The First Olympus Pen (1959)
According to its designer, Yoshihisa Maitani , the first Olympus Pen had a rough path to production. After finally convincing his boss that he could go ahead with the design of a small, adjustable camera that used the tried but little-used single frame or half frame format, the production people refused to make it. Though Maitani's boss had given in, the factory managers thought that this was the time for more controls than this unserious design offered. So the manufacture was farmed out to another producer at first and only came back to Olympus when they saw how sales were going. Eventually Olympus sold about 17 million half-frame cameras developed from the 59 Pen experience. The whole story is told on the Olympus website, much of it in Maitani's own words:
"Pen Series" and click on
"Special Lecture" from the column on the left. [Sorry about the instructions but PT won't accept the long version of the link.]
The 59 Pen, as the photo shows, is a neat package. (2.7 inches high, 4.2 inches wide, and 1.6 inches deep, weighing 350 grams). The lens focuses from about a foot out to infinity with distances clearly marked (except for the closest one) , and click stops for middle (7 feet) and far (15 feet) distances. A shutter that has speeds from 1/25 to 1/200 is matched to apertures from f/3.5 to f/22 on the D-Zuiko 4-element lens. The viewfinder is excellent with a very clear frame ("Extra Bright Luminous Frame Finder" is what Olympus called it). An advance wheel under the operator's thumb cocks the shutter and advances the film. Loading is straightforward and reliable after setting aside the removable back. The film counter counts down from 72 (or lower depending on the film load) to the end of the roll. Flash synchronization is available at all speeds from 1/25 up with electronic flash. There's no doubt that the 59 Pen is well designed; but, it's not perfect. Both the lens and the lens mount are threaded so it is possible to use filters or a sunshade; but, it's pretty hard to do so without obscuring or disturbing the aperture setting. And maybe it's just the one I have, but the film counter is not to be trusted. Otherwise, the 59 Pen is a historic camera that can still make good pictures. Olympus wasn't far off when they said (in the Pen manual) , "You have a lifelong companion at your command".
Following are a few photos from a recent morning visit to the Como Lake Pavilion near where I live in St. Paul, MN. The stage and bandstand right on the shore of the lake get a lot of use in summertime.
Como Pavilion in Morning Light
Walking Path around Como Lake
Pillar and Column
[Photo Data: APX 100 (old formula) developed in Foma's version of Rodinal and scanned at home with some adjustments in each frame. A light texture was added to the Pillar and Column photo, probably not visible in the size displayed here. Even with the small negative it's quite possible to crop when needed as was done with each of these frames.]
[11/18 edit corrected link]