The original Olympus Pen is a design icon. It is small, elegant, lovely to hold and shoot and has a fantastic 28mm lens. It is an early masterpiece from the designer Maitani Yoshihisa who was later to create other revolutionary camera designs including the OM-1 and the XA. When the Pen was released in Japan in 1959 it was an instant success and paved the way for the development of a series of half-frame Pen variants during the 1960s and beyond.
The original Pen weighs only 350 grams, fits neatly in your pocket and takes 72 wonderfully crisp half-frame images on a roll of 36 exposure film.
Part of Maitani’s design philosophy was that ‘the lens is the soul of the camera’ and this 28mm f/3.5 D-Zuiko lens will certainly not disappoint. It was acknowledged to be fantastic value in a camera with a price tag of only ¥6,000 when it was released. And if you buy one today you can still expect a bargain. I bought mine a few weeks ago on eBay for only £35 plus postage. It’s my new best friend.
The Pen doesn’t have a rangefinder. And it doesn’t really need one as the wide lens has a formidable depth of field — ‘one of the greatest depth of fields in existence’ according to the owners’ manual. There are few occasions when you would need to set the distance on anything other than the two recommended guidance marks on the focussing ring. However if you find judging distances tricky the manual provides some handy hints: remember that a five year old child is about 3 feet high, a bed is around 6 feet long and a large American car is about 19 feet long (or roughly 6.3 five-year old children).
Nor does the camera have a light meter, which is also great because it means you won’t need batteries or have to worry that your selenium cell is about to die. Sunny 16 rules OK!
Here are some images I made recently on Ilford FP4. I have done my best to follow the rules in the manual for taking a Perfect Picture: (i) hold the camera firmly against my face (ii) stand with my feet apart and refrain from rocking backwards-and-forwards or from side-to-side and (iii) hold my breath as I press the shutter.
Excellent advice! And here are the ‘perfect’ results.
I’ve just loaded a roll of Kodak Gold and am planning to take this camera with me on my winter walks. The size, weight and quality of the images might just make this camera the ideal hiking companion.
Many thanks for reading.
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