Alright. Chugging along, this week I’ll be shooting the venerable Olympus OM-1 with one of my last rolls of Neopan. This is camera is one that I particularly like, but haven’t shot with much. Part of the appeal of the camera is that it reminds me of the Pentax, but much more refined. The film winding is smooth; the shutter sounds great; there’s little mirror slap. Just very well-dampened motion all round. I only have a single OM-series lens so I’ve not shot with it nearly as much as I’d like. Despite having owned it for around 5 years, this is just the second or third roll with it!
In an effort to downsize my camera collection, I am considering a sale of my equipment. I have a large number of film cameras, and I will be willing to sell them if good offers come along. All prices in SGD. Here’s a sample:
Olympus XA2 – $30 with A11 flash, $20 without
Olympus PEN FT w/38mm f/1.8 lens – $380
Voigtlander Bessa 6×9 vintage folder camera (still works) – $80
Leica M-mount 35mm Summaron f/3.5 – $700
Pentax Spotmatic / 50mm f/1.8 SMC lens – $180
Canon EOS 5 or A2E film camera w/vertical grip (with eye-controlled focusing!!) – $150
Leica 50mm Summitar f/2 in rough shape (no longer collapses, deep scratches on barrel due to lousy repair by previous owner), but works – $250
Polaroid Propack Camera with working flash, tested and working. Comes with 1 pack of FP100C – $180
Let your friends know!
I picked up a really nice, black Olympus OM-1MD (optional motor drive) with a supposedly terrible 50mm f/1.4 (which looks surprisingly good to me) on eBay for around 75 bucks. It is a very small camera, roughly as tall as my Leica M2, despite sporting a pentaprism hump. It is a much smaller camera than my Pentax Spotmatic (my erstwhile go-to manual film SLR) and yet has a much larger and brighter viewfinder. Now I know why the OM series has such ‘rabid’ fans!
The camera has a working meter, which is unfortunately slightly off (it underexposes slightly. Or overexposes. I can’t remember which), but will work in a pinch. The winding mechanism is buttery-smooth (not in a Leica-esque I-can’t-feel-the-gears way, but very nice nonetheless). The wind lever does this weird thing, whereby after winding the film, it can sometimes still be moved through the whole winding motion without engaging the gears. I stress the word ‘sometimes’, because it usually functions normally (i.e. like any other film camera, that has a built-in stop preventing motion after film winding). That’s probably just my camera though. You can’t win it all!
Here are some pictures I took with the camera.
So, I’ve shot 3 rolls on the Olympus PEN FT (dang that took a while!). The camera is a nice little half-frame (single-frame?) camera that is able to shoot at least 72 frames on a 36-exposure 35mm roll. I have written briefly about it here. Having used it for a while, I can say safely that the camera is here to stay, but mostly because it is unique. As far as the quality is concerned, I am not very impressed.
Firstly, because of the halved frame area, cropping is almost impossible with this camera. This means that tight composition is necessary, but as we all know this is not always possible. That has cost me a few nice shots.
The camera is compact, but not much more so than my Leica M2. Sure, the PEN gives me more frames per roll, but since it is difficult for me to shoot fast, this means that I have to always shoot in similar lighting conditions (I can’t change film mid-roll, as I would on a medium format camera). This in turn limits its usefulness on days when the lighting condition changes due to the weather.
Next, the rarity (rareness?) of the camera makes it nearly impossible to find a bargain lens. I have been using the 38mm exclusively, and while it is a nifty lens (~53mm in full frame equivalence), I sometimes need wider lenses for my street photography.
Finally, the camera shoots at half-frame, which makes scanning it an incredible pain. Just about every scanner program I have tried can automatically detect a full 35mm frame. But a half-frame? Well you’re out of luck. So I had to manually draw the scanning frame and align them with the shot. This is terribly time consuming, especially since the frame spacing is not always exact (it’s only tenths of a millimeter off, but enough to throw off the auto exposure on the scanner).
At the end of the day, I believe this will become a niche camera for me, since the quality I get from the rolls is far from ideal. There also appears to be some inaccuracy of the shutter speed, but that’s something a CLA will probably fix (I won’t be doing that any time soon, though).