Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Olympus OM10

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to say a few words about the address of the blog.  You can still get to it with the blogspot URL, but now it has its very own domain -

Sometime soon I'll tell the whole story of the name, but for now, on to the cameras.....

For my first in depth test drive of an old camera, I present my Olympus OM10.

As a piece of photo history, it's not much more than a footnote.  There was nothing especially cutting edge about it.  I won't bore you with all the tech specs.  My mom was the original owner, buying it in probably 1981 or 1982.  Check out the TV commercial from 1981 --

I have the receipt for it somewhere and it seems like it was around $250 - almost $550 in today's money - with the kit 50mm f1.8 lens.  She also got the manual adapter that allowed it to operate in full manual in addition to aperture priority, where you set the f-stop and the camera selects the shutter speed.  The adapter doesn't seem to work anymore.  I don't remember if it ever did.

Mom took the OM10 everywhere, including on an infamous trip to Canada.  She slipped on some rocks near Niagara Falls and proved why it's a good idea to keep a UV filter on the lens all the time.  The filter was a loss, but the lens survived the trip.

Over the years, Mom moved on to other hobbies and I borrowed, then eventually just kept, the OM10.  After getting me through high school journalism, two trips to Myrtle Beach, two years at yearbook camp, three weddings, college photo assignments, baby portraits, pet portraits, Christmas portraits,  several girlfriends,  professional wrestling matches, an art class with nude models, high school soccer games, miniature golf field trips, and hundreds of rolls of film, this American made workhorse finally went into storage about a decade ago, after not once needing a repair or getting any proper maintenance.

When I got it back out a few days ago, the shutter wouldn't fire.  I was disappointed, but not shocked, given that it's over 30 years old.  But I wasn't ready to give up on the old girl just yet.  As it turned out, it just needed fresh batteries.  Unlike my Pentax K1000, the shutter mechanism needs power, too, not just the metering system.  Even after a decade of inactivity, the old batteries had barely corroded at all.  Two new button batteries and everything worked just like I remembered.

Before I get to my test shots, I have to say that shooting film for the first time since about 2003 wasn't as odd as I thought it might be.  But using the Oly again was bittersweet.  After years of being my primary camera, I realized as I loaded it that I might be loading the last roll of film it would ever shoot.  It's not worth much on the used market, not like I would part with it anyway at this point.  Between my digital rigs and all the video cameras I still want to play with, I can't see another reason to use it again.  I hadn't planned to shoot nearly the whole roll on kittens, but the sky wasn't cooperating for the long exposure stuff I had planned on shooting, so it is what it is.

Here's the gallery, followed by a couple of closing thoughts.

A couple of things that I learned from shooting and scanning again after all these years:
  1. I really need to clean my scanner.  The dust and crap are from the scanner glass, not the camera.  And I won't get the matte finish again.  It scans as a weird texture.
  2. The OM10 tends to overexpose.  If I shoot with it again, I'll underexpose a half a stop - maybe a full stop.
  3. This crap is expensive!  The cost of a roll of film, processing, and a set of prints - pretty close to $15.
  4. I love the 50mm 1.8 lens.  Luckily, I can still use the glass.  More on that in a future post.

Unless you are rich, film forces you to be more selective when you shoot.  With no auto winder, you have to advance the film manually after each shot, and there's no autofocus either.  Shooting with a manual camera is a bit of a Zen exercise in patience.  You can shoot action, but no multi-shot burst.  The metering is pretty good, but a good photographer knows when not to trust the meter.  There's no immediate feedback with film, so skill, experience, and occasionally luck are required to get consistently good shots.  There's no exposure lock.  With just about all modern cameras, even point and shoots, you can partially press the shutter button and lock the exposure settings.

Shooting with the OM10 took me back to my earliest days of photography and helped me remember why I fell in love with cameras in the first place.  It also reminds me why I stopped shooting film as soon as I bought my first digital (also an Olympus).

Next time, I'm shooting video with a nearly 30 year old RCA camcorder.

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