When it comes to the 1970s, the market was flooded with some very similar, yet different 35mm SLRs. The decade saw the rise of names like Minolta, Olympus, and Pentax to counter the big two of Canon and Nikon. The second review I wrote for this series was on the Pentax K1000, a fantastic camera, but now let me introduce to you to the OM-1. The camera that the K1000 should have been (sort of).
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135, 35×24
Lens: Interchangeable, OM Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1972
I like the OM-1, I do. It’s a solid camera that’s great in the hands; lightweight yet has heft. Easy to carry, and even easier to use. I keep on saying you can’t beat a match-needle camera for learning photography on, and the OM-1 certainly doesn’t get the same level of praise as the school favourite K1000. And in many ways, the OM-1 is a slightly better camera for the student. The number one reason is that they are pretty cheap, you can pick up an OM-1 with a 50mm lens for under 100$. The camera is entirely mechanical, the battery only operates the meter, and the camera has a dedicated on/off switch, so you don’t need to fumble around for a lens cap like you do with the K1000. In general, the camera is well laid out with all the controls right there on the lens. Now if you’re unfamiliar with lens mounted controls, this might take a bit to get used to, I know I struggled with it on the Nikkormat FT3, but having experienced it there made going to the OM-1 easier.
I feel I’m a broken record on this subject but the issue first and foremost is that the camera needs a mercury cell to operate. These can be hard to acquire, but they do last. Now you can use a 1.5v alkaline battery and in some cases it may work but in the case of the OM-1 I would not recommend it, the first roll I shot the metering was way off! The next trouble I have with the camera is the lack of an integral hot shoe. That’s right; there’s no built-in hot shoe but a separate accessory that you attach to the top of the prism to include that. Now the camera does have a PC socket so you can use a bracket to mount your flash. It’s almost as if Olympus had taken their idea right from Nikon. At least with Olympus, the hot shoe was a standard one, unlike Nikon where you had the weird over the film rewind mount.
As I said in my introduction, the OM-1 is the camera the K1000 could have been. And sadly it’s lived in the shadow of that iconic student camera. The ultimate student camera would take the general size of the K1000, include lens mounted controls, an on/off switch, a hot shoe, and match needle metering. In all seriousness, the OM-1 is a fantastic camera with which you can easily learn photography that won’t break the bank or your back.
All Photos Taken in Hamilton, Ontario
Olympus OM-1 – Olympus F.Zuiko 1:1.8 f=50mm – ORWO UN54+ @ ASA-100 – HC-110 Dil. A 7:30 @ 20C