OM-1


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?



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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.

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.
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This old farmhouse and barn sits just outside of Westminster, a couple of miles north of the town. I usually drive that route when I want to take a more scenic way into the town, instead of taking MD Rte 97 south from work. This is a very accessible site, just off the road, with easy parking… there aren’t many vehicles around that road (except on Mondays, when a nearby auction house is holding their occasional outdoor and barn auction). I’ve photographed this barn many times over the past year. The pond, well and barn always stop me dead in my tracks., and I pull over for a couple of minutes just savoring the view.

OM-2, Vivitar 24mm 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Vivitar 24mm, 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Sigma 35-105mm f/1.8, 35mm 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Zuiko 50mm, 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-1, 50mm f/1.8, Fuji 200
Ricoh 500G, 1/250 at f/16 Fuji 200
Ricoh 500G, 1/250 at f/16, Fuji 200

Photographed with an OM-2, (Vivitar 24mm, Sigma 35-105mm, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8) OM-1 (50mm f/1.8) and Ricoh 500G


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Just a few macro shots I took a few weeks ago in an open field close to my workplace. I walked out into the field during my lunch break, when the sun was right overhead.
Normally, it’s usually the worst time of the day to take pictures since the light is bright and flat, with no shadows to provide relief or modeling of the subject.. on the other hand, mid-day light is usually good for macro photography since one doesn’t have to worry about shading the subject with the lens when really up close, and since it’s so bright, it’s possible to stop down quite a bit in to achieve some depth of field.
I was using the OM-1 with the Kino Precision made Panagor 90mm f/2.8, possibly the best choice of macro lens for photographing flowers and flying insects.

Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet
Macro Panagor 90mm at 9 inches
Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet
Macro Panagor 90mm at 9 inches
Macro Panagor 90mm: Thistle close-up
Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet

Photographed with an OM-1, and Panagor 90mm f/2.8, with Fuji Super HQ 200 film. I used a polarizer. Exposure was at 1/250 at f/11 at about 8 inches distance


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I had purchased the OM-10 camera because of the interesting looking lens that it was attached to – I was purchasing it online, and the dealer only had a blurry picture and just mentioned it was a Vivitar 55mm. However, I could make out from the picture that it had a deep front element well, which indicated that it was a close-focus lens. Research indicated that it was most probably the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 macro. I could not be sure of the condition of the lens, but I took a chance.

I was lucky this time, the lens was in pretty good condition, minor scratches, glass elements were fine though there is a tiny, tiny scratch on the front element. Scratches can cause flaring when photographing in bright sunlight, but not in this case. The front element is so deeply recessed, it’s like having a hood, there’s no chance of flare. Besides, I always use a polarizer for outdoor sunlight photography.

The Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 is a is a true classic. It’s a real 1:1 macro lens, made as an answer to the Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 and other OEM lenses – but this was even better, it can go to 1:1 without any other accessories, while the Olympus Zuiko 50mm macro has a magnification of 1:2 and needs the OM extension tube to go to 1:1.  The Vivitar 55mm lens can focus as close as 6 inches.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, this Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 was not cheap by ANY standards – it retailed for $275 back when an OM-1 with a 50mm lens could be purchased for about $150. It was as expensive as any OEM lens. These days, it’s pretty hard to find, but usually retails for between $50-75 if you’re lucky. Ebay has one now and then, but the prices fluctuate quite a bit, since there are a lot of knowledgeable macro photographers out there who would recognize this lens’ true value. For me, it more than qualifies as a ‘cheap awesome lens’.

The Vivitar 55mm lens was built by Komine (serial number starts with 28xxxxx) for Vivitar and resembles the Kino Precision made Panagor 90mm f/2.8 1:1 macro and Panagor 55mm f/2.8 1:1 macro a great deal, down to the filter diameter of 62mm. I guess thats because Kino Precision made a similar 90mm macro lens for Vivitar. (Vivitar lenses made by Kino have a serial number starting with 22xxxxx).

Here’s the roll I shot with the OM-1 and the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 macro. I will get a lot more use from this lens when I finally get a Digital SLR. That’ll probably be another few months at least.

Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro

Photographed with an OM-1, Vivitar 55mm f/2.8, Fuji Superia 400 film, Polarizer

I never cease to be surprised at what I run into on the lonely country roads in Carroll County. I was on Rte 31 from Westminster to New Windsor, when I came across this little road that had a sign saying there was a historic Methodist church. It’s mostly farmland and dairy country out here, with a few orchards thrown in for character, so naturally I was curious.

I took this little road deep into the countryside, and came upon a perfectly preserved house and meeting room, with a collection of barns and sheds, and get this – life size statue of a minister called Robert Strawbridge.

Apparently, that was the site of the first Methodist church in the United States, dating back to the 1760’s. The sign says it all. It was late in the evening and I shot a few pictures with my OM-1 and a plain-jane Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 with Kodak 200 film. The setting sun made the scene pre-dominantly gold and yellow.

I decided to return there early in the morning sometime for better lighting with the sun at a different angle – never got around to it. Then it was winter, and the roads get pretty icy out in the Country. Anyway, to make a long story short, I managed to get back over there this Spring – this time with an OM-2N, a Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 and an Zuiko 200mm f/4 (Don’t ask – I just felt like having the 200mm that day).

If you’ve never used a 200mm lens, it’s a treat… the perspective at 200mm is very interesting – the background gets pulled in, making it look bigger than it is, leaving the foreground pretty much the same. It doesn’t distort, but definitely flattens. The Zuiko 200mm f/4 is one of Olympus Opticals best lenses, tack sharp and feels solid in the hands. One of the legendary ‘perfect lenses’, and a must have.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to BUY one to experience it, since no Olympus owner will ever LEND you their 200mm f/4. Other lenses perhaps.. but not the 200mm. No owner wants it out of their hands and sight. Trust me on this. The Zuiko 200mm f/4 also has magnificent bokeh, which is a plus point when using it wide open (perfect for birding).

The sign says it all, there’s not much else out there explaining what it was like out there in the 1750’s and 1760’s when the minister took up residence there. I looked up Robert Strawbridge, and here’s what I found . Not much in Wikipedia either. However, I found a bit of interesting Robert Strawbridge history here. The house and meeting place are a museum, and there is a person who lives in the house next door that provides a little more information and interprets the site on request.

In any case, I’m glad I visited. The Strawbridge site has a very peaceful atmosphere, I can understand why the Reverend decided to build his church there.

Update Jan 2008: Here are some pictures from a recent visit – they’ve added a statue of Elizabeth Strawbridge at the shrine.

Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House

Photographed with an OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Kodak 200 Gold film

Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House
Robert Strawbridge House

Photographed with an OM-2N, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 and Zuiko 200mm f/4 and Fujicolor HQ Super 200 film. i used a graduated ND filter for the last picture in the series.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Pick your own Strawberries – A favorite Maryland late Spring ritual, especially in Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll Counties. There are a number of fine orchards along Rte 27 and Rte 355, and fresh picked strawberries come into season June 1st – 25th every year. Then there are the cherries and blueberries, but that’s another post.

That’s my Sunny with the Strawberries. We went strawberry picking at the Rock Hill Orchard in Mt. Airy. It’s closer to Damascus though, just outside the Damascus town limits. It was a very hot day, very bright and hazy. I had carried my OM-1 along with the 90mm lens, and a polarizer. The polarizer saved the pictures from looking all washed out… it was that bright.

I really should get a hood for the 90mm. I love thar old Panagor lens, it was a real bargain… and besides being a fine portrait lens, it’s 1:1 macro. There’s something about the 75-90mm focal length range that I can’t pin down. but I love the perspective and definition that it offers.

Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy
Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy
Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy
Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy
Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy
Strawberry Picking, Mt. Airy

Photographed with an OM-1 with a Panagor 90mm f/2.8 Macro lens on Fuji 200 film. I used a Circular Polarizer. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/11/span>


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