Review – Olympus PEN EF Half Frame Camera

Olumpus Pen EF Camera

So I really love this little camera. Though I have some resentment towards it because I ran a whole pretend roll through it. On top of that it’s a half frame camera and in my mind I had a 36 exposure roll in it so I took a total of 72 pictures only to open up an empty camera ūüôĀ I also had some trouble figuring out if the camera was working and I took some pics of my own face once there was film in it…..all in a days work when working with new cameras I guess. Other than that I still think it’s an awesome company camera,¬†plus you get double the amount of exposures¬†than you usually do.¬†

Olympus PEN EF Camera

The Olympus PEN EF was manufactured in 1981 and was the last half frame model that Olympus ever made. The camera uses a selenium light meter and has a built in pop up flash that is powered by a single AA battery. You can use camera without the battery as long as there is enough light. It has a fixed focus so it is a great no pressure point and shoot camera. Because this is a half frame you can get two neat smaller photos of 18 x 24 in place of a single standard frame of 24 x 36 of 35mm film. It would be so good for trips with friends as you can pack in a whole bunch of photos in one roll and not have worry about getting some blurry and/or silly shots in the process. Olympus Pen EF Camera


The camera uses a selenium light meter that is installed around the lens. The meter on mine was measuring pretty well, but I know that many can start to deteriorate and not give accurate readings if they are exposed to moisture or to much light over a long period of time. The meter uses light directed into the photo cell that come through the installed honeycomb looking lenses. The cell then uses that information along with the ASA that you set and figures out the correct exposure for your pictures. The outer ring on the lens can be set anywhere between 25-400 ASA along a red dot.
The shutter release will become locked if the meter does not detect enough light causing a little red flag to show up in the bottom part of your viewfinder. This is when you generally know when you need to use the built it flash. It will become activated and start to charge when the flash tab in front of the camera is pulled down and the flash pops out. A ready light will turn on once the flash is charged on the back of the camera. The manual claims that the recycling time for the flash is about 7 seconds and that you can get about 150 flashes per battery. When you no longer want to use the flash you can push it back into the main camera body until it clicks.
The PEN EF has a fixed focus range of 4.6ft to infinity, but I did manage to take an accidental photo of my face at closer range and it didn’t look too bad. ¬†It also has a 28mm D.Zuiko glass lens that produces very sharp photos for such a little point and shoot compact camera. All my pictures managed to look clear and very detailed, and if they didn’t it was mainly due to user error.


I was stoked that all this camera needed to function was a lonely AA battery, and if worse come to worse you can still use it without the battery as long as there is enough light shining on your subject. The battery is can be installed at the bottom of the camera that has a little latch and you push aside to open.


The Olympus PEN EF uses 35mm film and you adjust to ASA by shifting the outer ring around the lens to match the film inside the camera. You can buy 35mm film at such places as Walmart, Target and CVS.  You can also buy film online from specialty camera stores, but I generally go for film from Lomography. You can look into their wide range of 35mm stock here. I have been recently taking some great photos with their Lomochrome series film, and you can see them HERE(Turquoise) and HERE(Purple). I read on about this camera on another blog and they tested it with black and white film. In my opinion I think that the camera takes better contrasting pics in black and white than in color.

Film Installation

The PEN EF opens up by pulling on a silver metal tab on the bottom side of the camera. This causes the back door to pop open. Lift up the film rewinder to place the film in the chamber to the left and then push it back down so that it goes into the film cartridge to hold it in place. Pull the film out and line it up with the sprocket nubs and insert the ledger into the slit in the film take-up spool.  Advance the the film by pushing the shutter button and turning the winding thumbwheel on the back of the camera. Then you can close up the back click the shutter and wind the film a few more times until you can see a 1 in the exposure counter window. The camera prevents you from doing double exposures and double advances so everything is easy peasy(unless you did want some double exposure action). Once your roll is done you can push in the film rewind button at the bottom of the camera and then turn the rewind crank to take up the film again. You will know it is done because you will no longer be able to turn the thumbwheel.

Picture Taking

After I took so long the first time of taking pictures and not having any film in the camera I decided to take it with on a skiing trip that would require me to take a ton of fun and action packed pics. This time I did put film in and it was awesome to just have this tiny well built camera in my pocket. I took some beatings as I fell down a mountain or two, but the photos it took were pretty amazing. I did not bother to split up the images and I just left them as they were originally scanned with 2 pics per frame.

Olympus Pen EF Photo

Oh hey there’s that face picture….

Olympus Pen EF Photo

The next place I took the camera was on a hiking trip to Alamere Falls, which is in a national park along the California coast. It is one of a few waterfalls in the world that empty out into the ocean. I was lucky to have pics of the ski trip and this trip come out on one scan so the juxtaposition of both images below is kind of awesome.

Olympus Pen EF Photo


Olympus Pen EF Photo

Olympus Pen EF Photo

The last photo is my home sweet home, but I think I was a little too close to the subjects and it was just a tad dark causing the picture to come out a little bit blurry. Although I still like the result.

Olympus Pen EF Photo

I am glad I was able to work with this camera. It’s a small camera and can really take a beating if it has to. I can attest to it cause it was right there with me as I tumbled down a mountain in Tahoe. ¬†Next time I hope to use the camera during the night on in low light occasions. I was not able to utilize the flash and see how well it can work. This would be one of the top film cameras that I would take with me on trips because of its size and the amount of pictures it can take.

If you really like this camera and it’s design you can sometimes find in my Etsy Shop. If it’s not in stock you can always drop me a note and I can source it for you for no extra cost and make a reserved listing just for you.

Most times the manual for this camera is no longer with the camera itself, but you can find a copy of it at this Link.


  • Type:¬† ¬† ¬†35mm Pen-size lens-shutter camera
  • Manufacturer: ¬† ¬† Olympus
  • Year of release: ¬† ¬† 1981
  • Films: ¬† ¬† 35 mm¬†ISO 50-400 to be set
  • Film format: ¬† ¬† ¬†24 x 18 mm
  • Lens:¬† ¬† ¬†D.Zuiko 28 mm F3.5, 4 elements in 3 groups
  • Shutter:¬† ¬† ¬†Programmed lens shutter (F3.5 * 1/30 sec. ~ F22 ¬†* 1/250 sec.)
  • Viewfinder:¬† ¬† ¬†Bright frame finder, 0.5x, Red warning signal against under-exposure
  • Exposure counter:¬†¬† ¬† Progressive type with automatic reset.
  • Focusing: ¬† ¬†¬†Fixed focus (1.4m or 4.6ft ~ infinity).
  • Film rewind: ¬† ¬† ¬†Crank type with rewind release button.
  • Flash:¬† ¬† ¬†Built-in automatic electronic flash. GN 10 ( ASA 100, meters) or 33 (ASA 100, feet) with one 1.5V AA ‘penlight’ battery (including Ni-Cd). Recycling time approx. 7 sec and approx. 150 flashes with AA alkaline battery, X contract, 1/30 sec.
  • Film advance: ¬† ¬†¬†Rear winding thumbwheel (180 degress). Built-in prevention against double advance and double exposure.
  • Exposure Control: ¬† ¬†¬†Automatic by built-in EE meter. Shutter release lock against under-exposure
  • Exposure range: ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†EV 8.5 ~ 17 (ASA 100)
  • Battery: ¬† ¬† 1.5V alkaline (LR44) or silver oxide (G13) battery.
  • Dimensions (W x H x D):¬† ¬† ¬†115 x 74 x 44mm
  • Weight:¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†280g (without battery)

I hope that you have enjoyed this review. Please let me know if you have any particular cameras that you would like to see reviewed.


  1. R. Gossage August 20, 2016

    I liked your review so much, I bought the camera! Thanks! -R. Gossage (Toronto, Canada)

    • Adriana August 22, 2016

      Oh really! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I have to admit I was a little sad it was sold ūüôĀ lol.


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