Did Olympus make a 'professional' 35mm camera?

Discussion in 'Olympus' started by gordonbennett, May 11, 2019.

  1. It would make sense given the relatively compact size of those cameras for them to be used in those kinds of situations.

    I was at a camera store the other night, - one that has an active used camera business. They had several OMs and a bunch of Zuiko lenses. Sometimes it takes seeing them next to other cameras and lenses to appreciate how small they really are.
  2. There’s no doubt, in my mind, that the single digit OM cameras were ‘Pro’ they sat at the heart of a vast system which included some pretty exotic and even unique glass e.g the 250/2, 350/2.8, 21/2, 24mm Shift (a first which is much better than the Canon TS-E Mk1) and a super-strong macro system both lenses, flashes and other accessories.

    It's worth remembering Oly are big players in the medical instrument market and that’s professional use too, just not in the photojournalist sense. To support those use cases and the macro system they also had motor drives, interval timers microscope adapters, specialist medical camera bodies, endoscopy equipment, bulk film backs and a world of other stuff. There’s no way all of that could be sustained unless there was a real market for it.
    m42dave likes this.
  3. Saying "professional camera" is like saying "professional car". It depends on what you're using it for! You wouldn't complain if you couldn't carry a load of bricks in your Ferrari, would you?

    (Anecdote: Years ago, I was standing at a camera dealer's counter as the Pentax rep was touting their latest SLR. Time after time, with every amazing and remarkable new feature revealed by the rep, a customer standing nearby raised some criticism. After six or seven such objections, the rep praised the red and green markers in the finder, showing over/under exposure warning. The customer asked, "But what if you're color blind?" After a moment's hesitation, the rep replied, through clenched teeth, "Then. Don't. Buy. The. Camera!")

    Most Nikon or Canon users never use or truly need any of the various finders made for them, nor, for that matter do most OM users ever change the focusing screen. It's possible if you need to, but hardly a "deal breaker" for most photographers, professional or happy-snapper. Mirror lock up to reduce mirror vibration? Some have it, some don't. Auto exposure? Self-timer? X-sync and FP-sync? Databacks? AutoWinders and Motordrives, some with rewind capability? Bulk film back? Off-The-Film exposure control, both ambient as well as strobe? You makes your choices, you pays your price!

    I used to know an old photographer from UPI who swore the only "professional" camera was a Speed Graphic -- these new-fangled "thirty five milly-meeter" toys weren't for "real" photographers!

    For me, a camera is a tool. I'm not trying to impress anyone with the name on the top. I've used 6x7's, 645's, worked with a guy who shot 4x5 cut film. But nothing has ever beat my OM-2n, OM-1n, OM-4t, and all the lenses and accessories I've got for them. Plus I can carry lots more stuff without "camera bag stoop" from a too heavy kit!
  4. Back in the '70s, I traded in my Nikon FTn and purchased the Olympus OM1. The only thing I didn't like about it was the viewfinder. Yes, it was big and bright but to my eyes, lacked contrast. This made manual focusing difficult. Everything else was great!
  5. And as far as alternative finders go, Olympus did have this gizmo:

  6. Jerry Soloway who worked for UPI in the 70s / 80s used Olympus OM system exclusively. yes, it is / was a professional system.

    So the question is this: Did Olympus make a 'professional' 35mm SLR, that is analogous to the Nikon F and Canon F-1?[/QUOTE]
  7. Deardorf.
  8. One of the great professionals mainly used an Olympus OM-1. Jane Bown took photographs for The Observer for 60 years, using first a Rolleiflex then a Pentax before settling on her beloved Olympus. She always took her portraits with the OM-1 coupled to an 85 lens, set at 2.8 and1/60th. Using natural light to take black and white shots with only a brief flirtation with colour. She was one of the greats , passing in 2014 after using her OM-1 to the end. All the best, Charles.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I was selling cameras when these came out. Beautifully made, small and neat - seemed very good, performed well. In retrospect, my impression is they were ahead of their time - a bit like Studebaker in the late '50's. Don't recall selling many. and wouldn't have considered trading in my Nikons. Did have a Studebaker, wish I still had it!
  10. My cousin showed me his OM1, and I thought it was like a toy, compared to my Nikon.

    4-1/2 decades later, I see the wisdom of the smaller lighter cameras.
    I'm past the point of being able to carry the gear kit that I used to. So it was 'trim the kit,' go with lighter gear, or stop shooting.
    I decided to go with the lighter gear (Olympus m4/3), for most of my shooting.
    I still use the Nikon D7200 for field sports, because the Nikon 70-200/4 and my hand work together well. My hand just works the zoom ring without me thinking about it. And the zoom ring is light and EASY to turn, just like how zoom rings should be.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  11. Olympus OM1/OM2 popularity in retail camera shops might have varied by region. They certainly flew off the shelves of NYC dealers over the first few years (47th St Photo was often backordered on many OM items, as was Adorama and other vendors in what used to be the Manhattan camera district).

    Pre-internet, buying patterns were different. The customer who ordered by mail or phone from the dozen NYC discount dealers in the back pages of Pop Photo wasn't necessarily the same type that would patronize their local camera shop. The retail customers in the '70s tended to be more conservative, leaning more toward Nikon, Pentax, Minolta and Canon. When those brands started frantically copying the OM paradigm, the conservative buyers either finally woke up to Olympus or just bought whatever knockoff their favorite brand fielded.

    Olympus OM had a great run with amateurs, enthusiasts and open-minded pros from '72 until '76, when the Canon AE-1 stole the spotlight from them (and everyone else). After that, the OM system kind of lost its halo: rampant amateur sales volume dropped off once competitors all had at least one compact light body. When the market became saturated with cheap plastic AE SLRs, Olympus tried the "we'll just move upscale" trick that Nikon is pinning its hopes on today. It didn't work: the OM4 series just didn't charm people in the same numbers the OM1/OM2 had. The updated Nikon F3 and Canon New F-1 were "small enough" to satisfy hard core pros, and by then Olympus had abandoned their whisper-quiet shutter/mirror and pricing advantages, so there was nothing compelling to lure buyers away from other brands anymore. The OM3/4 multi spot metering system was brilliant and unique, but too Sheldon Cooper to be comprehensible to the average buyer (or explained by the average salesperson).

    The Zuiko lenses remained highly respected, and you did have some pros who valued the uniquely fast primes, so OM stayed viable for a few more years until Minolta buried pretty much everybody with AF in 1985. Olympus managed to survive the horrors of the Canon AE-1, but Maxxum was the stake thru their heart: they struggled from the late '80s thru '90s. Fortunately their point & shoots, bridge cameras and lab equipment division stayed profitable, and the OM4Ti hung on as a cult "retro" camera for another decade.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2020
  12. An interesting thread, personally defining professional is difficult, I believe at the time of the OM1 and the early to mid seventies Olympus truly believed the OM1 would revolutionise the industries that made use of SLR's, so in essence I suspect they saw the OM1 and the OM system as a Professional system to be used by both professionals, enthusiasts and even amatuers, the following is a quote from Sir Don McCullin who certainly was a professional at the top of his game:

    He (Sir Don McCullin) told us (Olympus) that he had been able to capture his amazing battlefield photographs in Vietnam and various other war zones because his camera was light. He wanted to thank us for that. My eyes filled with tears when he told us that the OM SLRs had lifted a weight from the shoulders of photographers everywhere. He really understood the significance of our efforts to create compact, lightweight cameras. That was a wonderful moment.

    It was around this time that I (Olympus Engineer) started to design the OM2.

    It does not go to say if Sir Don McCullin ended up using the OM2 as well :) Personally I prefer the OM2n over this model.

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