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Tuesday, 14 May 2024


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Ugh, that's a disappointment.
I also never understood the appeal of half-frame, given the associated hard limit in acceptable print size, and the negligible gain in compactness. It's very similar to Kodak's suicidal last gasp APS film format, or the tiny disc camera negatives. Yes, it's different from digital, and there's no point in competing on image quality. But neither is there a compelling reason to hamstring the output needlessly.

I'm still surprised that in this risk-averse business world, that this project is still a thing. I mean, someone presented this to a board and someone said, "Yes!"

Anyone that wants a film camera and is waiting for this to materialize is ignoring the plethora of world class film bodies sitting unused and ready to be bought at a low price. I'm assuming this is aimed at newbies that may have never shot film, because those that have and desire to continue to are already in possession of the tools needed. Also, most of those unused film bodies are held by people that realized the cost, hassle and limitations of film and are happily using digital.

"History presents us with no masterful body of work in half-frame. I'll bet you can't name one great photographer who is known for working with one".

Hi Mike,
Ray Metzker did a lot of work with a half frame Olympus Pen. His photo series Double Frame, Couplets and his book Sand Creatures were all photographed using the Olympus Pen.

-Robert Pallesen

One assumes Pentax/Ricoh have done their due diligence and market research, but there are at least 3 good reasons why half-frame never caught on before: First, because the film fed through the camera the same way as full-frame 35mm, the only way to "half" the frame was to use a vertical frame when the camera was held in what would otherwise be a horizontal orientation. The second problem was that each frame would have to be enlarged twice as much (linear, not area) to produce the same size print as with a full 35mm frame. Third, you had to use lenses designed for a smaller half-frame mount. None of these issues are insurmountable if Pentax/Ricoh have identified the right market and product design. The risk is having to hit a bullseye on both.

"I haven't read the whole article yet, but I will. It's on my list of things to do."

Life is short; why bother?

You're not interested. You've already told all but one or two of us all we need to know, with a link for the outlier(s).

Consider moving on.

My guess is this: (1) half-frame yields twice the number of photos per roll, and (2) the number of people who care about larger prints rounds to zero.

Fine technical results may not always matter to people. I recently had my very first camera, a Pentax Spotmatic, CLA'd largely so I could shoot 4-5 rolls per year just for the tactile pleasure of doing so. That shutter button is such a pleasure to use.

Wasn't Eugene Smith known for using PENs? Or maybe he just advertised them?

Pentax (Ricoh) may be looking at half frame for their film camera because their focus in the digital realm has been on APS-C format. With, or possibly even without some tweaking, their existing line of lenses could be pressed into service on half frame film.

In the 70's I had a couple of Pen FT's and lenses from 20mm to 100, including the pancake and macro 38mm's. All very nice but the finders were rather dim, the resulting quality was limiting and 20mm wasn't wide enough for me.

Sounds like something I will be very happy is out there, but which I won't fell compelled to purchase. I do have some Olympus Pen gear, but don't really use it (to your point, Mike). I was happy in the abstract that such a thing existed. . . and a good friend took one of my favorite snaps of my infant daughter with one. So: fond feeling for the concept but I'll be in the peanut gallery on this one.

Eugene Smith?

I am on the same page with you concerning this matter of half frame. While I itched to try out an Olympus Pen, I cannot seem to bring myself to buy one on eBay. There are just too many mental and practical obstacles to half frame. Give me a proper Asahi Pentax Spotmatic and I am happy to take it out to shoot in a jiffy.

It's not a long article. You could, y'know... finish it.

Just kidding! Pentax has said that they want to release several film cameras (via a "PENTAX Film Photography" YouTube channel with a few videos), going from simpler to more full-fledged. So while the half-frame might not be the one for any of us photogs, there may be more on the horizon! I'd be inclined to believe that Pentax will follow through, at least based on their communication thus far and the speed at which this first model has been progressing.

There's also the upcoming Mint Rollei 35AF, which is definitely closer to a photographer's camera. It's not going to be cheap and we shouldn't expect it to be given the challenges of developing the hardware in 2024. But it does look tempting!

Perhaps they are looking at the popularity of the Fuji Instax cameras, and their tiny prints.

My first exposure to half-frame was in 1975 when I took a second semester conversational German class during the summer. There were just a few students, so the class was given in The professor's office. He projected slides, probably Kodachrome, that he had taken in Russia with a half-frame camera. He described each scene to us in German. He implied that he had taken his pictures somewhat covertly and I remember being intrigued by that. Presumably he would not have been able to do so with a larger camera.

My first use of a half-frame camera myself was an Olympus Pen S. Full manual, scale focus, and I got beautiful sharp negatives with it. Easy to make sharp prints at 5 by 7 inches.

I'll take you up on your challenge to name one famous photographer who used one. Daido Moriyama used one to make the photographs that were later published in the book NY '71. My understanding is that originally only 3,000 copies were published and I have one. Very gritty, grainy images, but half-frame doesn't have to be gritty and grainy.

I'm looking forward to the new Pentax and I'm excited that it's going to be half-frame.

I’m surprised you don’t like half frame since you like Micro 4/3 sensors. It should at least be nice and compact, and with twice the exposures the recent film price hikes may not hurt as much. My issue would be finishing a roll in a reasonable time.

[I don't think there's any relation between half-frame and Micro 4/3. Full-frame 35mm film quality was considered to be matched with 6-MP APS-C; the last Micro 4/3 camera I shot with had a 20-MP sensor. It was better than full-frame 35mm film, much less half-frame film. But everyone likes a different look. --Mike]

Bill Cunningham did much of his early film with with an Olympus Pen, for which he used the wider depth of field of the shorter lenses to great effect. The 11x14 prints were beautiful.


I saw them in person in 1977 at an exhibition at FIT in NYC when I was a photo student.

Gene Smith used them in the mid 1960's.

Half frame cameras had some popularity in the after WW2 Europe when film was expensive and hard to get and people’s incomes were generally not that great. My father had one.
Once film became easier to get and incomes increased they quickly lost popularity. Maybe USA was doing so much better that it never was important there.
This could be a modern reason again with film costing a lot more than before and the alternative is digital with essentially endless film roll inside. And the quality reference being a jpeg on a website.

Allow me to restart your keyboard search. https://www.instagram.com/reel/C6auTulMzlz/?igsh=Z2ZsYTB3bWw1bXdk

[That's pretty funny! Thanks. --Mike]

I must sadly agree about a major lack of interest in a half-frame film camera by any manufacturer, Pentax or otherwise. I would consider replacing my older Pentax M42 and K mount cameras with a full-frame model, but not a half-frame model.

The review says exactly what you wondered about vertical format chosen because people view their iPhones vertically.
I completely approve of half frame. I preferred half frame for snapshots. 72 shots before having to change film is a big deal.

Great photographers who are *known* for working with half-frame--that limits it a bit. But Harold Feinstein, whose Kickstarter was promoted on TOP back in 2011, had a fondness for Olympus half-frames:


And W. Eugene Smith, no slouch, appeared in an ad for the Olympus Pen F:


I'm pretty certain I saw something which said just that. People are used to taking pictures in a vertical format on their phones. The other reason was to cut expenses - twice as many shots for one roll.

I think their long term plan was to do a half-frame model first to test the market, and then go on to develop an SLR later.

A couple of English makers have been experimenting and releasing cameras along these lines for a few years now.

There is Steve Leighton with his Chroma Cameras, he has produced both LF and MF cameras on a build to order basis at his “factory” (actually his garage), and then there is Maxim Grew (Intrepid), who is making 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 models at his little workshop in Hove, near Brighton.

I have owned an Intrepid 4x5 but I am no expert and found it difficult to get used to, I had difficulty focussing it, so I sold it on.

In between times I have suffered a brain injury at the hands of the NHS, life has been a nightmare recently, but I am slowly coming out of it, the only way this can be done is by training alternative areas of the brain, since damaged areas do not repair themselves.

However, I have now decided to try again, and this time I am looking at a Chroma Camera from Steve Leighton. I like the idea of leaving out the enlarger and just producing “a thing that you can hold in your hand”.

I figure that a challenge like this is tantamount to brain food, a form of nourishment.


Having said that, I am also attracted to what amounts to its antithesis, namely the tools that are being made in France, by the Pixii company, founded and run by David Barth. His cameras, make native B&W and Colour snaps, by flicking a switch, but I am sure there is more to it than that.

The market for a modern half-frame camera won't be serious photographers who will make prints; it will be young people who find their fun in the activity of shooting film and being seen to be shooting with a film camera. Half-frame is sufficiently different to be attractive simply for the fact it is different. These kids are not likely to be doing their own processing and scanning, and are extremely unlikely to ever enter a darkroom. And, with the cost of film and processing reaching new heights, 72 exposures from one expensive roll is once again attractive, as it was in the 1960s when my father made travel and family photos with a Yashica Mimy half-frame. I wish good luck to Pentax it this somewhat silly endeavour.

Daido Moriyama and his Pen W in NY71!!

Remarkable social commentary by Jacob Holdt in the 1970's was extensively documented with his half-frame Canon Dial camera. I found his book "America Pictures" fascinating.

I have no intentions to ever use film again but I salute Ricoh - Pentax’s reported effort to revive the half-frame camera. I very much enjoyed using my Oly Pen FT. (I actually might still have it!). Scanning was a bit challenging but the economics of getting twice the images from a single roll really sweetened the concept. With today’s film prices it should be very sweet.

But it looks like Pentax is not the only old school brand trying to get the band back together:


And they already have product on shelves.

Exactly what Peter, in Boulder said!

There's a method to their so-called madness.

(Twice as many frames per roll also cuts film costs.)

Hello, while I did film for many years, had my own darkroom and equipment. I feel today it is a bit of a pollutant. So much water and chemicals. With digital you can capture the world in bits and bytes. A positive today is you can convert film to digital - have done lots. A few on Instagram. Just sayin....

Peter said ‘ because so many people now use their phone cameras in the vertical orientation.’ Yes, I think that is the point, and I think they have said as much somewhere.

"For some reason the Japanese like these, but I've never seen the point. "

I think this is another answer to your question.

I haven't read the article yet, but perhaps Ricoh is targeting a youthful audience that finds film hip. Film exposures are expensive compared to digital ones* so the cost savings of half-frame may be part of their marketing.

I always found my half-frame prints acceptable at modest enlargement. Even up to 11x17". But I was shooting urban subjects in B&W not wildlife or landscapes (example linked).

*Of course film only seems expensive if you discount the cost of rolling over your phone/digital camera every few years as many people do, and the cost of expanding your digital storage, and the cost in time of proofing/tagging hundreds or thousands of images made on a single shoot, and the cost in time of locating shots you forgot to tag, etc.

I expect that these film photos will produce negatives that are immediately scanned to digital, and sent to phones for viewing. I don't see the point of that, except to enjoy the tactile pleasure of winding with your thumb.

A half-frame camera is the film version of an APS-C sensor...

Daido Moriyama - known for working with Pen-W

It would be interesting to have a "Dual Use" sensor, with a Bayer filter that could somehow be turned off and revert to clear glass.

Peter may be on to something re portrait orientation. Also, if I'm not mistaken, there's something of a party cameras culture in Japan. The continued popularity of Instax, Zink, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc. tell me that not everyone's looking for the best picture quality, despite the way phones are typically marketed and reviewed. In fact, I think the discontent with high IQ/high performance that's been simmering in some quarters since digital came of age is now spreading, and up to a low boil. So, yep, this camera sounds like it's not for the 'photographers' (the aficionados, the enthusiasts) but for the social snappers, diarists, etc. I hope it's successful enough that Ricoh considers a full frame version with a few manual controls for us nerds.

Not half frame, but Sakiko Nomura's Night Flight, shot on 8mm film, is one of the most beautiful art books I've ever seen. Just make sure you look at it under daylight. It dies under warm light.

Unfortunately it seems to have been a singular experiment. All her other work is 35mm or digital, and doesn't really do anything for me.

That sometimes caustic and opinionated guy over at the Visual Science Lab has written maybe a dozen articles about half frame Olympus Pen FT cameras, and their cute little lenses, over the past ten or so years...

He seems to like them a lot. He still has three functional, black paint, PenFT cameras and a basket of lenses. He posted an old blog about them again today after reading your blog post here.

Here's a link to today's mean-spirited and patronizing post:

He also included a second link with many images to showcase his regard for one of the fast telephoto lenses they used to offer. A 60mm f1.5.

Careful though, he can be abrasive...

In relation to M 4/3 the aspect ratio is usually the same at 4x3, which I find much more pleasing than 2x3. That's one of the big reasons I like M 4/3. Once cropped to the same aspect ratio full frame is not quite as big a jump up in area, but it's still obviously there at 18×24mm vs 24x32mm.

With TMax or Delta 100 the image quality should be there for 8x10 prints, which I bet is plenty for how most of their target audience will print. For scan and sharing online I also bet most will not be able to tell the difference.

I hope Pentax sells a bunch, though I probably won't be buying one since I have more cameras than I can use at the moment.

Surely the point of using film includes the grain? Which will be more prominent in half frame. Also, the target market probably doesn't care about anything above web resolution, which half frame should be fine for. Phone cameras are, after all, providing vastly more resolution than mostly needed.

Plus the cost issues. And maybe the verticality issue.

[I only said *I* didn't see the point of half-frame, not that nobody should. Everybody should do what they want as long as they aren't hurting anybody. --Mike]

W. Eugene Smith may have advertised for the Olympus Pen F, but I doubt that he used one much. Circa 1970 he also promoted the Miranda cameras, which were well-known for falling apart (as did the several I used in the 1970s). When you're desperate for money (as Smith always was) you're likely to find yourself doing strange things for it.

As far as half-frame 35mm goes, I wish Pentax the best of luck.

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