How to Improve an Olympus OM1N – an OM2N?

Well, it’s just possible to improve an OM1N – Yoshihisa Maitani put an auto exposure mode in a body of the same size and weight but kept to the same design ethos. Olympus didn’t just put a simple ‘aperture priority’ mode in the OM2N, they put the most advanced exposure control system for its time in place – more sophisticated than most even today.

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Basically the same as an OM1N from the front – the film rewind release to the left along with the self timer ratchet.

Flick the top plate switch to ‘manual’ and the OM2N is essentially the same as an OM1N. Push it into ‘Auto’ mode and the  OM2N’s ‘Off the film’ (‘OTF’) exposure control takes over. The exposure indicated in the viewfinder is an approximation – the final exposure is determined in ‘real time’ by the OTF exposure system. Variations in light during exposure, from natural or from multiple flash systems is all taken care of. Exposures of from 1/1000th of a second to 120 seconds will be used – however film reciprocity failure is not catered for (how could it be?) so beware. Pretty amazing nevertheless.

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Standard OLY 35mm controls – from top to bottom – aperture, focus and shutter speed. The blue shutter speeds indicate the risk of camera shake which is a bit superfluous but looks pretty. Exposure compensation/film speed dial and film winder on the left of the pentaprism, main mode switch to the right.

So what changes were made? The basic controls stay the same. The film speed dial is incorporated into a dual ISO/exposure compensation dial on the top plate – in ‘auto mode’ you might need dial in exposure compensation. The only unfortunate omission is the lack of a mirror lock up – something which is useful on the OM1N but wasn’t possible with the dual metering system.

OM2 Metering Display

The 3 metering mode displays available in different exposure modes. The displays seem to be transparent plastic and slide in and out of view as the mode switch is moved.

One significant feature is that it’s possible to use the camera even when it’s mode switch is in the ‘off’ position. The ‘OTF’ exposure system trips in and sorts it all out , limiting  the shutter speed to shorter than 1/30th of a second as a safety mechanism against battery drain during accidental activation. The ‘B’ mode is only available via a release switch and is the only mechanical shutter speed.

If you plan on using slow film – Adox CMS20 for example – the lowest ISO rating is 12 which is one of the recommended ‘box speeds’.

As the shutter is electronically controlled and is dependent on battery power, there’s a check/reset setting on the main control lever just in case the batteries run out, the shutter is tripped and the mirror locks up.  When the batteries have some charge this setting provides a battery check from an LED on the back plate. As an added extra there’s somewhere to push the card film box top into to remind you what film’s loaded – very sophisticated!

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Back plate showing – well not much other than wear and tear! The battery check LED is to the left of the viewfinder, and the film reminder thingy in the centre of the back plate. This pic shows the black paint wearing through to the metal body under the film winder – I hadn’t noticed that before…

The OM2N is 100% compatible with the OM1N – the complete range of small and fast OM lenses, motor drives and focus screens etc. It shares the same massive, clear viewfinder, smooth shutter release and lovely handling.

Problems?

None really other than those of an obsolete system. The seals may need replacing which is a cheap and easy job. I’ve got two OM2Ns, and they both just keep going faultlessly – bought not as collectors items but as working cameras ‘earning’ their living.

The batteries are cheap 2xSR44’s silver oxidies – don’t use alkalines as their charge drops slowly over time. If they run out of power the OM2N is dead – unlike the OM1N. Rumours abound that the camera will still fire at 1/60th of a second without power – I’ve tried it and it’s not true on the OM2N but is apparently on the OM2SP (which is where the confusion has arisen). The dependency on batteries isn’t really as much of a problem as I used to think it was – I change them every year and have had no problems.

So all in all a real pleasure of a camera to shoot with. Put it into ‘auto’ mode for average scenes or when you’re feeling a bit lazy. Where the lighting is more tricky switch to manual or stick to ‘auto’ and use the exposure compensation dial.

Cheap, simple and rugged, adding a bit of sophistication to an OM setup – though for some reason I still prefer the OM1N but only by a whisker! For those who dislike ‘pure manual mechanical’ cameras it’s worth a look, and at under £100 for a good working example definitely worth a try.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful if you’re considering one.

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2 thoughts on “How to Improve an Olympus OM1N – an OM2N?

  1. Nice review!

    Just a correction, I hope you won’t mind. With no batteries, the OM-2n will be shooting at 1/30th of a second. This is the case, as it is also specified in the manual. Strange shutter speed, due to the fact the camera will shoot from B to 1/30 using a system, to then pass to another one from 1/60 onwards.

    • Hi Matteo,

      This is interesting – thanks for the comment! My OM2Ns won’t fire without a battery (just tried it at 1/15th, 1/30th and 1/60th in manual and auto mode) – well they do but the shutter stays open until the camera is reset with the lever on the top. Maybe the confusion surrounding this issue is due to Oly changing the OM2N spec during production? Out of interest what’s the serial number of your OM2N? My two are 944386 and 936222.

      I agree about the oddness of the shutter speeds – not that it makes any difference as the OM2N is a great camera.

      UPDATE – after doing a bit more searching and testing it looks some OM models (OM4 and OM2SP) do have a red marked 1/60th shutter speed which will work without a battery but unfortunately – as confirmed by experimentation on my OM2Ns – the OM2N just locks up at all shutter speeds until the top switch is moved to the check battery/reset position. This has been confusing me for years!

      Regards

      Rob

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