The Lesser OM Family Member
I'm still waiting for the terrible day when my faithful Olympus OM10 develops an infirmity or (Heaven forbid) gives up the spirit altogether. Not that I can detect any visible or audible signs of that calamity approaching, but browsing analog photo forums, including APUG, has convinced me that it cannot be far away, and I can only prepare myself to bear it with fortitude.
I have and use other cameras, but my old OM10 is very dear to me. I bought it second-hand in 1992, and for the past two decades the two of us have spent uncounted happy hours together, producing thousands of technically, if not artistically perfectly usable negatives. The faithful machine has never let me down: not once has it exhibited the smallest malfunction, not once has it displayed reluctance to comply with my orders, and not once has it complained of work overload. In return it has asked for nothing but occasional gentle cleaning, a little tender care, and perhaps a shining new lens on the occasion of an anniversary. Myself being well into the sixties, we have jokingly pondered which of us will outlive the other. I consider myself very lucky to have and hold this camera which has never spoiled a shot for me. "Who can find a virtuous SLR? for its price is far above rubies," about sums up our happy relationship.
Or rather did sum it up, until I unwisely did a generic search for "OM10" on various analog photography forum sites and had a severe shock. The number of posts maligning this camera is simply overwhelming. One is left with the impression that the OM10 - quite apart from being a waste of money and not worth using, let alone owning - was a catastrophe and a scandal, an insult to serious photography and ditto photographers. "Cheap; consumer grade; budget quality; crap; mass market; flawed design; junk; unreliable; frequent issues ..." In short: a camera not worthy of the name. Owners should expect it to disintegrate or melt down any minute. It's for the dustbin; it doesn't even merit an assignation as a doorpost.
For quite a while I was a broken man. There is nothing so disheartening as to have your prized treasure denigrated by supposedly knowledgeable experts. No matter how satisfied you have been with your possession so far, an ugly doubt enters your soul to fester there for ever after. There is a thorn in your flesh; the relationship has been tainted, the trust is gone. After reading the massive onslaught, I hardly dared take my OM10 out, lest the exertion of shooting a few frames make its poor, fragile innards stop working.
I was actually tempted to lay the camera to premature rest in a cupboard and finally go digital, because I felt that no other analog SLR would be able to take the place of my OM10 in my heart, but fortunately my brain started working again, and my usual spirit of obstinacy reasserted itself. I took a fresh look at the OM10. Didn't more than two decades of faithful service prove the detractors wrong, or at least not a hundred percent right? Expecting the worst, I loaded an inexpensive film and set out to capture some windy autumn impressions on silver gelatin, and soon the OM10 and I were clicking happily away just like before. The camera passed the test gallantly without jamming or breaking down, and as I hanged 36 well-exposed frames up to dry that evening, I decided to forget about all the ugly things I had read about this particular OM model, and trust my own experience instead.
While I am quite ready to believe that some OM10 cameras have given grief to some users, perhaps even to many, my own experience proves that not all OM10s are junk. When I rise to defend my defamed companion, I do so not least to give solace and support to other hitherto happy OM10 owners who might let themselves be depressed by the pervasive, sweeping criticism of their chosen tool. I also think that Mr. Maitani would have been gratified to know that there are photographers who do not consider the OM10 a sad mistake. The scathing scorn which some forum contributors see fit to heap upon the camera should be tempered, I think, with sympathy for the man who let the broad masses enjoy, in some measure and at an affordable price, the excellence of the OM camera series. And while we're at it, mass market products are not necessarily inferior (planned obsolescence being a quite different matter); as far as I know, the popular AK47 rifles, produced in really vast quantities, continue to give uniform satisfaction and are still in constant demand among those who shoot other things than pictures.
Admittedly, the OM10 is but a poor relative of the single digit OM aristocracy, but even a lesser member of a noble family deserves to be treated with civility, if not with respect ... if it behaves. Mine does. Still. Blissfully ignorant of any slander.
The OM G/OM 20 is an OM 10 with the bugs worked out and the manual exposure built in.
If someone is looking for one, I have an extra ...
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I bought an OM-10 new when they first came out in, I think, 1978. I still have it and as far as I know it still works although I haven't used it for years. When I was using it heavily it never put a foot wrong and repeatedly delivered well exposed slides with the help of a manual adaptor. Given all the bad-mouthing of the OM-10 on the web it's nice to read a positive resumé of what was at the time probably the best of the "budget" auto SLRs. It was the best-selling SLR in the UK for several years I think. My only complaint is that the price just about halved within a year of my purchase - perhaps later ones were not as well built in order to get the price down. I've stuck with the OM system ever since and never regretted it.
Ive had my best 35mm shots on an OM10 and OM20. I still use these in the studio if i know im about to shoot a shitload of shots. Motordrive and affordability paired with the excellent zuiko lenses makes this the best choice for that.
The OM10 was my first proper camera, new in 1982--and it still works well, although I seldom use it now. Light and reliable--and of course as it uses the same lenses as the single digit OM's, its pictures are every bit as good...
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I really have some sympathy with Michael L's post - it inspired me to join this forum (and make a first post). I've never owned, or used, an OM10. When I was looking for an SLR to replace my Zenit TTL back in 1984/5 I was warned off the OM10 in similar tones - not a 'real *man's* camera was the gist - why? Mainly because it was auto only and *real* men used an OM1. So I bought an OM1 - it's been with me ever since - up mountains and cliffs, down caves, across the world. It too 'shows the love'.... and now I have an OM2n. But... I hanker after an OM10 (anything Olympus in fact - to add to the Trip, the XA2 and the 35RC). A camera becomes part of one after such a long time and returns the affection - of that I'm sure. So long live Michael's OM10!!
Re: The Lesser OM Family Member
Michael, I hope your OM10 gives you many more years of unfailing service.
If you are looking at buying a camera, other people's experiences are something to consider.
If you own a camera, then your own experiences matter most. If your camera dies every other roll, it doesn't matter that it is rated as one of the most reliable. Even from factories with the best QC, a lemon slips through. And in the factories with the worst QC, a gem beats the odds.
Fear not, enjoy the camera and get out there and shoot!
My first SLR, was a Yashica TL Super Electro X. Had it for 15 years. Replaced the shutter twice. It was with me in Vietnam, my wedding, my first and second child. Bought a Canon A-1, and sold the Yashica. I regret it to this day.
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Nice post, a good camera to consider is the OM 2000, I don't know if many are around second hand but I have always found mine to be reliable and easy to use. It has spot metering too and is exceptionally light. With a 35 mm lens you almost don't feel it around your neck.
People always whine about some cameras not being 'professional' enough. You would think people on this board would be more welcoming considering film is no longer the in thing.. but we get more of the same.
I had a Canon AE1 which was reliable and took great pictures. Then I "moved up" to an A1 which had random electrical issues and an F1N which the film take-up spool would catch the film sprockets wrong and eat the film.
And finally I switched completely to Olympus. In may ways I miss my AE1 and I feel that people trash-talking many entry-level cameras are misleading. Many entry-level cameras of previous decades are more than adequate.
Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both yes and no.
The OM System initially was not built for heavy professional use. Ham-handed American photo-journalists jumped on the OM System when it first appeared and were soon back to using their Nikons after the OM bodies suffered failures in their film transports. Olympus recognized this defect and beefed up the film transports during the early years of production, but by that time the damage had already been done and very few American photo-journalists ever returned to the Maitani-san fold. Japanese photo-journalists were much gentler when they used the film advance lever and the instances of OM failures in Japan were infrequent.
The OM-10 and other OM bodies can live much much longer when mated with the OM Winder, instead of using the normal film winding lever. That's the secret of keeping those classic OM bodies and their fine lenses going and going and going....
The Lesser OM Family Member
Hi ken. I am not sure if you have some insider information and i am not sure what you mean by 'heavy' but I don't agree that the OM system was not designed for 'heavy professional use'. I may concede that they may not have been designed for 'ham fisted (north) Americans' (I have added the 'north' to include us occasionally ham fisted canucks.)
In fact I remember olympus making much of the use of the om1 as a favorite of war photos in the Vietnam war where the size of the kit mattered.
So to recap, I am not saying they are as or more robust (or less for that matter) than nikons of the day, but to clarify that it was intended as a pro camera. Pound per pound they are certainly durable, as my original om2 (which bounced around India with me in the eighties) can attest to! ;-)