Remembering half-frame : the Olympus EE series

In recent years Olympus have revived the name “PEN” for their mirrorless four-thirds digital cameras, but from 1955-1981 the name referred to a series of half-frame 35mm camera. Half-frame means that two images are taken in the space normally used for one 35mm image; the resulting negatives were 18mm wide * 24mm high and all the half-frame cameras I’ve seen provided a vertical format image.

Two of these cameras have come through my hands before being sold on; an EE2 which took the colour images below and an EE3 which was used for the black and white film. They were very basic cameras, with a selenium cell meter around the lens, programmed auto exposure, and fixed focus.

I can’t find an image of my PEN cameras before I sold them, so here’s one from Wikipedia:

 

By Hiyotada (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Having twice the number of images on a roll of film can be seen as a bonus or drawback; a bonus if you want to get the most return on the money you spend on film purchase and processing, and a drawback if, like me, it takes you a long time to work through a 24 or 36 exposure film, never mind 48 or 72 images. I think that the roll of colour film took from 2010 to 2012 to finish ! Of course, the smaller negative size does place severe constraints on image quality and most of the images below have had a fair bit of processing in Lightroom to get them to this point.

 

Ultimately the death-knell of half-frame was sounded by full-frame 35mm cameras which were barely any larger in external dimensions but offered negatives of twice the size. These days I’m mostly shooting medium format, and my favourite 35mm back-up is an Olympus 35RC (or even two of them) which offer far more manual control and image quality without any decrease in carrying ability.

I don’t suppose I’ll be shooting any more half-frame but it’s been fun looking back over these images.

 

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3 thoughts on “Remembering half-frame : the Olympus EE series

  1. conspicari November 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm Reply

    Nice set of images. I have a couple of the Pen cameras, must get out and use them again. I also have a Konica AA35 that shoots in landscape format, it has a very good lens.

  2. ehpem November 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm Reply

    I love my Pen, but the main use I put it to is for planned diptych and triptych arrangements which retain a nice aspect ratio with multiple images shot to be used as one.

  3. Jim Grey November 23, 2015 at 1:14 am Reply

    I’ve been curious about these, but their high prices have so far kept me away. The last time I shot half frame, a Canon Dial 35, I didn’t enjoy the experience — and then the roll dragged on and on!!

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