Featured Camera: The Olympus OM-1

The Olympus OM-1 has been a staple on our website for a long time. It is a fully manual 35mm SLR film camera with one of the most compact bodies available.

When Dan, our blog writer, bought one as his first 35mm film camera, he was excited to share what this legendary camera can do. 

Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera

What is the Olympus OM-1?

The Olympus OM-1 started life as the Olympus M-1,however it wasn’t long before Leica asked Olympus to change its name as to avoid confusion between the two brands.

First released in 1972, the Olympus OM-1 was the worlds smallest and lightest 35mm single-lens reflex (also known as SLR) camera at time of release. The Olympus OM-1 was a revolutionary design for SLR cameras, and the design was repeated throughout its older siblings, such as the OM-2n

It is still incredibly small and lightweight, even by modern standards, coming in at 136mm x 83mm x 50mm without a lens. The OM-1 remains one of the most compact SLR film cameras. 

What features does the Olympus OM-1 have?

As it was marketed as a professional full frame camera, the OM-1 has all of the features you’d come to expect from a manual camera.

  • Shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/1000 and bulb mode
  • Built in light meter (the only part of the camera that requires a battery)
  • Manual focus-Interchangeable lenses
  • Manual aperture controls
  • Manual focussing ring
  • ASA/ ISO control dial
  • Removable hot shoe (sold separately)

Which lens does the Olympus OM-1 come with?

Olympus lenses are known for their sharpness and clarity. The standard lens that was sold with the Olympus OM-1 camera, as well as other Olympus SLR models, was the Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens. This lens was also sold with the Olympus OM10 camera and other SLRs created by Olympus. 

This lens is still commonly sold with this model of camera, as it is a great option and still holds up as one of the great Olympus lenses. There are plenty of other lenses available for this camera as well. 

Are there other Olympus lenses available?

Olympus lenses are widely available and relatively affordable. Non-Olympus branded lenses are generally cheaper than Olympus branded lenses and can also provide the same level of image quality.

When looking for a lens for your Olympus SLR, make sure you choose one that is an Olympus OM mount. This is the correct mount for the camera.

The Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 is regarded as a great lens for portraits, and the Olympus Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 lens is a great option for landscapes. Some photographers also use the 135mm lens for portraits. Many street photographers use the wide angle Olympus Zuiko 28mm f/2.8 or f/3.5.

There are also plenty of non-Olympus branded lenses as well as zoom lenses for more versatile photographers.

What is the difference between the Olympus OM-1 and Olympus OM-1n?

Both the Olympus OM-1 and the Olympus OM-1n have all the same functions as each other. The OM-1n had an improved advance lever and mechanism and some added electronics for better compatibility with flashes. However, these differences are hardly noticeable to the average 35mm film camera user.

Is the Olympus OM-1 easy to use?

Whilst the OM-1 is a fully manual camera, it is still a perfect choice of camera for beginners, especially those who are willing to learn about exposure settings. There is a slight learning curve at the start, however within a couple of shots, you will likely feel more comfortable and confident with the Olympus OM-1. 

The light meter will help you properly expose your photos, and both the shutter speed and aperture are controlled on the front of the camera. The shutter speed dial is around the base of the lens and the aperture controls are on the end of the lens. 

This means that, after setting the ISO with the dial on the camera itself, the rest of the controls are all in one easy to see and control spot.

Top plate of the Olympus OM-1
Top plate of the Olympus OM-1

Sample Images from the Olympus OM-1

There’s a lot that can be achieved with the Olympus OM-1, even with the standard 50mm f/1.8 lens. From my testing, I found that images are sharp, crisp, and have a nice grain structure. 

Below are some examples in both colour and black and white. The colour film used is Lomography Colour 400, and the black and white images are Kentmere 400. Both rolls were shot either in Barry or London, and were developed and scanned by our friends at Gulabi.

Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Kentmere Pan 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Kentmere Pan 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Kentmere Pan 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Kentmere Pan 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Kentmere Pan 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Lomography Color 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Lomography Color 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Lomography Color 400
Sample images from the Olympus OM-1 using Lomography Color 400

What accessories can you get for the Olympus OM-1?

Fortunately, Olympus created a wide range of accessories for their professional 35mm film cameras, and even better, these accessories are still very affordable today. 

The main accessories you may want to add to your Olympus OM-1 set-up are a flash, motor drive, and maybe some additional lenses!

Final Thoughts on the Olympus OM-1

What else can I say about the Olympus OM-1? I have quickly become enamoured with the Olympus OM-1. It’s compact but robust; it doesn’t need a battery if you’re willing to forego the internal light meter; it’s extremely pocketable and I find myself carrying it everywhere. The Olympus OM-1 is the perfect size to be added to a bag without any bulk, and it fits in my sling bag like a dream.

If you’re looking for a versatile, lightweight camera that will be able to satisfy most of your film photography needs, you should absolutely consider the Olympus OM-1.

Still stuck on which film camera to buy?

Try our film camera quiz. All you have to do is answer a few questions, and then you will get a list of personalised camera recommendations. 

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Article written by: Dan

Dan is a beginner film photographer. When he’s not helping out at the Cameras By Max HQ, he’s found writing short stories and reviews on his own website,  WordsByDan.com. He is sharing his experiences exploring and learning film photography here, and he now never leaves home without his Olympus OM-1. 


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