Oh baby, there’s nothing like getting a new camera! I’ve been a big fan of the Olympus OM-1 for a long time and I also had an OM-2n for a short while. Finally I had the chance to acquire the OM-4 too, and boy do I like it!
Initially I wasn’t too interested in the OM-3 or OM-4 because I’m such a big proponent of the more classic SLR cameras. OM-4 has family resemblance with the beloved OM-1, but it is clearly from a newer era. It doesn’t feel too electronic though. It doesn’t feel entirely classic either. An interesting combination, that I was intrigued to try out. Since I already have an OM-1, I didn’t want to get another completely similar camera. OM-4 seemed like something a bit different from what I’m used to. I didn’t feel like limiting myself with too limited gear taste, even though the OM-4 may look too modern for a vintage enthusiast. Never say never.
The amazing spot metering
As much as I like the traditional match needle cameras, the spot metering option, that the OM-4 provides, really caught my attention. And let me just say sh*t, f*ck it rules! I’ve only shot couple of rolls, but I’ve been really enjoying doing some very selective metering, such as shooting heavily back lit subjects etc. The metering is very intuitive and easy to use, even though it may seem complicated at first glance.
Well made little beast
Olympus OM-4 is just as well made as any of the single digit OM’s. I’ve always enjoyed just how solid the OM-1 feels like. OM-4 feels just as good. If not even more solid. From the picture it may look somewhat plasticy, because it has fairly large amount of buttons and electronically controlled features, that may give an impression of cheap 80’s electronics. There’s surprisingly few plastic parts though, and even the shutter button is solid metal. Everything feels really well machined — nothing wobbles or waggles. It’s almost like a solid steel beam. I’ve never been a fan of 80’s products, because they tend to feel plastic and cheap. OM-4 is a huge exception. It doesn’t feel like a broken 80’s calculator. It feels more like a stealth fighter or something.
The operation sounds are rather smooth as well. The shutter sound is closer to a nice little “swoosh” rather than a “cla-tank” of a Canon AE-1.
Few words about the batteries — and no, OM-4 is not necessarily such a battery pig as you’ve heard
Olympus OM-4 uses modern SR-44 or LR-44 batteries, that are readily available. Some say there’s a critical battery drainage problem with the OM-4, but from what I’ve read and experience so far, it may be a bit of a urban myth surrounding the camera. I wouldn’t be too worried about it and certainly would not let it affect a purchasing decision. I won’t go too much into it with my limited experience with the camera. There is plenty of insightful online discussion about it, if you want to check the facts yourself. It’s good to be aware of of course, but bear in mind, every camera has it’s quirks.
In a reassuring nutshell, there are OM-4’s with the old and the new circuits. From what I understand, the newer circuits, in later production models doesn’t have the battery drainage problem. Even some of the older circuitry apparently were fixed by the manufacturer, as a factory recall.
Apparently you can ID whether the camera has the old (and possibly faulty) circuitry or the newer fixed one, by checking the colour of the battery latch. The old ones should have black paint and the new ones chrome coloured latches.
There’s also another way to check which circuits the camera has. The old circuit will keep beeping and showing the indicator light when doing the battery test, but the new circuit will stop beeping/signaling after 30sec. But don’t count me on that — I’m still new with this camera. Do your own research as well and don’t take word for any of this.
If you get the newer and more expensive OM-4 Ti -versio, it will have the battery issue fixed all together.
I would’ve thought that shooting an OM-4 would feel too modern. Even though there are few silly buttons, it still feels very classic — not as classic as OM-1 or some other fully mechanic legend, of course, but close enough. I’m definitely one of those guys who wouldn’t touch a Canon EOS film camera or anything that modern and electronic. OM-4 doesn’t feel anything like that. I’d say it’s a good choice for any classic camera lover. OM-1’s heritage is strongly present.
The spot metering opened some amazing creative opportunities for me. I’m pretty sufficient in manual metering and intuitively compensating for somewhat difficult lighting situations, but oh man the spot metering option has been sweet! It’s not probably that big of a deal for general photography, but if you’re at all into creative camera controls or more advanced exposures, it really comes handy and may boost the cretive possibilities.
I’ve only shot couple of rolls but so far I’ve been really enjoying the entire experience. Here are few sample photos, shot on Kodak T-max 100 (shot at box speed) and developed at home in Kodak D-76. I used the OM Zuiko 50mm f1.4 lens, which actually is also new for me. I previously shot on the f1.8 version and I upgraded to the f1.4 while I was getting the new camera body.