The Olympus Pen - Half frame camera

Idea behind the Pen cameras

"The ideal we were aiming for was simple: a camera that anybody and everybody could afford, one small and light enough to carry around without a second thought, and capable of taking enjoyable photographs with little more effort than pressing the shutter release. The camera this concept gave birth to was the Olympus Pen."

"A camera that anybody could carry around without awkwardness and use without hesitation, just as naturally as they would make use of a ballpoint or fountain pen. The idea was what the name "Olympus Pen" originated from"

The above was extracted from Olympus VisionAge issue #5.

The first Olympus Pen

The first Olympus Pen went on sale in October 1959. It possess a D Zuiko 28mm F3.5 lens with Copal 000 behind-the-lens type shutter, speed from B, 1/25-1/200sec. Helicoid focusing from 0.6m to infinity, 0.5x bright frame finder. Up to now you can still find some good working samples flowing around, their price are around US$100-200 depends on the condition.

In the original Pen compact series there are also Pen S 2.8 and Pen S 3.5 with improved shutter speed from 1/8-1/250sec; the Pen EE series including EE-2, EE-3, EES, EES-2 with auto exposure and photocell. The Pen D is the top of the line Pen series cameras, with 32mm f1.7 and f1.9 bright lenses, Copal 000 between lens shutter, speed from 1/8-1/500sec, manual exposure control with built-in meter. There are also some special Pen compacts such as the Pen EM... the first full automatic camera, Pen EED bright 32mm f1.7 auto exposure camera and the last Pen in 1981 - Pen EF with built-in flash.

Click here for my Pen photo gallery

The Olympus Pen F Camera System

In 1963 Olympus introduced the world's first half frame SLR camera system... the Pen F. Main feature of the Pen F:

  • Mechanical focal plan shutter from 1-1/500s
  • Rotating dish titanium shutter brade
  • Full speed flash sync.
  • TTL metering system (Pen FT only)
  • Lenses from 20mm to 800mm with two Zooms
  • Large number of accessories such as bellows, extension tubes, flashes, filters, cases....
  • Actual frame size 17x23.5mm

    My First Pen

    As the Pen camera was a very successful product of Olympus. In early 90' I had thought about getting a Pen-F but finally turned down due to few processing labs available and worry about the reliability of the Pen-F camera. Also, the small frame size didn't look promising on picture quality so I have invested on the Bronica SQ-A instead. Eventually I have sold the Bronica in year 2000 due to very low usage rate (less than 30 rolls in 10 years!).

    In early 2001, after a slow down of the OM and Olympus 35mm compact collections, I started to think about the Pen. What triggered me was the introduction of a Japan photo magazine from a Japanese OM list member Mr. Kazuya Matsumoto. He was kind enough to help me to get a copy of the magazine, it mentioned the OM System and Olympus Pen cameras. The Pen system looks very interesting and the price wasn't too high on the used market.

    After seeing a copy of Olympus Pursuit (Vol.19 No.4 2000), I decided I MUST get a Pen-F system. The cover story mentioned:

    "At a special ceremony at EXPO 70' in Osaka, Japan two time capsules were buried underground in special sealed chamber. Inside, was a little piece of Olympus history.
    The contents of the two capsules were identical, and consisted of items carefully selected to represent the lifestyles and technological achievements of the age. One of the capsules was to be dug up after 30 years to check the condition of its contents; it would then be buried again and reopened once a century thereafter. The second capsule was designed to remain undisturbed for 5000 years. Although each capsule contained over 2000 items, only one camera was included: the Olympus Pen FT."

    After that I was watching at ebay for every Pen items. My first Pen was a Pen-D with a D3 lens (32mm F1.7) that bought locally, just can't wait until I can reach for a good Pen-F/FT. My first Pen-F system item was a 70mm F2 lens, at that time I even didn't have a camera body yet. Later it was a Pen-FT that acquired locally and then a Pen-FT with 38/1.8 from UK and a set of Pen-FT from Australia. Now I have two Pen FTs, a Pen F, 20mm F3.5, 25mm F2.8, 38mm F1.8, 40mm F1.4, 100mm F3.5, 150mm F4 and a 50-90mm F3.5 Zoom.

    The resolution of the Pen F lenses are excellent, with a good film scanner and the reducing of digital output price, the process and print are no longer a problem for half frame and I enjoy it much more than the digital cameras (had a E-10 and C2000 at that time).

    There was some exciting thing happen in 2009, Olympus announced the Pen E-P1, a M4/3 camera that accept the Pen F/FT lenses. Finally in Mar 2010 I got a Pen E-PL1, then of course an adapter for Pen F/FT lenses.

    (Updated on: 28-Jul-02, 24-May-2010)