Olympus OM-4

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a much-used OM-4T

The Olympus OM-4 is an interchangeable lens, 35 mm film, single lens reflex (SLR) camera; manufactured by Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. (today Olympus Corporation) in Japan and sold as OM-4 from 1983 to 1987 and as OM-4Ti from 1986 to 2002.

The OM-4 was the improved successor to the Olympus OM-2N and represents the highest evolution of the Olympus OM-series SLRs (introduced in 1972). Other Olympus OM top models were the OM-1 (originally called the M-1), OM-2, OM-1N, OM-2N, OM-2Spot Program, OM-3 and OM-3Ti. They all used the same body configuration, but with improving aluminum alloy chassis, feature levels, internal electronics, and external controls and cosmetics.

Features[edit]

Frontal view of an OM-4 camera body, without lens attached
Top view of an OM-4 camera body, showing controls

The OM-4 uses a horizontal cloth focal plane shutter with a manual speed range of 1 to 1/2000 second (as long as 240 seconds in automatic mode) plus bulb and flash X-sync of 1/60 second. Unlike most SLRs of the era, the OM-4 used an Olympus OM-series standard shutter speed ring concentric with the lens mount instead of a top-mounted shutter speed dial.

The OM-4 accepts all lenses with the Olympus OM bayonet mount (introduced in 1972 with the Olympus OM-1). The contemporary Olympus Optical-made lenses were called "Zuiko".

The OM-4 is a battery-powered (two 1.5-volt silver oxide SR44, V76, 357 cells; use of a 3-volt 1/3N lithium cell is not recommended) electro-mechanically controlled manual focus SLR with manual exposure control or aperture priority auto-exposure.

The OM-4 was the first camera with a built-in multi-spot-meter (2% of view; 3.3˚ with 50 mm lens) and can take up to eight spot measurements and average them. Another unique feature was the possibility to spot the darkest or most illuminated part of the scene and the OM-4 would adjust the exposure based on that measure. The light meter uses a dual concentric segmented silicon photodiode to provide spot or centerweighted readings. It uses a graduated linear LCD shutter speed display at the bottom of the viewfinder to precisely indicate its readings versus the actual camera settings. The interchangeable focusing screen, delivered with the camera, had split-image rangefinder and microprism collar focusing aids.

The major improvements of the OM-4 compared to the OM-2N were the stronger chassis, gasket weatherproofing, permanently affixed dedicated hot shoe and TTL flash cable connector, linear liquid crystal display (LCD) shutter speed display, provision for spot-metering, flexible integrated circuit electronics.

Accessories for the OM-4 includes all the Olympus motor drives made for the OM-System cameras. Motor Drive 2 was introduced with the OM-4 and in addition to automatic film advance (up to 5 frames per second) features a motorized film rewind. The camera can take the Olympus 250 exposure bulk film back (10 meters of film = 250 frames) and the Olympus T system flashes. The T45 handle mount electronic flash (guide number 148/45 (feet/meters) at ASA/ISO 100) was also introduced with the OM-4.

The original OM-4 was available in only one color: all black. The introductory US list price for the body only (no lens) was $685. Note that SLRs usually sold for 30 to 40 percent below list price.

The camera dimensions are 87 mm height, 139 mm width, 50 mm depth and 540 grams (19 oz) weight.

Design history[edit]

The single digit Olympus OM-series SLRs ignited an SLR revolution in the 1970s and 1980s with intense competition between the major SLR brands: Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Pentax. Between about 1975 and 1985, there was a dramatic shift away from heavy all-metal manual mechanical camera bodies to much more compact bodies with integrated circuit (IC) electronic automation. In addition, because of rapid advances in electronics, the brands continually leapfrogged each other as they brought out models with new or more automatic features. The OM-1 introduced the compact body size that inspired similar sized SLRs of competing manufacturers (Pentax M series, Nikon FE/FM); automatic through-the-lens (TTL) off-the-film (OTF) electronic flash metering was pioneered by the OM-2 in 1975.

In this arena, the OM-4 and its mechanically controlled companion the OM-3 were conservative designs despite their very sophisticated spot-meters. They can be described as the OM-2 and 1 with electronic spot-meter controls grafted on. The OM-4's deliberately limited but tightly focused features were not intended to appeal to beginners. Instead of offering every possible automated bell and whistle, the OM-4's manual spot-metering represented Olympus Optical's ultimate expression of highest possible quality and precision of exposure control for the professional and advanced amateur photographer.

In 1986, a special ultra-durable version of the OM-4 with champagne coloured titanium top and bottom plates, upgraded electronic circuitry and improved weatherproofing, called and marked the OM-4Ti (OM-4T in the USA) was released with a US list price of $770.

The OM-4Ti also introduced a new electronic flash control system. Normally focal plane shutters are limited in their maximum flash synchronization speed, because of the way they provide fast shutter speeds – timing the second shutter curtain to close more quickly after the first shutter curtain opens. This causes a narrowing of the slit "wiping" the exposure on the film. In effect, a horizontal focal plane shutter made of cloth is only fully open and usable for flash exposure down to 1/60th second. Any faster and a typical 1 millisecond flash burst would only partially expose the film - the part open to the slit. The OM-4Ti overcame this problem by having the new Olympus F280 Full Synchro flash pulse its light continuously over 40 milliseconds, long enough to illuminate the slit as it crossed the entire focal plane, even at shutter speeds as fast as 1/2000th second. However, there is a concomitant loss of flash range.

A black-finished version came out in 1990 listing for $1250 (the natural finished body remained available for $1200).

In the US market the OM-4T was ultimately renamed OM-4Ti in 1997 ($1819 list), without any feature changes before being finally discontinued in 2002.

Olympus Optical failed to make the transition to autofocus (AF) 35 mm SLRs in the wake of the introduction of the landmark Minolta Maxxum 7000 in 1985. Virtually all non-AF SLRs disappeared by 1989. The OM-4 and OM-3 survived because Olympus Optical had no appropriate successors. Its rugged construction also appealed to professional photographers and traditionalist amateurs liked its lack of autofocus. The Olympus OM-4 sold steadily to the fiercely loyal, cult-like Olympus clique, but more and more slowly over its lifetime as it became more and more outdated. It remained in limited production until 2002, when the rise of digital SLRs gave Olympus an opportunity to get back into the SLR camera business with its Four Thirds System. Time has proven the OM-4 to be very tough and reliable and it is now regarded as one of the finest SLRs of its generation for the serious and purist film photographer.

References[edit]

  • Anonymous. "Modern Photography's Annual Guide '84: 48 Top Cameras: Olympus OM-4" p 86. Modern Photography, Volume 47, Number 12; December 1983.
  • Anonymous. "Modern Tests: Olympus OM-4 Has Multiple Spot, LCD Panel Metering" pp 78–86. Modern Photography, Volume 48, Number 5; May 1984.
  • Anonymous. "Annual Guide: Modern Photography's Top Cameras for '87: Olympus OM-4T" p 60. Modern Photography, Volume 50, Number 12; December 1986.
  • Anonymous. "Modern Tests: Olympus OM-4T: More Than Just A Titanium Armored SLR" pp 46–50, 78. Modern Photography, Volume 51, Number 6; June 1987.
  • Anonymous. "Popular Photography's Annual Guide '92: 35 Top Cameras: Olympus OM-4T" p 86. Popular Photography, Volume 98 Number 12; December 1991
  • Anonymous. "Popular Photography: 50 1998 Top 35mm & APS Cameras: Olympus OM-4Ti" p 113. Popular Photography, Volume 61 Number 12; December 1997
  • Keppler, Herbert. "Keppler's SLR Notebook: Olympus OM-4T: Improvements, Titanium Body, Sensational Flash" pp 31, 82, 88. Modern Photography, Volume 50, Number 8; August 1986.
  • Maitani, Y. and K. Tsunefuuji. "Modern's Inside Your Camera Series #35: Olympus OM-4" pp 78–79, 136, 138, 142. Modern Photography, Volume 48, Number 9; September 1984.
  • Matanle, Ivor. Collecting and Using Classic SLRs. First Paperback Edition. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1997. ISBN 0-500-27901-2
  • Schneider, Jason. "How The Japanese Camera Took Over" pp 56–57, 78, 86. Modern Photography, Volume 48, Number 7; July 1984.

In popular culture[edit]

Olympus OM-4 Ti appeared in the opening title for the movie Licence To Kill.

Olympus OM-4Ti was used by the title character in the 1995 remake of Sabrina (1995 film) with Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford

External links[edit]