The Pen series is a family of half-frame cameras made by Olympus from 1959 to the beginning of the 1980s. Aside from the Pen F series of half-frame SLRs (discussed in its own article), they are fixed-lens viewfinder cameras.

General context[]

The original Pen was introduced in 1959. It was designed by Maitani Yoshihisa[1], and was the first half-frame camera produced in Japan. It was one of the smallest cameras to use 35mm film in regular 135 cassettes. It was thought to be as portable as a pen; thus the name. The idea was to be much copied by other Japanese makers.

A series of derivatives followed, some easier to use with the introduction of exposure automation, e.g. the Pen EE; others with a wider aperture lens and a manual meter, such as the Pen D.

In 1966 the arrival of the Rollei 35, a camera almost as compact but making normal 24×36 exposures, would announce the beginning of the end for the half-frame concept. However, Olympus went on producing the simpler models of the Pen family until at least 1983. 17 million Pen half-frame cameras were sold. This figure has been subsequently downgraded by Olympus, Japan in 2019 to 8 million.

In the descriptions below, please note that the focal lengths indicated do not give the same angle of view as for full-frame cameras: 30mm on the Pen is roughly equivalent to 45mm on a full-frame, and 28mm to a 40mm.

The Pen and Pen S[]

The original Pen is a very compact half-frame camera, with just a viewfinder, no meter and fully manual settings. It has a 28mm f/3.5 Zuiko lens. Its shutter settings are 25, 50, 100, 200, B; its aperture range from 3.5 to 22. It has a PC Sync terminal at the lower-left of the lens. The back is removed completely for film loading and unloading. The original version was out-sourced to the manufacturing company Sanko Shoji in September 1959, as the Olympus Board was unsure of its likely popularity. However, Olympus took over production in June 1960. There are subtle differences between the Original model and the later, Olympus produced models.

The Pen S is almost the same camera, with the following shutter settings: 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, B. It existed in two versions, with a 30mm f/2.8 lens or an 28mm f/3.5 lens.

The Pen D series[]

The Pen D was a more expensive model, launched in 1962. It has a 32mm f/1.9 lens, a shutter going to 1/500 and an uncoupled selenium meter.

The Pen D2, launched in 1964, is the same model with an uncoupled CdS exposure meter replacing the selenium one.

The Pen D3, launched in 1965, is the same with a 32mm f/1.7 lens.

The Pen EE series[]

The Pen EE was introduced in 1961 and was the amateur model, with fully automatic exposure and fixed focusing. It is a true point and shoot camera, and has a 28mm f/3.5 lens. The Pen EE family is easily recognized by the selenium meter window around the lens.

The Pen EE.S, launched in 1962, is the same model with a 30mm f/2.8 and a focusing ring, made necessary by the wider aperture.

In 1966 the two cameras were slightly modified and became the Pen EE (EL) and Pen EE.S (EL) with a modification of the take-up spool to make film loading easier. EL stands for Easy Loading. You can only recognize them by a small label marked EL stuck on the front, or you can open them and look at the take-up spool.

The Pen EE.2, produced from 1968 to 1977, is nearly the same as the Pen EE with the addition of a hot shoe and an automatic exposure counter. The Pen EE.3, produced from 1973 to 1983, seemed to be exactly the same camera but also added the flashmatic system. When used with a matching GN14 flash, the flashmatic system allowed the user to obtain a corrected aperture value by manually setting the aperture ring to one of the estimated distances (1-4m).

The Pen EE.S2, produced from 1968 to 1971, is the same as the Pen EE.S with the addition of a hot shoe. EES-2's User Manual in English (Rapidshare download) Courtesy: acolla

The Pen EE.D, produced from 1967 to 1972, is a more expensive automated-exposure model, with a CdS meter, a 32mm f/1.7 lens and a hot shoe.

The Pen EF, launched in 1981, was the last Pen model. It is like the Pen EE.2 or Pen EE.3, but with a small built-in flash, and was only sold in black plastic finish with white letterings.

The Pen Wide[]

The Pen W or Pen Wide is a very rare variant of the Pen S model, with a wide-angle 25mm f/2.8 lens, equivalent to a 35mm in full format. It only exists in black finish, and has a cold flash shoe. It was only produced between 1964 and 1965, and today fetches high prices on the collectors' market. The camera had an inherent flaw from the start; the black coated finish reacts with the oil in the users skin and eventually flakes off, exposing the brass underneath. Very few examples are without this fault. About 23,000 were made.

The Pen EM[]

The Pen EM, produced from 1965 to 1966 features an electronic shutter, automatic film advance, automatic rewind and shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/500th. It has a F. Zuiko 35mm f/2 lens and a CdS exposure meter allowing automatic or manual exposure. Despite being an advanced camera for its time production was ceased after one year due to manufacturing problems that could not be overcome with the technology available at the time. As the film was wound onto the receiving spool it became harder for the battery and motor to complete the wind-on. Thus using a 36 exposure cassette (72 images in half-frame) was virtually impossible. The camera evolved from the Pen-EM with no shoe to the later Pen-EMS with a built-in hotshoe.

The Pen Rapid models[]

The Pen Rapid EE.S and Pen Rapid EE.D were variants of the Pen EE.S and Pen EE.D designed to accept the Agfa Rapid cassette instead of the regular 35mm cassette. They were both made from 1965 to 1966, and met very little success.

The Pen's digital revival[]

In 2009 Olympus launched a series of digital cameras for the new Micro Four-Thirds lens mount that it shares with Panasonic. Whilst some of the Panasonic cameras have a electronical build-in viewfinder and mimic the design of classic DSLRs, Olympus' new digital Pen series all belong to the new class of mirror-less system cameras. Even the finder is omitted, but an electronic viewfinder can be attached on the accessory shoe (although not to the E-P1). With the many adapters available for the Micro Four-Thirds mount the new Pens are the first purely electronical system cameras usable with many old-style lenses of manual-focusing camera systems.


Olympus Pen images


  1. The name is given in the Japanese order, with family name followed by the given name.


  • Francesch, Dominique and Jean-Paul. Histoire de l'appareil photographique Olympus de 1936 à 1983. Paris: Dessain et Tolra, 1985. ISBN 2-249-27679-X.
  • John Foster. Olympus Viewfinder Pen Cameras - A Definitive Guide for Collectors. biofos publications england 2000 & 2019.


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Olympus Classic Cameras
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