The beautiful OM1

The Olympus OM Film Camera System

My journey with Olympus cameras began when I was 19 years of age. I had been shooting up until then with an old Zenit E and a few lenses and to be fair and considering I knew very little about exposure etc, sunny 16 delivered for me really well - I knew nothing back in those days but, I knew one thing and that was, I wanted to make pictures.

Then comes along this little Olympus OM1n, with a 50mm f1.8 and I was suddenly in the land of giants, David Bailey had advertised these on the TV, that was probably such a great and successful campaign for Olympus as a camera company back in the day. I was not aware of all the model line up or indeed the fabulous lenses but I was just aware of the brand and their kudos within the photographic world - life felt photographically grand, that's for sure.

I was suddenly presented with this tiny camera that replaced the house brick of the old Russian, and I had something that was light, highly portable and actually a damn fine image machine. My 'adventures' in real film, were about to begin.

I was also blessed with a new wife and our adventures were to begin with a honeymoon to the Lake District and the OM1n was going to record it all, which it did fabulously - I think it even took the images at our very low key Wedding too from memory. Life was about to take a new journey for me, within 2 years I had a new camera, new wife, new son, new career and new house, life was so grand and the little Oly recorded it all for all time. It still amazes me how much one takes images of your children and how much they model for you without ever knowing it. My son was never the adventurous model that my Daughter was to become, but more of that in another blog when I shall talk about my journey with a couple of autofocus Canon Film cameras, but that's for another day. The images I took of my family and son are vital reminders of days gone by, but are for us to remember how things were, how much fun we had and as we age, our pictures remind us because our brains, well they just need a little help from time to time.

I owned the Olympus OM1n for about 3 years and then in 1989 Olympus released the OM101, here was a camera that really appealed to me, it had new lens line-up, a built in motor winder and power focus - wow. I was 24 right, young and dumb, I traded my OM1n for the new OM101 in a heartbeat. I got it with a couple of lenses, a 35-70 and a 50mm and the manual adapter and I was feeling great and despite the bad press they got it, was actually a damn fine image taker. The power focus 101 was, looking back, rather poor but it had a good centre weighted meter and the lenses were the usual Zuiko offering, nice and crisp and belying their rather reasonable price at the time, I think there were 8 in the range . You also had the benefit of being able to use Manual Focus Zuiko lens line-up of the OM system, which of course meant you had a simple centre weighted aperture priority camera that actually did a half reasonable job of making an image for you. Add the manual adapter, which used to plug into the side of the body and you had manual exposure control with light meter indicators in the viewfinder - all good.

A half reasonable photographer could make good pictures with these cameras for sure, and rather sadly they took Olympus off in a direction which did not suit any of the die hard 35mm enthusiasts once auto focus was the latest hype and buzzword.

Preceding the OM101 was the OM 707, released in 1987. I wrote this article in this order because it was the order in which I owned the cameras at the time. The OM 707 was to be Olympus's first and last auto focus 35mm camera which again took OM manual lenses in addition. The lenses were actually very good indeed but the autofocus was sadly very lacking and was contrast only based autofocus system, so if you did not give it a good AF target it failed, well abysmally.

Ergonomics were as dire as you could get with manual focus and program shift mode using the same function slider on the back, the shutter release was in a horrible position too - the camera was basically fully auto, program mode camera but as mentioned did incorporate a shift function that allowed one to control settings to a degree -= of course this is a standard feature on all modern DLSR's nowadays but back in 87 it was ground breaking tech. The other ground breaking tech was the F280, the first flash that could sync at all shutter speeds therefore offering the first HSS flashgun.

Back to AF and I remember countless out of focus shots of aircraft flying around the skies as I chased them with the 707 and the 70-210 Olympus AF lens - when it got it right it did a nice jobs, sadly getting it right was not always the majority of the time.

I now own both the above cameras, although not the same ones as I owned at the initially. I bought them again for silly money on eBay or somewhere for the collection, they can still take photographs and I currently am working through a roll of Kodak Gold in the 707 as I type - it will be fun to see how it comes out .

Quite sadly Olympus came to market after the Minolta 7000 and before Canon with their EOS 650 which was in a different league with regard to autofocus but had a whole new lens mount so manual Canon users were somewhat forgotten there. However, the new electronic Canon mount ensured their AF was superb and that gave them the march on all the other manufacturers then and right into the 1990's when Nikon overtook in the pendulum game of camera technology. Canon became the choice for professional photographers the world over, and it was not until the advent of the F5 that Nikon began to claw back that loss.

Olympus marched off in other directions and despite making the OM3 & 4ti series of cameras well into the early new millennium, they favoured the 'all in one' consumer style bridge cameras such as their IS range with built in zoom lenses. I know nothing about these as I never owned one, but believe they are fairly well regarded and nowadays very cheap to purchase.

I very much like and enjoy photography with the OM series cameras and own many now, including 2 x 4ti's OM1, 2n, 10 and 30 models as well as a good spectrum of outstanding Zuiko optics to go with them, it really does make a refreshing change to go out with some lightweight but highly capable equipment in a small bag compared to the large DSLR's that were used to.

I hope you have enjoyed this insight into my experience with Olympus - more to follow when I do a feature and real world review of the OM Range from the early OM1 to the OM4ti.