Olympus Pen EES-2 Review

Simplicity is rare these days...

Simplicity is rare these days…

This is one neat little camera. 

Yes, it’s not the best camera ever made; the build quality is not on par with a  Leica (but then what is?) and it’s not as tough and durable as a Nikon F. What it does have is a great vintage look, a good solid feel in the hand and an awesome looking lens!


So why use it? 
Just like the Pentax K1000, this camera is great because it keeps things simple. It’s a different type of simplicity. While the K1000 rejects all automation and gives you full control, the EES-2 automates everything and just lets you concentrate on the various compositional aspects of photography which, arguably, are the most important part of taking a great photograph.

Both of these approaches to simplicity  are valid and they have their advantages and their drawbacks. We will get to that a little later on…

Use the Pen EES-2 the right way and watch as it melts away in the background while you enjoy your day and in the back of your mind you just know that you will have great memories stored on the negatives held inside the Olympus Pen EES-2.

The Half-Frame Concept

You get two pictures in the one 35mm frame :)

You get two pictures in the one 35mm frame :)

The feature that separates the EES-2 from most cameras is that it’s a half-frame camera. You still load it with normal 35mm film and your pictures are still the same height but half as wide. So when you hold the camera in the normal horizontal position you are actually shooting a portrait shot! This is quite strange at first but you can do some cool things with it. It’s good because it forces your creativity down a certain path when you use the EES-2 and so you actually change your style because it’s such a different shooting experience



Two photos that fit better together than they did apart. A mini story in two frames, an association, siblings, parent & child, different perspectives on the same theme, anything that works well as a team of two.

Check out the Flickr Diptychs Group

What the Olympus Pen EES-2  does well:


  • It gets out of the way – As I mentioned before, it’s a fully automatic camera that you just need to point at your subject and click the shutter. There is only one button on the whole camera! No excuse not to concentrate on the basics ;)
  • It’s simple to use – When I am out and about and I want a picture of myself I can just hand it to someone else and they can easily take the picture.
  • It uses Zone Focus –  Forget the crappy autofocus cameras that rule the digital world. This is the real stuff. It doesn’t use a real distance scale but it doesn’t need it. It really couldn’t be easier. There are four symbols on the focus ring: Single person portrait, group portrait, group and landscape. Choose the one that is right for the photo you are about to take and that’s it! No focus lag. That, in my book, makes it one hell of a good street photography and travel camera.
The Olympus Pen EES-2 lens from above.

The Olympus Pen EES-2 lens from above.

  • It’s always on – This is another pretty cool feature. It’s a fully automatic camera with no batteries! It’s actually uses a solar powered selenium meter which surrounds the lens. You can see this clearly in the first picture at the top of this post. This is another reasons why it’s such a great travel camera…no batteries and chargers to mess around with which means less weight in your travel bag and a happier traveler!
  • It just looks damn coolAlmost everything made in the ’60s just looks right.  It’s small but still has some weight. It’s very reassuring unlike most point-and-shoot made these days. I know that I can just throw this into my bag when I go out without having to worry about setting down my bag gently, running or being squashed between people on the bus.
The Olympus Pen EES-2 has a great vintage look

The Olympus Pen EES-2 has a great vintage look

  • It has a great lensPrime (i.e. non-zoom) lenses are superior to zoom lenses and this one is no exception. It has a D.Zuiko 30mm f/2.8 lens which is razor sharp. A similar lens is also found on the famous Trip 35. The “D” means that the lens uses four elements. Both lenses use 4 elements in three groups. The lens on the Trip 35 is 40mm, and the lens on the EES-2 is 30mm, but because the EES-2 is a half-frame camera it has a “normal” perspective whereas the Trip 35 has a wide perspective. This is definitely one of the most sophisticated lenses ever used in a half-frame camera. Another thing that I have noted while using this little gem of a camera is that it’s quite difficult to isolate a subject in a photograph. I am used to using a 50mm f/2 or f/1.2 lens on the full frame of a 35mm negative which can give quite narrow depth of field to isolate your subject. This camera can’t always do that but that can be a good thing. It makes you thing about the background elements in a photograph because they will show up in the final image instead of being out of focus. The lens only takes 43.5mm filters but the cool thing is that they go over the selenium meter too so that you shots will still have the correct exposure!
  • It has a superb autoexposure system - It’s exactly the same legendary one that is found on the Trip 35! The EES-2 came first so the Trip 35 actually copied the exposure mechanism from the EES-2!
Notice how the background is not a complete blur

Notice how the background is not a complete blur


What the Olympus Pen EES-2  doesn’t do so well:

  • It doesn’t have manual settings – While this has the upside of letting you concentrate on composition it also means you don’t have as much control as you would have on a fully manual camera. The snap focus, which is very quick and easy, does not let you focus exactly on one part of the scene. That is the price you pay for it’s inherent instant simplicity. [Just as a side note – you can set your own aperture if you want but there is no metering and you are stuck with 1/40s shutter speed]
  • It’s half frameWe had a look at this earlier. While it can lead to some pretty cool photos it also means that you have half the sensor area and so this does affect the image quality for each individual photo. If you print or enlarge one of these half frames you will get a grainier photo than you would with a normal 35mm frame.
  • Lens has a tendency to flare - You can see this in the picture above on the portrait on the left side. This can be easily avoided by not shooting directly into the sun and choosing your shots carefully if very sunny conditions.

Things to Know

Olympus Pen EEs-2 Manual Cover


If you are shooting in low light and the camera detects that there is not enough light then a  red “tongue” will pop up in the viewfinder.  The ISO ring on the lens has settings ranging from ISO 25 to 400. The EES-2 gives you two shutter speeds of 1/40 and 1/200 and a range of apertures from f/2.8 to f/22. When you set the camera in Auto mode the camera sets everything but if you manually set the aperture on the lens then the only option for the shutter speed is 1/40. I got mine from Tripman. He sells refurbished Olympus 35mm cameras and offers a six month warranty. I was pleased with the service.

This is a great camera especially for travel and street photography. You can go away for a week with three rolls of film and have a massive 216+ exposures! This is also great for someone on a budget as you can twice as many photos on a single roll and so cut your developing costs in half! 

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  1. paul gallagher says

    great review, I’m just about to buy one of these from Tripman, Myself. Nice work. I’m also a trip shooter too, having 4 or 5 of them. Greatest cameras ever.

  2. says

    Yeah it’s good to support people like Tripman. I’ve always heard wonderful things about the Olympus Trip… might have to check one out for myself one of these days! Thanks for visiting :)

  3. says

    hello, first of all great review.
    Got one of those and they pretty lovely.
    I’m having a problem with the ISO ring,it’s loose, and some times change the ISO. Is there any way to fix it?

    • says

      Hey Federico,
      Yeah it’s quite a unique experience and it definitely gets the creative juices flowing!

      That’s look like quite a a camera!

      Thanks for dropping by & have a great week!


      PS: Thanks for G+ and Twitter adds, you’re now my latest contant on Flickr!

  4. Jaimie Lancaster says

    Thanks for the review. I know that there are always anomalies but I thought it was interesting that you would write about the durability. I was just at the museum for the crash in the Andes. (1972, Alive, Uruguay rugby team) and they had this camera on display that survived the crash, sub zero temps and had photos that were taken with this camera on display. I’d say it was pretty rugged! If you want to see a photo of it and the photos that were taken, drop me a line and I’ll send them to you.

    • says

      I was reading about that plane crash the other day, strangely enough. Would be really interesting to see the photos, and I can add them to this post. I’ve emailed you.



      • says

        hi very nice review.. thank you very much.. i have one . but it was used 20 years ago, i am a photographer and never knew about how good this one is,,, DO you think there is chance it might work again when i service it.
        thank you very much


  1. […] You have just arrived at the ultimate Leica M3 technical review. It’s roughly sixty years overdue but better late than never…I had wanted to review the Leica M3 for quite a while but I  first decided to review the Pentax K1000 and the Olympus Pen EES-2. […]

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