All of a sudden it became an obsession. Well, it was essentially a practical solution. I needed a smaller SLR. And why not the half-frame one? I was used to the format from the Canon Demi and my digital Fujifilm X-Pro1 half-frame sensor camera.
The first impression is of course the heaviness. It's all metal plus a large glass prism in the middle. I mean it's not super heavy but more so than an Olympus Trip or other fixed lens rangefinder cameras of the same size. And - like with stereo equipment - the heavier the higher the quality.
I bought the body only. My intention was to use my M42 mount lenses which I already have for two full frame SLR:s. The adapter to fit the lenses actually cost half of what I paid for the camera body since there are only 1960s ones around (that aren't super bulky). But it is a blessing to be able to use all those intriguing lenses on my favorite cameras.
Since I can't help tinkering with leftover stuff I now have two Pen F mount lenses as well. They were rescued from deceased fixed lens compact cameras and merged with Pen mounts.
What I'm actually saying is I don't have any experience of using original Olympus Pen F lenses. This is my impressions of using the camera body only.
Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
I don't have a problem using rangefinder (or even viewfinder) cameras in the regard that I accept that I don't see "what the camera sees." I did have that issue for my first decade and a half as a photographer: In my mind SLR:s were the only way to photograph. Today alternating between the two types is seamless for me.
The Pen F has a unique reflex system which is explained extensively elsewhere so I won't touch on that. What I can say is that the shutter is not quiet. It is quite a large sound for such a small camera. But it's not on par with the Chinon or Nikon F 'clacks.'
The fact that the F is so small is truly liberating! The Pen F format's inherent quality is what it shares with the Leicas and other rangefinder systems - small size combined with the choice of lens. No other SLR can compete with that. And that's truly the unique selling point of this camera.
My F is the two stroke film advance version. I've now grown accustomed to the two strokes but it took me a while. (Actually it's two strokes and then a little nudge on my camera.) I did have some irritated moments when I missed opportunities because I hadn't advanced the film properly.
The recessed position of the shutter button is really ingenious. It means that you can advance the film after each exposure and not risk having the shutter going off when the camera is in your bag.
The shutter is controlled with the wheel situated on the front of the camera. Most SLR:s and high-end rangefinder cameras have the shutter control wheels on the top of the camera. This one offers shutter speeds from Bulb mode to 1/500th of a second.
There is no ASA/ISO indicator on the camera.
And that's it. Shutter speed + film advance. 'Nuff said.
Exposure and lenses
What can I say. It's bare bone photography. You start with light metering. Then set the shutter and aperture. And: Expose! 'K-schkk!'
The Pen F system contains a large number of lenses. Since I don't have experience using any of them you can find extensive info elsewhere. I you take into account adapters where you can affix lenses from other camera systems the options are infinite. That is - if adapters have been manufactured. In my research I've discovered adapters for Canon EOS, older Nikon, M42 screw mount, Canon FD and Olympus OM lenses. If you are overly curious like me you can make your own lenses with Pen F mounts using parts from adapters. My two mods for my F camera are made from a Lomo Smena camera paired with a Pen F mount from a microscope adapter and from a Voigtländer Vitessa 500 AE with a mount from a Pen F to Nikon adapter, respectively. You can read about the mods on my blog tobbetecknare.blogspot.se.
I have to say that the finder isn't super bright and it is sometimes a bit tricky to nail the focus spot on. That said, my impression may depend on me using a number of lenses and not yet having stuck to a favorite one which I've gotten used to handling.
Again - the small size. The body is of similar size as those of the Olympus Pen EM or EED half frame cameras. And with a small original 38 mm lens or a modded one from a compact camera attached to it the F is entirely comparable with them.
The grip is very good. I don't have particularly small hands but I would suspect that those of the readers with bigger hands would have trouble with the handling. The weight of the camera gives it a stability (some lenses attached double the weight) - it is not flimsy feeling at all.
The shutter control could in theory be controlled with your index finger. But I think it's designed to be moved using both thumb and index finger. The Leica CL control (also positioned on the front of the body) is much easier to move with one finger. But then again the one on my Chinonflex has to be moved with both fingers. What matters is that after a while you get used to your camera you learn where everything is situated and don't have to lift your eye from the viewfinder to make adjustments to exposure controls, be it with one or two fingers.
Love. I love using my Pen F. The bare bones functions and the 72 pictures per roll are right up my alley when it comes to my philosophy concerning photography: I control the parameters of the exposure and I have a lot of chances to compose the pictures that speak to me.