Olympus OM-1n

Olympus OM-1n

When you think of SLR cameras what’s the first manufacturer that pops into your head? That’s right, it’s Nikon or Canon. It’s been that way for a long time. Today, though, we’re talking about one of the minor players – Olympus.

If you spend any time listening to people who still use film cameras, you’ll hear the Olympus OM system mentioned frequently. It seems to have an almost cult-like following. Of course anything with a cult-like following piques my interest, so I started looking more closely at the old OM series of cameras.

The OM-1 was announced in 1972 and seems to have been very well received. The camera was http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/camera/om.cfm”>designed to solve 3 problems: size, weight, and shutter noise. All sorts of magical engineering went into making a small, light and quiet SLR. Yoshihisa Maitani is the man behind the design. He was quite famous for the Pen and XA series of cameras at Olympus. There are not too many rock star camera designers, but Maitani was one of them. I read somewhere that he carried a diamond-tipped pen in his pocket so he could sign his name right into the bodies of cameras when his fans would stop him on the street asking for an autograph.

Anyway, I bought an OM-1n, OM-2n and some lenses off Craigslist for next to nothing. The OM-1n, according to the seller (a geologist) had been dropped down a volcano, and it looked like it. The bottom plate was smashed in and barely fit onto the body. The mirror was stuck – half-way retracted. I wrote it off, but brought it into a local repair shop (Peter’s Camera) along with the OM-2n, which I planned to have CLA’d. It turns out the electronics on the OM-2n were not repairable. With an electronically controlled shutter, there was no fixing the camera. Surprisingly, Pete gladly accepted the challenge of the OM-1n.

I just got the the camera back and it works perfectly and looks great. I guess there’s not much you can’t fix on an all-mechanical camera. Pete straightened out the bottom plate, adjusted the shutter speeds and meter, and cleaned everything up nice. I ran a roll of Tri-X through it today, and it’s drying now. So far, it’s impressive. The body is no bigger than a Leica M, and not much louder. The viewfinder is bigger than I expected. I’m still getting used the shutter speed being on the lens mount but that shouldn’t take long. Overall, it seems to be a great camera, just like they said it was. Tomorrow I plan to shoot a roll or two of color film and try out the other lenses.

Cameras are fun.

Getting Over Ken Rockwell

Reading photography forums could lead one to believe [Ken Rockwell](http://www.kenrockwell.com/) is the devil. Or if not the devil, an idiot who has no business writing a blog about photography. I disagree.

Rockwell’s site is so over the top with hyperbole and its associated affiliate links that one wonders whether or not to trust his opinion. The answer, for me, is “sort of.” Let’s start with a look at the footer on the home page…

© 1973-2009 Ken Rockwell. Optimized for Mosaic 1.0 and 640×480 monitor

That alone makes me want to cheer for him, but at the same time narrow my eyes and take a step or two away. And then, just when you think it’s safe, there’s this bit from the About page

“While often inspired by actual products and events, just like any other good news organization, I like to make things up and stretch the truth if they make an article more fun. In the case of new products, rumors and just plain silly stuff, it’s all pretend. If you lack a good BS detector, please treat this entire site as a work of fiction.”

So there you have it, right in plain sight. Next time you’re on a photography blog or forum and someone starts to diss poor Ken with things like, “Ken contradicts himself” or “I swear he just makes it up as he goes” or whatever, just move along or if you must, point out the above paragraph.

I enjoy the hell out of his site, and use the affiliate links whenever I can because, right or wrong, he’s working at it.

Medium Format with the Hasselblad 500 C/M

About a month ago I bought a Bronica SQ-A kit after spotting it on Craigslist. I wanted to try medium format film and I’ve always liked the square 6×6 shape. The big negatives are amazing, and the camera works just fine.

The only problem is that it isn’t a Hasselblad, which is what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. After putting a dozen or so rolls throught the Bronica I decided to buy the Hasselblad and be done with it.

The 500 C/M was produced from 1970 until 1994. Mine was made in 1990 and it’s gorgeous! That’s the good news. The bad news is that I couldn’t focus the thing. I don’t know how anyone ever got off any sharp photos with the standard focusing screen. I have since replaced the original with the later Acute-matte D screen with microprism and split window. It’s still tricky, but much better. The Acute-matte screen looks to be about 2 stops brighter than the original. I still need to use the magnifier, but at least if everyone holds still I have some chance of getting it right.

Hasselblad’s V series prides itself on being modular, and compatible. There are many different viewfinders, film backs and lenses available. Here’s a photo of mine with all of the parts separated.

It really is clever, and seems to be built to take years of normal use. I plan to invest in a 45-degree prism finder eventually to see if that helps with focusing, but for now, I’m having fun peering at the ground glass and hoping for the best.