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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.