Olympus Pen FT, The Half-Frame SLR

Olympus Pen FT 01

Olympus Pen FT 02
The Olympus Pen-F system (Pen-F, Pen-FT, Pen-FV series), introduced by Olympus in 1963, was the only half-frame SLR and the smallest full system SLR ever produced. It was in a class of its own, a unique system with a smooth, sleek, minimalist design. The Pen-F does not have the characteristic SLR bump to house the pentaprism as it uses a system of mirrors including a primary that moved vertically out of the light path when the shutter was released.

The Pen-FT, introduced in 1966, advances this to a single stroke film advance, a built-in self-timer, and open aperture TTL (through the lens) exposure metering, among others. The TTL metering uses a semi-silvered mirror which splits a portion of the incoming light to the metering cell, and the rest to the viewfinder. This result is a viewfinder that was, unfortunately, dimmer than that of the original Pen F.

Oly35mm Review - Olympus Pen FT
The Half-Frame Film Format
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The film format for half-frame cameras is 24x18mm on a regular 135 cassette rolls, which is half the size of a normal 35mm frame of 24x36mm. On this camera, and other like it, one can shoot and capture twice as many images on a standard roll of film - 48 shots on a 24-exposure roll, and 72 shots on a 36-exposure roll. Film framing for half-frames is in the vertical or portrait orientation, much like if you are using a mobile to shoot vertical images, rather than the horizontal landscape format, which is more often the norm for photographic imaging.

When an image is framed and focused, the TTL meter pointer, displayed on a vertical bar on the left when looking through the viewfinder, will move up or down the numbers from 0 to 7, the optimum exposure recommended for the scene. This number is then manually transferred to the aperture setting of the lens, by aligning this number it to the white dot marked on the body of the lens barrel.

Olympus Pen F FT FV
Using the Camera
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Shooting with this camera and lens setup can be done both 'wide open' or 'stopped down.' Wide open is when you set the aperture of the lens to its widest, and exposure is adjusted by varying the shutter speed, while stopped down is when you adjust the exposure by stopping down the aperture opening of the lens (making the aperture opening smaller) while shutter speed remains constant.

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To get a good bokeh, where the foreground and background of the subject remain blurry and out of focus, you will want to shoot wide open to retain the shallow depth of field that is the norm of wide aperture openings. The opposite is what you do when you want to have as much of the image in focus, set the shutter speed to the lowest you can manage, and the aperture to the smallest opening possible.

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You may find that either method is quite cumbersome on this vintage standard, or with other cameras from the same era. But that was that then, the Trough The Lens (TTL) metering technological advancement of the day. On the Pen-FT correct exposure is optimum when the photometer needle, which you can see located on the left side inside of the viewfinder, is pushed up to the numerical 0 (zero). That's the shutter speed/aperture opening combination recommended for the exposure of the image in focus.

Resource Links:
The Holy Trinity of Half Frames | Olympus Pen F Review | Part I Review: Olympus Pen FT

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