Monday, June 21, 2010

To the Heights of the Olympus Mount

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.

Flamingo Flock

Raspberries and ice cream


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


ampm said...

Mark, you need to keep that camera, it is by far my favorite manual focus camera, so compact and smooth. However, if in the end you decide not to keep it, let me know, the light meter in ours is not working properly, so I wouldn't mind replacing the body.

Luc said...

Mark, you're definitively nuts if you start collecting Zuiko glass and other Olympus gear... I'm fond myself of their rangefinders (RC and XA are my favorites so far) but I'm trying to stay away from their SLRs...

murhaaya said...

Hi there,

I am a sworn olympus OM-1 fan a photographer. I own a pretty beaten up OM-1 that's still misbehaving but I would not change it for anything. I use it as my main film camera. My main lens is the 50/1.4 and I have a several more ranging from 17 to 135 mm in primes. Zuiko lenses are top notch (definitely for the price!), the camera is so small even the OM-2 looks like a giant next to it, the viewfinder is large and bright... If I might be so bold. I'd suggest to you to keep it and get more lenses. Of course, it's up to you if you will take the suggestion from complete stranger who follows your pages and right now decided to write a comment :)

btw you can check some OM-1 pictures on my site -

good light

Carla said...

These pics look amazing, on whatever camera you've used.I love LEICA, if you really want to invest in another camera.