From a design standpoint, the OM-1 is the most unique of the five cameras on this list. Olympus set about redesigning the SLR from the ground up, and with their first entry into the field, they did an excellent job breaking from the rest of the pack.
The first important (and most noticeable) change is the size and weight of the camera. The OM-1 is a very slim, very lightweight camera that nonetheless offers all of the mechanical, all manual control that makes for a good student camera. As small as the body is, it still offers one of the largest viewfinders found in an SLR – one quick look through an OM-1 and you’ll note just how easy it is to focus on your entire frame.
More significant is the change in the control layout. Forget what you already know about the orientation of camera controls – on the OM-1, the shutter speed dial is now located on the lens mount instead of the top of the camera. While this may throw you for a bit of a loop at first, you’ll quickly realize the main advantage – focus, aperture and shutter speed adjustment are all controllable with the same hand, and all usable without having to look away from the viewfinder.
Metering is likewise simple and intuitive, done via a match-needle system similar to that of the Pentax K1000. Another aspect of Olympus’ rethinking of camera controls is the depth of field preview – instead of being built into the body of the camera it is instead incorporated in the lenses themselves, allowing all Olympus lenses the use of this helpful feature. The OM-1 includes a self timer and mirror lock-up lever, giving it a well rounded list of additional abilities.
- Compact and elegant design makes these some of the smallest SLRs available.
- An all mechanical camera needing battery power only for the light meter.
- The entire range of Olympus lenses are of superb quality.
- The smallest of the five big camera manufacturers means there is not as much Olympus equipment to be found as compared to Nikon or Canon.
- The adjusted layout of camera controls takes some getting used to.
Also consider: Olympus OM-2
Images from the Olympus OM-1: www.flickr.com/groups/olympus_om-1