Shooting Film – The Olympus OMG

In a recent post I forecast the death of film photography. I still stand by that thesis. However that doesn’t mean I don’t like to play around with it from time to time. I am actually kind of happy that film didn’t become completely extinct around 2008-2010. That, however doesn’t mean I think it is here to stay in perpetuity either.

Since film cameras are reasonably inexpensive, though steadily increasing in price, it’s fun to use them occasionally. About a year ago I picked up an Olympus OMG. Now some of you that haven’t heard of this camera are going to laugh at the name and I assure you that OMG then didn’t mean what OMG does now.

Technicals

feel free to skip ahead if you like…

The Olympus OMG was from Olympus’ amateur line or what we now call the consumer or entry level line up. All Olympus cameras with two digit model numbers; OM- 10/20/30/40, are from the amateur line. The pro models are, of course; OM-1/2/3/4. The OMG introduced in 1983 was an upgrade from the OM-10 adding a manual mode in addition to the aperture priority mode of the OM-10. Also added was a PC flash sync socket and contacts for an auto winder or motor drive. The OMG is a reasonably standard camera from the era. Features include a horizontally traveling cloth focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 – 1/1000 plus Bulb and with flash sync at 1/60 or lower. Like all Olympus cameras, the controls are placed differently than as is common on other cameras of the time. The shutter speed is controlled via a ring on the lens mount instead of the more common dial on the camera’s top plate. Because of this, the aperture ring is relocated to the front of the lens. The rewind knob is in the normal place on the left side of the top plate, but to engage it you use a switch on the front of the camera body instead of the more normally encountered release button on the bottom plate. It has an exposure comp dial on the right side top plate with an external ring to set ISO/ASA. The power switch is on the left side top plate with settings for AUTO/OFF/MANUAL/BULB and a position for battery check. Speaking of batteries, the OMG takes commonly available SR44/AS76 batteries, so there is no need for a special battery or adapter. However, the camera will become totally inoperable without batteries and will lock up. The view finder is a standard pentprism affair with a built in hot shoe for flash and internally it offers a split image focusing screen.

Back to the story…..

I paid around $45.00 USD for mine including taxes and shipping. When it arrived it was, typically, a little dirty, and the batteries were dead. It came with the inevitable 50mm f/1.8 lens as you would expect.

This is not my first time owning this model. In the early 1990s I found one in a pawn shop that included the camera with a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko, a 75-150 zoom and a Vivitar 28mm, along with a bag, tripod, motor winder, and an assortment of filters plus a few other miscellaneous bits of kit Including an Olympus flash. All for $120.00 USD (About $217.00 today). A difficult deal to pass on at the time and I didn’t (ironically it would probably be about the same price today). Sure it wasn’t a real OM pro model but that wasn’t necessary as I wasn’t really an Olympus fan at the time. Aside from my main Canon EOS kit, I also owned a Nikon FG in addition to the OMG. I will tell you this, there is no comparison with the Nikon. In build quality, operation, and fit/finish, the Olympus OMG is a far superior camera to the little Nikon FG. 

I don’t know what ever happened to that camera, I am sure I sold it, I just do not remember where or when. Periodically, though, I thought I might like to own another one, then digital became the dominate format and the threats of a film apocalypse were real and present, and, anyway, I was pretty busy with life. So I forgot about it.

A couple of years ago I started browsing around the internet looking at old film cameras just for fun. I started looking for cameras that I used to own, thinking it might be fun to have a collection of the cameras I have owned in the past. So when I started looking for an OMG, I found there weren’t many to be had and the ones that were available were in terrible condition. I am sure this rarity is because they were relatively low end consumer type cameras not because of any sort of overt desirability or collectibility. I would imagine most were thrown out or sold at yard sales then thrown out, or still are packed away in someone’s attic or basement. 

I finally found and bid (successfully) on the one I currently own. Like I said, when it arrived it was in pretty decent cosmetic condition if a little dirty, and after installing new batteries, everything seemed to work as it should. On the other hand, the light seals were just goo, and someone tried tape to fix the problem. There was some funk of some sort in the lens and some sort of detritus floating around in the viewfinder.

I ordered and installed a light seal kit – a deceptively frustrating task that appears fairly easy at first look, and ends up being a bit more difficult but isn’t too bad, it just requires a certain amount of patience and dexterity to do right. Cleaning out the old seal material and installing the new seals took me about 45 minutes. The job is technically correct but could be better cosmetically.

I managed to remove the focusing screen and extract the piece of whatever the heck it was, and reassemble everything. The last step was to clean the lens. I successfully got it apart and clean, but on reassembly, the aperture ring was stuck. That’s when I discovered I lost a tiny spring and detent ball during disassembly. So… I ended up getting another lens online for $35.00 (it came to about $48.00 with shipping). It’s not as mechanically perfect as the first (the aperture ring feels a little “spongy” when opening to f/1.8) but is perfectly clean internally and works fine.

At that point, with fresh batteries, everything seemed to work properly.

So I loaded a roll of FujiFilm 400 from Walmart and snapped a few shots around the house and garden and at the local park. Nothing fancy, just running a roll to check the light seals and see if the meter actually, really worked, and if it was reasonably accurate.

After a little hassle getting my film back from Walmart (I really cannot recommend them) it appears as if everything is in order. So that’s good news.

Surprisingly many of the shots have a strong magenta/purple cast that is easily fixable in light room. I researched the film and it doesn’t seem to be a problem with this film, and I have never seen a lens do this, to this extent. So I have to conclude this is a problem with the processing. I also noticed the camera overexposed one or two shots that were really contrasty with a broad dynamic range. I can’t really blame the camera – these older cameras cannot meter with total accuracy for that type of scene.  I will, at some point, run another roll and send it to a better lab in the future. Also, right now, I am running the same stock, as a test roll, through a Canon EOS A2. We’ll see what happens – I am not using Walmart this time.

Before with magenta cast and after with Lightroom adjustments

At the end of the day, I think this camera is a good choice for a basic film shooter based on its relatively standard set of features, even considering the oddly placed controls. It offers the tactile experience of a vintage camera while using modern batteries. All in, including the camera, new lens, light seal kit, and power winder, it comes to about $135.00 USD (Which would have been around $75.00 in the early nineties). Not bad for a camera you can have some fun with.

Stay safe and see the world you own way

thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Shooting Film – The Olympus OMG

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