I confess that after all these years, I had yet to actually use an Olympus OM-series SLR. I have several friends that given high praise to the OM series, and I have repeatedly read about the wonderful compactness of the Olympus OM-1 SLR. Last Friday I picked up a box of cameras that had been donated to the Michigan Photographic Historical Society (MiPHS). In the box, among the digital P&S Canons, the Kodak Autographic, the Instamatic 100, and other items was a brown never-ready Olympus camera case. I opened it, and inside was a nearly impeccable OM-1 with 50mm 1.4 Zuiko lens and the matched lens shade. Except for the non-working self-timer, the camera looks like it was bought yesterday. I figured that I might as well use the camera for a while before selling it for MiPHS.
I believe Olympus built a nearly-perfect SLR for its time. Yes, I am a camera gearhead, and appreciate mechanical cameras, but I wasn't prepared for the joy of using the OM-1. Would I have loved it as much if the camera had been a beater? Hard to say, but this one is really nice. I put in a fresh 625 hearing aid battery, a roll of Kodak Gold 100 (yes FRESH film this time...see previous post), and shot the roll in 24 hours, mostly around the yard and at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. There is also a mint 50mm 3.5 macro lens in a case that I tried out, and it worked very smoothly and was fun to use on flowers in the garden.
Results speak for themselves. In operation, the camera was like a Nikkormat that went to finishing school. The aperture and shutter speed control are located on the lens barrel and lens base and are operated with the left hand, resulting in not having to look away from the camera or move the right hand except to fire the shutter. Slick. Match-needle metering, which is my favorite. I'm not a fan of the green and red LEDs on the Nikon manual cameras. Shutter sound -- quiet. The stop-down DOF lever is right where my finger can find it on the lens. Really easy.
Do I really need yet another SLR system? I can envision the OM-1 as being a perfect street camera with that 50mm 1.4. Maybe I need therapy. No, the OM-1 is a lot cheaper than a visit to the doc. I guess I will have to sell something to buy it, and that Nikkormat FTN is looking kinda forlorn right now... Go ahead, try and convince me that I don't need it.
Just for reference, in case you don't know...
Modern Classic SLRs - Olympus
Official Olympus site