If you are fortunate enough to have a long relationship with photography you may find you have certain obsessions that you can neither explain or fully control. At least I do, and half-frame cameras are one of those obsessions for me.
The Olympus PEN FT is one of the rare half-frame cameras that utilizes regular 35mm film, but produces images in the 18x24mm format rather than the usual 24x36mm format. This results is an image that is half the size of a typical 35mm image. There are distinct advantages to this – as a half-frame camera, the Olympus PEN FT is relatively compact, slightly smaller than the already-small OM SLRs. But the main advantage is efficiency. The PEN shoots twice as many images as a standard 35mm camera, so a typical 36 frame roll of film will instead give you 72 images on the PEN. A 24 frame roll of film will give you 48 images. In a time when just about every aspect of film photography is becoming increasingly expensive, having 48/72 images per roll can provide huge financial relief. It took me over two weeks to finish my first roll on this camera.
The disadvantage is that “resolution” is halved and your photos will look grainier – especially on higher ISO film. You may also run into issues with labs and scanning, as they’ll likely do them as pairs and not individual frames. It’s not usually a problem though! Learn to work around these shortcomings (like using lower ISO film) and you’ll have a lot of fun using a format I’m starting to enjoy.
It’s more difficult to completely finish a 72 frame roll than one would expect. Especially when one may be used to shooting 1 roll per shoot/event/situation/walk around.
I prefer to load some bulk film and load up 10/12 exposures so I get a total of either 20 or 24 frames. Of course you can do more if you’d like but it will take forever to finish the roll.
We have an Olympus Pen FV which basically is the same camera, only difference is The Pen FV is essentially a Pen FT with the light meter deleted and the F’s brighter viewfinder reinstated. We have it available at Beau Photo.
Here is a quick video of the Olympus Pen FT through its finder