SLRs

Reviewing my first SLR film camera, the Olympus OM-2n – Ivan Studynskyi

My first experience with film started when my friend let me take some photos with her camera, one of which just struck me (to this day I think it is one of the best photos I have taken). After that, I remembered that at my parents’ apartment there is a point and shoot camera – Olympus Superzoom 700XB. It is extremely cheap and not so good, but it still worked. I took it to Barcelona for the holidays and shot two rolls of film there. When I got scans back – I got hooked.

So, I have been shooting film now-and-then for more than a year. And this June I attended a lecture on film photography for just-beginners from a local lab. At the time I already understood that a fully automatic camera is fine, except it doesn’t provide room for any creativity except framing and releasing a shutter. Moreover, at this lecture, I was among a few who showed up with a point and shoot camera, and it confused me – why everyone is starting with SLR? This also made me wonder about getting a better camera..

At first, when I started digging into a world of film cameras, I was a bit lost. SLRs, rangefinders, viewfinder, point & shoot, 35mm, medium format, large format – it was a complete mess. But day after day I was reading articles and things started to become clear. Finally, I chose a camera I wanted, and after three weeks of painful waiting, I finally got my Olympus OM-2n.

I actually ordered OM-1MD, however, the seller decided to upgrade me to OM-2n because of some problems with the shutter on OM-1. I hesitated for a day, but since they look almost the same, I agreed to the offer. I mentioned the exterior of the cameras for a reason — the Olympus OM-2n looks gorgeous to me, and this is exactly why I chose it. Every time I walk by my camera, I feel the need to grab it and just shoot nonstop – so beautiful and comfortable it is.

I think this is one of the most important things, especially for beginners. The only thing about the exterior I don’t like is a hot shoe – it is OK, though it ruins the camera’s prism shape to me. Thankfully, at Olympus, they understood it and made it possible to unscrew the hot shoe. That is exactly what I did when got my camera, and since I prefer not to use flash, I don’t miss the hot shoe at all.

A camera for everyday use

A lot of people know this website for compact cameras, so I will throw some numbers – my OM-2n weighs about 550 grams (with batteries and without lens), back when they introduced the first OM, in the early 70’s, its compactness and lightness were revolutionary. Do you think 500g is heavy? Now, think about that, Nikon F2 was introduced a year earlier and its weight is about 830 grams – so OM-1 wasn’t that heavy, I suppose.

Kyiv river port. Unfortunately, the film was ruined a bit. That’s why the photo came out darker

For my hands this camera is a perfect match, it is easy to hold and easy to carry. I like to take the OM-2n everywhere I go, so I decided to make a paracord wrist strap, and it works fine – I leave the camera hanging on my wrist ready to shoot while wandering through a city. When I am commuting or just strolling without intention to make a photo I put the camera in a waist bag and I can still keep a wallet there. One quick tip, if you don’t plan to take a photo soon, do not advance a lever, because I lost a couple of exposures because of my inattentiveness. It is frustrating, trust me.

All being said, I still wish it were a bit smaller and lighter – but it is a high-end SLR camera and you get every feature you need and more in a small form-factor.

Is it any good for taking a photo?

If now you are thinking: “ok, you got me with looks, but is it any good photo-wise?”, then let me walk you through the process of making a photo with the Olympus OM-2n.

Before that, however, I should mention that this is my first SLR camera, and so I can’t compare it to anything except my Superzoom 700XB, but that would be unfair to both of them.

Advertisement

I’ll start with a viewfinder, and my, it is something. I know it’s praised a lot among film enthusiasts, but I didn’t understand why until I saw it with my own eyes. The finder shows you 97% of the picture – much more than the Superzoom. Previously, I had to crop photos – with this one, I see almost everything. I still crop some photos, but now it is intentional.

This one is cropped because I couldn’t get closer to the yellow car

Using Olympus OM-2n, I sometimes miss a decisive moment, but that is because I’ve found myself preferring to shoot in manual mode. I do this for two reasons: to slow down a process and to think about a photo, and to control the exposure. Unlike some people, I like where Olympus decided to put the shutter speed dial on the lens mount – I find it helps me make adjustments quickly.

I like the quality of photos, even with the cheapest film stocks. My standard 50 mm Zuiko f/1.8 is fun to use either for street photography or portraits. Although the latter from time to time gives me a headache. When I shoot with wide apertures – I can miss focus just a bit. Though it is worth trying – the bokeh looks great.

The photo was made in Berlin. Love how the Zuiko lens blur the background

I mostly shoot in daylight or golden hours, but I also like the aesthetics of night photography and I tend to explore it. That’s where I appreciate that aperture priority mode my camera has. OM-2n has a very good meter, it was the first of its kind. The light meter takes reading reflected off the film plane, and the shutter can stay up for about 120 sec. For now, I fully rely on it for night photography and have had reliably good results.

However, I admit that night photos are sometimes a miss from where I wanted them to be – I would like to have them a bit darker. They are not bad, but, you know, not fully “my style”. In the nearest future, I intend to make some manual exposures and compare them with auto exposures.

The auto mode in all its beauty

Is this my (anyone’s) final camera?

Before deciding to write this review, I never really thought about my Olympus OM-2n that much – mostly because it is easy and super fun to use. Great lenses, great viewfinder, astonishing looks, you name it. It’s not a flawless camera, unfortunately, but I think, its upsides are much bigger than the downsides. For now, OM- 2n is a go-to every day and every night camera for me.

Will it be my last film camera – I doubt it. As I am more into street photography, I would like to get Olympus XA and probably Pen-F, just to play with 72 exposures. However, I think I got my first and the last SLR, there is just no point in switching to something else,

And a couple of photos.

A local park. TV shows makers often use it to film. Look how sharp the photo is

Despite raindrops on a lens, a photo still came out as intended

I love to use film to document the streets of my hometown and sometimes other cities. If you would like to see some other work made by this gorgeous Olympus OM-2n, please welcome to my Instagram @octo_ivans

Ivan Studynskyi

Do you enjoy reading 35mmc?

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of this website. The more people chuck me a small amount of cash each month, the more time I can spend building and improving upon it - simple as that!
Or, for $2 a month you can get access to my behind the scenes micro-blog over on Patreon!

Either way, want to help out, become a patron of 35mmc here:

Become a Patron!

Alternatively, if you just enjoyed this post, or like the odd post here and there, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko fi here:


Write for 35mmc: read more here, about how you can help build upon this ever growing resource
Subscribe/Follow: click here, to discover all the ways you can follow 35mmc

You Might Also Like

9 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    MrSnappy
    November 27, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Hello Ivan,
    I’ve enjoyed looking at your photographs on this post and also those on Instagram. They have (for me) an indefinable quality that prompts me to keep returning to them – I’m obviously looking with my heart rather than my head which is what photography should be about rather than what lens or what camera. If you are thinking about a compact from the XA series then I would go for the XA1 every time. The XA is too fiddly – check out my post on the XA1 from last week.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ivan Studynskyi
      November 30, 2019 at 10:01 am

      Thanks, Brian!
      Yeah, I have read your post about XA1. Frankly, that got me thinking about purchasing one. However, since I wrote the post about my OM-2n, I have already bought the Olympus XA. I like how enabling this camera is. I have recently been to Barcelona and I took loads of pictures thanks to XA. But it is also a disadvantage – I spent less time thinking about a frame. I also don’t like aperture lever; I almost didn’t notice it. Considering this, I might sell my XA and get some other version.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    steve phillips
    November 27, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    There are some great images there – I particularly like the people on the grass in Berlin. And on the subject of the XA, yes, get one, but for quick street photography I would try for the wide angle XA4 if you can find one at a reasonable price. If not, then the XA2 or 3. Good luck!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ivan Studynskyi
      November 30, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Cheers, Steve. This is one of my favourites photos as well. I already got myself an original XA. But as much as I love it, I might switch to some other XA. Previously I never thought of XA3, though now I see that it can shoot with 1600 speed. That’s lovely. More pushed B&W photos. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    CharlesMorgan
    November 27, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Olympus was my first system after my Russian Zenit triggered my interest. I started with an OM10 then saved up for a new OM2n and kept it several years. I loved the colour results (I didn’t shoot black and white, silly me) but despite keeping the lenses (a 50mm f1.8 and the 28mm f2.8) I moved to Nikon. Recently I bought an OM2n to use and it is a very fine, bright and light camera, the lenses are excellent (and so cheap) and frankly if I didn’t use my rangefinders most of the time the OM2n with lenses would be my system of choice for both film beginners and enthusiastic shooters. You can accumulate a full set of great lenses and camera for less than the cost of a single Leica body. Nice to see someone enjoying the OM2n, I prefer aperture priority but it works so well and at 50 years old, still feels somehow modern.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ivan Studynskyi
      November 30, 2019 at 11:30 am

      Well, in Ukraine we have plenty of Zenit cameras. I had a chance to play with some of them. In comparison with OM-2n, they are just not up to the game. Although Helios and Zenitar lenses are quite good, as far as I know. In regards to Zuiko lenses, I am thinking about acquiring 100mm f2.8 and 28mm f2.8. Could say something about the latter? How is it against 50mm? I am asking because I recently shot with XA and 35mm seems a bit off. The other thing with OM-2n I really like is the simplicity with focusing. With the XA it was kinda hard.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    J.
    November 28, 2019 at 10:53 am

    There are some really nice photographs here. I hope you won’t get lost in the technical aspect too soon. As someone commented above, it’s about seeing with the heart, mostly. I feel reminded of the days when I first picked up a film camera and couldn’t quite tell what was actually happening, but there was something going on. Then I really got sidetracked with all these thoughts on how this camera, that lens or a different format would benefit my photography. Let’s say it didn’t, but of course I learned some things on the way.

    Some thing about the night photos not turning out quite the way you want them: I guess this involves a few variables. At first, your camera in Auto mode wants an even exposure. Nights are mostly dark, though. Try metering for the illuminated areas (city or traffic lights) and see where you can get from there. Then there is the film processing part. If you’re simply dropping your film off at a drugstore, it will be developed and scanned more or less automatically. The machine (just as your camera) will go for an even exposure and for mostly black nights, that means they will turn out grey. You can either try to fix the files in post, scan the negatives yourself or go to a lab where they’ll do custom scanning/printing, which will cost a bit more but might be worth it for some predetermined keepers.
    Good luck on your film journey!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dan
    December 10, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Good shots, thanks Ivan. I’ve tried quite a few SLRs and sold them all except my black OM-2N. I just love it – the looks, the feel of it in the hand, the shutter sound, the meter, all of it. The only reason I don’t shoot it every day is because of the rubbish British weather.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ivan Studynskyi
      December 11, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      I feel you. I have the same feelings towards the weather in Ukraine. I still don’t know if I should take OM-2n with me in winter, so I bought a somewhat rubbish P&S to keep taking photos.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This

    Thank you for commenting

    ...now share the post with your friends?