Half Frame love with the REAL Olympus PEN-F by Ibraar Hussain


Half Frame love with the REAL Olympus PEN-F

by Ibraar Hussain


It’s been great seeing Olympus up it’s game and taking it’s new Olympus EP range up a notch with the new Olympus ‘Pen F’. I think the camera looks good and the results of course are fantastic – but, I can’t help feeling that this is a missed opportunity, or rather a missed opportunity by Olympus which they had to reinvent Matani’s design classic – The Olympus Pen F.

Look at the new Olympus Pen F and compare it to the original; there’s no comparison! The original is beautiful – original simple lines, with that distinctive slant and that long ridged metal confidence inspiring shutter and with superb solid build, that stylised and distinctive golden gothic F.

Man with Dogs, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


Boys taking Selfies, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


The new, well, it’s a great camera, but it isn’t a Pen F.

The other distinctive and special thing about the Original is the half frame Portrait format and the vertical portrait View Finder. I think this upright aspect ratio is lacking in the new Pen F. This portrait aspect ratio gives the Olympus Pen images their distinctive look and feel – whereas there is no distinctive look and feel in the new Pen F – so the new Olympus Pen F isn’t a Pen F, it’s just a Retro designed Micro 4/3 Camera with no distinctive features in use or results.

Well there was only one Yoshihisa Matani, and the original Pen F is His camera.

Anyway, the half frame format yields double the amount of frames in a 35mm roll of film – which in my case meant I was able to shoot with it over a period where I went to a few day trips – Glastonbury in Somerset, Canterbury and on the Kentish coast.

Silver Pond, Glastonbury, Somerset, England.


Silver Pond, Glastonbury, Somerset, England.


Pier at Herne Bay, Kent, England.


Mystical Clouds over Glastonbury, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


Monarchs and Arches, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, England.




Ghostly flare, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


Walkers, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


Me deep in thought, taken by my Missus. Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England.


The snaps I would describe as my own distinctive ‘street reportage Travel’ style – which are really Travel snaps some with people in them and the closest I could get to street photography.

I have only one lens – the superb G. Zuiko 40mm f1.4 and I shot with a roll of Rollei Retro 400s – this is a slightly red sensitive 400 ISO Film which has very nice contrast and grain; on a normal full Frame camera the grain is fine, whereas on the Half Frame Pen F – it’s accentuated but detailed which I love!

I always shoot with a Yellow Filter attached and this time I got my roll developed by Forest Photographic in London – they’ve been going since the 70ies and develop everything from E6 to B&W in 126, 127, 110, 35mm, 120, 220 and 4×5 etc, and have impeccable service for those wishing there was a trustworthy Lab in London and the South East of England which doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for developing (as other so called ‘Pro’ labs do)




  1. Then there are those of us that OWN and use the modern Pen-F. With no need to compare it to its namesake. All those dials actually come in handy when making images.

  2. I, have a simlar opinion about the new Pen F. Its retro design rubbish. Overloaded with wheels, the on/off knop was never there at the original, its copied from the leica M3!

    • PEN-F is gorgeous in design, function and one of Oly’s best cameras (not just my opinion, look at reviews – even has a perfect 5 star rating on Amazon from users). That is my opinion, from a real user of the PEN-F. Nothing “rubbish” about it.

      • Steve I agree with you – the design of the new Pen F is very attractive nice and solid in its own way- and of course the ergonomics and results are superb.
        But I think it’s not really a remake – even in spirit – of the original Pen F. There’s nothing distinguishing it’s results from an OMD and I half agree with what Peter said in that it’s merely Retro to make it look like a Pen F, even though it’s more like a Pen FT in a vague way at her than the F.
        I just wish there was something extra with the firmware and VF to give an option of classic Pen type images in a portrait format so a user could shoot Diptych (is that how you spell it?) or singular images – I’m
        Sure this would’ve been possible.

        • To be Honest the New Pen F looks slightly like a cross between a Pen FT and Pen D3.
          Now come on Olympus – give us a fixed lens digital Pen D3 equivalent with a portrait and diptych option in the sensor and Viewfinder!

  3. Do yourself a favor and pick up a 25mm f/4 and 100mm 3.5 to add to your existingleens. These are also small jewels that can be had for a modest sum…

  4. I have a Cannon Demi-C and honestly feel that as a tool for learning, the portrait only 1/2 frame format is killer. Try considering each 35mm FRAME, 2 shots telling 1 story. That’s how I’ve been doing my 1/2 frame film shooting, it’s quite a challenge and I think it really helps you consider “story” and “continuity” since you have to see both photos next to each other.

    I think it’s also part of the charm of the 1/2 frame format, every “frame” is a DipTych!

  5. Great camera (I lust for one but will control that urge; five “oldish” film cameras should suffice), great images and yes, Retro 400S. Do you know what “soup” it was developed in Ibraar? My local man Silver-Hands uses the Ilford HC110 equivalent and produces great results.

    Currently I’m mostly using Retro 400S and 400Tx (slightly less contrasty than Retro) for allround and street work, Eastman Double-X 5222 and Orwo N74 (both cine film cut to 27 exp, fine grained even when exposed and developed at 400 ISO) for portraits.

    Great to see these posts!

  6. Ibraar, i loved your original write up of the Pen F last year. I had just gotten one myself and was head over heels in love with my first ‘real’ film camera. Then I decided i wanted to try full framed images and experimented with the 35rc and 35rd. I then decided i wanted to try different lenses and got an OM. All of these cameras are wonderful, easily obtained and simple to use.

    In the meantime the Pen F broke and I was in no hurry to get it fixed. Now i’ve got it back, loaded some Ektar 100, and fallen in love all over again.

    After enjoying the other olympus film cameras there is just something fun and magical and liberating about the pen-f. Plus film and developing is so expensive, it’s a great economical way to shoot film.

    I must say you have really mastered the art of the portrait oriented composition and illustrated why, in the right hands, this camera offers artistic opportunities that cannot be had with conventional cameras.

    As for the Pen-F digital there’s no denying its capabilty or allure. However i think olympus overshot the mark by making it a dial encrusted, gimmick flaunting ‘flagship’ camera. They should have stuck more closely to the original simple and rugged snapshooter aesthetic of the film pen.

    I only hope the world does not catch on to the magic of this camera, as there are plenty still out there in great shape for reasonable prices, but higher demand would probably end this quickly!

    • Thanks man, and I agree about the new Pen F – it’s a missed opportunity to make it really distinct and special – even if there was an option for relatively speaking Half Frame portrait images and a VF showing this it would’ve been very special – like the original

  7. My first camera was an OLYMPUS Pen FT bought from Prices Pharmacy, Devon Street, New Plymouth, New Zealand. It must have been about 1968. I used it to document projects for my employer. Over the years and many relocations it has disappeared. So sad.

  8. I like all of these images and must check out that Rollei film you mentioned. I was once an Olympus OM-1 shooter which I think was also designed by Matani.
    The OM-1 was a innovative design at the time -light compact with a dampened shutter super bright viewfinder with interchangeable focusing screens.
    I have never held a Pen F in my hand but remember people speaking about their build quality -some apparently consider better than the OM series ?
    To be fair to Olympus they do produce some wonderful cameras.

  9. Great images.. You could say your Pen F is the original four thirds film camera with same 1/2 image sensor size compared to today’s modern digital equivalent.

    I like the new Pen F (digital) as well, but it looks practically nothing like the original film camera.

  10. I always look forward to your film postings – there is something indefinably special about the tonality you produce in your images.

  11. Totally agree with you, great images, wish I still have mine which I sold. I still have my OM1n though which I use from time to time. Thanks for sharing.

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