I purchased an Olympus Pen EES-2 camera on Ebay. Although I've heard the shutters on these cameras often have problems, I hoped mine would be troublefree. Well that didn't turn out to be the case. In direct sunlight everything seemed OK, but when I tried to trip the shutter in low light, the shutter would stick open. The shutter would then stick open until I started to crank the film advance knob. I also discovered that the shutter would stick whenever I made an exposure with a manually selected aperture. Although I did not pay much for it, this was clearly not what I had in mind when I bought the camera. Something was going to have to give.
Being the curious sort, I immediately started disassembling the camera using whatever tools I had at home. Of course this turned out to be the same tools as I normally use to work on home plumbing projects. Well, after two trips to the store for miniature tools I was able lay bare the internal workings of the EES-2. Two things became obvious: 1) the internal operation of the camera is complicated and somewhat opaque, and 2) if I managed to fix anything the chance of getting it together again was slim to none. Well to make a long story short, here is what I found. First, in the automatic mode, the EES-2 selects between two shutter speeds (without a manual I'm not sure what they are). I read on the Sub Club web site that only the higher shutter speed was used during automatic mode, but this was not what I found. This explained why I was only having problems with the shutter in dim lighting and when manually selecting an aperture. In both conditions, the EES-2 was using the slower shutter speed and it must have been only this speed that was hanging up. Deduction told me that the faster shutter speed was working properly every time. At this point a light came on in my head! All I had to do was figure out how to trick the camera into always using the high shutter speed and I could then use the camera as an aperture priority camera with a single shutter speed. This would be just the opposite of my Minox, which has fixed aperture and selectable shutter and would be something I could happily live with.
After a few hours of playing with the internals of the EES-2, I figured out that two small changes would modify the operation of the camera to exactly what I was looking for. First I cut the wires going to the light meter. This disabled the light meter causing the EES-2 to think it was in the dark all of the time. In this condition, the camera has an interlock to prevent the shutter from firing when the shutter release button is pressed. However, I found that when I defeated this interlock, the EES-2 would reliably select the higher speed shutter even though it was effectively "in the dark". The interlock is easy to remove. It is nothing but a small screw mounted in the middle of the shutter release rod. That was it. Now all I do is manually select the aperture and take the picture, knowing that I'll get a reliable exposure at the higher shutter speed.
For those having a similar problem and considering cracking open your camera, I wouldn't recommend it. Although these modifications can be made without wholesale dismantling of the camera body, you could easily end up pitching your camera in the trashcan after one inadvertent slip of the screwdriver. To disassemble the camera beyond taking off the top and bottom covers requires unsoldering and re-soldering a bunch of wires going between the light meter and the sensing element and between the PC contact and the shutter assembly. In my case I just cut the wires since I didn't want the light meter connected. But if you want to restore full operation of the camera, care must be taken to restore the wires upon reassembly. The last thing that makes (total) disassembly difficult is that there are four screws under the leatherette next to the lens. In order to remove the shutter release mechanism these screws must be removed. The leatherette must be pulled up in order to gain access to the screws and glued back after the repair. Take care not to rip the material else you will be left with an ugly camera.
One other thing I was able to do while I had the camera disassembled was clean out an accumulation of dust that found its way between the two lens groups. The dust appeared in the form of a white powder and clouded the lens when you looked through it from the rear (shutter set to B). What was interesting about this is that the powder appeared to come from corrosion or decomposition of something behind the light meter. It get inside the lens through a slit in the lens barrel. This slit allows the aperture mechanism to be inserted inside the lens barrel and between the lens groups. This slit prevents the lens from being hermetically sealed, thus allowing dirt and dust to find its way inside the lens (not good). It's possible to remove the front lens group without disassembling the camera body. To do this, three screws must be removed from the "lens shade". These are mighty small screws and need only to be loosened. The lens shade can then be removed and the front element will screw out (counterclockwise). Open the aperture using the bulb position of the shutter to gain access to the innards of the lens barrel and use something soft to clean out the area between the two lens groups. Now the fun begins. The front lens group must be screwed back in and the lens shade restored just right. If the lens is not screwed in to the correct depth the focus settings will not correspond to the subject distance. The only way I can think to do this is to focus the lens at infinity using a small piece of ground glass held in place of the film (a piece of wax paper might work) and then replace the lens shade with the focus knob set to the infinity stop.
Some of you might be asking: If he had the camera open, why didn't he just fix the shutter problem and restore full operationa? I would have if I could have figured out the problem with the slower shutter speed. My best guess was the problem was just old age and mechanical wear of the shutter timing mechanism; not a problem I had the parts or skills to fix.
It was an interesting adventure, teaching me a lot about what to do next time. Olympus EES-2's are really neat and this episode has fueled my desire to do some half-frame shooting. I really like the vertical perspective and the small size of the camera. The EES-2 reminds me a lot of my Olympus RC-35 rangefinder camera (35mm). The RC-35 is a really fun camera and I'm sure I'll like the EES-2 equally.
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