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

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

How Compact is this Camera?

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.

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!

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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.

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