The Olympus M-1 is a 35mm SLR introduced by Olympus in 1972. It is the original OM-1.
The M-1 was originally a part of the Olympus “M System” as they called it. They were all set to go, even having a full set of lenses made to support the M-1. Only one thing they forgot…Leica already had an “M System” out!
From all accounts, Olympus changed the designation of the M-1 to the “OM-1” because Leica protested the use of the “M” and “M System” as it conflicted with their M series rangefinders and their lenses.
The M-1 is basically an OM-1, which is among the finest and most iconic systems camera ever made. A modern masterpiece from the brilliant mind of the late great Yoshihisa Maitani, the genius camera designer of Olympus.
There are some differences between the M-1 and OM-1. Main thing you need to know is that the M-1 says “M-1” on the top plate and it cannot accept a motor drive.
There is a wonderful page that tells you everything you need to know about the M-1 if you google “Olympus M-1 film camera.”
As a camera, it has an all manual 1s-1/1000s plus bulb shutter and originally took a PX-13 mercury battery, which has long been outdated/outlawed. The battery is only needed for the meter and yes, the camera can operate without a battery. You can use a replacement battery and my recommendation would be the Wein MRB625 Zinc battery which at 1.35v is closest to the original mercury cells.
RARITY, PRICE AND COLLECTABILTY
This one is not as easy as it looks. While the M-1 is certainly not as common as the OM-1, I don’t think I would call it rare either. “Rarer” would be a better word I guess.
They don’t seem to come up for sale often, but you do see them at fairly regular intervals on eBay, usually by sellers who stress that it’s “RARE.” I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but you know what I mean 🙂
I got mine for $40. It is not in perfect condition, eyepiece and focus screen looks to need replacing, viewfinder needs cleaning, but the shutter works though I haven’t tested it for accuracy. It’s going to be a fixer-upper for me which should be fun.
I have seen people asking up to $500 for this camera, usually on eBay, but they ain’t getting $500! 🙂
Most camera lovers will know or search and find out that the M-1 is basically an OM-1, a camera you can get anywhere from $10-150 dollars depending on condition and how much you want to spend.
A more consistent and fair price for this camera I think is around $150-250 in excellent condition and preferably with a lens thrown in.
Of course, for a collector with money, and if you are a true Zuikoholic you probably wouldn’t mind paying extra just to have that “M-1” in the house 🙂
The Olympus OM-1 is one of my favorite manual SLR’s of all time. The beautiful styling, mechanical shutter and all manual exposure makes it a pleasure to use just for the pure joy of photography.
When I gave up on my Minolta X-700 from 1985 and after trying Canon and Nikon in the 90s, I settled on a couple of OM-1’s and it carried me through the rest of the decade giving me thousands of precious memories on film. And as the 90s came to an end and digital was dawning, my first digital camera was an Olympus C-3000.
The M-1 being the “rarer” version of the OM-1 makes it just a little more special.
These cameras live on in their OM-D incarnations although I think all the OM-D’s lack the true heft and feel of the classic film OM cameras. As imagers, I think the OM-D’s are great!
In closing, there is no doubt that the Olympus M-1 (and OM-1) is a true Camera Legend that inspired a whole generation of photographers and continues to influence photographers and camera designers, even today.
9 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: The Olympus M-1 Film Camera”
I’ve never seen an M-1 in the metal. Thanks for explaining that they’re not as RARE!! as the sellers might want us to believe.
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Thanks Jim! I’ve been looking for one of these for a couple of years that’s how I noticed they were not as “RARE!!” as the sellers were saying. They came up every month or every other month, but never at a price I was comfy with till recently. Thanks for your comments! 🙂
My first Camera….today i have to work with a canon…as professional advertising photographer…and in the night i have a dream : the OM 4 Titan with a full frame chip….
kind regards, Jürgen
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Hi Jürgen, I too dream of a OM 4 “Titan” as you say! Thanks for your comments!
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Buyer beware, there are some unscrupelous sellers now selling OM-1 bodies where they have replaced the top plate with M-1 lookalike plates, one on ebay at present even has a motor drive bottom plate.
Hi Geoff, thanks for the information it is very valuable to me and our readers. I’m aware of these unscrupulous dealers and I hate to point anyone out but they’re usually from the Netherlands! My M1 however thankfully is legit and only cost me $40 bucks! Thanks again very much!
I’m a collector of the Olympus OM system and I also have four M-1’s along with most of the M-system lenses that were released along with it. It is actually quite simple to distinguish the M-1 from the OM-1 if you know what to look for and another thing is that you will probably never find an M-1 without a rotten prism unless it has already been replaced. And yes, the M-1 was also produced in black finnish and it is really rare. I’ve never seen one in real life. Only on photos.
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Appreciate your input and the information on this legendary camera thanks!
Check out this link (https://www.filmphotograph.com/olympus-m1-black-paint-1972) and you will find some pictures and info about the black M-1. What one suggests are that some of the last produced ones are black. The picture here that shows the bottom cover has a very late serial number. According to the info I have, approx. 52000 M-1 bodies were made so if anyone finds an M-1 with a higher serial number than 152000 then it is probably not a real M-1. You can also see the production date on the backside of the pressure plate if the back cover has’nt been replaced for some reason. One of mine with a late serial number (142961) was produced in january 1973.
It is in fact possible to put a M-1 topcover on and replace the screws on the bayonet on a very early OM-1 and you will not see any difference before you remove the top cover.