How to Use The Olympus Pen EE-3 and EE-2

The Olympus Pen EE-3 is one of our favourite half-frame cameras. It is compact, easy to use, and ideal for beginners. Here is our full guide on how to use this awesome little camera, and how to get the most out of it.

Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm point and shoot film camera in front of pink background

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What is the Olympus Pen EE-3?

The Olympus Pen EE-3 is a compact, half-frame 35mm film camera. It was introduced in 1973, and was manufactured until 1982.

The Olympus Pen EE range has several different cameras to choose from. The Olympus Pen EE-3 is one of the over-looked and under-appreciated models. 

Also, a fun fact: "EE" stands for "Electric Eyes".

What features does the Olympus Pen EE-3 have?

The Olympus Pen EE-3 has fixed focus, a wide 28mm f/3.5 lens, red flag feature, and automatic shutter and aperture settings.

The camera's light meter is powered by the selenium cell around the lens. This piece of the camera receives light and moves a small needle inside the camera to determine your shutter speed and aperture.

What are the different parts of the Olympus Pen EE-3?

The Top Plate

The Olympus Pen EE-3 top plate is very simple. The camera features are easy to find, making it an ideal camera for beginners. Below is a labelled diagram of the camera.

Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera top plate nomenclature

On the left of the top plate is the rewind knob (more on that later). In the middle is the flash hotshoe, used for mounting hotshoe flashes to the camera. The shutter button is the small black button on the top. The small panel on the right is the shot counter that displays the number of shots you have taken.

The Lens

This is the only part of the camera where you can make adjustments for the settings. Turning the black ring of the lens selects the ASA of your roll of film, and also has the aperture settings for the flash controls.

Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera lens settings
Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera lens settings

The ASA dial is set to match the roll of film that you put in the camera. For example, if you are using Portra 400, the ASA setting is set to 400. 

There are no focus settings on the Olympus Pen EE-3, which makes taking photographs so much quicker and easier. 

The orange aperture settings are only used if you are using flash. Otherwise, the camera is set to one of the ASA, which allows the camera to choose the aperture and shutter speed automatically. 

The Bottom Plate

There is only one function on the bottom plate of the Olympus Pen EE-3: the rewind button. (And the tripod mount, technically.)

Rewind button on the bottom of the Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera

The rewind button is pressed when you are ready to start rewinding your film. 

How To Load Film In The Olympus Pen EE-3

Loading film takes some practice, but it is really easy when you get to grips with it. 

To load a roll of film in the Olympus Pen EE-3, first you have to open the back of the camera. To open the back of the camera, pull down this small silver tab, shown below.

How to open the back of the Olympus Pen EE-3 camera
How to open the back of the Olympus Pen EE-3 film camera
Pull this small silver tab to open the back of the camera.​​

Once you have the back of the camera open, you can load your roll of film. To load the roll of film, pull the rewind knob up. The roll of film goes in with the top of the canister (the part that sticks out) at the bottom of the camera. See the image below.

How to load film in the Olympus Pen EE-3
How to load film in the Olympus Pen EE-3

When the canister is in, you can pull the film leader across the camera to reach the other side.

Pull the film leader across the length of the camera

The rewind knob being put back down will lock the canister in place as you pull the film across. In order to lock the film onto the film spool in the camera, it has to go partly into one of the slots, and the notches at the bottom of the spool have to go through the sprockets on the film (the holes). 

Film inside the Olympus Pen EE-3
This is how your film should look inside the camera.​​

In order to be able to advance the film across the camera, you have to fire the shutter. You can do this by pointing it at a bright light or by setting the aperture setting to one of the orange numbers. 

I recommend firing the shutter, and advancing the film (with the advance thumb wheel) twice before closing the back, so that you can make sure the film is definitely loaded correctly. As you get more confident, you can fire the shutter less times and therefore get more photos on your roll of film. 

How To Take Photos With The Olympus Pen EE-3

Now you have loaded your roll of film, and closed the back of the camera, you are ready to start taking photos! 

The first thing to check is that your ASA is set to the same speed as your roll of film. For example, Portra 400 is ASA 400. Or Kodak Gold is ASA 200. 

Olympus Pen EE-3 on Cameras By Max branded kraft paper

When looking through the viewfinder, you will be able to see your frame lines.

View through the viewfinder of Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera

When the lens is set to one of the ASA settings, the camera will choose the shutter speed and aperture for you manually. If the image you are trying to take is too dark, the red flag will come up. 

You can override this by setting it to one of the numbers instead, but be aware that these are intended for a flash to be used with it. By setting the Olympus Pen EE-3 to a number on the lens, it reduces the shutter speed to 1/30 - that's one thirtieth of a second. So you will need to have a steady hand when doing so.

How does the film counter on the Olympus Pen EE-3 work?

When you first load your roll of film, it may look as though the film counter is not moving. It takes two or three shots for the shot counter to move to the number one. 

The back of the camera needs to be closed in order for the shot counter to start working. 

The counter shows the amount of images you have taken, not how many you have left.

Shutter counter on the Olympus Pen EE-3
Shutter counter on the Olympus Pen EE-3

How does the Olympus Pen EE-3 red flag feature work?

The purpose of this Olympus Pen EE-3 feature is to stop you from taking a photograph that is not exposed enough and therefore will not be visible when developed.

When there is not enough light in your image, the red flag will pop up in the viewfinder. You will clearly be able to see it if you are looking through the viewfinder. It also blocks the shutter button from being pressed.

Red flag feature inside the Olympus Trip viewfinder

Can I use the Olympus Pen EE-3 at night?

Yes, you can. 

The easiest way to do this is to attach a flash to the top of the camera.

Attaching a flash to the top of the camera is easy and most flashes can be used on the Olympus Pen EE-3. It has a standard flash hotshoe on the top of the camera. 

Here is an example of a flash that can be used on the Olympus Pen EE-3:

When using a flash on the Olympus Pen EE-3, there are different settings to use. These are the orange aperture numbers on the lens. 

The aperture you use needs to be read off of the meter table, which is usually displayed on the back of the flash unit. 

Below is an example shown on the Olympus Trip.

How to use a flash on the Olympus Trip 35
How to use a flash on the Olympus Trip 35

How To Rewind Your Film

Congratulations, you've finished your roll of film. 

How can I tell if the roll of film is finished?

You will start to feel some resistance when trying to advance the camera. Do not force it, as you will snap part of the mechanism. 

If you are using a 24 exposure roll of film, you will have reached the 48th shot. The shot counter should show the number 48, or near to that number. The same applies for a 36 exposure roll of film, as this will show the number 72. Sometimes you are lucky and get 73 or 74 shots out of a roll of film. 

When the film will not advance any more, the film is finished. 

How do I take the roll of film out?

On the bottom of the camera is your rewind button. Push this button in. It should stay in after you have pressed it once. 

You can now use the rewind knob to rewind the film into the canister. Turn the knob clockwise. 

Using the Olympus Pen EE-3 rewind knob to rewind film

Rewinding the film usually takes around thirty seconds of rewinding. You will feel when the film comes off of the spool at the end, because the rewind knob will have less resistance. Keep rewinding it until you feel certain that the film is back inside the canister. 

You can now open the back and take the film out. 

Back of the Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera

That's just about everything you need to know about the Olympus Pen EE-3 35mm film camera! We really recommend this camera for beginners, so we hope you have a great time using it and create some lovely images. 

I think my Olympus Pen EE-3 is broken; what should I do?

A lot of Olympus Pen 35mm film cameras have never been serviced. Common issues include: loose screws, missing screws, stuck aperture blades, degraded light seals, and other similar issues.

We highly recommend getting your Olympus Pen EE-3 serviced if it hasn't been used in a while. 

All of our Olympus Pen EE-3 services and repairs are very affordable, so definitely consider sending it to us before deciding that it doesn't work, or putting it back in a drawer. 

Find out more about the Olympus Pen cameras here:

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Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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