Review: Olympus Pen FT
The Olympus Pen FT is generally known as one of (if not the) nicest half-frame cameras around due to having interchangeable lenses. In the 60’s and 70’s Olympus made lots of half frame cameras due to the appeal of them shooting 48/72 shots a roll. The Pen FT was specifically made between 1966-1972 and had an integrated meter, a big improvement over the other two in the series, the F and the FV.
A few good bits
Built like a tank – the Pen FT’s are solid metal and could survive almost anything thrown at it (within reason of course), which is great in the long run in terms of durability.
Built in Meter – the Pen FT has a built in meter, with which you set the shutter speed on the body, then the meter will read out a number between 0-7 which corresponds to the aperture dial. Most appear accurate that we have had in however with the age of these now there will of course be some with dodgy readings.
Half-frame – which means 48/72 shots a roll! Great for those of you who are frugal like myself, although this also means it takes forever to finish a roll of film. This also give you a different aspect of shooting with the frame being naturally portrait, and forces you to be creative with your photography.
Image quality – despite being half-frame, the image quality of these is excellent, very very sharp. I’ll be posting some photos from this soon on the blog so keep your eyes peeled, in the meantime check out images from it on Flickr.
Small & Ergonomic – the Pen’s are designed to be nice and compact, and nice to use. The shutter speed dial is in a different place to usual but it’s actually really nice to use and to shoot with.
Flash sync – due to how the shutter/mirror works in the Pen’s, you can use a flash with any of the shutter speeds, which is a very uncommon featured that lots of photographers would love.
It’s totally mechanical – always a big big plus for me on a camera. Old electronics are not to be trusted, so mechanical cameras always take preference.
A few bad bits
Prone to needing repair – there is a lot than can go wrong with these, 3/3 of the Pen’s we’ve had in have needed some sort of repair. When they are sorted though they are great – just have to be careful who/where you are buying from to ensure you don’t need to get it repaired.
Half-frame – now I’m aware this is also listed as a pro, but some people may see this as a con. Half-frame cameras obviously product a negative half the size of a normal 35mm camera, hence a lesser resolution. I guess it’s up to you to decide if this is a pro or a con.
ISO speeds – the ISO dial of it only goes up to 400, which makes it quite awkward for pushing film. Now you can obviously adjust this yourself from the readouts from the meter, but this can be quite awkward in comparison to just upping the ISO.
The bottom line
Probably the best half-frame camera ever made. Great image quality, fantastic build quality, and fully mechanical. What more could you want form a camera?
One thing to bear in mind when looking at these is the crop factor, this may sound strange on a film camera but due to it being half frame it has a crop factor of approx 1.5. The wikipedia page has a nice table to show you what the effective focal lengths of the lenses are.
We sell these for between £150-200 depending on condition & whether they have been serviced and we have one due online soon, if you’re interested keep your eyes peeled or get in touch.