My Olympus OM-1n Review

I wasn’t looking for the Olympus OM-1n, I think it was looking for me.

Olympus OM-1 on Craigslist

Special thanks to Wayne and Jo Ann from near Mount Prospect, IL.  I was malingering on the Internet being sad about being outbid on a Yashica EE rangefinder when I did a daily search on Craigslist.  Today I searched on the word Olympus.

I got lucky.

I emailed the sellers, I’ll buy your Olympus OM-1n, just call me immediately.  They called me and I purchased the camera, two lenses, flash, case, original manuals the next day for $45.  That was a deal for me, hopefully a deal for them.  I hope Wayne and Jo Ann enjoy their move to Florida (best wishes).

Olympus OM-1n – Technical Details has an excellent review of the history of the Olympus OM camera line.

The Camera Site has good technical details on the Olympus OM-1n camera.

Provenance or History

No fancy provenance on this camera, just a short history.

A couple in their 60’s newly retired owned the camera and their daughter was the last person to use it.  But they took care of the camera, two lenses, and flash.  Even the original instruction manuals.  Unfortunately the fake leather case had a tear in it.  But a camera in very good shape.

My Repairs for the Olympus OM-1, None

I certainly didn’t repair the camera but I did spend some time researching the battery problem and driving around trying to resolve the battery problem.

Olympus OM-1n Battery

Yes, you will need to do some footwork to find a good battery replacement for your camera.  They don’t make that mercury battery anymore.  There’s a good discussion of the replacement for the 1.3v mercury battery at  I ended up following this advice.

  1. Purchased a 1.4 v Rayovac battery.  It’s called a Wein cell and I believe its correct identifier is L675ZA-8ZM.  It’s a battery commonly used for hearing aids.  Eight of them in a pack for $10 or $12.  Now I’m rich in batteries I don’t need.
  2. Purchased a #9 O Ring from a hardware store to hold the battery in place in the battery chamber.  It’s called an “O” ring.  Finding it at your large hardware store may not be easy.  It’s only about $2.00 but you need to buy 10 “O” rings so you can use one of them.  A bit wasteful.

(I had a great chat with the Japanese-American staffer deep into his sixties who helped me find the “O” “thingy” at Lowe’s.  He owned a Rolleiflex.  He wasn’t interested in selling.)

How does the Olympus OM-1 feel?

At first it felt disturbingly small, too light.  That’s just because its significantly lighter than my Canon AE-1, Pentax K1000 and other SLR cameras.  But today, pausing to take a few photographs after visiting the dentist’s office in Skokie, my Olympus OM-1 felt nice and light.

There’s something else.  As I photograph with the Olympus OM-1 I have a confidence that the photos will come out well.  How strange is that?  I hope I’m right.

Nice features of the Olympus OM-1.

  1. Light.  Yes, it is light.  But in a good way.
  2. Nice sound.  Not too loud, not too soft, just right when you press the shutter.
  3. Feels good.  When you press the shutter, the camera shake is minimal.  SLR cameras do shake a little but not this one.  The camera shake actually feels like a well made piece of machinery working.

Problems?  Yes.

  1. Shutter speed.  The shutter dial is at the base of the lens.  I’m not used to that.  Seems a bit awkward.  But if Mr. Maitani designed it that way, he had good reasons to do so..
  2. Batteries.  Purchasing a battery and the “O” ring at Lowe’s was a bit of a hassle.
  3. On/Off switch.  The light meter is on or off.  If you forget to turn it off, the battery runs out.

The Olympus OM-1 feels nice on my shoulder and fun to shoot.  I look forward to the result.

Sadly, I now know that the Olympus OM-1n tends to overexpose with my 1.35 v replacement battery.  I did everythng the right way for replacing the battery (Internet instructions).  I need to purchase the original 1.35v mercury battery or not use a battery at all.  The mercury PX625 battery is sold outside the U.S.  If you don’t want to use a mercury battery, just use a light meter.

Olympus OM-1n Sample Photos

Gosh darn it.  Again I made the same mistake I made on my Vivitar camera.  The exposure count was at 2 or 3 and I “assumed” or hoped that there was film in the camera.  So I thoughtfully shot 24 exposures of nothingness.  No film.

Never again.  From now on, I’m just popping open the back of the camera to see if I have film.  No more hoping to get a free roll of film in a camera and wasting photo opportunities.

Repeat after me.

If you think your old camera has some film in it, don’t guess, test it.  Try to turn the film rewind knob clockwise.  If you feel resistance, there’s film in the camera.  If there’s no resistance, no film.

My Second Roll of Film

Even after finding the correct battery for the Olympus OM-1n, the photos consistently came out overexposed.  What a disappointment.  But here goes, you need to see some of them.

Olympus OM-1n, Slightly Overexposed Vineyard Pond

Olympus OM-1n, Slightly Overexposed Vineyard Pond







That photo wasn’t so bad.  A little overexposed but not as bad as I thought when viewed on my home computer.  Apparently your computer or laptop display can trick you into thinking something is overexposed.  But still, it’s overexposed.  Here’s another photo.

Olympus OM-1n Overexposed Ducks

Olympus OM-1n Overexposed Ducks







Sorry, those are geese, not ducks.  But the shot is overexposed.  I was very careful in taking these photos, the meter indicated this was a perfect exposure.  But its washed out.

This is a good photo from my first roll for the Olympus OM-1n, although it is a bit overexposed.

Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup
Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup


I am no longer a purist.  Testing over 30 film cameras has taught me that ultimately, I do want a good photograph from an old camera.  If I owned a film lab I would process my photos for their best possible look.  Since I do not own a lab but do have access to software, I do process my photos.

Here is the Ivy Closeup processed with Picnik’s autoexposure feature.  Do you like it better than the original?

Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup, Picnik Autoexposure

Olympus OM-1n Review – First Actual Roll of Film

Once again, the camera felt great when I used it.  I was almost positive the photos would be great.  I was wrong.

If you purchase a replacement battery that’s not like the original (trying to replace a mercury battery now illegal in the U.S.) for the Olympus OM-1n, you may be disappointed.

As for the photos…

Almost all the photos were over exposed.  My disappointment in the Olympus OM-1n battery problem pushed me to purchase a Gossen Digisix light meter.  Even a great camera like the Olympus OM-1n may need help with its light metering.  I still believe the Olympus OM-1n is a fine camera, but you absolutely need the correct battery to make it work.

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