Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Olympus OM--1 (n) - Preface

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It is not exaggerating to credit Olympus OM-1as a camera that sets new industry standards for SLR in terms of functionality, portability and ease of handling when it was first introduced way back to the early seventies. It created the "compact SLR" concept and changed the course of 35mm SLR development.

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It was a sensation at its very first debut, and remains a hot item today among many collectors. Don't ever let the dimension of the camera misled you to think it is just another ordinary SLR - the OM-1(n) is actually a full blown system SLR camera. It is not only one of the world's best performing 35mm SLR cameras, but also at one stage during early and mid seventies put Olympus Optical Co., among the most respectable name with other Japanese 35mm SLR manufacturers.

Credit: Images of rare early Olympus M-1 camera courtesy of Mr. Larry Shapiro® <>. He also operates a popular Ebay Store where he often lists many used photo equipment .. Other that, you can also visit his website for more information. Images copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

The camera was a hot new favorite especially among many traveling professionals because of its exceptional compactness and light weight, it also ranks among the sturdiest camera of its type.

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Hold a Olympus camera in your hand, and probably you will appreciate the camera more. Both inside and out, the construction of the OM-1 bears witness to a no-nonsense engineering approach with an innovative but highly analytical concept of how the 35 SLR should perform. Most of the controls are positioned and scaled for improved accessibility despite the marked reduction in the camera's overall size, and are designed to operate just as easily with whatever system configuration.

Credit: The 3 images of he Olympus M-1 contributed by AndyJRadcliffe <>

CLICK on thumbnail(s) to see an ENLARGED view Images ontributed by Larry Shapiro

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Drawing down close to three decades of its existence has proven its ability with the demanding time test and the battering by professional photographers in the fields. Being the part of the nucleus of the total Olympus OM System, the OM-1 enables you to step into many new possibilities with ease and fun too, from photomicrography to astrophotography, from photojournalism to portraiture. With its many system components, the OM-1 permits an infinite range of photographic capabilities ... a camera that grows as your expand.

To a large extent, the success of the OM's concept was its complete originality of the entire OM System. Being designed in tandem and at the same time, there were no need for compromises to accommodate out-of-date units or obsolete mechanisms. Various functions of the camera are assigned a distinct position within the overall structure. This has contributed very much to its simplicity and compactness while at the same time, improved reliability. Naturally, as a new player in the SLR camera manufacturing, the very fine tolerances involved in the camera's construction were achieved with the help of other Olympus companies' precision scientific measuring instruments, and the extremely accurate manufacturing and quality control techniques it evolved in making them.

1. Film advance section; 2. Meter section; 3. Viewfinder section; 4. Meter switch section; 5. Film rewind knob section; 6. Exposed film chamber; 7. Self-timer section; 8. Mirror, air-damper section; 9. Film plane;10. Mirror mechanism section; 11. Film cartridge; 12. Mercury battery; 13. Shutter mechanism section

Neither the compactness means compromising on its ruggedness. The overall mechanism is tough enough to permit sequence motor drive operation of five frames per second, a very different proposition from the 2 - 3 frames per second winder operation.





Olympus OM-1, 1972

Nikon FG, 1981

Canon A-1, 1977

Nikon F2, 1971

One would just wondering how can Olympus designed a camera with such a compact dimension ? Mainly due to internal structure from a revised layout designed from scratch and with newer materials that decrease weight and volume while improving performance, reliability and durability.

The initial OM system announced together with the camera includes almost 30 lenses, 12 interchangeable focusing screens. The original OM-1 was called "M-1" until there were some dispute over the brand name as Leica's M series rangefinder cameras also carried similar trade name. The "M-1" was then changed to "OM-1" instead. Early "M-1" and "OM-1" models do not have any provision to use with an automatic film advance device such as Motor Drive or Power Winder. It was only in 1974 that the original OM-1 was eventually factory produced to add a Motor Drive Coupling at its base to take advantage of the Motor Drive Olympus had in plan for the OM models. Code named: "MDS-M", the new upgrade, was called OM-1MD. It enabled OM-1 to use with two devices specially designed for the OM bodies, Motor Drive 1 and Winder 1 - the original professional grade motor drive unit is capable of rapid automatically advancing film at a high speed at five (5) frames per second. The Winder comes with slower film advance rate. Olympus supported older OM-1 or M-1 bodies which both can be factory modified to fit with the introduced Motor Drive or Winder when the Motor Drive enabled OM-1MD was announced.

Basically, the OM1
MD added a Motor Drive mounting Method. It has a bottom mounting with a tripod screw. The base plate is provided with a motor drive socket, a motor coupling terminal and a guide pin hole in additional to the battery chamber and the tripod socket. Other than these, the standard rear cover is detachable with the hinge pin, thus Recordata Back and 250 Bulk Film back is mountable with this model. A factory repair supplement indicated mechanically, there were 19 improvement made to the MD version from earlier M1/OM1 bodies. I have not seen an actual Olympus M-1 and I could not confirm whether earlier film back of these model are removable. But since Olympus indicated in their official Factory parts support guide "... each part and mechanism are constructed and adjusted suitable for high speed continuous shooting by the use of a motor drive... accordingly, the order of parts, repair and replacement of the OM-1MD MUST be done* according to the disassembling drawing of the new model...."; obviously, they are treating the camera as a new upgrade. * Specifications remains the same for OM-1MD with earlier OM1: Picture size, Lens replacement system, Shutter, Finder, Mirror, Exposure meter, Film loading system, Shutter Release Type, Self-timer, Accessory shoe, Sync socket, Tripod screw, Dimension and weight.

The last version of the OM-1 was usually referred as OM-1n among OM users. Where more refinements were made. The factory repair supplement indicated a total of 34 more improvements were made over earlier model. This causes most OM fans in believing OM1n was the most reliable body among all OM1 upgrades. Most noticeable are a direct contact at the camera back to use with cordless Recordata Backs (Older back can also be used with PC terminal), a convenient flash ready/sufficient flash LED in the viewfinder as with the OM-2n, and regardless of the position of the FP/X switch is set at, automatic X-sync with Shoe 4 when any of the dedicated flash is used.


So, basically, it is safe to quote that there were four stages in the development of the OM-1 model. From the original "M-1" announced in 1972, with trade name being changed to OM-1 in 1973; motor drive enabled OM-1MD that was marketed from 1974 to 1978; and the newer version of OM-1n that was introduced in 1979. I remember when the newer Olympus OM-3 was introduced, the OM-1n was still available a few years after the debut of the new model which is designed to replace the OM-1n, so I am not so sure when it was officially discontinued.

In many ways, the overall system is as good as, if not superior to many other popular SLR system, both in built quality and comprehensives of its system; in fact, it excels even more in speed and ease of handling than any other SLR system. The OM system accessories, have been refined, improved or upgraded to better than the original designs and models.

The Zuiko lens group has grown over 50 lenses in numbers eventually, there are 14 types of focusing screens in total until now, the original Winder 1 and Motor Drive 1 has upgraded to more functional versions later to take advantage of newer electronics. Another professional feature is its interchangeable film back that enabled the use of 250 exposures bulk film back or a general purpose Recordata Back with the camera.

Anyway, it is difficult not to mention the biggest attraction of OM SLR cameras: Its greatest asset and good selling point is a great dramatic reduction in bulkiness, size, weight and even noise level that used to characterize 35mm SLR camera bodies prior to arrival of OM-1.

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The OM-1(n) measures just 136mm x 83mm x 81mm and weighs only 680g, with the standard 50mm f1.8 Zuiko lens. With a Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 standard lens, it measures around 80mm from front to back. A fast speed f/1.2 lens adds 16 mm extension to 97 mm, while a f/1.4 provides roughly an intermediate 85mm. Olympus Optical Co. claimed a reduction of 35 per cent in volume compared with the average SLR and a similar reduction in weight.

The camera, apart from its small size and weight, is a conventional 35 mm SLR with full-aperture TTL metering and all the normal functions of a camera of its type. The same degree of compactness applies to many OM system accessories including lenses, interchangeable film backs, focusing screens, automatic film advance devices like motor drives and winders etc.

Viewfinder Display

May be due to the exceptional compactness of the body dimension, one of the most amazing experience dealing with an Olympus SLR body is when you are peeping through the viewfinder for the first time.

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The immediate obvious difference is the large viewfinder image projects inside, which means, in fact, that this small camera actually has a larger-than-normal viewfinder screen combined with wide-angle viewfinder optics. The result is an image about 30 per cent greater than in most other 35 mm SLRs. This is attributed to the finder magnification ratio of 0.92X at infinity when used with a 50 mm lens, and shows about 97 per cent of the actual picture field.

It has a simple and easy to understand display inside which contains only a central rangefinder spot and the exposure meter needle at the lower right hand corner. The mirror can be mechanically locked up for critical vibration free high magnification work and making the OM-1 model the only Olympus SLR models that carries that useful feature. The mirror, in proportion to the body dimension, is an oversize type which designed to avoid viewfinder vignetting with lenses up to 800 mm.

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Olympus OM-1(n): Main Index Page (5 Parts) | Camera Operations (6 Parts)
HTML | PDF | Main Reference Map: HTML | PDF (217k)
Olympus OM-2(n): Main Index Page (6 Parts) | Camera Operations (9 Parts)
HTML | PDF (48k) Main Reference Map: HTML | PDF (203k)
Olympus OM-2SP: Camera Operations | Other Issues
Specifications | Main Reference Map / nomenclature

Sinaron-Digital OM lenses Sinaron-Digital OM lenses
The eyes of OM system: Zuiko Lenses OM's Zuiko lenses for Sinar cameras ? No joke ... Credit: Mr. S. Martin for the various images of the Sinar's Sinaron Digital lenses which were based on the original OM 's Shift & OM Auto Zuiko Zoom to convert. Steve, who has also contributed various image files of the Instruction Manual of the Auto Tube 65-116mm.

Unusual views of an OM-1n in lizard/snake kinned outfit

Rare outfit of an OM-1N

Shared Resources: Supplementary articles: TTL Metering, Depth of Field, Shutter Speed & Aperture
Motor Drive and Power Winder: Main Index Page (4 Parts)
Motor Drive 1 | Motor Drive 2 | Winder 1 | Winder 2
Flash Photography:
Main Index Page (4 Parts)
T45 | T32 | T20 | F280 | S20 | Qucik AUTO 310 | QA300, 200, 200S
Main Index Page (3 Parts)
Macro Flash Units:
T10 Ring Flash, T28 Twin, T28 Single, T8 Ring Flash
Databack 1-4 | Screens | Finder Accessory | Remote | Cases

Zuiko Lenses: Slowly developing..

Glossary of Photography
A good external source for
used Instruction Manuals for various OM SLRs and Accessories.

| Message Board | for your favourite Olympus OM-1(n) and OM-2(n) series models
| Message Board | for your Zuiko Optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for OM Photographic Equipment

About this photographic site.

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Copyright © 2000. leofoo ®. MIR Web Development Team.

Maintainers for OM Site & Message Board: Mr. Rick Oleson <>; Mr. Bruce hamm <bhamm@magma,ca>; Mr. Simon Evans <>; Mark Dapoz <>;

Credit: AndyJRadcliffe <>for his images of the Olympus M-1. My old time buddy, Ahmad Ikram, Dr of Rubber Research Institute (RRI), Malaysia who shares the same passion with me and also lending his OM-1n, OM-4 and the Motor Drive 1 to me for preparing some images in this site; Mark Dapoz <>for reminding some broken links; Mr Poon of Foto Poon, Ipoh, Mr Richard, Ampang Park, Mr Lim and Miss Jenny of Foto Edar for their generosity for their OM1(n), OM2n camera and some Zuiko lenses. Mr Hans van Veluwen for mistakenly using some content earlier from his OM website; J Sorensen for providing some useful images to rectify some technical "flaws"; Mr Gen Holst for helping during the early stages of development of this OM site; Mr KKLow for some of his earlier images on the OM-1appeared in this website; Miss Wati and Mirza for helping me to convert this Operation Manual into a HTML format. Mr MCLau for rectifying some mistakes made on the earlier preview sites. Site created 'unfortunately' again with a PowerMac. A personal tribute to the creator of the OM system and also a site dedicated to all the fans of Olympuses and Zuiko Optics worldwide. Some of the content and images appeared in this site were scanned from OM official marketing leaflets, brochures and instruction manual(s) for educational purposes. Olympus is a registered tradename of Olympus Optical Inc., Japan.