The Olympus OM-1 MD - a 1975 variant on the classic.

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Jan 15, 2011.

  1. Olympus OM-1 MD

    Kadlubek Nr. OLY0870 in black

    I've long felt that there were a few cameras that just stood out from the crowd. I once posted here on the subject:

    Foremost, perhaps of these, is the original eye-level 35mm SLR, the Zeiss Contax S. Another classic camera for me is the original Asahi Pentax H2/S2 - just classic style.

    In the late 50s as well, the original Nikon F with the plain prism (NOT the Photomic) is a classic.

    Of slightly more recent cameras, I have felt that the Japanese Contaxes, such as the Contax RTS and the 139 Quartz, were deserving of praise.
    And finally, there is the Olympus OM-1. It not only pioneered the "small" SLR trend, but it is just handsome to boot.

    Here, first of all is my "new" Olympus OM-1. It is, as you can see, the MD (for motor drive) version (1975), but otherwise very similar to the original camera (1974).

  2. Here for comparison are some pictures of my other "pretties". At the top are the original Contax S in the background, and the Contax 139 Quartz in the foreground. Below that is the Asahi H2 (in the USA, Heiland H2; in most of the world, the Asahi S2). At the bottom, as if there were any doubt is the Nikon F with its plain prism.

  3. Now for some details. Olympus' design of this camera is much discussed. The system in general is described at Wikipedia ( ), and the specifics on this model at ( ). I have shot it in the pictures that follow using the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 lens (Kadkubek OLP0480). An original Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens is on its way to me across the longest undefended border in the world. Sometimes, takes some time, however, to crawl over that line, so I'm still waiting. In any case, this is so famous a camera that I will not have too much to say about it. There are already a LOT of posts here on the camera:

    to list only the top of the site Google™

    This was really the first 35mm SLR to go to the small form, which it essentially created. It was designed by Yoshihisa Maitani and others. It set the other camera designers scrambling.
    One of the first things you notice when you bring the Olympus OM-1 to your eye, is how really large and fine the viewfinder is. It looks, from my results, to show pretty close to 100% of the film image, but that depends on your trusting my memory of the originals in relation to the negatives I got back later. ;)

    Focus with the 35-70mm lens was sharp and easy. There was some slight darkening of the split image in the finder screen I have, but nothing troublesome in achieving focus. Even my tired old rebuilt eyes did fine with this camera.

    Exposure was made from a Gossen Luna-Pro SBC meter in incident mode. I suspect the meter on the camera is working, but I didn't try out either a Wein cell or a 1.5v alkaline in it to see.

    Here's the camera again, in a straight-on view

  4. I also tried out an Olympus OM T-mount on the camera. The bust of the young Lincoln below is taken with a Spiratone preset 105mm f/2.5 - handheld at 1/30 at f/2.5.
    The picture on the left is taken of a fishline disposal set up at our local Wildlife Refuge, in this case with the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4.

  5. Two more pictures from the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.
    In the top one, somebody has actually gone out in a boat, breaking the ice as they went.
    The bottom shot shows the ice still intact. All pictures from this point are with the Zuiko 35-70mm lens.
  6. Then I shifted ground to the Lake on the Campus, my traditional shoot-up-the-roll site. I think this lake has frozen over enough to skate on once in the some 45 years (OMG) I've been here. In recent years it's been unusual for it to do more than freeze a little in the shallow water.
    The top picture shows our Illinois Geese (formerly Canadian, but many of them have decided not to migrate any more) and the half frozen lake.

    The bottom picture was an effort to see what sort of "bokeh" the 35-70mm lens had wide open at f/4. Nice enough.

  7. That's all folks. This is a beautiful camera that works very well indeed. If they'd had a perspective control lens, I might have gone to this back in the 70s. I will shoot more with this little gem.
  8. Nice series, JDM. I have an OM-1 MD and I find it easier to focus with a wider variety of lenses than any of my other
    SLRs. I think my OM-1 MD is due for a workout. BTW, the Zuiko 75-150 f4 zoom is excellent. Thanks for posting.
  9. Nice camera, but it looks like the brassing along the top edges was touched up with a black Magic Marker. It's got that odd magenta cast. Please tell us you didn't do that...
  10. Nice series JDM. I enjoyed both the info and the pics. That 35-70 looks like a nice walk-around lens. Glad you didn't freeze to death in the process. I've been wanting to take my Nikomat out and shoot some color film, but I can't seem to get motivated enough to get out in the cold.
  11. Ah yes, most definitely a classic, and deserves to rate among "the Pretties". That's a very nice copy, JDM, and it will be interesting to see what you can achieve with the Zuiko prime. Not that there's too much wrong with the zoom; those pics are very sharp and well-graduated. Looks a mite chilly, though; hard to believe that I'm sipping a Pinot Gris in 32 degrees C.!
  12. Thanks all. It was cold out. Our snow didn't melt, it just sublimated after the sun came out.
    Please tell us you didn't do that...​
    OK, I didn't do that; and it rubs off without leaving any trace on the camera, besides. :)
  13. Nice camera and pix! I particularly like the Lincoln statue shot.
    I'm not that familiar with the Contax line, but I certainly agree with you on the other "pretties." My Pentax SV is scarcely distinguishable at first glance from your Asahi S2, and I too have a chrome Nikon F with a plain prism. Gorgeous cameras. Though I more often shoot one of my F2s or my Spotmatic F, simply for the TTL metering.
    The crucial point, though, I think, is that the aesthetics of camera design seem to have peaked in the 1950s and 1960s with gorgeous bodies like the ones you mention plus the Leica M3 and the Nikon S series. Thereafter things seem to have gone downhill, eventually declining to the level of the "melted black blob" SLRs of the last 20 years. Lenses, too, have declined; I find the early Nikkors, with their mix of chrome and black metal, to be far superior visually (if not optically) to the all-black, rubber-focus-ring Nikkors of the 1970s and the rather undistinguished appearance of today's autofocus lenses (from just about any manufacturer). Canon's white pro-grade lenses at least balance light and dark better than most lens bodies today, but their designs are still distressingly utilitarian.
  14. Those OM-1's sure are jewel-like. That zoom is actually very good. The Lincoln head shows very nice tones. The 100mm seem like a perfect portrait lens. I concur with your most beautiful list except I would add a Canon F-1. Good luck shooting with your new camera.
  15. A note about preset lenses (like the Spiratone that JDM used): Even though these presets (usually offered in 35mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 200mm, 400mm and 500mm) were low priced, they offered surprisingly good performance for the money. In the early to mid 60's there was a substantial savings in going preset over auto diaphragm. Spiratone, Soligor, and others offered well-made preset lenses to budget concious photographers. With TTl metering preset lenses do not require that much more work than auto diaphragm lenses. When I use preset lenses with my OM-1 MD or any of my Minolta SRTs, I turn the aperture ring to minimum aperture and use the open/close ring to continuously adjust the aperture until the needles match in the viewfinder. In short, don't pass up preset bargains. JDM's top notch image with the Spiratone is proof enough these lenses are worth a closer look. BTW, currently I have three preset lenses: a 500mm Teleastronar, 400mm f6.3 Seimar, and a Minolta Rokkor QF 50mm f3.5 preset.
  16. Very nice JDM. I agree that the OM series is a beautiful design. My only concern with it is that it might actually be too small!
  17. Good presentation JDM. As a long time OM-1 user try this, unscrew the hot shoe and store it. You will be amazed at how much of a change in the feel of camera handling it makes with OM-1 bodies. Very sleek. My main OM-1 is a black 'md' like the yours but a bit more ratty looking. Sometimes the kids out shooting with digital wonderplastic SLR's will comment on my small kit. You can just see the confusion on their face when they get a look through the viewfinder. No flashing lights, a 'picture window' view.
  18. I did take the hot shoe off, but thought the screw hole it left was more unsightly than with it on, so I put it back.
    I myself almost fell off my chair the first time I looked through the viewfinder. Such a tiny camera and such a BIG view. ;)
    I've got a whole cabinet full of Spiratone stuff and many of the lenses are astonishingly good. It's one reason I always try to find a T-mount for any body I buy.
  19. Very nice camera JDM, I think you will learn to love it (if you don't already). I have the same model in silver and black and it has become my main user. It was a bit awkward at first for me with the location of the shutter speed ring but, I got used to it pretty quickly. I was particularly surprised at the size when compared to the Contax 139Q, while the Contax appears to be slightly smaller to me, after measuring the two, I realized it is just an optical illusion.
  20. Nice pics from a beautiful camera, JDM. The OM bodies are a real pleasure to use and the lenses really are jewel-like. I agree with the cameras on your list of beautifuls (that Asahi is gorgeous!), but I do agree with Louis that the F-1 should be on there. Looking forward to more from you and this camera!
  21. I used to shoot with my brother's. I eventually bought a winder for it and loved how it helped me hold the camera vertically. I didn't like the grip, though, and I wished it could have been removed. I almost thought of getting something like a Canon AE-1 just because the winders were better designed.
    My regret was that I couldn't afford good lenses at the time (i.e. fast telephotos). How I lusted after the 100/2.0! And the 250/2.0! Oh, baby.
    I also noticed one interesting fact which took me by surprise. Leica M lenses are certainly smaller than the OM Zuikos, but more often than not the latter weigh less. So in a sense the OMs were the only SLRs (apart from maybe the smallest Pentaxes) which were no bulkier than a Leica M.
  22. is a great community of photography enthusiasts.
    I had problems in finding a proper body cap for this Olympus OM-1 MD camera. I bought two different ones on eBay, neither of which fit properly. I posted on the Olympus forum ( ) hoping someone could fill me in on what a proper OM-1 body cap would be like.
    Not one, but two, people offered to send me an OE OM body cap. Very much thanks to Louis Meluso. Here's my small Olympus OM-1 kit with the new body cap he sent me. This is a special camera, and it sure looks sweet with a real cap upon its seat. :)
  23. Yep, that looks just like the cap I bought from KEH after I got my OM-2N recently. Very decent of Louis to send you one.
  24. JDM, I hope I did understand you well. Olympus had 2 perspective control lenses, a 35 and a 24mm. No cheap lenses... even today.
  25. Actually, I had been aware, at the time, that they did bring out the PC lenses, but only after I had already committed to Nikon, a not inexpensive commitment, I might add.
    There was also a third party shift lens early on too, and a few others, but, again, I was already working with Nikon by that time.
    Thanks for reminding me of the fact. Maybe I'll keep an eye out on the big flea market?
  26. Much later.
    I found a contemporary price list for the Olympus perspective control lens -- it was over US$800 (1975 dollars) - about twice the price of the PC-Nikkor.

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