A love letter to the Olympus Pen F Gothic

by Wiji Lacsamana

Happy February. Started the month by finally materializing an intention for January: a video about my favorite 35mm film camera, the Olympus Pen F Gothic. This isn't an obvious and known fact about me I think, but, I really am infatuated with photography. Or maybe already in love. It's one of the most meditative curiosities I have--it asks me to slow down, and breathe and compose. No anxieties, just being in the present, and breathing through the details of life, from the seemingly mundane to the ultimately magnificent. I think it started with Lomography cameras in 2004, I believe. (My first ever film camera: the Lomography Super Sampler!) Anyway, the affair I had with it died down around 2006 I think, when all the film labs started closing down and it got harder and even more expensive to get negatives developed, scanned and printed. I've since discarded some of my older toy cameras from my collection but I am finding that I am slowly adding to it again--this time I think with more thoughtful choices albeit pricier. But oh what quality. This is a favorite, if not THE favorite, one that hasn't really left my side since I got it around two years ago.

The Olympus Pen F Gothic is a half frame compact SLR. Half frame means that it slices the 35mm in two, and so you get an even smaller, portrait-oriented frame. It also means that your 36 frame roll of film is multiplied by two, thus more frames for you to expose. It apparently isn't a feature for everyone--72 shots per roll can be too much for some, but I love it. I feel like this is the perfect camera to bring on trips because of this (also, how compact it is--but I have to say it is heavier than it looks). This particular model has interchangeable lens, and I only have the 25mm 1.4 one but this one is beautiful. I have to warn you my technical vocabulary is limited, oh and my technical knowledge too. But let me describe what looking through the lens, and what its output feels like. There's something very quiet and calming about it. It can certainly do a good bokeh if that is what you are looking for. There is a grainy, dream-like quality to the photographs it takes. Like a memory of a favorite summer afternoon from years ago. Maybe it's the slight vignettes of the photographs. But anyway, here's a quick little love letter I made to my beloved, the Olympus Pen F Gothic. I hope we go through millions more adventures together.