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 comments

  1. 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. 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. 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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