So, I’ve shot 3 rolls on the Olympus PEN FT (dang that took a while!). The camera is a nice little half-frame (single-frame?) camera that is able to shoot at least 72 frames on a 36-exposure 35mm roll. I have written briefly about it here. Having used it for a while, I can say safely that the camera is here to stay, but mostly because it is unique. As far as the quality is concerned, I am not very impressed.
Firstly, because of the halved frame area, cropping is almost impossible with this camera. This means that tight composition is necessary, but as we all know this is not always possible. That has cost me a few nice shots.
The camera is compact, but not much more so than my Leica M2. Sure, the PEN gives me more frames per roll, but since it is difficult for me to shoot fast, this means that I have to always shoot in similar lighting conditions (I can’t change film mid-roll, as I would on a medium format camera). This in turn limits its usefulness on days when the lighting condition changes due to the weather.
Next, the rarity (rareness?) of the camera makes it nearly impossible to find a bargain lens. I have been using the 38mm exclusively, and while it is a nifty lens (~53mm in full frame equivalence), I sometimes need wider lenses for my street photography.
Finally, the camera shoots at half-frame, which makes scanning it an incredible pain. Just about every scanner program I have tried can automatically detect a full 35mm frame. But a half-frame? Well you’re out of luck. So I had to manually draw the scanning frame and align them with the shot. This is terribly time consuming, especially since the frame spacing is not always exact (it’s only tenths of a millimeter off, but enough to throw off the auto exposure on the scanner).
At the end of the day, I believe this will become a niche camera for me, since the quality I get from the rolls is far from ideal. There also appears to be some inaccuracy of the shutter speed, but that’s something a CLA will probably fix (I won’t be doing that any time soon, though).