Manual Cameras


I admit it – I am smitten by the black models of the old metal bodied manual cameras. Why black? In the old days BP (before plastic) black was the color of the “professional” model cameras. Why? I’m not exactly sure, since there are so many contradictions here… perhaps the black was less conspicuous than the shiny chrome bodies, perhaps they reflected less light. (but then, some of the BIG lenses were made in a white finish, ostensibly to keep them from heating up too much in the sun.)

The fact remains that black became associated with the “pro” as opposed to the chrome “consumer” models. Now some cameras were made exclusively in black, pro or not, but that’s an exception. For some reason, fewer black models seem to have been made as well, and that adds to the mystique.

Consider this… the black was usually enamel paint on the brass body, which did not hold up as well as the chrome finish – consequently, the likelihood of the black enamel wearing off and showing the metal underneath was high, as seen from the ubiquitous ‘brassing’ that is common on black body cameras. A black camera with a mint (read as no brassing) finish usually fetches a much higher price than its chrome counterpart because of its relative rarity.

I am not sure what the production ratios of chrome to black models were in the manufacturing mix – there are probably more black-bodied cameras out there than we realize. Taking the OM line for example – the OM-1 to OM-4 are considered the professional bodies, there are far more chrome versions than black, which gives the lie to the notion that black = professional.

Now consider the consumer version of the OM bodies, viz, the OM-10 through OM-40/PC). Since they are for the regular Joe Amateur, they should be all be chrome, right? But no – it turns out black versions were made for these cameras as well. The OM-40/PC

was made ONLY in a black version with rubber armored bodies, so we won’t take them into consideration.

Looking at the all the OM-10 cameras that regularly show up on eBay, I was lulled into thinking that they were only made in chrome – then Bam! I came across a BLACK OM-10. Never saw one of those before. It was in great condition too – not a bit of brassing.

Sheer chance plays a big part as well. The first Olympus camera I purchased was a black OM-1.

It wasn’t because it was black or anything. I was looking at manual cameras in a pawn shop one day, it was just that the shop had 2 Olys, an OM-1 and an OM-PC and I picked the OM-1. At that time I did not not know anything about the Olympus OM System, it was cheap, and looked much more sturdy than the OM-PC with its rubber body. That’s all.

Most of the old manual lenses were black. The black lenses looked great on black cameras and looked good on the chrome versions, since the leatherette on the chrome was black as well, the black lenses blended right in. Lots of AF lenses were made in chrome/silver plastic bodies though. They look fine on the chrome bodies, but look hokey on the all black bodies. But that’s just my opinion.

All the lenses I have for my Minolta Dynax 800si (late 90’s manufacture, so naturally, big black plastic body) are black. I resisted the impulse to purchase the silver/chrome Maxxum AF lenses. Anyway, the only Maxxum lenses I purchased new were a nice Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 when I bought the camera. The other new lenses were a black Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5-6 and a black Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.5. The rest of my Minolta AF lenses were bought used off of eBay and Craigslist. Hey, I’m Joe Amateur, remember? I have to go Cheap.

Now for anyone on the trail of a black body camera, please watch out for touched up or repainted ones. That is a strict no-no. Besides, they look so fake and terrible. I’d rather have a heavily brassed black camera than one which had a mint looking refinished paint job.

I’ve heard that Nikon had a program years ago where professional photographers working for the leading pictorial publications of the 70’s could send in their battered camera bodies (hey, they were out in the Amazon, Siberia, Australia, Sahara, the Himalayas… what can you expect?) to Nikon, and they would refurbish them and send them back. Even repaint them. I suppose that if the factory did the painting, one could not complain.

However, I have never heard of any of the other manufacturers having such a program, so I’d consider a new paint job on an OM as fake as a $3. bill. That said, an individual collector may decide to have one of his many bodies refinished with glossy black enamel and some jazzy leatherette. More power to them. A little brassing and paint loss, even a small ding or two never hurt a camera. Besides, they ARE from 30 years ago. And if one plans on using them as real shooters, a little wear and tear is to be expected.

Everything changed as manufacturers realized that they could make the bodies much more cheaply in plastic. One small glitch though – back then, the coating technology was not so advanced as now, and “chrome finish” on plastic looked awful and wore off really quickly. It was far easier to make all the bodies in black plastic. That became the new norm, and has stayed with us ever since.

Things changed again in the late 90’s – it became possible to make “chrome look” plastics, and lots of the later consumer model SLRS changed to the chrome/satin finish. Some point and shoots were even made in a “champagne” colored plastic body. With the coming of the digital point and shoot cameras, hard-wearing chrome plastic came into its own. So did colored plastics. But that’s another story.

Anyway. The ‘black’ bodies extended to the point-and-shoot cameras and the rangefinders as well. I have a black Olympus Trip (I love this one)
and a black Olympus 35 EC.

Recently, I found a black Yashica MG-1, a black Ricoh 500G (this is one case where the silver one looks cooler, but that just me). Rounding off the Black cameras are a Honeywell-Pentax Repronar Camera body with bellows,

and a black Ricoh CR-5.

I also have a black Yashica Dental Eye

( an FX3 type body, I believe).

The black models usually cost an average of 3 times the price of a regular chrome (and in some cases, where the camera is in excellent condition, much more.). Rounding off my black collection is an excellent Olympus OM-2n.

Keep in mind that the coating is just skin deep. Black or Chrome, it’s still the same camera. Don’t go out of the way or way over your budget to get one, unless you are comfortable with the price. Above all, make sure it’s a shooter. What good is a camera that’s only fit for a display case?



Creative Commons License
This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

Some more Fall pictures. These were taken near Dufief Pond, and at Morris Park near Rockville. A couple are from Turkey Run State Park off of the GW Expressway. This year, Fall was pretty spectacular, even if it seemed to come a little late. We had a generally warmer than usual Fall this year, and the rains came just as the leaf color was reaching it’s peak, so I probably did not get the very best pictures, especially since I was only able to get out during the weekends.

Nature waits for no man… and so it is with Fall colors. I wish I could take a week off during the peak Fall days, but that usually impossible because it’s the busiest time of the year at work. Most offices are winding down projects and programs in preparation from the Holidays, and being able to get outside and spend some time communing with Nature is a welcome respite.

These pictures were taken on short hikes with my daughter Sunny – she loves being out in the woods. I was using my black Olympus Trip 35. I don’t get that one out much, since I am afraid that I will scratch the black finish. The Olympus Trip 35 never ceases to amaze me – the simplicity of the camera belies the extremely sharp lens with its beautiful color rendition and forgiving zone focus system. You can hardly ever go wrong with this little camera.

Compare these with the pictures of Dufief Pond taken with my OM-2n and Tokina RMC 70-210 f/3.5


Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run

Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park Woods
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip 35 – Berries, Westminster

Photographed with an Olympus Trip 35, Fuji Super 200 film. Zone Focus at 6ft, 10 ft and Infinity settings.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Earlier this summer, I as testing my Toyo 500mm lens, happened to stop by at the Lady Bird Johnson Park off GW Parkway. The Navy memorial is located at one end of the park. Park affords a great view of the Washington Memorial and the Jefferson Memorials across the Potomac river. The other lenses I had that day were the Zuiko 200mm f/4 and the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 and the reliable old Olympus OM-2. I figured it would be a great to be able to compare the lenses, so busily switched lenses for these shots – the early summer evening ensured that there was lots of light on the Memorial buildlngs, but most of the Potomac river was in shadow. It was a challenge to handhold the Toyo Fivestar 500mm lens for the shot of the Washington Memorial. Next time I’ll remember to lug a tripod along.


Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 35mm
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11

Photographed with an OM-2, Zuiko 35-70mm f/4, Zuiko 200mm f/4, Toyo Five Star 500mm f/8. Film was Fuji Superia 400, and exposure was calculated with the Sunny 16 rule. Exposure for all 3 lenses was 1/500 at f/11, using a Polarizer.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

First roll off my Olympus 35 RC. I finally got around to changing the seals on this old mechanical beauty – the Olympus 35 RC was one of the last mechanical Rangefinders that Olympus made. The RC has an Auto mode – it’s a shutter priority system. You set the shutter speed, and when the camera is on Auto, it will set the Aperture. I prefer using the Sunny 16 rule, and was glad that the RC offered a manual override that allows me to set the aperture as well.

I was very curious about this particular camera – it’s very similar to my Ricoh 500G, and I had been looking for an Olympus rangefinder for a long time. The camera is a joy to use.. the operation feels smooth and precise, and feels comfortable in the hand. The Olympus RC details are in the in the Olympus Cameras page along with a description.

All of these pictures were taken near my brother-in-law’s house in North Potomac, and in the grounds of the park adjoining the neighboring Dufief School. As can be seen, the lens on the Olympus RC is outstanding. I love the way it renders the Fall colors. These old cameras had single coated lenses, and that did something magical for the color and bokeh given the right lighting. This is something that I feel the new multi-coated glass/optical plastic lenses cannot replicate. But again, maybe it’s just my imagination.


Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Photographed with an Olympus 35 RC rangefinder camera, Fuji Super 200. Exposure was 1/250 at f/8 and f/11


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Sauter’s Delight is a farm located just outside of Westminster, MD on Old Bachman’s Valley Road. It’s very picturesque, and I have photographed it several times. Also, since it’s easily accessible, because it’s easy to park by the roadside without having traffic whizzing past all the time. These were taken over the course of the year, from Late Winter through Early Summer to Late Summer with different cameras, lenses and film using the Sunny 16 rule.


Late Winter, OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Late Winter, OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Early Summer, OM-2, Vivitar 24mm f/2.8
Early Summer, OM-2, Sigma 35-105 (60mm)
Late Summer, OM-2, Zuiko 200 f/4
Late Summer, OM-2, Zuiko 200 f/4

Photographed with an OM-1 and OM-2 Camera, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Sigma 35-105mm, Zuiko 200mm f/4 and Vivitar 24mm f/2.8 lenses on Fuji 200 and Fuji 400 film. Exposures ranged from 1/500 at f/16 to 1/250 at f/8


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

When I was looking through the Blog Stats for Olympuszuiko, I realized that this is the 100th post. Although I’ve been photographing for  many years, it’s only been a year (almost) since I started WRITING about my experiences with photography and with Olympus and other manual cameras. 

My wife has been telling me for a while to purchase a digital SLR and be done with the expense of film development etc, since I can use my beloved Zuiko, Kiron, Minolta and Vivitar lenses on most digital SLRs with the proper adapter. My T-mount lenses can easily adapt as well. Besides, it would also keep me from continuing to buy bits and pieces of equipment – lenses, bodies and other camera paraphernalia.

While that is true, I would definitely miss the feel of my beautiful manual cameras. My Olympus OM-1, OM1n, OM2, OM2n, OM-10 and OM-PC AND my Minolta Dynax 800si, the Ricoh CR-5, the Yashica TL-Super and the heavy Fujicarex II. Besides, if I gave up film completely, what would I do with the fixed lens cameras – in particular the Olympus Trip 35 cameras, the Ricoh 500G and Olympus 35 RC and Yashica Electro GSN rangefinders? To say nothing of the Pen EE half frame. They would end up on a shelf and slowly rot.

Still, progress cannot be denied. I have been looking into purchasing a Digital SLR for a while, and while it would seem natural for me to purchase an Olympus DSLR – perhaps the E-410 or E-510, but I’m not comfortable with the manual Zuiko compatibility issues, since even with the E-series Four-Thirds to OM Zuiko lens adapter, I will not be able to use the manual Zuikos stopped down to f/11 or f/16 which I use for most of daytime photographs. On top of that, my Minolta AF lenses would languish.

A better option for me is the Sony Alpha series cameras either the Alpha 100 or the new Alpha 700, with their full compatibility with all Minolta AF lenses, including my 3rd party Phoenix, Tamron and Sigma AF lenses. I use them quite a lot, especially the Phoenix 28-105mm and I would definitely be lost if I could not use them on any digital camera I ended up buying. I could use all my Zuiko and other Olympus Mount lenses on the Sony Alpha with the Bower adapter. I’ve used the Bower Minolta Maxxum-OM adapter successfuly on my Dynax 800si and have been pleased with the results.

I’m curious about the Sony Alpha 700, when I have a chance to actually try it out, perhaps I’ll be able to make up my mind. I have heard that Sony has fixed the “noise” issues that were a problem at 400 ASA and above and that the camera is much more rugged. I like the “rugged” part. Can’t ask for the digitals to be comparable with my manual cameras, but I’d sure like something that I could take on a hike without being afraid that it’d would die on me.

I’ve enjoyed writing about my cameras and lenses, and my feeble attempts at photography. As I look over the pictures that I have taken over the past year with a critical eye and compare them with photographs that I have made over the past 9-10 years, I realize that I have made progress in some areas and still need to work on several others – most notably, exposure issues, composition and lens selection.

Oh, well.. like the old saying goes – “the unexamined life is not worth living”. I guess it’s the same for photography. One last word.. I get about 200 hits a day, mostly people who are looking for information about a particular camera or lens. I am grateful to all those who stop by and read my blog… and occasionally leave a comment on a post.

Thank you for stopping by.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

The Zuiko 100mm f/2.8 is one of the best lenses made by Olympus. It’s a sweet lens… and a pleasure to use. It is very small, just a couple of millimeters longer than the 50mm f/1.8. When set at f/4, it’s possibly the best portrait lens there is. But it’s great for scenics as well, pulling the scene just enough to focus on the interesting areas, and leaving the behind the urban clutter (signs, poles. wires etc) that are the bane of photographers everywhere. I took the Zuiko 100mm along with an Olympus OM-2N to photograph the Fall colors.


Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8

Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8
Fall – Zuiko 100mm f/2.8

Photographed with an OM-2N and Zuiko 100mm f/2.8 lens, Fuji Super 100 film, overcast conditions 1/125 second at f/5.6


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Next Page »