A bunch of years ago I bought a half-frame camera on eBay, (a half-frame camera puts two exposures onto the area normally reserved for a single picture on 35mm film). I went out and blasted a full 72 frames as quickly as I could. The camera was an Olympus Pen EE. The EE stands for electric eye, refering to a selenium cell around the lens measuring light. In the case of this particular camera, the EE had ceased to function. I became suspicious as I shot the roll and my suspicions that were confirmed when I received scans of 72 randomly exposed photos. The camera went back and I moved on to other things (see oringinal blog post).
I had the chance to repeat the experiment recently with the model I had failed so roundly with last time. The reason for tripping back a few years is that this camera is really cute, and an economical little beast besides. The lens is a sharp f/2.8 prime and its battery free metering system, when working, makes it a natty little point and shoot. (The only thing I don’t like about it is the zone-focusing, mainly becuase I’m pretty bad at it).
I checked that the camera was indeed metering and I loaded a film. Last time I blasted through a roll in a day, smashing though as quickly as I could. In that case I wanted to test the camera, in this case I wanted to test myself.
The interminable roll
It took soooo long to shoot this roll of film. This was exacerbated by my neglecting to reset the counter, I had no idea how far through it I was. I had loaded it with Portra 160 in order to minimise relative grain size, (the slower film having finer grain, the appearance of which would be doubled by the half-frame nature of the camera). The slower film meant I couldn’t shoot indoors or in the evening.
I took the camera everywhere but shot it rarely. Sometimes I tried to counterpoint twinned images, creating what I hoped would be diptychs slotted alongside one another in a single photo’s allocated space, most of the time I just hoped that my zone-focusing had improved since the last time I’d tried to do it.
It seems fitting that I should then get a message from my lab to say that the roll had failed; either I had loaded it incorrectly, or the camera was faulty. Further checks would suggest that I did indeed load it poorly, and that I’ve been framing and focusing fairly carefully for a few months for absolutely no reason.
As there are no pictures to disprove it, I shall remember these as some of the finest pictures I’ve ever taken, rather than the collection of disparate and soft images I would have likely produced. (The first roll I ever put through my ETRSI was similarly brilliant, the world was also denied those images due a technical (human) error).
In contrast to this, and as a result of my recent dalliance with instant photography, I decided to reengage with my big Fuji rangefinder. It is not cute, handsome perhaps, but not cute, neither is it econmomical getting just 8 frames onto a roll of 120 film
I blasted through two rolls in an afternoon a few weekends or so ago and I ended up with 16 images and a relatively hefty developing bill. There’s one standout image for me alongside some mis-timed stuff that could have been good, but I’ve posted few below in place of anything from the Olympus Pen.
Some louche arithmetic puts a GW690 negative at 11 times the size of one from the half-frame, so a couple of images should count as a whole gallery. I’ve (almost) returned the Pen, maybe I’ll have another crack at half-frame at some point, 2024 should be about right.