I found this little camera on eBay a few months ago, and just got around to running a roll through it. It was in generally good condition, even had a tiny 22.5mm UV filter on the Zuiko 28mm f/3.5 lens. The reason I took so long to clean up this camera was the light seals – the Pen EE has a slide-off back cover, not hinged like a traditional camera – so there is a very substantial seal required on the inside of the bottom cover. My curiosity about the camera finally made me give in and get the seals done.

Yoshihisa Maitani designed the Pen EE. Maitani gained fame as the designer of the exquisite Pen F interchangeable lens cameras and the legendary Olympus OM series cameras. The Pen camera dates back to 1959, but the Pen EE is from 1961. Olympus went on to make many more versions of the ‘automatic’ Pen EE cameras all the way into the 1980’s.

There were 2 versions of the first Pen EE, I have the older version with “Olympus” across the front, instead of “Olympus PEN”. The original version also has the leatherette cover instead of the ‘basket weave’ covering of the later model. One more difference – the older Pen EE has a 1/60 second shutter speed while the later basket view Pen EE has 2 shutter speeds – 1/250 for the Auto mode and 1/30 for the Flash setting.

The Pen EE is a Half Frame camera – that means 2 images for each frame of 35mm film. The 35mm format is 24x36mm, so half frame is 24x18mm in vertical format. It’s a small image, but the 28mm Zuiko lens is sharp enough to enable nice quality prints up to 8 x10 inches if used with a tripod, and 5×7 inch prints easily when hand-held. The film ISO range only extends to 200 ASA. The 28mm f/3.5 lens provides great depth of field, so it’s a point and shoot camera.

A fixed 1/60th second shutter speed on my Pen EE. That’s it. It’s the same if you set it on Auto or Flash on the original Pen EE. In the Auto mode, the selenium cell light meter sets the aperture automatically, while if you use the Flash mode, you can set the aperture from f/3.5 to f/22, but still at 1/60 second. That’s tricky.

I wanted to use the Sunny 16 rule with the camera, but the slowest print film available to me is ISO 100. Now the Sunny 16 rules says that for film speed for 100 ISO, the shutter speed will be 1/125 second at f/16 in bright sunny conditions. With the fixed shutter speed of 1/60, I would end up with pictures on the overexposed side by one stop. To compensate I would have to close down the shutter by another stop to f/22 to get an equivalent exposure.

The alternative is to set to f/16 and deal with the overexposure later with digital correction (by increasing shadow). In most cases, this will be fine, since the film has enough latitude to handle some overexposure and still produce a decent image. However, since the best color reproduction usually requires a slight under-exposure, it may still be a little too much.

This also means that to use the Pen EE in manual mode with Sunny f/16, we are limited to 100 speed film or lower. 200 ASA film would overexpose by 2 stops, and while film has a great deal of latitude, that much over-exposure would be difficult to correct. Of course, in shade or in cloudy conditions, the aperture range is more than adequate.

In my case, I tend to overexpose an additional stop in cloudy over cast conditions – instead of closing down the aperture, I was actually opening it up from sheer force of habit because of conditioning with my Ricoh 500G and Olympus OM cameras. Now that I’ve a chance to examine the results, I would say f22 for Sunny conditions, f/16 for slight overcast, and f/11 for shade (f/8 and f/5.6 only if you are really unsure.)

As far as the film development goes, any photo processing lab can handle it since it’s just regular 35mm film processing. My advice is to have them develop and put it on a CD, and make a special note to NOT cut the film into strips. Don’t ask them for prints. Later, you can split the half frame images apart using cropping software. Make one copy of each digital image, and then crop the left side from one copy and the right side from the other copy. You can then save to a CD/Card/flash drive and get it printed like any other digital image. I use Walmart’s one hour service and they do a great job, costs $4.23 and beats sending it a specialty processor out of state.


Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE

Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE

Photographed with an Olympus Pen EE (28mm f/3.5) on Fuji Super 100 film


Pen EE Camera #168426
Pen EE Camera #168426

Pen EE pictures photographed with a Panasonic Lumix DMC LC-20 2 megapixel digital camera


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Early Spring and late Fall are my favorite times of the year for woodland photography. It isn’t because it’s cool and pleasant to be in the woods, but because there are no leaves on the trees then, and it’s the only times of the year that the forest floor gets enough light photograph the little critters, mushrooms and other fascinating organisms that live and die in the rich ecosystem of the forest floor.

In spring, before the canopy greens out and cuts off the light, the typical eastern US woodland has lots of tiny flowering plants with exquisite blooms. These are so small that you’d need to use a macro lens to get a decent sized image and see the detail.

Once the dense overhead canopy fills out, the forest floor gets very little light, so there’s not much in the way of flowers, but there are bugs and beetles galore, strange fungi, lichens, molds, mushrooms everywhere. The problem is finding enough light to take the picture. I’ve used a regular flash in the past, but the effect was always weird and unnatural looking.

To use natural light, I needed fast film ISO 400 etc AND a longer exposure, which needs a tripod. That pretty much limits hand-held photography to taking pictures of rocks, rotting leaves and mushrooms. Little forest critters move pretty quickly, vanishing under leaves and twigs like magic.

A few months ago, I found a Yashica Dental Eye camera with a fixed 50mm f/4 macro lens and a built-in ring flash. It was in great condition except for some very minor traces of battery leak corrosion. I took a chance and made the purchase, with the intention of returning it if I could not get it to work.

I cleaned out the battery compartment with a cotton bud dipped in white vinegar, and that was all there was to it. The camera works fine now, and the 50mm f/4 macro lens is a 1:1. This was the original Dental eye camera based on a FX3 body, I think – the later Dental Eye cameras have the suffix Dental Eye II and Dental Eye III, and they have a 100mm Macro lens. Check out the Micro/Macro section for more information on the Dental Eye.

This is a GREAT camera for woodland photography, and the possibilities are endless. The built in ring flash is powered by a battery pack that is fixed on the bottom of the camera (looks like a motor drive, but it’s not). Most of the Yashica cameras from this era have crumbling leatherette covers.

Mine started off fine, but now it looks patchy in a few places. This is purely a cosmetic issue, and should not deter anyone from buying the camera, especially if you can get it in full working condition with case for less than $100. I guess I will be replacing the leatherette soon.

The ring flash provides an even natural looking light. I’d swear it was daylight if I didn’t know better. There is a small supplementary lamp within the flash to provide some light for focusing. I think I will be using this camera a lot. I ran off a roll in the nearby woods along side a small stream. I really didn’t go looking for subject matter, since I was just running a test roll. This camera is a keeper. Here are some of the pictures…


Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye

Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye

Photographed with a Yashica Dental Eye camera (fixed 50mm f/4 1:1 macro lens and Fuji Superia 200 film


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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