Olympus OM-1 SLR3
Olympus OM-1 SLR3

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Olympus OM-1 SLR4
Olympus OM-1 SLR4

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Olympus OM-1 SLR2
Olympus OM-1 SLR2

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Olympus OM-1 SLR3
Olympus OM-1 SLR3

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Olympus OM-1 Single Lens Reflex

The OM-1 is a pretty camera. It looks and is elegant. For an SLR it is small in the hand. 135x45x75 and with a lens weights 730grams. The Japanese design genius who birthed the Olympus XA, Yoshihisa Maitani, also claims the OM-1. So, straightaway it is a masterpiece, yet it is supremely functional, completely manual, only needing a battery for the meter. No battery, doesn't matter, you can still shoot provided you can judge the correct exposures. Bulb to 1/1000 shutter speeds which would be the norm for this generation of cameras. I wouldn't say that it is supremely robust so careful handling will give many years of shooting enjoyment. Our definition of robust is the Nikon F4. The OM-1 cannot pretend to be an F4, yet it is precisely  made in the Japanese tradition of precision instrument manufacture.  The model to seek out is the original OM which only has a battery cover on the bottom plate whereas the MD version has 2 ports - battery and motor drive attachment. Attaching a motor drive rather ruins the OM-1MD aesthetics and of course adds unwanted bulk. The motor drive port is, annoyingly a bayonet fitting, not screw like the battery cover. Because of this lots of motor drive port covers are missing. Not really a problem, but a downgrade nevertheless. Being a fully manual camera the controls are only those you need, nothing you don't. The shutter speed and aperture are set from lens rings, either side of the focus ring. This feels good as all you need to set the frame parameters are there in front of you around the lens allowing the photographer's eye to remain on the viewfinder.  The only controls on the top plate are film speed and an on/off switch. The film advance lever is in its usual place. The light meter, powered from an MRB625 1.35v Wein cell is a very simple over or under match needle appearing on the left side of the viewfinder. . Centre it and your frame exposure should be good to go. The massive viewfinder really surprises, as compared with many of the OM-1's contempories it affords a superb view. Being the age they are OM-1s can suffer from various deterioration from the not so serious film chamber light seal canker to foam seal rot around the viewfinder prism. This can fall in front of the finder window, rather clouding the view. The light seals are straight forward to replace, but not so the prism foam which requires disassembly of the top plate and prism housing. This is time consuming and precise work but worth doing with these classic cameras.

Olympus are also very good at lenses and the OM-system Zuiko offerings are no exception. The standard 50mm F1.8 is excellent general purpose glass and you can go brighter all the way to F1.2 at considerably more $. We all know the glass makes the image and my favourite combo with the OM-1 is the 50mm F1.4. Bright enough for low light work but not a bank breaker. When purchasing 2nd hand lenses be sure to check well for fungus. The OM system lenses seem a little prone to this so take care to check or if this not possible, clearly ask the question. Like all vintage photographic gear from the 60s and 70s it has been around for more than 50 years so lots of time for storage damage due to moisture. Sometimes you just have to take a chance but you can be sure A.B. Donald Ltd will not sell you a lens which has fungus.