Olympus OM-4

by John Waco Jr May. 11, 2019 169 views

It’s easily the most refined film camera by the brand, and today it continues to be an incredible performer due in large part to its assumption that the photographer knows what he’s doing. When one shoots an OM-4, one feels as if they’re a crucial part of the photographic process.

This isn’t a coincidence. The OM-4 sprung from the idea that Olympus wanted to make a camera that was finely tuned for the professional, disregarding the automation and gimmicky features that were then being favored by their competition, who were all striving to court new shooters.

With concise implementation of controls, the OM-4 is refreshingly simple. Automation is limited to aperture-priority auto-exposure. That’s it. Beyond that you’re shooting manual mode, rewinding and advancing your film by hand, turning dials, flicking switches, and loving every minute of these tactile impulses.

But that’s not to say the camera isn’t capable of the heavy stuff. Its shutter is full-featured, allowing shots from 1-1/2000th of a second in manual mode, and up to an amazing 240 seconds in automatic mode. The Zuiko lenses are as good as any FD from Canon, though the range is a little less full-fledged. Still, Olympus glass makes exceptional images with little fuss. The viewfinder is big and bright, the body is weather-resistant, and there are enough available accessories to keep any collector busy for years.

The metering system in the OM-4 is cutting edge. Capable of taking a spot reading from eight different areas of the frame and averaging them, the OM-4 provides one of the best metering systems found in vintage cameras. It also offers the option of choosing the darkest or lightest areas of the frame and exposing based on these measurements.

This camera and it’s subsequent improved iteration, the OM-4 Ti, were remarkably well built and possibly the most robust SLRs of their era. Counterintuitively, it was also one of the smallest and lightest cameras of its day, and even in today’s market of mirror-less cameras it’s still amazingly compact. And this is one of the camera’s major selling points. To hold an OM-4 is an eye-opening experience. It’s just so damn small.

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