Olympus OM1

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by Cumberland Sausage, Mar 17, 2019.

    My teenage son has been keen on photography for years, but has just used his mobile phone and, more recently, a fairly basic Panasonic Lumix. I think he has a good eye for s shot, and a surprising amount of patience for somebody his age.
    Now, however, a friend has given him an old (1980s, I'd guess) Olympus OM1 film camera, complete with three lenses, one a telephoto. He's already shot off one roll of film and seems to be delighted with his new pride and joy. So, has anybody got any "golden rules" for using this classic camera, tips for good on-line sources of information about it, or even suggestions of good books for new users? Any pointers will be gratefully received.
  1. What a fantastic camera to learn on! I had an Olympus OM4 in the late 80's. Compact, solidly-built, with some beautiful lenses. There's nothing specific to the Olympus that he needs to know, it’s a camera like any other, so the technical aspects are nothing special.

    My advice, on the whole, is:

    • carry the camera around and take photos every day
    • look at photographs by recognised masters, learn from them.
    • go to exhibitions to see original prints
    • stick to one film. Get to know its strengths and weaknesses inside-out.
    • get a darkroom and start printing, that’s where half the magic happens.
    • have fun!

  2. The OM-1 was a fantastic camera; I had one (and OM-1n, to be specific) and loved it well. Excellent build quality and human interface.

    Fantastic... for what it is, which is a 50 year old antique that's missing about thirty important innovations that have come since: Automatic exposure control, automatic focus, ability to adjust color response, image stabilization, dust control, filing/tagging... Learning with that's a little like learning to drive with a manual choke and manual transmission: The question is whether overcoming challenges which will later be irrelevant is a good idea. Opinions are mixed.

    Ninjashaver's ideas are sound. I'd be cautious about encouraging him to learn with it too much beyond satisfying his basic curiosity - - you'll go broke, for one thing. Move him back to the Lumix sooner rather than later, and put the Olympus in a nice box to admire later.

    Having said that, I'd try to focus on things a modern camera obscures.*
    • It's hard, with a modern camera, to understand exposure control and the relationship between depth of field (range of what's in focus) to shutter speed (ability to stop action).
    • Each image has a cost - even in digital, the cost of sorting, processing, and filing. One of the reasons people used to love 8x10 view cameras: "If it costs me all this effort and money I'm going to make every shot count." Encourage him to count the costs (real, in modern 35mm) and pay attention to composition, etc.
    • This camera won't forgive mistakes.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!
    *Get all my puns out at once.
  3. joamo

    joamo Contributor

    If you don't have it, you can download a pdf of the OM-1 manual.
    I've always liked the Life Library of Photography, possibly your local library would have copies. If not, search online, they seem to be going for reasonable prices.
  4. If he wants to get deeply involved in wet process photography, a changing bag, 1 roll processing can, and a proof frame are the next steps.

    Wet photography is out of favor and there is a lot of this still around to be had for a pittance.


  5. I've been impressed with the results people have achieved scanning film negatives and digitally creating the positive images from those.
  6. In addition to the above processing gear, get a bulk loader and roll your own from 100’ rolls. Won’t save much on Tri X, but can save a lot with HP5.
  7. I've had one of these since 1983. Sadly, it's currently jammed so I don't use it, but I also have three working OM2ns and a couple OM4's, all very nice cameras.

    Lenses are cheap because they cannot easily be used on digital cameras, unlike the Pen series.

    Use a Wein cell or a zinc-air hearing aid battery for the meter, they were designed for mercury batteries and unlike the Pentax K1000, do not have a balanced meter circuit and are voltage sensitive. I learned this the hard way by over-exposing 20 rolls of film on a trip to Germany when I first go the camera using an alkaline 625 cell in it. Works perfectly with zinc/air batteries or a silver oxide with step-down diode.

    Less of an issue with B&W film, but over exposure coupled with the usual over-development typical of beginners gives very difficult to scan negatives -- I know, have thousands of them, alas.

    Have fun with it, they are great little cameras and take lovely photographs.
  8. I used an OM-1 as the photographer for my Jr High and High School Yearbooks and it was a wonderful camera. It was much smaller than many other contemporary SLRs. The lenses are nice and compact too, I had a 50mm a wide angle of some sort and a short telephoto like a 135. That and a small flash would cover most normal photo situations. It's a wonderful camera to teach traditional photography but as others noted I'd concentrate on learning some of the concepts and honing your technique then moving back to digital.
  9. I'm still using film for one reason -- no current digital medium is archival. None of them. Film, properly cared for, should last 100 years. Flash drives won't, recordable DVDs won't (don't leave one where sunlight gets to it), magnetic tape is not, hard drives are not. Cloud storage isn't any better, if the company goes bankrupt and the power is off, you have no data.

    Digital is easier, sure, and can approach film for quality if you spend a pile of money, but film will be there for your great grandchildren.

    Digital quality is only comparable if you spend a big pile of cash, too. Sadly, all the truly great films are gone, never to return -- Ilford PanF in 120, Kodak Technical Pan (actually satellite film), Pan-X, and 35 mm microfilm with decent speed. Kodachrome is long gone, and E6 films are rare, and even movie film is an endangered species.....

    I'm still annoyed that Olympus tossed out their 35mm lenses when they switched to digital. I understand some of the reasons, but it left me having to change to Pentax and Nikon.
  10. I got inspired by this thread and replaced my OM-1 with a cheap one off eBay. Man, do I love this camera!

    Tomorrow is Lomography day, I have 400 ft of Fuji 64D movie film that was badly stored. Color is excellent, but there are random spots where it appears some fungus grew on it, or it got ferrotyped by getting damp, and there are cracks in the emulsion and random spots where the yellow filter dye does not wash out. That leave blue dots in the image in unpredictable places.

    It was cheap, it's easy to process in the ECN chemicals, and sometimes it looks great. I'll buzz a couple rolls through and see what I get. I have lenses now from 28mm to 300mm, including a lovely Vivitar Series 1 90 mm with adapter, so I can spend half a day playing tomorrow after the rain quits.
  11. My son has shot off a couple of rolls of 35mm film so far and is quite pleased with the results. He's slowly getting used to the fact the OM1 does not do all your "thinking" for you; in fact he quite likes this.
  12. If you want to really learn photography, I think you must use a totally manual camera. Exposure measurement is fine, but auto everything cameras tend to produce auto everything snapshots. If ya gotta bean out everything, you learn what all the effects of lens aperature, focal point, exposure, and framing are.

    And the OM-1 is still just about my favorite camera. Easy to hold even with my big mitts, very quiet and with very low shutter vibration, unlike a few other SLRs I've use. My K1000 kicks like a mule, although it doesn't seem to have any more image degradation than the OM. Just much less comfortable to use.

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