Favourite Cameras: Olympus OM-10

If you’re hunting for a first SLR camera, there’s probably no bigger bang-for-the-buck than an Olympus OM-10. Do a quick search and you’ll find them littering garage sales and eBay like confetti after a wedding. And they’re cheap too. You can usually get one in decent condition with the standard 50mm f/1.8 lens (which is excellent, by the way) for $30. Sometimes you can get a body, case, and extra lenses for that same outlay. But 30 bucks is 30 bucks and if the camera’s no good, then you’d be better off spending your moeny on pizza or beer, right? Right. Fortunately, the OM-10 is an excellent photographic tool.

Olympus introduced the OM series of single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras in 1972 with the M-1 (later renamed the OM-1). At the time the camera caused quite a stir because it was so much smaller and lighter than anything previously available. Heft a Pentax Spotmatic or an older Nikon to get a feel for the pre-OM universe of SLRs. The OM-1 was followed by other “professional” models, including the OM-2, OM-3, and OM-4. The OM-10 arrived in 1979 and was the first of the two-digit OMs geared towards the “entry level” consumer. Olympus made some changes to bring down the production costs, and there’s no doubt that the OM-10 wasn’t designed to withstand the kind of abuse that the earlier OMs were, but apparently few cared. The camera became a massive success, which is one reason they’re so easy to find on the used market.

But, alas, familiarity breeds contempt. The OM-10 has never been regarded as highly as the single-digit members of the OM family, and their plentiful nature has made them undesirable as collectors items. But that’s a good thing if you’re looking for a camera to use, rather than something to decorate a display shelf with. Although the OM-10 hasn’t got the same rugged build as its siblings, compared to many of today’s digital SLRs, it feels substantial in a way that rubberized polycarbonate rarely does.

The OM-10 and OM-2 side by side.

The ISO control also allows for exposure compensation. A small slider switch (partly hidden behind the film-advance lever) engages the bulb and manual settings.

Rotating a multi-position switch turns on the light meter, performas a battery check, and engages the self-timer.

The addition of the accesory manual adapter gives the OM-10 the same functionality as its pro sibling, the OM-2.

The manual adapter control plugs into a socket on the front of the camera.

The OM-10 is a manual focus, aperture-priority camera. That means, you’re in charge of focusing and choosing the aperture setting, and the camera figures out what the shutter speed should be. Of the various automatic modes, I find aperture priority the most useful. That’s because I usually don’t care about the shutter speed so long as it’s not so slow that I need a tripod to avoid image blurring. What I do care about though is depth of field, which is selected by changing the aperture of the lens. You might have a different preference, but this is mine.

In the field, the OM-10 is a lot of fun. Equipped with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, the OM-10 weighs in at 606 grams (21 ounces), which makes it one of the lightest SLRs in my collection. This is also one area where the OM-10 has an advantage over the “professional” OMs — it’s a full 100 grams lighter than the OM-2. I also find is that because OM-10s are so inexpensive and readily available, I don’t handle it with kid gloves like I do some of my other SLRs. If it suffers some misfortune, well, I figure there’s always another one out there somewhere with my name on it.

One feature that drives people towards the other (more expensive) OMs is the OM-10’s lack of a manual mode. Some photographers just feel naked without this — and it’s certainly true that in difficult lighting situations, manual control is very handy. But the great thing about the OM-10 is that you actually can have manual control, thanks to a nifty plug-in adapter. So equipped, the OM-10 is the functional equivalent of the highly regarded OM-2, albeit with a little more fussing.

Firing the shutter of the OM-10, one becomes aware of one place where cost-cutting manifests itself. The OM-10 doesn’t have the elaborate dampening system found on the professional OM cameras, so releasing the shutter on an OM-10 creates a lot more noise than with an OM-2. That said, you can’t really call any SLR “quiet.” I wouldn’t use one in a theatre or any place where stealth is important. It’s also true that the OM-10 has a lot more kick-back when the shutter fires, so a tripod is likely to become necessary at faster shutter speeds than with an OM-2.

On the plus side of the ledger, the OM-10 has one important feature that the OM-2 lacks. When you engage the self timer on the OM-10, the viewfinder mirror flips up as soon as you press the shutter release. By the time the shutter actually fires (12 seconds later), the “mirror-slap” vibrations have died off. I’m not sure why this wasn’t implemented in the OM-2, except possibly Olympus felt the dampening system in the OM-2 was so good that it wasn’t necessary. In any case, this is a feature I use often and for me at least, is one reason to choose the OM-10 over the OM-2. It also saves me the bother of having to remember to carry around a cable release.

If you’re looking for a good quality, lightweight SLR, the OM-10 is worth serious consideration. Like all OM cameras, the OM-10 gives you to access a breathtaking array of Zuiko and 3rd-party lenses, as well as a host of interesting and useful accessories. And if you decide to step up to an OM-2 later, you can continue to use all your lenses and the OM-10 can serve as a capable second body. But you might just find the OM-10 is so good that you never feel the need to “upgrade.”

Sunrise at Tower Point Regional Park.
(Camera: Olympus OM-10; Lens: Olympus Zuiko 28mm f/3.5; Film: Kodak Ektar 100)

Winter weeds, Penticton, B.C.
(Camera: Olympus OM-10; Lens: Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8; Film: Kodak Ektar 100)

Ferry staircase.
(Camera: Olympus OM-10; Lens: Olympus Zuiko 28mm f/3.5; Film: Kodak Ektar 100)

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24 Responses to Favourite Cameras: Olympus OM-10

  1. Mark Cimon says:

    greetings,

    I am a proud owner and user of the OM 10 as well as an OM 1 in black /winder 2.
    I am using the 10 more often !!! I like it.
    Not as noisy when mounted on the winder 2, as if it tightens things up….
    Will be getting another OM 10 on the bay shortly, black !
    Easy to find and cost effective !
    Nice shots by the way…..

    Cheers !

    MC

  2. Charles says:

    Thank you very much. I’m just learning about photography now and maybe studying it at college later this year. Wasn’t too convinced on which camera to buy until reading this

  3. Gemma says:

    Great article – thank you! I have just purchased this camera and I’m really excited to get out there and take some photographs.

  4. Carlos says:

    Great article, and its awesome that you have a blog about your analog adventures! I just found one OM-10 straight out of the box in mint condition with 2 lenses! I think I’m gonna give it a shot 🙂

  5. Christo says:

    Thanks for the OM-10 details and backround. Just recently purhased the OM-1 (my first camera “back-in-the-day”), and looking for a second to have for Color or B&W film options.
    Seems it’s hard to find OM-10 with the adapter still on. And tough to find adapters? But if even w/o it, seems fine to shoot in A-Priority (the way I usually shoot- as you say). I love the Olympus cameras and am now returned as OLY only owner (xz-1 & EPL-1)

  6. John Franklin says:

    Thanks for your observations, which mirror my own. My 9-year-old daughter is about to become the fourth family member/friend to learn 35mm photography with an OM10, left to her in an uncle’s will. I have used an OM2 since 1982, toting it in a handlebar bag while cycling through Brittany & Normandy one summer; returning to Switzerland (a memory: I have a photo of two tourists whose Canon froze on the Jungfraujoch in the Alps Christmas Eve day); traveling to Greece the next summer where I photographed the Acropolis on Independence Day: the birthplace of democracy on the birthday of the greatest democracy that’s ever existed. I plan to take Josie & her OM10 cycling through Eire when she’s 13.

  7. Gary says:

    Thanks for the excellent story John!

    Gary

  8. John Franklin says:

    I love the interchangeability between OMs 2 & 10.

    We plan to share lenses until Josie knows what she wants, keeping only Zuiko 50mms–1.8 for her; 1.4 for me–as dedicated gear.

    I’m deciding which of these two lenses to keep and which to sell: Kiron 30–80, 3.5; and, Vivitar Series 1 28–90, 2.8.

    Any input to go along with the obvious (ie, shoot some film)?

  9. Gary says:

    Hi John:

    I’m not familiar with the Kiron and Vivitar lenses. In general, I prefer to use the Zuiko primes over zoom lenses — especially since they can be had for relavitely little money. My basic Zuiko kit consists of the 24mm f/2.8 (though I have the 28mm f/3.5 too), 50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/3.5 macro, and 135mm f/3.5. All these lenses have the same 49mm filter size, which is a great convienince. I get the most use out of the 50mm f/1.8 though.

    Gary

  10. John Franklin says:

    Thanks. Jim also left Zuiko 24 and 200 mm lenses; I’m thinking that using these–along with the 50–will be the easiest/best way for Josie to learn: they provide a nice range of wide/normal/telephoto.

    I appreciate your consideration.

  11. Phil says:

    I have an OM-10 that I’ve just pulled out of the loft to start using (not being able to afford a digital SLR). I always thought it was a good camera but never really got the use out of it that it deserved to have. Something I intend to rectify/
    The only thing I’m not sure of is the tripod adapter. With it being such an old camera will any tripod fit, or does it have a specific adapter size? I’d hate to go out and spend money on something that would need to go straight onto ebay without a single use from it.

    Cheers

  12. Gary says:

    Hi Phil:

    The OM-10 will attach to any tripod with a standard 1/4-20 thread, without and adapter.

    Gary

  13. Nik.C says:

    Some nice OM camera love on here! As a long time owner of an OM-1, I’ve today picked up an OM10 body on Ebay for £5.50 + postage, primarily to utilise the Aperture priority feature, which I use on my Yashica Electro 35’s and my Olympus XA rangefinders. I also use digital SLR when I want to use images quickly, and via a mount adapter I can also use my Olympus lenses, but the actual physical size of my Canon DSLR, especially with a hefty lens, is just counterproductive, by comparison my Om-1 is tiny, has a massive viewfinder which makes focussing easy, and is very solid! As I intend to use it for street shooting, just having one less thing to worry about will make it a lot easier to capture fleeting moments.
    I seem to be getting Olympus G.A.S. at the moment…..!!

  14. Gary says:

    Well, Olympus GAS is a less severe variety than the general GAS most of us come down with!

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  16. Anna says:

    Hi John,

    I own an OM-10 and am looking into buying an OM1. Are the lenses and the accessories compatible with each other?

    Thanks.

    Ps.: Great article

  17. Gary says:

    Yes, all the OM-series lenses that work with the OM-10 will work just as well on the OM-1 or other models in the OM line.

  18. Stephen Ives says:

    After a few decades, and following gentle persuasion from my 24 year old son who has recently used an old SLR during a trip to India, I have taken my OM-10, which I purchased new in 1982, out of its camera bag and have been using it this week during a trip up to Scotland. I’m looking forward to viewing the results upon my return home.

  19. Marta says:

    I own one of these cameras. I really like it since it’s quite small and quite light (compared to any Praktica aka the tank is so easy) and i like what i get.
    I was wondering if you know any slr smaller or lighter. I’ve seen you’ve shown the OM-1 and the OM-2 as one of the smallest SLR.

  20. Excellent information – many thanks!
    I have inherited two of these through a family friend and glad to know they are good

  21. Jeff says:

    I just picked up an OM10 and am loving it and the only real issue I’ve had so far is with the exposure meter auto turning off after a few minutes.
    Does anyone know if when shooting aperture priority does the metering switch have to be turned on for AP to work or am I okay if it’s turned itself off?

  22. Dave Rowlands says:

    I still own one of these, I bought it in 1984 before returning to the UK from Canada after 11 years. I bough a set of batteries for it and it fired, the manual adapter is a bit stiff but after a few days of use it’s back to normal. I also use the OM lenses on my DSLR using an adapter. Strangely I also have a Pressman f4, 80-200mm push-pul zoom lens which takes soem fantastic shots even on the DSLR.

  23. Moss says:

    I still have mine I bought in 1980. Don’t use it too much (recently bought a Canon DSLR to photograph my son’s wedding).
    It’s sitting as a display item at the moment. Strangely enough though, getting a DSLR makes me want to go back to film on the om-10!

  24. Ron Evans says:

    Enjoyed reading this article, just got my OM 10 down , after many years in drawer, case like new, and instruction book still with it, been using small Samsung ES55 for general photography, but my old OM10 pictures are exceptional so going to give it a try again, ordered film and batteries from Amazon tonight..

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