Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Spotlight: Olympus OM-3

The Olympus OM-3 is a 35mm SLR camera from 1983. The camera is fully manual, and requires batteries only for the light meter. In fact, I believe the OM-3 is the final completely mechanical camera Olympus ever made. These OM-3 cameras did not sell well at the time, most likely because photographers either flocked to the more advanced electronic OM-4 (which also came out in 1983), or saved money and bought a mechanical OM-1(n), which remained on the market while the OM-3 was sold. The lack of sales led to a limited production run, which makes the OM-3 a pretty rare camera today.

The OM-3 has an advanced light meter that it shares with its OM-4 brother, which includes spot, multi-spot, and average metering. I just stuck to average metering during my time with the camera, cause I'm basic. The meter is a horizontal digital display that is viewable at the bottom of the camera's finder. It's easy enough to read in most light, and lights up at the press of a button if your surroundings get too dark. It's not my favorite display ( I prefer my meters vertical), but it gets the job done.

Besides the metering, the OM-3 is a relatively simple, no-frills camera. Since the OM-3 is mechanical, there are no automatic exposure modes to speak of. Unlike the OM-1(n), which this camera was meant to replace, the OM-3 does not have a mirror lock-up mode, or even a self-timer function. Like nearly all Olympus cameras, multiple exposures are not possible to perform with the OM-3. Boo.

The shutter on the OM-3 is pretty quick, maxing out at 1/2000. Like all other mainline OM cameras, speeds are changed via a dial around the base of the lens mount. I like this setup. With OM cameras, you make adjustments to the shutter speed, aperture, and focus with your left hand, while all your right hand has to do is grip the camera and press the shutter release. At first the lack of a shutter dial on top of the camera is odd, but you get used to the OM method pretty quick.

Other features include interchangeable focusing screens (of which there are many), a built-in diopter for different types of eyes, and a battery-check button that pleasantly screams at you when battery power is sufficient.

Overall, the OM-3 is a fine camera, perfect for a student of photography. Unfortunately, the rarity and high price of the OM-3 will keep it out of the hands of most 35mm enthusiasts. Below are some photos I made with my OM-3, together with a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens and Tri-X 400 film.