Olympus OM-2 spot/program [1984]

It was the mid-80's, I was at College when I decided it was time to upgrade from Eastern block cameras to something more modern and Japanese. At the time Nikons were the choice of photojournalists but they were a little out of my league. Also I had pretensions of being a nature photographer and the two common choices of photographers in that field were Canon and Olympus. Even then I was a sucker for beautiful, compact designs so I bought into the OM system. The main object of my lust was the OM-2 spot/program which in the days before auto-focus and composite materials was state-of-the-art hi-tech.

Unfortunately, not being a trust-fund baby I then had to find a way to earn more money than I'd ever spent on anything for my new system. After 12 weeks of my summer vacation spent living at home, working on a farm dawn to dusk, driving tractors of grain, building hay stacks, roging fields, and shoveling cow muck I earned a new found appreciation for those who do manual work year round and just about enough money to start my new system. The OM-2s arrived, mail-order, just before I was about to ship back to college. I picked up a Zuiko 35-70mm zoom at a local camera store and a cheap Vivitar 70-200mm again mail-order and I thought my new system was the dog's bollocks.

Compared to my old FSU SLRs the OM2s was tiny and jewel-like. Its controls were much easier to use and the camera itself had a much more powerful feature-set than my old mechanical SLR's. Unfortunately, there was a downside too. The single battery in my Practika MTL5 lasted years before it needed replacing; my new baby ate a pair of expensive cells in 2 or 3 months. If I took it out in the cold and didn't carry it under my jacket the batteries would die or fail very rapidly and then I was stuck without a light meter and the single mechanical 1/60th shutter speed that is the OM2s default. I wasn't used to this kind of electronic funkiness and I even sent the camera in to be serviced convinced something was wrong. It turns out I wasn't the only user who experienced these kinds of issues.

I got past these teething pains. I learned to remove the camera's batteries at the end of a day's shooting unless I intended to use the camera immediately again. I bought a secondhand OM-1n to take out in the cold. I always had spare batteries to hand. But still something was disappointing with my results. These were the first zoom lenses that I'd bought and they didn't perform like my old prime M42 lenses. Slowly I built up a small collection of third party prime lenses and was finally happy with my set up. From 1986 until 1999 this was my main camera. I had point and shoots (Olympus Stylus and XA's) but until I went digital (with the 2000z - can you tell than I was an Olympus man/fan?) when I wanted to take something other than a snap my OM2s was my go to camera.

Still today, if I want to use 35mm the OM2s is my default. I have read a lot of people moaning about the reliability of the OM2s but mine has not been coddled and it still handles and functions perfectly. In recent years the once-expensive Zuiko glass has dropped in price as everyone abandoned film for digital. As a result I've been trying to replace my third party lenses with genuine Olympus equivalents and each time I find a new Zuiko treasure I put it on the the OM2s and fall in love with my first serious camera all over again.

Compared with a modern EOS it is still tiny. It doesn't house any modern novelties like a motor wind or auto-focusing. Instead, what you get is a solid metal frame, controls located where they make sense, an uncluttered viewfinder and a very accurate exposure system. There's a program mode for beginners, aperture priority for everyday shooting and a manual-mode that brings a spot light meter in to play. Everything you need, nothing you don't.

Even Zuikoholics aren't mad about the OM2s; they'd much rather pick up an OM4ti which will sometimes go for three times the cost of a decent OM2s. Because of their reputation for electronic fleetness this is not a camera I'd buy sight-unseen from eBay. If a dealer had a OM2s with any kind of guarantee I might be tempted. A surer bet in the OM line is a nice OM1 but if you's prefer something a little less basic take a look at the OM2s.


Comments

Hi:
Nice article about the Olympus. However, in "A surer bet in the OM line is a nice OM1 but if you's preferů"
You ARE just kidding, right?
All best,
Tom

Posted by: Tom Muhlstein at August 2, 2005 8:08 PM

Hi,

I use my Om2s (bought second hand) 3 years now and it is a great camera to use. I usually take my pictures with the S Zuiko zoom 35-70 mm. F 3.5-4.5 and i'm very confident with it. The camera and zoom lense are rather small, but its controlls are big enough to handle. Both camera and lense are low weighted, so I can take everywhere I go. Great camera, affordable and I can count on it, everytime I use it. But you are right, I always have a pair of spare batteries with me!

Bye,

Gerhard Boelens The Netherlands

Posted by: Gerhard Boelens at October 27, 2005 6:42 AM

Great website!

I just got an OM2SP and an OM2N to replace my Nikons and have found the SP very heavy on batteries and with an odd wind on. The OM2N is the one I would recommend - light, bright and silky smooth feels almost as well designed as the Leica Ms.

Jon

Posted by: Jon at January 1, 2006 4:52 AM

I┤ve been an Olympus OM maniac for over 25 years and I hope digital era will not stop this.

R.

Posted by: Ricardo R. at January 12, 2006 3:20 PM

Great article - I started wih Praktica and moved on to Olympus (OM2n) when I earned enough money to buy something decent. I love the size and logic of the system. I had a 1.4 50mm, 28mm 2.8 (which was wonderfully sharp), 75-150 zoom and the t20 flash (don't you just love the OTF flash meter readings. Unfortunatley travelling around the world and the awkwardness of carrying a load of equipemnt made me sell the lot before leaving the UK - for a point and shoot Canon which packed up after 3 years but produced nice sharp shots. When film cameras started getting cheaper I moved back to an SLR (Pentax P20n plus lenses) but was never really happy - sold the lot again - bought a digital Olympus C 730UZ - nice camera with lots of features but rubbish flash for outdoors and a way of using external flash that I've never been able to work out. So Film cameras got cheaper and I've finally moved right back to Olympus - the OM2n again with an OM 10 as a spare.Discovered the thing called fungus and found that I could take some lenses apart and clean them, especilally when the fungus was on the outer elements. It's such a shame to see great quality pieces of equipment go so cheaply on internet auction sites! Shame that all camera manaufacturers didn't start off thinking compatability with film slrs when they designed their digital slrs. Will there ever be a "digital back" that could be fitted to an old film slr? The new OM adapters for the Olympus E system makes me hope that I will be able to afford one and then use the great OM system lenses on a digital machine - the jury seems to be out on this so far.

Posted by: Ericnz at June 9, 2006 1:40 PM

Hi all!
No doubt I went too through Olypuses, from 1n to 4 (actually my son's, now gone Nikon). And coming from Exaktas and Nikon Fs. With my size 8 gloves hands.
Now, I only suffer the viewfinder, upon wearing glasses and not seeing well the side displays.
But my first digital was E-1, as soon as available. And no complaint with the 14-54 and the 50-200. Only the 7-14 missing: quite expensive, but still on the list!
Weight is all to lazy boys. Should ever Olympus decide to make a 35 film body for the digital Zuikos, I would book immediately. Even for a strange format, let's say 21x21 mm.: with today's emulsions, it could be a very portable Hassie!!!!!
And we should start a subscription, maybe they take it seriously.
Ciao from Roma!
Massimo

Posted by: massimo benocci at June 15, 2006 8:59 AM

Thanks Martin,

I also have an OM-2SP and like yours, it has the battery drain problem. As soon as my OM-10 is back from getting its overhaul at Camtech, the OM-2SP will get its overhaul and battery drain modification. These are great cameras and I enjoy using them. Like you I can't seem to pass one up. I started with the OM-10 and have since acquired an OM-1N, 2 each OM-2Ns, and the OM-2SP. For anyone looking for a nice quality camera that is reliable, lightweight, and easy to use, take a look at the Olympus OM system.

From Sunny Seattle,
Erik

Posted by: Erik Jones at November 6, 2006 10:45 PM

Hello all,
I found this site by chance as I want to sell an Olympus OM-2n, and thought about listing it on ebay. I don't know much about this camera, only that I bought it brand new approximately 25 years ago and have not used it for over 20 years. It is in mint condition and I have all the accessories and manuals. It is an all black body.
Anyway, you all seem to know a lot about photography and especially about the OM-2n, and thought I'd take a chance someone might be interested in buying mine for a decent price.
Thanks!
Marlene

Posted by: marlene Davenport at January 9, 2007 4:38 PM

Hi Marlene,
The way I estimate real world prices is to look at the completed auctions on ebay (available in their advanced search area). Price is dependent on condition (especially optically and functionally), rarity and accessories (lenses especially). Becareful using the 'mint' word - if a camera has been used at all, even very carefully, chances are it is not mint in a camera collector's eyes. Looking on ebay, if you have a truly mint camera i.e. one that hasn't been used and still is in its box, the OM-2n can fetch $200-$300. At the other end of the scale, a working but used OM-2n went for $30. Average price with a standard lens, in working condition seems to be in the $50-$80 range. Unfortunately for sellers (fortunately for collectors) the digital revolution has knocked the wind out of the prices of film equipment.
Good luck - Martin

Posted by: Martin Taylor at January 16, 2007 5:29 PM

Stumbled on your site (yes, more photography lust -- and quite odd, too -- read Erwin Puts's rave about the Oly E-1 & new Digital-Zuiko lens formulations, remembered the OM system (lenses are useable with an adapter on the 4/3 system), started reading about the OM's again ...) today. Although my first 'serious' camera was a well-abused Nikon F, always half on-the-lookout for new systems, but given my fairly extensive Nikon investment (16-600mm, all primes) probably won't be moving any time soon. Beautiful site, and I still think twice about Nikon stuff sometimes.

Posted by: Mike Liu at February 23, 2007 1:39 PM

Hi. I have just bought a second hand OM 2S Program and I would like to suggest me which are the best lences for this excellent camera.
Thanks from Messini Greece.

Posted by: Stavros at March 28, 2007 10:10 AM

Stavros - Any of the standard 50mm lens are great - the 1.8 is cheap but sharp, the 1.4 is pretty and the 3.5 macro is great for getting really close. The 28mm f3.5 is a bargain that many overlook. Of the zooms, I really like the 65-200mm and the 35-70mm makes a nice cheap walk-around lens. Have fun - Martin

Posted by: Martin Taylor at March 28, 2007 1:40 PM

Hi! Great article on the OM2S! I just got myself a cheap one and luckily it works. However I'm finding it difficult to focus. The viewfinder doesn't seem to be sharp unless i look *directly* down the middle, as well as keeping flat to the plane. My OM1 doesn't seem to have this problem! Is this another of the SP's 'quirks'? :)

Cheers!

Gary

Posted by: Gary at May 16, 2008 5:55 AM

have had my om2s for twenty-one years. enjoy the way it works. have bought cheap zuiko glass and accessories on ebay for a few years now. have acouple thousand kodachromes from this machine. love everything about this system...

Posted by: brad jones at May 27, 2008 9:26 PM

I've got one of these plus a load of lenses. I bought it from the original owner this year with 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 and the ubiquitous 75-150mm. I've added a Sigma 28-70mm, a Luxcon 35-200mm, a power winder (this camera's original owner didn't like using his and sold it). I've also had an OM-101 for years with a 35-70mm PF lens and have added a 50mm f2 and a 70-210mm PF/AF lens. I don't know why so many people have problems with the OM-2SP's battery life: mine's working happily on the same batteries it's had for months, with no sign of it starting to die. Now, the OM-30 that's been my main backup body, THERE's a battery-eater. I'm getting rid of it now as one of the shutter cords is starting to go. At the end of the day, though, I will always love the 2SP as my first serious camera (the 101 is so restrictive, and the AF/PF glass just ain't as good as standard Zuiko kit). Now, I'm looking to get a bigger zoom lens (I do a fair bit of work at airshows, and even my 101 with the 70-210 was at the limit recently) - I'm thinking a proprietary 75-300 or 100-500 (I think Vivitar made both with the OM mount).

Posted by: Richard Harrold at October 25, 2008 4:37 AM