Olympus Pen Cameras

Viewfinder Pensnext gallery

 

Pen & Pen S
The original Pen camera was launched in October 1959 at the then unheard-of price of 6000 Yen. A neat, compact design camera usingthe half-frame (18x24mm on 35mm film) format, it was equipped with a first-class Zeiss Tessar type 4-element in 3-group 28mm/f3.5 focussing lens and a Copal 200 shutter, offering speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 second plus B. It had a cold flash shoe and flash synch PC socket, synchronised at all shutter speeds. The back was fully removable to ease film loading. Made by sub-contractors for the first six months it was an immediate success and Olympus took on production themselves in June 1960. The basic design was the basis for an entire range of compact half-frame cameras that continued to be made until as late as 1986.

The first modification was in June 1960, when the Pen S 2.8 was launched. Initially sold in parallel with the original Pen, it was fitted with a 30mm/f2.8 lens and a Copal X250 shutter - with standardised shutter speeds of 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/1256 and 1/250 second plus B.
Both the Pen and the Pen S 2.8 were replaced in January 1965 with the Pen S 3.5 which, with a 30mm/f3.5 lens and the Copal C250 shutter from the Pen S 2.8, continued to be made until it was finally withdrawn in August 1967. This brought to an end production of the original Pen design.


Pen EE & EE-S

The next development was the launch of a completely new camera, based in no small part on the original Pen design. Using the same basic body design with a 28mm/f3.5 fixed focus lens, the Pen EE of May 1961 featured an Electric Eye selenium cell light meter, which surrounded the lens and controlled the aperture automatically. Accepting film speeds of 10-200 ISO, it had a fixed shutter speed of 1/60 second and incorporated an over/underexposure lock if the light level was too great or low. The ISO dial could be set to a specific aperture for flash photography, disabling the over/underexposure lock. This camera was the basis for numerous variations, the last of which was not withdrawn until 1986.

In April 1962, the Pen EE was modified and given a two speed shutter, 1/30 and 1/250 second, still controlled by the meter. Setting an aperture for flash photgraphy automatically set the speed to 1/30 second, whilst in normal use the camera decided which speed to use.
At the same time, the Pen EE-S was launched, fitted with a 30mm/f2.8 zone focussing lens and shutter speeds of 1/40 and 1/200 second- all other aspects were the same as the Pen EE. Both cameras were fitted with Olympus' new Easy Load film takeup spool as from February 1966.

In March 1968 the Pen EE-S was upgraded to the Pen EES-2. The lens and shutter remained unchanged but the meter now accepted film speeds from ISO25-400. The removable back was replaced with a hinged back (with an auto-resetting film frame counter) and a flash hotshoe was added. The Pen EES-2 was withdrawn in December 1985.

The same modifications were made to the Pen EE two months later, resulting in the Pen EE-2, which was further upgraded in May 1973 to the Pen EE-3, although both the Pen EE-2 and Pen EE-3 were produced in parallel until March 1977, when the Pen EE-2 was finally withdrawn. The changes between the Pen EE-2 and Pen EE-3 were mainly cosmetic and the Pen EE-3 was finally withdrawn in October 1986 - the last of a lineup that started all the way back in 1959!

One more Pen EE-based camera was produced, from February 1981 until August 1983. This was the plastic-bodied Pen EF. Mechanically similar to the Pen EE, it was fitted with a 28mm/f3.5 fixed focus lens and a two speed (1/30 and 1/250 sec) shutter - as well as a built-in flashgun powered by a single AA-type battery. Incredibly, the designers managed to fit both the flash and the battery housing in without increasing the size of the camera.


Pen D

Following on from both the original Pen and the Pen EE, came the Pen D in June 1962. Still using the basic Pen design body it was designed as a more up-market camera, fitted with a fast 32mm/f1.9 lens and a Copal X500 shutter, allowing speeds of 1/8-1/500 second plus B. It had a selenium cell meter built into the body, but this was not linked to the camera mechanism at all. The meter could be set for film speeds from 10-400 ISO.

The Pen D2 was launched as a replacement for the Pen D in September 1964, although both cameras were made in parallel for a couple of years. The only major change was that the Pen D2 was fitted with a more sensitive CdS meter, powered by a PX625 battery fitted in the base of the film takeup spool. Film speed remained at 10-400 ISO.

In September 1965, the Pen D3 was launched. Based on both the Pen D and Pen D2, it was fitted with a faster Zuiko 32mm/f1.7 lens, the same Copal X500 shutter and the same CdS meter as the Pen D2. It was also fitted with Olympus' new Easy-Load film takeup spool.


Pen EM

The short-lived Pen EM was launched in June 1965, as a partial amalgamation of the features of the Pen EE and Pen D cameras. Fitted with a reasonably fast 35mm/f2.0 Zuiko lens and a Copal Electro shutter, both automatically controlled by a CdS light meter, the real innovation was that it was the first Japanese camera to feature electric film advance and rewind - the forerunner to the thousands of point & shoot compact cameras that are in use today. It took 2 AA-type batteries, which powered both the meter and the motor. To accommodate the batteries, motor and all the extra geartrains, it had to be significantly bigger than any of the other Pen compacts - in fact it was fractionally larger than the Pen F/FT SLR camera bodies.
The Pen EM was not an enormous success, having reliability problems with both the motor and the complex arrangement of wiring and switches, and was withdrawn in August 1966 after only 14 months of production. Working examples are very hard to find nowadays, partly because of the small numbers produced and partly because of those many have failed.


Pen EED

The last of the Pen viewfinder designs, the Pen EED was launched in March 1967, amalgamating the best features of the Pen EE and Pen D models. A new, modern-style body it was fractionally larger than the original Pen body design, which had been the basis for all the Pen viewfinder models (with the sole exception of the Pen EM) to date. It was fitted with a fast 32mm/f1.7 Zuiko lens and a programmed automatic shutter, both fully controlled by a built-in CdS meter with manual aperture settings for flash photography. It also featured a self-timer, flash hotshoe and PC socket flash cables. Power for both the meter and the shutter was provided by a single PX625 battery housed in the base of the camera - it cannot be used without a battery, since the shutter requires power to operate.

 


 

Accessories
Apart from the cameras and lenses the Pen range was designed as a system, with various accessories available. Although not as extensive a range as for the SLR Pens, several accessories were made for the viewfinder Pens, including;


Accessory Shoes - the early Pen EE cameras had no flash shoe fitted, this was a bracket that screwed into the tripod mount and provided a cold shoe on top of the camera. It could also be used with the Pen D, but not the Pen D2 or D3 since it would foul or obscure the lightmeter switch. A similar attachment was made for the Pen EM.


Copy Stands - these were four-legged stands designed for use with particular cameras, being supplied with close-up adapter lenses to match the lenses of the compatible cameras. They could also double as table-top tripods.


Flashguns - several flashguns, both hot and cold shoe, taking single-use AG-1 flashbulbs.




 

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All content and images copyright Chris Maddock, www.f22.org.uk and may not be reproduced by any means without my prior permission.