Happy Birthday OM-1

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Mike Farley
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Joined: Tue 11 Sep 2012, 16:38

Happy Birthday OM-1

Postby Mike Farley » Sat 02 Jul 2022, 09:56

Back in 1972, the Olympus OM-1 was a revolutionary camera due to its compact size and promise of less weight to carry. Another aspect of the range was standardisation of filter sizes across many of the focal lengths. 49 mm for the more compact lenses and 55mm for the faster ones. The less expensive lenses, usually with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 although the 50 f/1.8 "kit" lens fell into the same category, shared the 49 mm filter size. I bought a lovely black OM-1 in 1974 when zoom lenses were still in their infancy to replace a Praktica camera. Acquiring even a set of the slower prime lenses to cover the most often used focal lengths meant that a camera bag did not become much less burdensome than previously. It was an early lesson in the realities of physics when it comes to photography gear.

In 1975, Olympus followed up the OM-1 with the equally revolutionary OM-2. It had aperture priority and metered off the film during the exposure. One of the selling points was that the camera could react to a change in the light while the shutter was open. With shutter speeds usually sub second, that was solving a problem that did not exist. For longer exposures, calculating film reciprocity failure would have been more of a factor in obtaining a well exposed shot. Nevertheless, the OM-2 was in short supply for many months after its release.

Many professionals continued to use their Nikon F cameras, citing fragility of the OM system. I recall Victor Blackman writing in Amateur Photographer about using an OM camera but being concerned about reliability. Sadly, the pros were right. I still have my OM-1 and OM-2 but both are broken, albeit after several years of moderate use. However, I have a newer OM-2n inherited from my dad that still works. Never having sold my lenses, I occasionally put a film through it. The camera handles well and looks surprisingly modern, a testament to the original design. The OM2-n had a few tweaks but nothing much changed externally. Maybe Olympus concentrated on making the mechanism more robust?

On the Kosmo Foto website, Stephen Dowling has a comprehensive article about the gestation of the OM system. Rather than the camera we know today, the intention was to create a modular system but that proved too complex to manufacture. A more conventional SLR was the compromise to bring the camera to market.

https://kosmofoto.com/2022/06/olympus-o ... lr-design/

Mike Farley
(Visit my website and blog - www.mikefarley.net)

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