The First Olympus Pen

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minoly
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The First Olympus Pen

Post by minoly »

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:
http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history
click on "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.]
Olympus-Pen-59-WEB.jpg
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
Pavilion-from-SouthWEB.jpg
Walking Path around Como Lake
Path-Around-LakeadjWEBSmall.jpg
Path-Around-LakeadjWEBSmall.jpg (236.84 KiB) Viewed 25723 times
Pillar and Column
Pillar-and-Column-SmallWEB.jpg
Pillar-and-Column-SmallWEB.jpg (218.28 KiB) Viewed 25723 times
Pavilion Corner
Pavilion-Pillars-Vers-2WEBs.jpg
Pavilion-Pillars-Vers-2WEBs.jpg (205.21 KiB) Viewed 25723 times
[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]


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melek
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by melek »

Bill, I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot from it.

Who knew that this little camera would have so much difficulty getting to the market, including a refusal by Olympus' production people to make it.

Here's a direct link to the Olympus article that you mention.

» Link to the article

Bill, to build a URL link, use the code below. Click "SELECT ALL" to copy the code.

I'm gong to add a section in the "How to ..." subforum to explain the use of the BBcodes.

Code: Select all

[url=YourURLGoesHere][b]» Description of the link[/b][/url]
Also, you might be able to use a very long URL, but it will truncate the display but retain the underlying hyperlink.

http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/h ... index.html

Yes, that's what it does.
-Mike Elek
minoly
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by minoly »

Mike: Thanks for the tips on posting a URL. Both of the methods worked out of your post, so the original problem probably came from my mistake. I think that the whole article is interesting. Bill D.
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by melek »

I like Olympus a lot. It's a company that has been willing to go its own way many times, from the Pen to the OM to the little RC to the Four-Thirds and the mirrorless Micro Four-Thirds.

Competition is always good.
-Mike Elek
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by Santiago Montenegro »

Super interesting
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by Bennybee »

Very nice story, thanks. As a long-time Nikon user I became also an Olympus fan after buying an OMD EM-5 m4/3, with which I am entirely happy. Great camera and great M-Zuiko lenses.
The Pen half frame film cameras are really interesting and I might buy one someday, especially after the above presentation. The only reason I still don't have one already is that 72 frames is a *lot* for me to shoot... I'm a frugal shooter ;-)
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by minoly »

Thanks Mike, Santiago, and Bennybee for your comments and feedback. Bennybee: What I do is to load b&w cassettes from bulk, usually for 12 or 18 FF exposures, so that I get 24 or 36 HF. I guess that one advantage of HF is that I'm still working on the supply of bulk APX 100 which I bought 5 or so years ago. For color, I use Fuji 200 speed or the like in a 24 exposure load; it's not too expensive and once I get 24 HF frames I figure that I'm even and anything more is bonus. But, as you say, 36 exposures is quite a lot when doubled in HF. I often tell myself that I'll figure out a way to cut it in half safely ( maybe use my old Exakta that has a film knife built in?) when I have to use a film that only comes in 36; but, I haven't done it yet. ;)

Bill Delehanty
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by Julio1fer »

Great post and story. Thanks for sharing these!
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by OpenWater »

Very impressive photos and a fascinating story.

"A lifelong companion at your command." What a statement. None of the digital camera or smart phone makers with their ever shorter life cycles would ever utter something like that today. (The Fairphone (https://www.fairphone.com) might be an exception.)
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Re: The First Olympus Pen

Post by minoly »

Thanks, OpenWater, for your comments. I'm sorry that I didn't respond sooner, not sure how I missed it. And, yes, the "lifelong companion" caught my attention, too-- seldom heard now.

Bill D.
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