Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Olympus OM2(n) SLR camera - Other Issues Part II


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Olympus OM2 1975-1979; Olympus OM2n 1979-1984

The OM2 incorporates a highly advanced electronic system for automatic, aperture preferred exposure control and a revolutionary TTL TTL Direct Light measurement method. However, one of the finest accomplishment of the OM-2 is its remarkable similarity to the OM-1. Despite after 25 years, it is still as attractive as ever to even a non-OM user like me and making me believe all these years Olympus has actually designed a great SLR camera in OM2(n). Notwithstanding its sophisticated exposure mechanism, this camera retains the same handsome lines and ultra compact dimensions as the OM-1 and weighs negligible ten grams more than the OM-1.

These OM bodies, other than its remarkable compactness in size and weight, somehow Olympus also manage to tackle many other issues to make SLR such a companion imaging tool to use. Some breakthrough in research has also enable Olympus to implement many useful and practical features in OM cameras, For an example, one such effort is to contain the noise level of the reflex mirror action - which has long been identified as another drawback of SLR quite successfully, In fact, Olympus claimed noise and shock in the OM camera bodies are brought down to rangefinder camera levels with its extensive use of ball bearing trains, shock absorbers, lightweight components and a specially developed air damper. If you have owned both an OM1 and OM2, I am certain you will notice the OM2 is somehow quieter in operation.


Indeed in every aspect of its performance except automatic exposure capability, is a splitting image of its mechanical counterpart. It features an identical oversized mirror and ultra bright BIG projection image viewfinder, smoother and quieter operations but the best among all is, complete inter-changeability with every unit of the extensive OM system.

Undeniably, AE (Auto Exposure) has its advantage in dealing with a great variety of photographic situations, the electronic shutter of the camera gives it an edge in speed and convenience for responsiveness. But there are times when manual exposure control is needed, the OM2(n) will become an identical twin of the mechanical OM-1 by just simply flicking the selector lever at the selector mode at the top of the camera. For quite a while, both the mechanical OM1(n) and electronic OM2(n) cameras were the smallest and lightest true system 35mm SLR in the world before the Pentax introduced their K-mount ME and MX bodies around 1975/6.

sizecomp.jpg Comparing size and dimension of Canon EOS 3 with an compact Olympus OM1.
<<< -- Physical size comparison between a OM2 with another popular 'high end' SLR camera - i.e. Nikon F/F2 and a modern Canon EOS 3 AF SLR will reveal how compact it is. FUNNY - in many areas, the 1975 OM2 still has many features and areas that even a y2K AF camera stil find it hard to match or close in. The comparing model used here is an OM1 - it has almost the identical dimension of the OM2.

To see why it is a great camera - not just a camera with a great idea - we must look back to the basic concept of functionality behind the whole OM System. Before the appearance of the OM-1, "progress" in the 35 SLR industry meant marginal refinements in equipment that generally made the camera still heavier and bulkier. But Olympus had quite a very different and much more ambitious idea of progress.In particularly, they designed cameras more like how they envisioned a photographer would use a camera and measure how efficiently it functioned as photographic tool. Functionality applies to every aspect of handling, performance and reliability.
The end result from such greater rationality and engineering precision, Olympus man aged to designed the original OM-1 some 35% smaller and lighter than the norm and slashed mirror/shutter noise and shock to an impressive rangefinder camera levels with clever use of air damper in its design.

But some controls essential for frequent usage are made larger and more convenient to provide positive handling. An even more remarkable achievement is its much improved magnification ratio and brightness of the viewfinder image, introduced a user fast and friendly changing of focusing screens, lenses etc., while at the same time, improved the level of toughness and versatility. Similar concept was carries over to the design of lenses, motor drive, flash etc.

Over all, the original OM-1 and the initial OM System concept sold every well. And in particular, OM1 was a hit when it was introduced. It scored with professional and amateur photographers and went on to spawn a host of imitators, completely changing the course of the 35mm SLR industry.

But the OM-1 was an mechanical camera in which there were market demands which made Olympus realize the need and the lack of a SLR within the OM system with automatic exposure capability. This was supplied by the OM-2 in a formula that retained all the outstanding compactness, lightness and reliable performance of the OM-1 with an EXTRA benefit of including an option of full automatic exposure control. But to conclude the camera was just another AE body is an understatement, that was not all about OM-2. The OM-2 features an automatic exposure system that is beyond comparison - because it revolutionized HOW auto exposure should be liked and operate in a 35mm SLR camera - both in theory and in actual function. We will go through them segment by segment in this site. But before proceed further, we still have to go through some of the control and design of OM2(n).

Selector Lever: Meter ON/OFF

NEW UPLOAD by Mr Rick Oleson relating to a solution to battery issue: " ...The Olympus OM2S, OM3 and OM4 are great cameras.... but they're also notorious battery eaters Here's a way to run the camera on a pair of AA penlight cells...."

Although OM2 is a remarkable camera by any measuring standard during its time, but if you to to picked up some faults on its design, first on the list is naturally the lack of any mechanical shutter or operative shutter speed when the camera's battery fails to function or depleted. This means OM2(n) remained strictly as an electronic SLR and would require camera battery to power all its camera operations. That is why most serious OM users have a mechanical OM1 to supplement electronic OM2, similarly, in this respect, such concept applies on OM3/OM4 and OM3Ti and OM4Ti combinations where within the OM system, there is always a mechanical SLR model to support the electronic counterpart. Obviously, Olympus realizes the importance of the mechanical backup for electronic SLR and eventually included a 1/60sec mechanical shutter speed on the electronic OM4(Ti) to enable the camera remains operative even if the camera's battery fails to function normally or completely depleted. Anyway, the feature was omitted in the OM2(n) bodies. To enable camera functioning, on the left hand side on the top panel of the camera is the Meter ON/OFF switch in the form of a lever. Here you can control the camera either operates in AUTO or MANUAL mode. Naturally, as the sign indicated, pushing the lever to "CHECK" will determine the condition of the battery level.

However, Olympus designed the camera in such a way to be more responsive to photographer's needs, that is even if the lever is set at "OFF" position, it will still permit shutter release operative in auto exposure mode.

<<<<--- WARNING: Unlike OM1(n) bodies, the mode selector lever should not be pointing backward position as this will drains the battery power. In such case if you are not using the camera, turn it to "OFF" position. The OM2(n) has no energy saving circuit incorporated and the camera needs battery to power all its operations, handle the battery issues with utmost care.

The large and prominent lever is the master key to multi automation. At "OFF" all camera electrical circuits are extinguished except that a special safety circuit is activated when the shutter is released to give fail-safe auto exposures in a normal range. At "MANUAL" the OM-2 operates in the full exposure control mode identically to the OM-1. At "AUTO" the OM-2's electronic brain takes over and the Centralized Control System insures perfect exposures in all types of photography in combination with any OM System equipment. Shutter speeds from 1/1000 sec. to 120 seconds are set automatically regardless of the speed shown by the shutter speed ring.

<<<<-- Pushing mode selector lever to "CHECK" position, the camera will enable you to check and monitor condition of the battery performance, the battery test lamp indicator at the back of the camera should light up if power is sufficient.

The OM2n model introduced later has a "CHECK/RESET" (Instead of just "CHECK") and you can make use of this position by pushing the mode selector lever to activate the stuck mirror after replacing fresh power cells. -->>>>


Early OM2 bodies has a engraved Red "RESET" * on the lens mount/shutter speed ring. It serves to remind photographer that the manual shutter speed ring needs to be set to "B" in order to release a stuck mirror if it has lock up due to insufficient power. But as said earlier, newer OM2n can activate this by pushing the mode selector to the dual purpose battery check/reset position.


"RESET" - a spring-loaded position from which the lever returns to "AUTO" when released - the 3 stage battery check lamp is activated, the LED lamp lights for satisfactory charge, flickers for battery depletion, remains unlit when batteries are exhausted and the OM-2 mirror is reset from its automatic lockup position after battery exhaustion or incorrect insertion.

An additional safeguard mechanism prevents photography when power cells are dead or near exhaustion OR in the event when it is not correctly inserted. On "MANUAL" the flash mode is also set to Manual; on "AUTO" or "OFF" it is automatically set to TTL "OTF" Auto.

After you open the battery compartment, where it needs to 1.5V silver oxide batteries to power its various camera's electronic functions. To protect the IC at the heart of the electronic circuit, a safety circuit is activated to prevent reverse current flow if the battery is inadvertently inserted upside down. Dead power cells or wrongly insertion of such cells may caused the mirror to lock up and the viewfinder will gets dark and the film advance lever will be locked. The camera can then be reset by turning the shutter ring to the "reset*" position while depressing the reset button.

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