Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review by Jennifer Stamps

Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, Shoot It With Film may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Written by Jennifer Stamps

The Olympus OM-1…what a dream to shoot with.

I bought this camera at the beginning of 2018. I was looking for a 35mm film camera that was a good travel companion.

It basically needed to be compact and easy to use…bonus if it didn’t break the bank.

I don’t remember exactly how much I paid, but I bought it in near mint condition for under $200. Not only is this camera gorgeous – come on, you know that counts at least a little – but it brings so much joy when I pick it up.

Find the Olympus OM-1 at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

Features of the Olympus OM-1

This camera has everything you’d expect from an SLR. The shutter speed has a bulb setting and ranges from one second to 1/1000.

This is a pretty compact little camera, so the only things you’ll find on the top are the shutter release, ISO knob, and film advance lever on the right side.

On the left side, you’ll find the film wind lever and on/off switch. On the lens, you’ll find the lens focus ring, as well as the aperture setting ring and shutter speed ring.

Yes, aperture and shutter speed settings are all done from rings on the lens.

Shutter speed settings - Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
Aperture ring - Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
Grab your free copy of the Shoot It With Film magazine!

How Compact is the OM-1?

Compact is all relative, right? But this one is pretty small for a fully manual SLR.

It literally fits in the palm of my hand. It’s about 5.25 inches long and just over one pound (136 mm long and 510 g for the international readers).

I usually put it in a DSLR lens pouch (find on Amazon) and just put it in my purse. It’s very easy to travel with it.

I used it for a year-long project in 2018 and doing it again in 2020…it’s that easy to pack around.

Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

The Light Meter

The Olympus OM-1 also has a light meter – yay! I know it’s not popular, but I love in-camera light meters. Less to carry and mess with.

Much like other 35mm cameras with in-camera light meters, this has a little lever that appears on the left side of the view finder.

There is a plus and minus, and the lever moves up and down indicating if you have too much, too little, or are just right with your light.

A battery is need for the light meter to work. This camera originally called for a mercury battery that is no longer made. However, after some research, I found a comparable battery that works just fine for me.

I use the Wein Cell mercury-free battery (find on Amazon). Use that battery, turn it on, and you’re in business.

Don’t want to mess with the battery? No problem, everything except for the light meter works perfectly without a battery.

Black and white butterfly - Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film
Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

Lenses for the Olympus OM-1

I’m a one lens kinda girl. I find that when I have several lenses for the same camera, I freak out and end up shooting with my 50mm all the time.

I know, it’s kinda basic. But I like what I like, and I find the fewer options I have, the more freely I can shoot.

However, with the OM system there are dozens of options.

The OM-1 came standard with a Zuiko-branded lens. This glass is so smooth – probably my favorite lens. My OM-1 came with the 50mm 1.8, and as far as I can tell, that was pretty standard.

But Zuiko built a lot of lenses. Prime lenses ranging from 8mm fisheye to 1000mm (whoa!). And zoom lenses ranging from 28-48mm to 70-210mm.

So if you like to have a variety of lenses, you’ll definitely have your pick with the OM-1. Check out all of their lenses at KEH Camera.

Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

Fun History

Originally, this camera was named the Olympus M-1.

You might remember that Leica has an M1. So when Leica found out about this, they (very politely) asked Olympus to change the name of their camera.

Olympus did what was asked of them and changed the name to OM-1. You can still find the original M-1 out there, but they are harder to come by.

Bridge in the woods - Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts on Shooting with the Olympus OM-1

If it’s not obvious, I love this camera. I didn’t realize what a cult-classic it was until after I bought one. It’s a pretty sought-after little camera.

It’s compact, lightweight for a vintage camera, and so smooth. If you take toy cameras out of the running, this is by far my favorite camera.

It can be a little tricky to quickly change the shutter speed since it’s on the lens, but as long as you don’t change your light source drastically while shooting the roll, it’s not really an issue.

The lens focuses well and quickly. Even the sound of the shutter release button makes me happy.

If you are looking for a beautiful 35mm film camera that will bring you joy literally every time you pick it up, consider the Olympus OM-1. You won’t regret it, and it will become a staple in your camera bag.

Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like Fuji GS645S Medium Format Film Camera Review and Intro to Scanning Your Own Negatives. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay!

You can also check out the rest of our film camera reviews here!

Shoot It With Film Magazine Issue 01 Promo Image

Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as 5 Film Cameras Under $50 and Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial.

Blog Comments

Jennifer, what a fabulous review, I’ve been a fan of the Olympus OM-1, and OM-2n for about 15 years from now. They have been with me hiking, trips around the city and while traveling because who wants to haul a full Nikon or Canon manual focus kit. Really the only achilles heal of the OM-1 is the 625 battery but there are work aronds. I can’t recommend getting them overhauled enough and you will have a camera good for another 10-15 years at least.

Thanks, Bill! I’m so glad you enjoyed this review. It’s such an amazing camera!

I used two OM1N cameras professionally right up from late 70’s up till 2004. With a few lenses I a 50mm f1.4, 59mm macro, 21mm wide 28mm wide, 35-105 zoom, 200mm, 400mm tomkins.fir football and hurling I covered everything from press to weddings to sports. As well as my own insect obsession.
Brilliant cameras and never let me down.
Built like a swiss watch.and oh so stylish to look at.

50mm macro my fingers are too big for my phone screen!!

Hey Stephen – I agree. Amazing cameras and so stylish to look at!

Hi i wonder i’m using 1.5v battery in my OM1, should the needle go slightly under or just go in the middle to get correct exposure? Thanks

Hi Windy – that’s a good question. I’m using a 1.35v battery, so I don’t have a definitive answer for you. I will say however, it’s always better to over expose your images than under expose them.

A quick way to find out would be to download a light meter app for your phone. They aren’t 100% accurate, but it would likely get you a good idea if your camera is a little more sensitive to light with the 1.5v battery. I hope that helps!

Hi, it’s great to see love for the OM-1 carrying on. I’ve had mine since 1985, and never had a camera that I liked as much. Personally I almost always leave a 28mm on mine, I love shooting landscapes & don’t want to leave anything out. Three minor things I’d add to your review: the shutter speed control is around the lens mount, but not part of the lens. (Also handy that Olympus’s own Zuiko lenses usually have the aperture ring near the front of the lens so you don’t get it mixed up with the shutter speed.) Also, every OM mount lens has a depth-of-field preview button near the bottom. Once you try it, it’s hard to stop checking the depth of field all the time! Third, it’s one of very few SLRs with a mirror lockup. This cuts down on vibration when you shoot at very long shutter openings. It’s a simple camera to learn and use, but it has so many options if you want to get more advanced. It might be the perfect 35mm camera!

Hey, what is the black and white film you are using in these pictures? And any recommendations on where to buy cheaply 🙂

Hi Eliza! These are Ilford HP5+. You can usually find them on photography sites (like B&H Photo) for around $5-6 a roll. And if you buy in bulk, there is usually a little discount.

Hi Jen,

Thanks … I am shooting with an OM-1n and have some Ilford Delta 3200 film. The OM1-n ISO dial goes to 1600 only. So what would you advise ?

Set at 1600 and assume that is close enough? If “yes”, then would I ask the lab to develop at 1600 or 3200 ?

Any help much appreciated.


Nice review … the shutter speed dial is on the camera not on the lens. Well, that’s where it is on my OM-1.

I love my OM-1 too. There is certain pleasure dealing with this fine mechanical piece–not just picture taking tool.

Love your enthusiasm for the OM-1, I’ve had one of mine since new (1980) and it’s still fine. You can get a battery adaptor that corrects the voltage of a modern SR-44 battery to 1.35V, metering is correct and the battery lasts for ever, as in several years!
Personnally I love my Zuiko 21mm, the slower one, starting to get pricy now but just gorgeous.
If you want another treat, try the OM-2. Handles just the same and has aperture priority – with the best off-the-film metering system you’ll find anywhere.

Leave a Comment