Olympus OM-1

First produced in 1972, the OM-1 is a fully-mechanical 35mm SLR designed by Olympus’ Yoshihisa Maitani (the “M” in “OM). Originally it was the M-1, made to rival the similarly-named Leica M-1. However, after Leica put up a stink about the chosen nomenclature, Olympus changed the name to OM-1. It’s solid and compact, designed for the photographic professional, minimalist but quite elegant in design. Shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/1000, with a selector dial on the lens mount for easier adjustment while composing. Fully manual with an onboard light meter, correct exposure is indicated by a diminutive but effective centering needle in the lower left corner of the bright viewfinder.

The build quality is fantastic, an OM-1 found in good condition should last for many years to come and can be found for less than a hundred bucks. There are no bells or whistles, it’s a fully stripped-down manual camera with only the essential controls (focus, asa setting, aperture and shutter speed dials), so it might not appeal to photographers who prefer more features. However, it is a perfect starter camera for anyone new to film photography because of the high quality and lack of short-cuts.

The all-metal build is one of the more noteworthy features, as is the quality of the Zuiko lens line for the Olympus cameras, but not to be overlooked is the camera’s size. Its small size makes the OM-1 as convenient a shooter as most smaller rangefinders, you could probably fit this into a coat pocket. Not as lightweight as some more plasticky cameras available, but it’s a bit more forgiving of the occasional bump in your bag or backpack.

Normally when I want to shoot Olympus I grab my OM-2, because I love it so very much, but I keep the OM-1 as a back-up, or as a loaner when out shooting with someone new to film photography. I also like to have it on hand as a companion to my OM-2, for occasions where I might want to shoot color on one camera and B&W on the other, as they both share the same lenses and are compact enough to sling two cameras at once. I was gifted a leather, cross-body dual-camera setup that hangs one camera off of each hip and makes me look like a nerdy badass, it works perfectly with this pairing of solid workhorse cameras.

This camera is plentiful on eBay and elsewhere, easily found for less than a hundred bucks, and with plenty of lenses available.