History Makers: Olympus OM1 – Smaller is better…..1973

 The Asahi Pentax was such a success back in the late 50s, that nobody bothered to question whether SLR cameras could be designed in an even better way. That is, until Olympus took a fresh look at things….

The main complaint about cameras before this one came along was their size. They couldn’t fit in even the biggest pocket, and you certainly didn’t want to be lugging one, or more, around your neck all day, not unless you fancied a trip to the chiropractor some time soon!! But, hey, that’s just how cameras have to be built, right?

Olympus decided to challenge that. They went, quite literally, back to the drawing board, with the aim of seeing whether SLR cameras could be re-designed to make them more user friendly.

Their solution was the Olympus OM1, a camera as loved today as it was then, and a camera with a genuine claim to being one of the greatest 35mm SLR cameras of all time.

The OM1 was, roughly, 65% of the size and weight of previous SLR cameras. This meant it could fit in a decent size pocket and that you could quite easily carry it around your neck.

One of the main ways this space was saved was by moving the shutter speed dials from the top of the camera to around the lens mount. This had the added bonus of meaning you could change the shutter speed in a more intuitive way, and without having to move the camera away from your eye to help make the adjustment. It’s always a bit of a surprise to us that more manufacturers didn’t follow suit with this change in design – we love it!

The Olympus lenses from the time also have a well-earned reputation as being some of the sharpest ever made, and they don’t break the bank either.

Much like the Asahi Pentax had done nearly two decades before, the OM1 revolutionised SLR design in the 70s, with most brands rushing to compete with the OM1 by introducing smaller models during the 70s. Some great cameras in their own right – like the compact Pentax MX for instance – owe a debt to the OM1!