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Olympus OM-2 Spot/Program with Zuiko f2.8 24mm lens
If you want to hop down the page these are links:  OM-1   OM-2 Spot/Program   OM-10   Zuiko Lenses

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OM-1
I bought the OM-1 that I still use just as I started on my degree course, so that would be... 1977? I didn't have a lot of money so I can't actually remember how it all came to pass, but I still marvel at the mechanical deliciousness that is my OM-1. Not everyone is sold on the shutter-speed dial not being on the top of the body, but to me it's all perfect. The aperture and shutter speed rings seem to be more linked where they're placed on the OM's, reciprocal twist-clicks allowing almost instant control over both factors. The rest is simple; it's small, it's light but tough, but the absolute marvel about the OM-1 is that even though it's so small the view through the viewfinder is quite the biggest and brightest that I have seen in any SLR.


Olympus OM-1 with a few Zuiko lenses

My OM-1 was my only camera for years and years. The simple needle meter in the viewfinder did the job very well, and one soon learned how to interpret what was going on, even for unforgiving Kodachrome. The photographs themselves owe more, naturally, to the lenses than to the body, but it is wrong to ignore the contribution camera bodies make; they facilitate getting the best out of the lenses. Bodies have to be speedy to use, accurate and tough and the OM-1 design, from which all OM's heralded, is a true ground-breaking classic. I was sold on the viewfinder and so didn't go the Nikon. Pentax or Canon route (I nearly bought an ME Super and the Pentax lenses would have been good to get to know too) and have never regretted it.
Then I bought Ansel Adams' "The Negative."

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OM-2 Spot/Program
Zones... Not truly applicable with roll film, but the book was still a bit of an eye-opener. What I needed was a spot meter. Oh - look! Olympus brought out the OM-2 Spot/Program. I did have a chance to use the OM-2 before this, but, although I thought it clever, and it was, I didn't really want an automatic camera. I thought I'd never really use it in auto mode. After all, with the OM-1 all one had to do was put the needle in the right place... But a spot meter! That was great. I was able to browse round a subject, seeing how much difference there was in luminances, working out where I'd put the lows and highs and so on. Another bonus was that it improved my development skills; I was referring the negs back to the exposures and learning a lot. I tended to put colour film in the OM-1 and black and white in the OM-2 Spot/Program and this is what I did for years and years.
I prefer SLR's to rangefinders; I much prefer the internal meters in the OM's. I prefer the single case that I can take out instead of a bag with the camera and meter in an the whole unpacking thing I have to do with the Leica. I like being able to alter the focal length by swapping lenses easily and seeing the results properly in the viewfinder. If the photographs the OM/Zuiko's took were as good as those my Leica M2/Summaron takes I would not use the Leica. But they're not, so I do. It's not as if the OM/Zuiko images are bad, but if one is taking a photograph it might as well be as good as one can make it... Or just go out with a Trip 35!

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OM-10
I do have an OM-10, but I've not used it. I bought it recently off the net for about £8 plus postage because it came with a 50mm f1.8 Zuiko on the front and my 50mm lens was getting a bit tired. There was a bit of fungus in my 70's lens, and the iris wasn't truly snappy, and the focus ring of knurled plastic was loose. None of this was terminal, and the lens' output (or throughput maybe I should say?) was probably just as good as the one I got with the OM-10, but that's what I did. The reason I mention this camera body at all here is because it has occurred to me that an OM-10, with the f1.8 50mm lens is such a good buy right now it may appeal to anyone happening onto this site who fancied a go with an OM and or a Zuiko lens. I put a roll of Tri-X in the OM-10, set it to 1600asa and gave it to my son who took it away and did good things with his band. It was a bit of fun. An OM-10 is small, light and is a pretty good auto-camera at an almost disposable price, say for humid holidays in territorys full of light-fingered people. Just a thought, but it is a good way of getting a great lens, on a really usable camera, for peanuts.

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Zuiko Lenses

The above is the nice bit; this is the important bit. If the lenses for the OM's were no good then what's the point?



Well; they're good. They're excellent, even. But they're no better than some others, and no worse, and they are perfectly capable of producing fantastic images. As are, to be fair, almost all other lenses of moderate aspiration when stopped down a bit. If this seems a bit of faint praise then that's unfortunate, but, for instance, I had an OM-fit Vivitar f2.8 28mm lens for years and it was as good as the f 2.8 28mm Zuiko lens I now have. I thought I'd buy a Zuiko as I thought it must be better, but it isn't, and, actually, I regret getting rid of the Vivitar. It wasn't a Series 1 or anything. Now this isn't to say that the Zuikos are in any way poor. I think any lens, be it from Nikon, Canon, Pentax or other respected companies, is pretty amazing, but if one is operating at anything smaller than f4 there's not going to be much difference between them in terms of sharpness. Fully open, well, some will be sharper than others, but I don't think any one serious make has it over any other in any meaningful way. I'm not able to compare the "character" of other lenses as I don't know other makes, but as a team; the OM bodies and the Zuiko lenses; they're just what I want. If I'd grown up with Nikons I expect I'd find they were perfect too, and maybe worth all the weight that the OM's don't carry!
And a comparason with the Leitz Summaron? The Leitz is a bit sharper and has a beautiful laid back judgement of tone that, with my processing regimes at least, the often harsher Zuikos lack.
If I have a conclusion about the Zuikos it is that I think there is quite a considerable sample-variation. My f3.5 135mm lens, for example, is superb, but I have heard many say it's not a good lens. Conversely my f2.8 28mm and 35mm Zuikos aren't particularly good at all, I'm afraid, but I've read others' glowing opinions. But my f2.8 24mm Zuiko is a really superb lens. As a guide if I stay still and take photographs with the 35mm and 24mm lens there is more detail of the same subject plus its considerable environs with my 24mm lens than there is with the 35mm! I don't mean I moved in to fill the frame the same, I mean from the same viewpoint so the 24mm lens has more... view to get right. And as for the f1.8 50mm - both my samples have been extremely good. The focal length options are great, but if I just want a camera I'll probably go out with my Trip 35.

Some examples;

OM-2 Spot/Program|Zuiko 24mm|FP4|HC-110


OM-2 Spot/Program|Zuiko 24mm|FP4|HC-110


OM-2 Spot/Program|Zuiko 50mm|FP4|HC-110


OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110

(Detail of above)

OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110


OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110


OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110

Detail of above:

OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110


OM-1|Zuiko f 2.8 24mm|Tri-X|HC-110

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