are the results. At this size (4″ by 3″) they look OK. They do not bear enlarging much above this size. To be fair to Olympus, the market this camera was aimed at would have been happy with 4×3 prints (this camera dates from the mid-1960s) and relatively small prints is all that was on offer as a matter of course.
These pictures were taken in Bamburgh in Northumbria.
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3 thoughts on “Olympus PEN EE (half frame)”
Nice write up. I really enjoy using the very similar Pen EEs-2. These cameras are so simple to operate but one can really get into the moment because there are no other distractions. It's quite amazing to think that they still work after 40+ years.
A little while back I reviewed the EEs-2:
Manufacturing standards were a lot higher than with modern digital. Olympus made the Pen for over twenty years – three to four years seems to be the life time of digital cameras. I regularly use eighty year old cameras with no problems. I am not anti digital – I bought a Canon 650D a few months ago – but I really prefer film.
I totally agree with you on that point John. I also shoot a Pentax K1000 and a Leica M3 and they both work perfectly. I can't imagine the latest digital Leica being more than a paperweight in 10 years time. I think eventually digital will become like film again. Great, weatherproof tough bodies with swap-able sensors that you can upgrade every year or two if you wish. When that happens, I might consider going digital.