Olympus PEN-F Review (35mm Half Frame Cameras)
Oylmpus Pen-F Review: At the time the new Olympus Pen F camera was being released I bought myself the original 35mm Olympus Pen F film camera!
My new Olympus PEN-F camera
No not the 2016 new Olympus PEN-F digital camera. A modern retro-styled 20.3MP micro four thirds digital camera. I mean a proper camera! 🙂 The original 1960s Olympus PEN F film camera.
The Olympus PEN F released in 1963 was the world’s first 35mm half frame SLR camera. Made in Japan this new half frame SLR camera had a vertical 18x24mm format compared to the usual ‘full frame’ standard horizontal 35mm format (36×24). In simple terms the PEN-F allows for 72 photos to be taken on a standard roll of 35mm 36 exposure film. Similarly a 24 exposure roll of 35mm film gives 48 exposures.
Olympus Pen F film camera models
The Olympus PEN F model I bought was made between 1963-1966 before it was replaced with the PEN-FT. The FT has a light meter built in but I was happy to have the earlier fully mechanical PEN F instead. The PEN is an SLR not a rangefinder. In an ideal world I would have bought a Leica rangefinder half frame camera but they seem as rare as hen’s teeth and would be crazy expensive I imagine. The camera I bought comes with the Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 38mm f1.8 lens. 38mm on a half frame body equates to 55mm in full frame terms so perfect for my portraits being a 50mm man. The PEN camera lenses appear to be well regarded online and from some of the PEN F images I have reviewed on Flickr you would never guess it was not full 35mm. Very sharp and seemingly high res film negative scans. Obviously the choice of film will have a big impact so I will probably favour finer grain film.
Why buy an Olympus PEN-F camera?
Yes I already have more than enough film cameras but I was introduced to this previously unknown to me camera format when I was teaching in New York. We were discussing the Canon Demi. The Demi is another iconic 1960s half frame camera. From there the research began. As you may imagine I am not buying the PEN F because I want more resolution from a larger film negative as the negative size is smaller than the standard 35mm film used in my Leica film cameras (Leica M6 etc). I bought the PEN F partly because the price is low and I like to experiment with different film cameras but mostly to see if it makes me shoot differently.
Olympus Pen 35mm half-frame film cameras
Why will the Olympus PEN-F makes me take photos any differently to when I use say a Leica or a Hasselblad camera. 72 photos on a roll film does make the cost of taking each photo pretty much half price (in simple terms) so I may take photos faster and think less. Perhaps good for street photography where is it easy to get less good photos (“keepers”) when compared to staged and controlled model photography images. As I do mostly portrait photography this is not high up on my needs list. The small size of the PEN F? Yes that is a big plus as I can carry the camera with me even easier than say the Leica M6 with a small lens attached. Again though perhaps not a big enough size difference to forgo not carrying a Leica.
I bought the PEN F as I want to try shooting photos in pairs and threes and sharing them as taken scanned side by side on the uncut section of negative. It will make me approach subjects differently, models or otherwise and then if I enjoy the style I can transfer that over to my full frame film camera work whether 35mm or medium format.
Olympus Pen-F review summary
I like to experiment and if I find I then don’t use the PEN F I can probably sell it on eBay and lose very little if any money.
Olympus Pen F Sample Photos
More! – Olympus Pen-F Film Images
More Olympus Camera Posts (+Related Articles)
- Olympus 35RC
- How to Process Film through to Digital (Develop, Scan, Edit)
- How to Develop Film at Home (Step by Step Guide)
You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
- See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
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