Archive for November, 2014


Zuiko 38mm f1.8 on EOS-M mirrorless body.

From the mid 1960s until the early 1970s Olympus was successful producing a series of SLR cameras that used 35mm film in the super 35 movie format. These were the Pen F, FT and FV cameras. Aptly nicknamed 1/2 frame. Why half frame? Because the long side of the frame was 24mm and the short side was 18mm. Exactly 1/2 of a standard 35mm (24x36mm) frame in a traditional film camera. So instead of a landscape oriented frame this SLR shot in portrait orientation. When you tilted the camera sideways you had a landscape orientation. The cameras were small and “nimble” to operate. Unlike other sub-35mm formats this camera utilized the full range of 35mm films; transparencies, color negative, black and white the whole enchilada.


Pen F (Wikipedia)

I owned one of these back in the 1980s and had a lot of fun with it. The problem then was that a rangefinder camera offered similar size and “agility”, but gave the full 35mm frame. Today however, in this modern age of amazing camera tech, these old Pen lenses can deliver fantastic results on either a micro 4/3 or APS-c mirrorless camera. The APS-c from Canon is roughly 15x22mm and on Nikon it is around 16x23mm. The 18×24 half-frame is a little bigger so you get sharp results without the traditional fall off at the edges. These Pen lenses are compact and very sharp. The later versions have exceptional optical coatings as well.


Socks relaxing on the hood of my car (grrr) Zuiko 38mm 1.8 @ f4 on EOS-M at 100 ISO

I recently acquired a Olympus Zuiko 38mm f1.8 lens. This was the “standard” lens for the Pen series cameras. I seriously considered a 40mm 1.4 because I love fast glass, but it was more expensive and longer in focal length. Since I already have a Canon 50mm 1.8 rangefinder lens I liked the shorter 38mm. This lens on my Canon EOS-M is a 35mm equivalent 61mm. The lens performs very well. I am most pleased.

The lens is sharp and crisp. It is relatively flare free despite being an older version with inferior lens coating. I like how close it focuses. This lens will get down to about 12 inches and with an effective focal length of 61mm that is really close! It is not macro by any means, but it is nice and tight. That is my big complaint about the Canon 50mm 1.8 rangefinder lens, it only focuses to 30 inches 😦  The bokeh on this Zuiko 38mm is soft and creamy but when stopped down the weak 5 blade aperture diaphragm can create annoying, odd-shaped trapezoids.

Below is a chart borrowed from the Wikipedia page on Pen Cameras showing all of the lenses made for the Pen system. Many of these can be found on Ebay or at camera shows, stores, etc. If you like to tinker around with film cameras, I recommend buying a Pen F or FT with the 38mm lens. You will find that the lenses by themselves are often priced within 70-80% of the camera and lens. Why not get both and have some fun getting 72 exposures on a 36 exposure roll of film 🙂

pen f wiki

From Wikipedia


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