Olympus OM4 - Thinking about it
First, apologies for all the "this camera is nice - what do you think?" threads. I've been in the midst of finalizing my setup for some upcoming events. I mainly use Nikon 35mm and Pentax 645 but want to add a small silent camera as a second B&W camera. Looked at Pentax, Bessa, etc etc etc.
So I love the OM series. My uncle's OM1 with the lenses he left with me have been really cool and have such an amazing look to them. The viewfinder on the OM1 is completely mindblowing. It's better than some rangefinders I've used (IMO). And the camera is relatively quiet.
I found a pretty decent looking OM4. I've done some research on the OM4 and I've read about battery issues (take out the battery, set it to "B" or "1/60" so it doesn't drain... in a few months). Anyways, the one I found was not only in great shape but was shutter tested with some sort of machine AND it has a 30 day warranty. My question is: Is the OM4 still a pretty reliable camera to use these days or are there other issues beyond the battery issues that come up?
(I may even pick up an OM1 backup sooner or later just to give my uncle's camera a rest )
The OM4 is a reliable camera, but it is always in respect to how the camera was stored and used.
I have an old popular photography article where they btested the OM4 with heat, cold, sand, water, and a drop and it came out great in almost every test. I think one of the extreme temperature tests it stopped working for a minute until it returned to a lest extreme temp. It is very well sealed against dust and dirt, but not water proof of course.
That being said..
Smaller cameras are miniturized in every way.. that means gears, levers, electronics are smaller than their larger counterparts.
Small gears and levers will wear and warp more if abused. Electronics get shoved into small places and are delicate.
And any camera that has not been serviced for 20 years will probably need a CLA to be in tip-top shape.
The battery issue is the main problem ive seen. The OM4 i have has the later circut board, so it doesn't have that issue.
Another problem is the LCD readouts can dim or go bad over time. Dont know how often that happens on the OM4. Just a general thing.
Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both yes and no.
I believe the trick of putting it on B to stop battery drain does not work on an OM4, it either drains quick or it does not
I've owned mine since 1985 and have never had battery issues. It was refurbished last winter by Zuiko John and it's as good as when new.
All OM-4 models drain the battery even when on 1/60th or switched off. Earlier OM-4 models with the earlier circuit drain more power while late circuit models use less. All OM-4Ti models have the lower power circuit and have a few very small mechanical improvements plus the ability to utilise the F280 full syncro flash. If you have any OM-4 model which you don't intend to use for a while it is best to remove the batteries in any case. This is good practice with any battery dependent camera. One thing I have noticed with the OM-4 compared with the OM-1/2 models is the wind-on feel is slightly less smooth (the earlier cameras are very smooth). The OM-3/4 series were claimed at launch to have a strengthened mechanism and this may be a trade-off between feel and strength of the mechanism. I have used both the OM-4 and OM-4Ti and there is no difference operationally except for the full syncro flash ability on the OM-4Ti. The Ti models tend to sell for quite a bit more money making the original OM-4 a good buy - battery issues aside (just carry spares). One thing which you will not regret buying any OM-4 for is the metering system which is just superb and very simple to use. These are reliable cameras generally and don't suffer from age any worse than comparable models from other manufacturers - I've also used pro-grade Canon and Nikon cameras from the same era. Electronics and general mechanical wear and tear are the prime considerations and if these look fine, then go for it. Just test everything when you get the camera and return if there are any undisclosed problems.
Last edited by onepuff; 06-23-2013 at 07:58 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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I have the OM4T series cameras, and they are one of my favorites to use. I have seen a number of issues pop up in the cameras, the most common is a jammed wind lever with the mirror up. It can happen if you are shooting very quickly and winding on with a bit more force, it doesnt happen often but it can. You have already mentioned the battery issue with the OM4, you can test for new circuitry if you flip the lever to battery test, and wait 20 seconds or so, if the light and beeping sound turns off you are in the clear. Having to switch out batteries is kinda annoying in the field, not too bad if you have a 2nd camera, but you will loose that frame of film.
You should also check the spot, highlight, shadow, and memory functions, and their response to different lighting. On the side, you should also test the light up function, I have one camera that doesnt light up. Its pretty important if shooting in dim areas or at night.
Make sure the meter changes when you stop down the lens. I had one where the aperture ring under the bayonet lens mount was sticking and not giving a correct reading, it was fine when shooting as the camera uses the film when you press the button to meter, and it changes the exposure accordingly but it was annoying. I swapped out the whole bayonet mount, and shutter speed selector wheel, as it was that piece that was rubbing and pushing against the aperture ring(which is in turn connected to a string that goes into the camera) making it stick.
The shutter speed selector should be smooth when you turn it, sometimes it can get gunked up and become stiff, but its pretty easy to clean.
The F280 flash is a great accessory for the om4t, if you plan on using high speed sync flash it goes up to 1/2000th of a second. If you need it, it is a very good reason to get the OM4t model. If not the T32 flash is really nice and powerful for its size.
And again with any older camera, check the light seals around the back and as well where the mirror is.
Yep, I'm a new OM fan too.
I've personally fixed OM4 jams in two cameras this month, both cameras bought for cheap due to the jams.
Fixing them is simple.
I posted the method on the web:
I'm wary of the other issues mentioned on the web and haven't run into them, and so far, the OM4 and OM4ti are working fine. Great glass too.
I did see the article about the drop test and the sand test. Amazing to see what this weather-sealed Olypmus can take!
Is there serial no reference for the newer circuit board on the OM4?
It's $300 Cdn for the one I'm looking at. Externally it looks good and I was able to see the read out on the lower part of the viewfinder although it was a bit dim... Maybe there was a way to increase the brightness?
The winder was noticeably stiffer and not as smooth as the OM1n. Hoping, as mentioned, that's just the way things are built... To be more reliable.
What kind of battery life expected with the older circuitry? I've had my F3 die out on me so I know first hand that its important to carry spares.
I don't think there is a way to test by serial number, but I would assume the higher the number the more likely it has the newer circuits. Users also could have possibly sent their cameras in for repair and could have had their boards replaced.
The viewfinder lcd information brightness is dependent on the light source the camera is pointed at. There is an opaque bar in the front where the pentaprism is. Like I mentioned in my previous post, there is a manual LCD light thats activated on the right side for use in dark environments. Sometimes this can be broken and not light up. Interestingly you mention the F3 as that same light is one of the most commonly broken things on that tough body.
On keh there is a champagne om4t for $200 in bgn condition. For $300 there has been a number of completed auctions on eBay for om3 models at that price range. Unless its pristine in box I think the price is a bit high. Maybe worth it if it's been cla'ed by someone that specializes in Olympus cameras, as the quality of cla's can vary.
All OM-4 models have the old, battery draining circuit board. It is possible that Olympus replaced the camera's board if it was brought in for repair. You can easily check whether or not your OM-4 has the updated board. Switch to battery test mode. If your camera starts beeping your batteries are good. Wait for about 30 seconds. If the beeping stops you have a OM-4TI in disguse. If the beeping does not stop you have a original OM-4