Olympus OM-1 Camera Review

Olympus OM-1 Camera Review

1400 788 James Tocchio

Fans of the Olympus OM system are as passionate and dedicated as any in the world of cameras, and it’s over the original Olympus OM-1 that these acolytes most readily swoon. Spend any amount of time chatting with classic camera geeks and the Olympus OM-1 is sure to come up in conversation.

And I totally get that obsession. Last year I shot the OM-2 for a weekend. On Friday I expected nothing special, and on Sunday I had a new favorite SLR. Since then, I’ve shot the OM-3, OM-4, OM-2s, and the OM-4Ti, and I’ve encouraged countless would-be film shooters to hunt down an OM of their very own. But in all this time I’d still not gotten my hands on the original, the progenitor, the OM-1. That is, until now.

The past two weeks have found me shooting the Olympus OM-1, and it feels like coming home. The OM-1 isn’t going to appeal to everyone (it’s a camera that has some potentially ruinous shortcomings) but for a certain type of photo geek, shooting this Olympus will be as blissful a photographic experience as one can have.

To start, let’s get through the basics. The Olympus OM-1 is a fully-mechanical, 35mm film SLR first produced in 1972, though back then you’d never find an OM-1 on the shelves. That’s because in its original iteration it was called the M-1, named to immortalize its legendary designer Yoshihisa Maitani. When Leica discovered that Olympus had made a better camera than their identically-named and vastly inferior M-1 rangefinder, the boys from Wetzlar had a tantrum and “requested” the name be changed. Olympus bowed and changed the name to OM-1, and knotted lederhosen far and wide were swiftly unwound.

Olympus OM-1 Review (9 of 12)

[M-1 Image Courtesy of Instagram’s @Wilfredjaai]

Interestingly for collectors, a number of these early M-1s still pop up here and there, and seeking them out can be a pastime in itself. Olympus’ records indicate that only 5,000 were ever produced, but sleuthing photo-geeks put the number significantly higher. Lenses and accessories bearing the M-System nomenclature are also quite sought after, so keep an eye out next time you’re in the local thrift shop. And while uncommon, it should be mentioned that these cameras can be easily counterfeited, with many an OM-1 having been modified to sell at the much higher prices commanded by M-1s. Due diligence dictates buying only from shops you trust (like mine). Unfortunately, the M-1’s rarity will inevitably force many folk to wade through the murky waters of eBay.

With this in mind, here are some pointers. If you’re looking to get your hands on one of these original Ms, check these external indicators first. The bottom plate should have no ports except a battery cover, as the M-1 lacks the ability to mount a motor drive. Other easy indicators are the use of slotted screws in the lens mount (not JIS or phillips), and a smaller film pressure plate. The M-1’s plate should measure 51.5mm x 38mm while the OM-1’s plate measures 60.5mm x 38.5mm. Removing the pressure plate should reveal mounting studs 45mm apart, opposed to the later camera’s 52mm spacing. Internally things are more complicated, but we can tell the difference by removing the top plate and observing the coloring of wires, inclusion or exclusion of certain resistors, differences in the metering system, and a number of other minuscule clues.

This is all rather boring stuff, suited to a more obsessive website. M-1 or OM-1, when you buy the original OM machine you’re getting a serious shooter’s camera. That’s because this camera is a precise, concise tool. There’s nothing here to confuse the process of photography, which is good, but there’s also not much here to make the process easy for newcomers, which could be a deal-breaker for some photo geeks.

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We mentioned that this is a mechanical camera (it functions via levers, springs, and gears rather than being powered by electricity), but it’s also an entirely manual camera. If you’re going to use an OM-1 you’d better understand (or be ready to learn) the ways that ISO, shutter speed, and aperture impact your photo.

That said, the Olympus OM-1 does have a light-meter to assist things, but there’s no auto-exposure like we find in other, more modern OM machines. And this is likely going to be the thing that keeps many photo geeks from pulling the trigger on the OM-1. Whether the manual-only nature of the machine truly warrants preclusion is up to the individual. For me, I welcome it. Simplifying things often leads to magical moments in photography, and some of the best photos I’ve ever taken have been technically imperfect shots made with manual exposure cameras whose dials and knobs were set just shy of perfect.

But I acknowledge that for some people this review just ended. The exclusion of auto-exposure is a real shortcoming. But for those who are up to the challenge, for those ready for a serious camera, this shortcoming won’t matter.

So what do we get with the OM-1? In short, everything we need and nothing we don’t.

The top plate is delightfully sparse, with nothing more than a shutter release button, an ISO dial, a film advance lever, an On/Off switch, and a film rewind lever. That’s it. There’s no exposure compensation dial, there’s no multiple exposure switch or mode selector; even the shutter speed dial is placed elsewhere (surrounding the lens mount). On the front of the camera we find the self-timer and previously-mentioned shutter speed selector, film rewind switch, mirror lock-up switch, and flash socket. And again, that’s all!

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It would be easy to read the OM-1’s spec sheet and pass it over in favor of a camera that offers more gizmos and widgets. And in today’s digital environment, overlooking something on account of its quaint simplicity is practically the status quo. We compare and weigh and choose, and forever covet newer, flashier, more decadent devices. But to overlook this camera on account of its simplicity would be a massive mistake, for the entire allure of the OM-1 is in its ability to provide today’s shooters with something we so desperately need; clarity.

The OM-1 allows us to see the world with a simplicity that’s conspicuously elusive, especially for photographers who are used to looking through the latest EVFs or DSLR viewfinders. Through its eschewing of superfluous features, the OM-1 becomes an ideal photographic tool for our modern age, and indeed a truly timeless object of function and beauty. And this camera is beautiful. Maitani and his team of engineers worked tirelessly for years to refine prototype after prototype, until finally producing what we see today, the smallest (136 × 83 × 50 mm) and most appealing 35mm SLR around. It’s a quintessentially Japanese creation, with an economy of design that’s intentionally reserved.

In its era, the OM-1 was a revelation, and today it’s still a stunner. Place it next to the latest and greatest Nikon, Canon or Leica and you’ll immediately recognize that we’ve indeed been taking steps in the wrong direction. The OM-1 is compact, purposeful, slim, and sexy. While the most common machines of today (even some mirror-less cameras) are bloated, disproportionate, and needlessly complicated.

Counter-intuitively, these savings in size and weight do not forfeit quality. While stowing an OM body in our bag adds only 510 grams (18 ounces) to the load, these are some well-made grams. Build here is excellent. The camera is tight, dense, and solid, and the OM feels like a camera that can take abuse and keep on firing (a suspicion reinforced when my review camera spent the day photographing the New England Aquarium, even after tumbling from a footpath into rocky Boston Harbor).


Functionally the camera is a joy to use, with a few minor exceptions. Ergonomically, things are excellent. Controls are implemented in an intelligent and thoughtful way. The locking tab on the ISO selector (a feature that usually annoys) is comfortably hidden in a convenient niche. The shutter speed selector actuates with a directed force that lets one know they’ve just adjusted something serious, and the shutter release button feels great.

These last two components are linked to a capable, if old-fashioned, horizontally-traveling cloth focal-plane shutter capable of speeds from 1/1000th of a second down to 1 second, plus Bulb mode for long exposures. Flash sync speed only reaches to 1/60th of a second, which is prohibitively slow for anyone shooting with a fill-flash in daylight. And while these limitations will likely only impact certain, more advanced photographers (new shooters seldom use strobes or have super-fast glass) they do hamper the OM-1’s performance a bit.

One other lowlight can be found when we advance the film. It just feels rough. Opposed to some other classic cameras, which implement advanced construction techniques such as self-lubricating ball bearings, advancing film and cocking the shutter of the Olympus OM-1 can almost make one cringe. The action sounds sandy, abrasive, and sad.

Luckily, with these two qualms we’ve essentially exhausted our stock of complaints, and we’re back to heaping accolades. And no area of the OM-1 impresses more than when we look through its absolutely gigantic viewfinder. A decidedly gorgeous .92X magnification finder shows 97% of the image area, with photons passing through twelve available interchangeable focusing screens. It’s amazing that on a camera so small we would find one of the biggest, brightest, and best viewfinders in all of classic photography.

The viewfinder also displays a “center-the-needle” light meter readout. Light passing through the lens is measured by two CdS cells placed on opposite sides of the eyepiece, and these provide through-the-lens open aperture light measurement. Simply adjust your aperture and shutter speed until the needle rests between the plus and minus symbols in the viewfinder and you should make a proper exposure. In reality, the light meter in the OM-1 isn’t exceptional. It’s decent. Exposure is measured fairly accurately, though it’s not as adept as some other metering systems we’ve used. And the subsequent OMs amazing auto-exposure and metering systems certainly overshadow the more primitive OM-1.

It should also be noted that using the light meter can slow down the process of photography on account of the viewfinder lacking any indication of the selected aperture and shutter speed. Still, a built-in light meter is certainly useful for new shooters or for double checking more proficient photographers’ judgement. I suspect that most old-hands will ignore it completely, or never turn it on, and shoot according to their own assessment of the light.

A camera is only as good as the glass fitted to it, and Olympus optics are among the best and most varied (with some reliability caveats). Their Zuiko lenses can produce some simply incredible images, and we’ve seen a few that outperform all of the competition. Optical coatings from the brand are advanced and capable, and do a good job of mitigating unwanted optical aberrations and producing nice contrast and color.

Lens construction mirrors the ethos of the system, in that most lenses are amazingly small, and placing Zuiko glass next to comparable lenses from other manufacturers nearly always leads to wonder over why those other guys’ stuff is so big.

Build quality of the lenses is superficially good, with focus rings, aperture rings, and stop-down levers actuating nicely. But we’ve seen an inordinate number of Olympus lenses come through our shop suffering much higher rates of fungus and focus helicoid oil seepage compared to lenses of the same age from different makers. Whether this is just bad luck, a product of the habits of typical Olympus owners, or truly bad manufacturing is hard to say. But there seems to be a problem. When looking for lenses, make sure the one you’re buying is in good shape and take proper care of it.

It should also be mentioned that these classic lenses are easily fitted to today’s crop of mirror-less cameras. Those shooting Sony a7 or Fujifilm X series cameras will want to pick up an adapter and double the usability of legacy Zuikos.

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What kind of shooter will most readily appreciate the charms of the OM-1? We see it most comfortably in the hands of someone who’s been shooting for a little while, or is ready to learn more about photography. It’s a more demanding camera, in that it does little to coddle the photographer, but that’s not to say it’s an incapable camera. The OM-1 is a high quality machine that grows with the shooter. Travelers, adventurists, and those who want to document life without being weighed down by gear will appreciate its diminutive nature, and those obsessed with image quality will love well-kept Zuiko lenses.

The Olympus OM-1 is the kind of heirloom treasure that can be passed from generation to generation, and indeed many have been. If you’re looking for a masterful mechanical camera to be, essentially, the only film camera you’ll ever need, the OM-1 should certainly be considered. It’s quite simply one of the best.

Buy your very own Olympus OM-1 on eBay, on Amazon, or from F-Stop Cameras

You’ll also need some film.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • At last you posted this 🙂 I’ve been waiting ages to read your view’s on my favourite camera. I absolutely love the OM-1 and most of the image’s taken on film on my blog are from it, I agree with you it’s one of those camera’s that you’ll either fall in love with or hate because of it’s peculiarities but I’d urge anyone who get’s their hands on one to give a good crack at it, it’s well worth it. Other than the size saving you didn’t mention the cost saving the OM system has, I’ve got 28mm, 50mm and 135mm prime’s and not one of them cost me more than £25 each with my OM-1 costing me little more than £45 body only. It’s a small lightweight package that’s light on the wallet compared to other comparative camera’s of the time from the big boy’s.
    Yes I’ll admit, my name is Ed and I am an Olympus fan boy.

    • You’re right on about value. One of the best.

    • Randle P. McMurphy April 28, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Dear Ed,
      I got a Olympus OM-1 with Winder and 1,4/50 at a flee market for nearly nothing.
      I loved that combination for traveling.
      The only thing that bothers me was setting the time over the ring at the bayonett.
      20 years later I run into a Nikkormat FTn and fell in love with it out of the sudden.
      I have to admit that the building quality of Nikon is a level higher, also the lenses
      from that decade !

      Have fun and always good light !

  • I’ve got two OM-1s, one chrome-topped and one all black. They are wonderful. The only quirk to get used to is the shutter-speed ring on the lens barrel, rather than in the idiomatic place atop the camera by the winder. Once over that, this camera is a delight. I don’t even mind it being match-needle only, despite preferring aperture-priority shooting — I seem to be able to work it fast enough. In contrast, as much as I love my Nikon F2AS, its little +/- LEDs in the viewfinder just feel slower to use.

    • Ah…the shutter ring. This is what I still want in a modern digital camera. It always made sense to me to have F stop, focus and shutter speed all in the same plane. For me, using a Nikon or Canon with the shutter speed up top feels ludicrous. Olympus go that one right, and all the others needed to catch up. The match needle system worked well for me, except in low light conditions with high speed film. Being absent from active photography for years, I find myself looking for a digital camera that doesn’t have me studying a manual for hours or sifting through menus constantly. Steer me toward the modern version of an OM-1 and I’ll be grateful.

      • I’ve reviewed quite a few excellent digital cameras with film-like haptics. I even wrote an article about it! See if any of these work for you.

        • I’ll be studying your article with great interest. I hope there really is something that works like an OM-1. I had high hopes for the EM-1, but …
          I’ve had mine since my father bought it for me in the late 70s. He was tired of me always borrowing his! I used it for decades, until film became an issue to buy or get processed, so I succumbed to digitals (Olympus, of course). It WAS nice to no longer have to be so careful and conserve film. But I’ve never been happy.
          As Rorschandt said – I want one that doesn’t make me memorise a manual. Or that I have to fiddle and guess with screens and menus and a whole host of selections before I take a shot – that has gotten away by then! I want to swing the camera to my eye, quickly twist the rings to get my exposure / depth and focus, and go!
          Oh, and mine has a smooth film advance- it seems to me. It is mechanical, obviously, but not super heavy or rough. If it was ever fighting you or noisy, it meant the film probably didn’t thread on correctly and could tear, so you knew to unwind and redo. Not sure what the issue is with yours.

      • Shutter speed setting on the OM-x is the logical and ergonomic place for it. You set exposure and focus with your left hand, while grip, shutter release and wind-on with your right hand. Your hands stay in the same place throughout the meter-focus-release-wind sequence.

        After a short while using an OM body, you know exactly what shutter speed is set by feeling the position of the two grips on the ring, so the lack of a shutter speed display in the viewfinder is not a big deal. I can reliably dial to any particular shutter speed I want on my OM-1 without taking my eye from the finder. You cannot do that with a round knob! To avoid confusion, all OM lenses have their aperture ring at the front of the lens – separated from the shutter speed ring by the focus.

        In old cameras with a focal plane shutter, the shutter speed knob was on the top plate by necessity, because it acted directly on one of the shutter’s tensioning springs. It was not put there for not for any reason of usability or ergonomics. That the likes of Fuji are putting a shutter speed dial on top of their digital cameras is just being pretentiously “retro”.

  • At last after ten years of using Olympus cameras (The OM2n OM2SP and my hidden jem my OM40 ) I am getting a OM1.To use I think it will be like using the OM2n in manual mode. but also have a character of its own ..Thanks for another great review .

  • There’s a reason Jane Bown owned 12 of these babies. It really is an amazing tool.

    I have mine with Dr. Hermanson now. Looking forward to getting a “brand new” OM-1n back very soon. I’m curious to see if the film advance will be crunchy or smooth (probably the only annoying aspect of this camera for me).

    Awesome review!


    • Let us know when you get it if that lever is silky or not. It’d be really great to know, as that really is the only aspect of the camera that doesn’t feel fantastic.

      • My OM-1n arrived today – back from Dr. Hermanson. The film advance is noticeably smoother, and it literally looks brand new.

        I have my OM-2n with him but won’t have it back for a few months. I’m excited to compare the two.

        Fresh roll locked and loaded.

      • Hello, I have several OM1/OM2 bodies (inc ‘n’ series) and the degree of advance lever smootheness are all a little different. One is clearly ‘rough’, but this one has been used with the auto-winder, so perhaps it’s worth seeking one that has *not* been used with such rapid film advancing? Both OM1/OM2 bodies are virtually identical under the bonnet – I have a OM2n who’s advance-lever action is almost on a par with my Leica M6/M2 series – inner tolerances may also explain this variation too? Having done a little repair work on these OMs, the ‘roughness’ can be attributed to mechanism which pulls the shutter curtains across – nothing to so with the lever mech, nor the idler gear.

        Kind regards

  • This is one lovely review man!
    I have no idea how I got addicted to this OM system. Its compact design is probably the reason why I like it so much. It looks beautiful too when compared to other bulkier SLRs. Regarding the film advance, I wonder what you mean by crunchy. Indeed the ones I have mostly feel smooth. I have around 8 at the moment. Of course, I understand that it might not be comparable to a Leica’s lever. I do think my M3 has a smoother advance motion, but I wouldn’t say my OMs are crunchy.
    Cheers man!

  • Dear James,
    One thing you did not mention in the review is that this camera needs a mercury battery that is not produced anymore. Using an SR44 instead will give meter misreads although on most film these will be (partially) masked by the films’ exposure latitude.
    To be able to get correct readings the meter must be adapted to SR44 batteries by a repair person (or use a Weinn cell; with all its quirks). This battery adjustment is mostly standardly done when the camera is brought for a CLA.

    I have this camera and I really love it!

    • Hey bud. Thanks for adding that here in the comments. I don’t tend to talk about that as much as some other sites because I’ve not found it to be an issue at all, especially with the massive latitudes afforded by film today. When I first got into shooting classic cameras the Wein cell, modified camera, battery problem was something that caused me to worry and fret, but in the end there was no reason to. I just use today’s available batteries and I never have exposure problems (except for when the problem is me).

      But I’m not disagreeing with you! You’re certainly correct! Thanks again!

    • An alternative would be getting an MR-9 adapter which takes SR43 batteries and could produce a current of approximately 1.35v similar to the Mercury battery which has been discontinued. I have been using this combo on my M-1 and OM1 and they work great. Cheers!

  • Merlin Marquardt April 29, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Very nice review of a classic camera. I remember considering the Olympus OM-1 in 1972, but chose the Canon FTb instead. I have always thought it was an attractive choice.

  • I recently bought an Olympus OM-1 for a song on ebay. All mechanical and solid as a rock. The part I love about it is that I can use the 50mm Zuiko lens I had previously purchased for another, digital, Olympus E-M10. Great writing, cheers !

  • Hello All. I have had an OM1 for a while and love it. Just now I have seen that the pressure plate at the back has finally fallen off. What will happen to my images without it?

    • James – Founder/Editor August 17, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Without the pressure plate installed the film will not be flat or the proper distance from the back element of the lens. You will likely have trouble getting accurate or at least consistent across the frame focus. It’s also possible that the film will be damaged.

      I am pretty sure that fitting the pressure plate back into place is just a matter of securing the tabs back in place.

      Hope this helps.

  • Janne M. Korhonen October 7, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Very nice review. I just got back to film photography by obtaining a Pentax MX – Asahi’s response to OM-1 – but OM-1 is the camera I love the most. I learned to shoot with it and even used it for some small-time photo journalism for a local newspaper around the turn of the millennium – preferred it over the EOS-3 they tried to hoist on me. Extremely pleasant to use, and ergonomically just a notch ahead of MX. (Shutter speed dial and LED exposure metering, I’m looking at you two guys.)

    The reason I used the OM-1 was very simple: dad owned couple OM-1s and OM-2s and a veritable truck load of lenses and accessories from his days as a semi-professional photographer, and kept them in perfect working condition, with regular professional maintenance, until about a decade ago. The film advance lever was very smooth to operate and I can’t honestly recall anything untoward when using it.

    I agonized a lot about whether to get the MX or hunt for a good condition OM-1, but got a great deal on a serviced MX. That’s a classic camera as well, and may have slightly better optics, but for me it doesn’t quite measure up to OM-1 level. It’s actually a bit funny to read these reviews and read about the OM-1 as I always thought dad hadn’t exactly been rolling in cash and therefore the cameras he’d bought in the 1970s must have been some second-rate jobs – but turns out, OM-1 was just about the best thing money could buy back when he bought it!

    • James – Founder/Editor October 7, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I love reading these kinds of comments. Thanks for sharing all that. The MX gets requested a lot by readers. I’ll need to give it a shot and see what the fuss is about.

      • John Richard Flinn April 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

        I had a Pentax MX. Nice and light but no mirror lockup. I tend to think the optics were slightly better on the Olympus. The Nikon FM2n is another one of my favorites as it too is light and the lenses are great. But alas the only way for a mirror lockup is by using the timer. The OM-10 works the same way for MLU as the FM2n.

  • Nice review. I bought my OM1 in 1980 and the thing that swung me was the speed dial around the lens bayonet. I just found it so simple to use, you can shift focus, speed and aperture simultaneously with taking you hand from the lens. I always thought it was far superior to any camera with the speed dial up top. The meter in mine seemed to be as accurate as the Weston I carried, so I stopped carrying the Weston. I was shooting mainly slide film back then, so exposure had to be spot-on.
    I tried Nikons, Canons, Contax and Pentax but none of them felt right in my hands like the OM1. The OM2 came a year later and these two will accompany me to the end. Unless my kids steal them from my cold, dead hands!

    • James – Founder/Editor October 17, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      I think the OM-1 and 2 might be ideal cameras, to be honest. For me, anyway, the size and functionality are second to none.

  • My parents bought me an OM1 for my 16th birthday in 1976. I cut my teeth on this camera, and in later years moved through Nikon, Canon, and more recently Sony. I have been a photographer since the day I got that OM1, and guess what. It’s 40 years since I first started photography with my OM1, so I’ve decided to revisit this quite remarkable camera, and have decided to produce a series of portraits on an OM1, which my wife has agreed to buy for me as a Christmas present. Cannot wait to get back to film, and my trusty OM1. Feeling quite emotional. Great article.

  • Recently I decided to dig out my first “real” camera- my OM1😀 which has been sitting in a camera bag for many years. So I did a search and found this article. Love it! I retired the OM when I got my first Dslr and decided to that it’s now time to rediscover film. I’m going to buy film today. Fortunately I had filter over the lens so the glass is pristine. I have the OM 50 on the camera and a longer zoom (I forget the specs right now). I’m opting in to receive notices of new comments & posts & hope to be active here.

    • James – Founder/Editor January 18, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Thanks for the kind words and for reading. I hope you find more good stuff here at CP, and enjoy that OM! It’s a beauty.

  • I’m looking at an OM-1 on Craigslist right now that comes with a Zuiko 50mm 1.8 lens, and a couple other non-Zuiko lenses. I’m hoping the seller will be willing to meet at our local camera store so I can have it checked out. I’d love to add on OM-1 to my collection of film cameras. Right now I have a Voigtlander Vitomatic 2a (talk about an idiosyncratic camera), a Canon F1, and a Nikkormat FT3. The Nikko is the only one with a working meter, so I’m not worried about using the OM-1, I’ll just use my little Luxi light meter. But I was wondering if there is anything I should be looking for especially when buying an OM-1, and if you know how it might compare to my other 35mm cameras.

    P.S. I was on the fence about the OM-1 until I read your review. Totally sold. I just hope the CL deal works out.

    • James – Founder/Editor February 8, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Just bring batteries to test out the meter. Besides the meter, the OM1 is all mechanical, so just shoot it at various speeds and if it sounds good and there’s no obvious problems, buy it!

  • I just had a friend give me his OM-1 for sale with multiple lenses, I don’t know much about cameras and came across this page googling how much to sell it for. If anyone is interested I can text or email you photos. It was kept on a case for a while, looks really good.

  • This is a very beautiful camera, I couldn’t resist and take a look on Flickr to search the photographs taken with it and there are fantastic photographs… I think a better way to measure if a camera is a good companion is not to look at specifications but more at the photographs it can help to accomplish.

    • James – Founder/Editor March 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      It really is a superb machine, and Olympus Zuiko lenses are wonderful. Are you shooting again and updating your website Francis? I miss your posts.

      • Hi, James. I have a Sigma DP2 for digital killings (besides the cell phone) and in film my weapon of choice is a Canon EOS 7 (with focus with eye control) paired with a cheap Yongnuo 50mm f1.8; and my Samsung ECX-1. I am learning to use those cameras but truth be told my economics are worse than ever so I am more focused in work :s Fortunately I now have time to at least read, I missed your journeys (to me are more adventures to read you than reviews) thank you for your support. I hope everything is well, to you and your family ^_^

  • Thank you for a magnificent review! Well, let’s put it this way: I own numerous cameras, some of them are SLR and others are Rangefinders (Contax II is my favorite among them), but ever since I bought Oly OM-1, I never use anything anymore. It’s not because I’m a fan of it or anything, it is just too practical, convenient and compact (compared to any of my other cameras) and viewfinder is an absolute blessing. Of course metering system is far from perfect and half of the time I’m just guessing what I should do to get a good shot (which is hard, since I’m a mere amateur), but I’m still glad I didn’t go for OM-2.
    I know, I know, I’m too late to write a comment here, but maybe someone will read it regardless, someday.

  • Great article! Several years ago my father-in-law told me that he had an SLR camera collecting dust in the back of his closet and that it was mine if I wanted it. Turns out it was an Olympus OM-1 with a Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens. I wasn’t familiar with it, since I was using a Nikon Fm2n and Lecia M6 at the time, but it quickly became my favorite SLR.

    I sold the M6 quickly and eventually the FM2n, but I’ll ever get rid of this camera for two reasons. First, it’s ergonomically perfect to me. I love the smooth-as-butter shutter, the huge viewfinder, and the shutter speed, aperture on the lens bayonet. Second, and most important, this is the camera my father-in-law used when my wife was growing up. All of the pictures of her as a baby, kid, and teen were taken with this camera/lens combo. Then she used the camera for two years in high school for photography class.

    I love that this camera (purchased in 1974) has so much history behind it. When I’m looking at my wife’s face through the viewfinder now, I’m often thinking of how many years that camera has captured her smile. With any luck, I’ll have this camera for the rest of my life and be taking photos of her with it when we are old and grey. 🙂

    • Amazing story and a beautiful sentiment. Enjoy that stunning camera and all the scenes you see through it.

  • Hello! I bought my first ‘serious’ camera, OM-1 in 1983. It was the camera I learned the basic things about photography with. That was the camera I used until 2006 when I finally had to move on to a digital equipment, also being Olympus 420e. Even if shooting became easier and cheaper I’ ve never quite get the same touch with a digital camera than my precious OM1. I have just realised that the old piece has really got good picture quality close to the classic Leicas ( now I said it aloud …). I may well have had good luck with lenses, Original Zuiko 50 mm and 135 mm. Anyway, couple of years ago I bought myself a Leica iiif with a Jupiter 8 and my OM-1 still produces better picture quality. If I ever get my hands upon Leitz Elmar I may change my mind about that but I will always by an OM-1 fan. I work as an art teacher and I sought for good quality pictures with moderate price equipment and OM-1 certainly is in the club!

  • Knowing I’d be getting an SLR for high school graduation in ’85, I researched like a madman and finally asked my mom to make it an OM-1. I went off to college in Alaska and took hundreds of shots with it there, followed by many hundreds afterward of course. About ten years later, it fell off the back of my motorcycle and I never saw it again. Even worse was the fact that my 40mm f2 was mounted at the time! A year after that, I bought another OM-1 and never looked back. I’ve owned, and own, a lot of cameras, but the OM-1 is still my favorite. It can’t be beat as a travel camera, with a 24 or 28 up front. I’ve never regretted settling on a full-manual; in fact the only automatic camera I’ve ever bought for myself was the Wards version of the Konica Auto-S, because it was cheap. In the last two years I brought my OM-1 to Egypt and Cuba, with a dead battery both times, and I’m very happy with the shots I got. I also have a Fujifilm X10 and an excellent camera in my LG phone, but the Olympus is right there with them, and feels a lot more like photography to me. Also, I actually prefer the wind action on the Olympus to a lot of other cameras; the ability to wind in several short throws is a nice option to have. If they could just have made a flash shoe that doesn’t crack if you screw it down too tightly, it might have been the perfect camera, but it’s my favorite just the same.

  • I know I’m late to this party, but I loved this review. I’m the second owner of my OM-1MD, according to the guy behind the counter who sold it to a customer that traded up to an OM-1n, and then sold it to me. It was 1980. I was a sophomore in high school. I used it until 2004 when I went digital. In 2014, after 10 years in a box, in my sock drawer, I pulled it out and was shattered to find the foam seals were melting and silver coating was flaking off the prism. I took it to a local shop where “old camera guy,” said he could refurbish it. It’s back to its former glory and working flawlessly. He even installed a diode so it meters properly with modern batteries. I never noticed the film advance was “gritty,” but then it was my only camera until 2004. I picked up a Nikon F2AS a couple of years ago and I didn’t even notice its film advance was “better” than the OM-1’s advance. Maybe I’m a cretin.

    Thank again for this excellent review!


  • I brainlessly walked off of a passenger plane in the 90s and left behind my OM-1 in an overhead baggage compartment, which broke my pathetic heart. That camera went and worked everywhere for me, including to the 20,320-foot peak of Mount Denali (McKinley) – twice! I have kept my OM-2 and four lenses, but since 2001 I have been using a Nikon FM2n. Manual / analog and film all the way, baby!

    • That would have crushed me. That’s a good camera to take up a mountain, though. Much better than the Minolta XK I foolishly packed…

  • My first serious camera was an OM-1 that I bought as a college graduation present to myself in 1979. I loved it – it was the perfect size for traveling and I took thousands of photos with it. Eventually, I switched to digital and put the OM-1 away in a box. But I have always missed the way the OM-1 felt in my hands and have always wondered why full-frame DSLRs are so damn bulky and clumsy. After years of using a huge Nikon DSLR, I recently switched to an OM-D E-M1, which is a just a bit closer to my OM-1 in size and in the way it handles. I started looking at film websites about Olympus cameras and lenses when discovered that I could buy an adapter that would allow me to mount my old OM lenses on my OMD. Then I saw your article and I’m now thinking it is time to get the OM-1 out of the box, get it working again, and see what I remember about working with film. Thanks!

    By the way – I loved having the shutter speed ring on the lens mount. It made so much sense ergonomically – much easier to use than the traditional SLR top-mounted dial.

  • The film advance lever always disappointed me. It’s is surprising in such an otherwise fine machine to have such a rough-feeling lever.

    • Well Enver your beloved Nikkormat FT series were even worse when I remember correctly ?
      Also remember the grousing when the Nikon F3 came out and all the “old mechanics” thought it was too “loose” !

      • The OM-1 advance lever felt rough and cheap. It was inexcusable in a camera that was supposed to be so well designed. Also, the lens focussing rings were weak and flimsy. You could bind the lenses easily by squeezing the rings. That is almost impossible to do with Leicaflex lenses.

        • Well first of all I wonder if you are Superman or something, since it’s impossible to bend the lens barrel like that. Second, comparing Olympus to Leicaflex is too far fetched, don’t you think?

          Advance lever indeed feels cheap and makes me cringe every single time I advance the film. Not only on OM-1 but on OM-4 as well.

          • If you squeeze the Zuiko lens focussing rings, you can easily bind them. Do you know what I mean? Optically they were above average for Japanese lenses, but mechanically they were flimsy.

  • I have read your article since 2017 when I started to inherited Olympus OM-1N from my passed uncle. I am totally agree with you about this camera and I think my OM-1N will be my first and last film camera that I will be using. Currently I am in Indonesia and it has limitation of choosing Zuiko lenses. I want to ask what is your recommendation for Zuiko lenses and I am currently using Zuiko 50mm f 1.4 and Vivitar Series 1 zoom lens with 70mm. Thank you for writing various articles regarding film cameras and this site has become my first priority to check and read even though my interest is mainly about Olympus. Keep your uploads and I am happily to supporting you guys! Cheers!

    • Hi Hans. Thanks for the kind words. We’ll keep working on the site! Favorite Zuikos are the 50mm f/1.4 that you have, the 28mm f/2.8 is excellent for wide angle shooting without being expensive, and the 40mm f/2 is a rare and special lens that we’ll be writing about in the next few weeks! I know the 50mm Macro is a great lens if you want to do occasional macro shooting.

      Hope this helps!

      • I would like to add that I use the 35/2.8 a lot. Cheap and small. Not very sharp but good enough.
        Similar cheap and compact is the 85/2.0, another one of my favorites.
        Finally, the 135/2.8 is very sharp and still relatively compact.

        • I was thinking about Zuiko 100mm f 2.8 and 135mm f 2.8 in consideration. I heard Zuiko lenses with shorter length tends to have better results with easy carry. Thank you James and move for giving such recommendation! I will check regularly if there are any Zuiko lenses that is available. Again, James I hope you introduce more Zuiko lenses since I have read many articles that Zuiko lenses have great quality in term of build and price range also. Thanks again!

          • In addition, how about 28mm with f 3.5? My main lens purchase will be in Indonesia only since if I am buying from online it will be expensive because of transportation fee. Thanks again 😉 Also check my instagram @hans_jjo for my photos haha

  • “Olympus bowed and changed the name to OM-1, and knotted lederhosen far and wide were swiftly unwound.” hahaha

  • It’s surprising how many digital photographers are now saying that they will return to using film, I’ve seen this mentioned on quite a few sits I’ve visited. Me? I never left film. I did buy a Nikon D1X and 18-70mm lens a year or two back, but rarely use it . My lens covers 5 manual Nikkor lens focal lengths – 28-35-50-85-105.

  • I have a black OM-1 and am the second owner. I received all this camera equipment to sell on behalf of and was able to keep this camera with the 50/1.8…. so bummed though I had to sell the 55/1.2 and 100/2 lenses with two OM3’s… but I absolutely love the OM1, the focus screen and bright viewfinder is amazingly good and so addictive to shoot with!! My go to film camera 🙂

  • > lederhosen

    Didn’t expect that amount of stereotyped jokes here.

    Wetzlar is in middle of Germany. Nobody is wearing Lederhosen (leather trousers) there. A few people in the very south of Germany may, though.


  • The cameras were impressively small, but poorly constructed. 40 years on, most are pieces of inoperable junk. My Leicaflexes from the same era are still going strong.

    • I still have my OM-1 camera that I acquired in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Used it hard with full motor drive for years — including in college when I would shoot 600+ rolls of 36 exposure film per year. Have taken it on multiple adventure trips including whitewater rafting in Chile, salmon fishing north of the Arctic Circle in Russia, etc. Had it serviced once by John Hermanson about 10 years ago and it still works fine. Have also acquired some other OM-1, OM-2 and OM-4T bodies and they have been largely trouble free, even with significant motor drive use. So, I strongly disagree with your comment that they are somehow poorly constructed.

      • Probably Leica-blindness… the OM-1s are fantastic cameras. I’ve cycled through many 35mm cameras in my day (including a Leica M6), but the OM-1 is the only one I’ve kept and still use. It’s a classic.

    • Man, first you run Albania into the ground and then you come for our OM-1s? Mine have held up admirably.

  • Funny, my OM-1 still works like a champ.

  • Irma Prunesqallor October 24, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    “…boys from Wetzlar had a tantrum and “requested” the name be changed. Olympus bowed and changed the name to OM-1, and knotted lederhosen far and wide were swiftly unwound….”

    That sort of racist comment is really not welome! It is both insulting and ignorant on so many levels.

  • Hi, thx for this article. Photography has been a part of my life since childhood … My father, with his OM-2, showed me the ropes of photography and after a number of compact camera’s my very first self bought SLR was a used OM-1. Loved that camera and took some nice pictures with it, but thought i needed more features and traded my OM-1 body in for a used OM-4 …. hmmm too complex for me at that time. Got rid of the OM system en went with a new EOS camera, a camera i got to know pretty well and still is a usefull tool for me. Now, some 30 years later i would get more out of an OM-4 than back then, but that first love of the OM-1 is sticky … very sticky 😉

    After a digital dark I age started again with film photography a bit over a year ago and just today i got hold of my third OM-1 body.
    As you said .. the OM-1 gives all you need and nothing you do not need 😉

  • I bought a new OM-1 about a year after they were available, because it was a small SLR instead of the large ones available prior to then. I shot with it until I switched to digital in late 2002. I sold it on eBay in 2005 and, as I was packing it, was again reminded of how small it was and how much it felt like a gem-like “precision machine”. Loved that camera!

  • Well, I found a digital to use, which is an Olympus from a different mother. It is an E-M10II that is refurbed. My thinking was, spend enough to get something relatively current quality, but not worry about bleeding edge tech. I buy computers the same way.If I buy a new PC, by the time I take it to my car in the parking lot,it is already considered obsolete!
    I had the manual printed up at Office Depot in 8.5×11 size. Camera is quite nice to use, I find myself instinctively using the viewfinder rather than the touch screen like one might do with an iPhone. I did miss some shots early on due to settings being changed and I didn’t know why. So I studied the manual, and experimented. It definitely has some advantages over the OM-1, but I’ll always be quicker on the draw with the OM-1. I’m better with the new camera than I was initially, but there is so much more to learn.
    I purchased my first OM-1n new, when I was 17 years old (about 45 years ago) which I later sold to make rent during a dismal period in my life. I purchased another when I was 33, which I still have.

  • I have been using a Nikon D4 for 10 years and a Leica Q. I spotted an Olympus OM-10 in the Isle of Wight refurbed by Paul Lamb, the Tripman who specialises in Oly Trips. I loved the OM-10 so much and saw the photos of Lichfield, Bown et all …

    Now I have an OM-1n 🗣 yay


  • My first camera, I have paid new brand with my first vacations work 😉

  • Hello James, I just got my hand on an original OM-1 from a neighbor, but it has a broken light meter. I am just starting out and don’t know if this is an easy fix. I’d love any bit of input you can provide. Many thanks!

    • Hi Joe,

      Luckily the camera will work without the light meter, but if you want to get it working I would suggest some simple cleaning first. Clean the battery contacts and battery compartment. Also, actuate the ISO setting dial back and forth a bunch of times to clean the contacts underneath with natural friction. This can sometimes get a camera light meter working again after it has sat for years.

      If this doesn’t work, it can be repaired by a repair shop or used without a light meter (or with an external light meter). Let me know how it goes!

  • Did you know that Maitani, the designer of the original OM system, supposedly took a thousand hand prints from around the world and from a block of wood, the size of the OM camera was created.
    Like the first OM D EM5 and the old OM cameras, they are a joy to hold.

  • Very informative review. It helped me to make a decision on a nice OM1 MD kit that’s for sale on my photography forum. In the end, I would miss having AE. It’s just so much faster to shoot that way vs centering a needle in the viewfinder, while trying to focus, compose the shot and deal w/ the aperture/shutter speeds all at the same time. Taking things slower and being more considerate, in my photography, literally means missing the shot. The size of the OM cameras is surely appealing, not sure if they’re all that much smaller than my Pentax MV/Nikon EM though.

  • I had basically the reverse situation recently. I have an OM D E-10ii and was attempting to get some dragonflies in flight with a zoom lens. It was admittedly a somewhat challenging shot, but try as I might I couldn’t get auto-exposure and auto focus to just let me take the shot. The E-10ii has manual exposure and manual focus capability, but for me those controls are buried somewhere in the menus. I couldn’t get both to work simultaneously or I might have been able to do it. I’m certain I could have gotten an acceptable shot in just a few minutes with my OM-1. After half an hour with the digital, conditions changed and I had not one usable shot.

  • Very enjoyable review, James—thank you. But one very minor point. The M1, whilst a Leica, is not a rangefinder, though. 😉

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio