Late in 2014 we joined my brother and his family at a local beach spot here in Adelaide called Glenelg (the word is actually a palindrome; just read it backwards and you’ll understand). His family live in Melbourne and they wanted to join us to celebrate our father’s 80th birthday. I took the opportunity to take a few old film cameras with me, including this little gem:
It’s an Olympus Pen EE3 (EE meaning Electronic Eye); a small Japanese made 35mm viewfinder camera from the 1970s. This is a half-frame camera, meaning that you can squeeze two frames onto one regular 35mm sized frame.
The body is mostly aluminium, which lends it a nice heft in the hand; and the automatic light meter consists of a ring of photo-sensitive selenium cells around the glass lens. This means that the camera doesn’t require batteries to function! Selenium cells can last for decades (some reports suggest 30-40 years or more) if looked after properly and covered when not in use. Fortunately, this copy seems to have been looked after well and the light meter functions.
It was the first film I had had developed in over a decade; and when I took it into the Kodak processing lab, the guy behind the counter started at me blankly for a moment before looking up the price of half-frame development. Apparently it was the first half-frame camera they’d seen in about 25 years! They even had to think about how they’d cut it for me and whether the machine could do it. It was no problem in the end.
Here are some photos from our trip (click on each image to make it larger and clearer). I used readily available Kodak Ultramax 400 ISO colour negative film.
This is the Glenelg Tea House. You can see how two frames are squeezed into one, meaning that you can tell a bit of a story if you plan carefully. I like the warmth in these images, and the old selenium meter seems to have handled the darker light conditions admirably.
I really like the blues and greens in the above photos. The Kodak Ultramax film seems to be a decent fine grained modern film emulsion with good colour reproduction.
Above, we see the problems associated with half-frame film processing. These frames are a little blown out, and I suspect that part of it is due to the difficulty of the technician having to balance exposure across two high contrast scenes on a single frame. In future, I think I’ll just have the negatives developed and pay for a high quality scan. I’ll have far more control over colour and exposure balancing in Adobe Lightroom.
The exposure balancing problems are even more evident in this photo (look at the blown out twilight sky), but I am quite impressed with how the old selenium meter on the camera has handled the difficult light conditions. The lens is wide at 28mm, so just about everything is in focus, but it only opens up to a maximum aperture of f3.5, so it’s not especially fast. The above photos were made at dusk, and I think the results are very good.