It was World Photography Day the other day. I picked the Olympus OM-1 as my camera for the day mainly because I had recently acquired it. I had also been reading a bit about some photographers of note, such as Jane Brown, that used the OM-1.
I was immediately impressed with the size of the thing - so small. I later learnt that it was indeed Olympus' intention to make an SLR smaller than all the existing ones with the giant prisms. Sound familiar? That is almost exactly what is happening today with the Olympus OMD series. To quote the oracle in Battlestar Gallactica "All of this has happened before, and it will happen again".
My copy came with the beautiful Zuiko 50mm f1.8 MC (marcro) lens. I am familair with the Zuiko quality, but when the photos came out, I was blown away. In fact, I commented somewhere that Olympus should have named it the "Olympus OMG!". That's how good it is.
The above photo of the minibus was taken in relatively dim overcast light. With a 200 speed comsumer film, I set the aperture to f5.6 and speed to 1/125. I know this because I rote it down for a change. As it was Word Photography Day, I decided to actually learn something and documented my settings and the ligthing conditions.
Back to the camera. I love the placement of the shutter speed control in front. I found it easier to change settings than on my rangefinders. For some reason, I've fallen in love with f5.6. It seems like just the right amount of depth of field for me. All the more reason why I like where the shutter speed control ring is, so while I'm shooting at aperture priority, it feels as if I'm changing the aperture - if that makes any sense.
Focusing with the Zuiko 50mm f1.8 is easy with the various focusing aids. I find it slower than focusing with a rangefinder, but for still life, just as accurate. Oh, and the way it renders colour so accurately too, I'm so impressed with this. I grabbed some shots at one of my favourite Jamaican snack shacks in North London to test the colour rendition, and, wow!
The Olympus OM-1, coupled with a fast prime such as the 50mm f1.8, is a low-light wonder. If you use a tripod you can go down to 4, 2, 1 second or bulb. Later in the day I grabbed some low-light snaps in a Harris+Hoole cafe. They turned out ok, not specatucalr. Mind you, in retrospect, I think it may have been my fault for overestimating the mount of available light. I shot at f2.8 rather than going wide open at f1.8. I was already at 1/60 speed which is the minimum speed recommended for a 50mm lens on this camera when shooting hand-held.
Focusing in low-light was easy, however, with the very large and bright viewfinder. No, really, the viewfinder is a joy to use. There are not many cameras out there that can match the viewfinder of the Olympus OM-1.
There is not much else to say about this camera. It's a simple, barebones, straight to the point camera that does it's job very well. It has a light meter that I never use because I can't be bothered to find a battery for it. I find the springy sound of the shutter a little strange, but I've gotten used to it now. At present I use it wthout a case or strap. I just love the solid feel of it on its own. You know, if I was only allowed one SLR, ever, I wouldn't mind making it this one.