What do you get when you put together a Mechanical Engineer, and a photography enthusiast who built their own camera … Yoshihisa Maitani … actually before he became a Mechanical Engineer, he built a camera, and also patented design upgrades for his Leica IIIf.
Yoshihisa was spotted by Eiichi Sakurai, who happened to be Director and Head of Camera Development at Olympus. In 1959 he joined Olympus. A couple of years later he was let loose to design his own 35mm SLR … well he was the guy who designed the first Olympus SLR camera, the Pen FT and lead the way to the famous Zuiko optical lenses. Later on he also designed the awesome XA and Stylus (I’ve had both).
Anyway … this post is about OM (though the Pen would also make a great story).
After his success with the Olympus Pen camera and Zuiko lenses, Yoshihisa was the chief camera designer and in 1967 endeavored to make a full-frame 35mm SLR. Like the Pen, he wanted something smaller, quieter, better than all those other SLR’s out there … it also needed to be a versatile system of lenses and accessories designed around it to be able to take pictures of everything.
5 years later Olympus brought out the M-1 system … well for a short time it was called that until Leitz found out … OK, lets now call it the OM-1.
All mechanical (it did have a light meter) … it was about 30% smaller and lighter than other SLR cameras. The camera was still designed to be tough enough to hand high shutter rates and also be adaptable to numerous accessories and lenses.
One thing that always throws me off is that they moved the shutter speed dial as a ring in front of the lens (kind… but since they put the high/low speed control mechanisms at the bottom of the mirrorbox, it now it makes sense why the speed dial is where it is.
Your left hand can adjust shutter speed, focus, and aperture (even stopping down the aperture) … with an Olympus OM-1 your right hand is just a side-kick.
OK, so lets jump to the OM-2.
Same body as the OM-1 but this one added semi-automatic exposure. Of course they really had to be on top of things, so they made an OTF metering system … WTF … off the film plane metering. The camera had multiple sensors that would read light reflected off the crazy QR code looking pattern on the shutter curtain, and also ones that would read directly from the film (they researched all the various film types for their reflectance and found very little variance) … even with flash.
Oh, and the 97% viewfinder is huge and bright. There are three different exposure displays that switch out depending on what mode you set with the switch.
Compared to other cameras of this time, it is an awesomely designed camera … I think the only complaint anyone has about the early OM series is the crunchy film advance mechanism.
The particular model that I have is the OM-2 MD … the MD part is not labeled on the camera but the bottom plate has the removable cap for the motor drive coupling.