Celebrating The Olympus Pen

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The Olympus Pen FT and Zuiko 38mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

With the release of the new Olympus Pen-F digital, I thought this would be a good time to celebrate the old Olympus Pen film series and the original “Digital Pen” the Olympus E-P1 🙂

Before we do that, just a few notes on the new Pen-F digital. It is a 20mp mirrorless camera in the Micro 4/3’s format. It has a built-in 5-axis image stabilizer in the body, much like the OM-D (which I love) series or the EP-5. 1080P HD Video. Nice touches include the electronic viewfinder (EVF), the 80/50mp (raw/jpeg) high-res mode, and customizable modes. There’s a lot more to it of course.

The funny thing is that when Olympus released the E-P1 in 2009, they marketed it as the new “Digital Pen” yet with this new Pen F, we are being told (as seen on the Dpreview video) that this is a whole new class of Pen cameras, and priced accordingly at $1199. Yeah, ok 🙂

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“Decade Of Digital” From left, my first digital camera bought in 1999, the Olympus C-3000 Zoom and the Olympus E-P1 from 2009.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Olympus fan going way back. I’m sure the new Pen F digital will be awesome and just on the specs alone, it looks to be 1000 times better than the original E-P1, but I probably won’t be getting one any time soon. Not now anyway. Price is an issue, yes. Don’t have, and don’t want to shell out that much for a Micro 4/3’s camera.

And nothing against Olympus, but coming from the old film school, while I love the new Pen’s retro looks, I just see it as a digital camera dressed up in a film camera’s suit. Much like the Fuji X series, Nikon DF, or any number of cameras riding on the retro wave. This has been an enormously successful formula for many companies and more power to them. While I love the way they look, I’m just not as easily pulled in by it.

In addition, it’s really hard for me to get excited about the latest and greatest these days. The truth of the matter is that most of the cameras from the last five years (and going back even further actually) have been extremely capable.

I may sound a little less than enthusiastic, but I’m still young enough to realize that whether it looks like a film camera or not, whether I like the retro looks or not, learn to love it because (and my fellow film fanatics might not like this) let’s face it…This IS the “Digital Era.” Film may be around for a long time, who knows. But the “Film Era” has passed and it will never be the film era again.

But if you got the dough for the new Pen F, I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome new toy for you!

If you want to see all the new Olympus cameras, you can do so right HERE which is an easy link to everything. You can also pre-order there or here Olympus PEN-F if you want to be among the first to get one. My favorite might be that “Faux Leather” OM-D EM10 II!! 🙂

Below are some images from the Olympus Pen F and FT half-frame film cameras and the Olympus E-P1. I’ll dig up more if I can find them. I’ll keep shooting with these oldies until I can save enough for the new digital Pen F 🙂

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“Order & Chaos” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm /2.8 pancake lens, Tri-X. These two sequential frames from the half-frame Pen FT shows how order can turn into chaos in a minute if Grandma is babysitting you 🙂

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“On Life & Love” 2010. Olympus Pen F, Zuiko 100mm f/3.5, Tri-X. As in life, love grows like the weeds, is full of hope and promise, but eventually grows old like last week’s bouquet of roses 🙂

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“Beauty & The Beast” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm f/1.8, Tri-X. Both a little scared, neither one prepared, beauty and the beast 🙂

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“Aging In a Digital World” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7

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“RGB” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Brooklyn, NYC.

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“Sex & Religion” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Atlantic City, NJ. You might not be able to see it, but there’s a gentlemen’s club on the left and a church on the right. I’m still trying to figure out why WordPress is not letting me post larger pics.

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“Digital Buddies” 2009. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH. Had a little fun with this one 🙂

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Flashback Friday: The Olympus M-1 Film Camera

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The Olympus M-1 35mm slr. Basically an OM-1 with a few external and internal differences. The most obvious give away is the “M-1” logo on the top plate of the camera. Otherwise, the M-1 and OM-1 are cosmetically and functionally the same.

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.

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“Zuikoholic” 2009. With the black Olympus OM-1 and 40mm f/2 Zuiko lens. As far as I know, the M-1’s were only made in chrome.

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 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

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!

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“Generations” 2015. The Olympus M-1 film camera on the left and the OM-D EM-5 on the right. Yes, I know that OM-D needs a little dusting off 🙂

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.