Dead Camera Dept: Olympus Pen EES-2

It was a little over a month ago that I received my Olympus Pen EES-2. I was intrigued by the concept of a half-frame camera, where each image is half the size you would get with a “full-frame” 35 mm camera, meaning you get double the shots on a roll. The EES-2 seemed like a good contender: auto exposure, zone focus, basically a Trip 35 in half-frame format. I got it cheap because there was impact damage around the lens. But that meant that the aperture was not acting correctly. I brought it to the camera shop, and a quick fix got it working again.

I shot three rolls with the Pen EES-2. It was fun and easy to use, a camera that you didn’t have to think too much about. And since it’s “double the exposures” on the roll, I didn’t have to be so miserly in taking pictures. I was looking forward to this camera as being a part of my stable.

But that was not to be. The first two rolls were fine, but by the third roll I noticed that the aperture wasn’t working correctly all the time. Playing with the aperture ring got it working okay again, but by the end of the roll the aperture was stuck and no amount of playing with it freed it up. I brought it back to the camera shop and the tech told me that the thin brass ring that controlled the aperture was warped, and a repair could be costly and still not make it work right.

This left me with a quandary. On one level I did really like this camera and would like to see it work again. And I already spent money on repairs. But without something like a donor camera for repairs, any other fixes the shop does will be band-aids, expensive ones at that. And while the selenium meter is working now, there’s no guarantee it could keep working. This camera has no real manual exposure method, so without a meter, it’s useless. So would I want to sink more money into a camera that may give up the ghost in a year no matter what?

So the camera is going to sit on the shelf, for now. I’d really like to get something to replace it. I had fun with the half-frame format. I envision it as a great companion on a bike tour, where being able to get double the shots from a roll of film would be advantageous. But the pickings are slim. I already got one “working” example from eBay, and nope, it wasn’t. Thankfully I could return it. But there’s plenty more “untested” ones out there that are more expensive than what I’ve already paid, and don’t accept returns. I’m not a rich man and don’t feel like wasting more of my money.

Then there’s still the issue of the selenium cell: even if I find one that is working, who knows how long it will stay that way? I should probably look at a different Olympus Pen, one that has manual exposure control. The cameras of the D series have sharp f/1.9 or 1.7 lenses and uncoupled meters, so that would be a good way to go. The problem is that most of the ones I’ve seen on eBay come from Japan, so shipping will be expensive and it could take a long time for me to receive it. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye out, and look forlornly at the old Olympus Pen EES-2…

For successful shots I got from the Olympus Pen EES-2, please see the dynamic flickr album below or click here.

Olympus PEN EES-2 half-frame 35 mm camera

5 thoughts on “Dead Camera Dept: Olympus Pen EES-2

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  1. A tip from my experience: A well-functioning selenium meter tends to stay well functioning if you keep it in the dark when you’re not using it. I’ve had my Olympus Trip 35 for probably 10 years now, lens cap on when not in use, and the meter hasn’t failed me yet. It will someday, but my experience so far is that these meters are long lived if kept capped (or cased) when not in use.

    Good luck figuring out next steps with your Pen!

    1. Thanks for the tip. I have been keeping it capped.

      The “what to do next” is tough. The current Pen does meter correctly, so there’s a point in favor on “fixing” it. But I’m wondering if that’s more due to the “sunk-cost” fallacy, since I already invested into fixing it once. And I don’t want to make any rash decisions. Thankfully I haven’t had the camera long enough to have an emotional attachment to it. But now I really like the concept of half-frame.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your camera, the Pen series is really fun to shoot with. I got my D3 for a bargain of less than USD60 locally by some incredible stroke of luck (although I don’t think the meter works). I hope a real working one comes your way soon.

  3. i had that same camera decades ago, i think i may have put 5 or 10 rolls of film through it until one day it just quit. i’d gotten it second hand for free, and my finances at the time disallowed repair. Too bad, i really liked that camera for the same reasons you did. i will say though, that double-the-prints of the half-frame format got a bit pricey at the lab. i suspect i still have it in a box somewhere, and if i find it, you’d be welcome to it if you want to attempt transplant surgery.

    1. Sure, I’d be interested in it if you still have it! Thank you.

      As for prints, thankfully I just get digital scans, so I’m not as worried about paying for double the amount of prints.

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