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Monday, September 30

Full Circle


OM1, Winder II and 50mm f2 macro Zuiko

I learned photography on my late dad's Braun Paxette, one of the cheaper cameras to come out of Germany. It has a three-element 45mm Pointar f2.8 lens that was OK for smallish-prints but was never going to set the heather on fire. My mum unearthed the camera at our old family home and passed it on to me just a few weeks ago. It's in reasonably good condition although there's a bit of dust, haze and possibly fungus inside the lens. I should be able to get into it OK once I've fashioned a tool to do the job. I'm going to shoot a roll of Silvermax in it for old time's sake once it's been cleaned up a bit.

Braun's finest
My first job after leaving school and before heading to university was a temporary one with the local park's department, a position that lasted all of a fortnight. That's when I was sacked for snoozing in the middle of a small wood instead of standing out in the blazing sun doing some weeding. It was a hot summer that year and the day before I'd spent about eight hours carting wheelbarrow loads of stones a round trip distance of about 200 yards.

I was knackered, partly because of the hard physical labour but mainly because of the sun - I can't take a lot of heat and have since discovered that sunstroke is a danger if I'm out on a scorching day for a length of time that would just give most people a light tan. When I was caught napping, it was really because I was feeling very weak and decided to lie down in the shade to recover. My supervisor wouldn't buy it, however, so I was out the door, so to speak.

Anyway, the point of the foregoing couple of paragraphs is that my two week's wages bought me my first real camera - a black Olympus OM1 with 50mm f1.4 lens - from a secondhand shop in Dundee. This was in 1979 and I seem to remember that it cost me around £140. I quickly added the Winder I and loved the package. I took it to Edinburgh with me when I went to university and had a blast for six weeks, attending all of two lectures and taking loads of photographs before deciding that I could never get interested in the Law. I packed it in, returned to Dundee and got a job as a reporter two weeks later - and that was me for the next 32 years.

And you thought the OM1 was a small camera...

I ended up selling my original OM1 when I switched over to Nikon but I bought one off Ebay about eight years ago and would never be without one now. Just recently, I assembled my teenage Olympus outfit together again except for the 50mm f1.4 lens which I've substituted with the 50mm f2 Zuiko macro.

The winder - the slightly improved Winder II version - came from Rocky Cameras, mention of which might raise an eyebrow or several.  I know there are lots of people who have had less than positive experiences buying from that website. I'm among them. However, I've also picked up some great bargains from Keith Rock as well. My opinion is that he's not a bad guy but tends to get bogged down a little. His business model seems to be a secondhand version of pile 'em high, sell 'em low. I don't think he has time to adequately and accurately grade everything he lists so buying from him can be a bit of a lottery. I make allowances for that.

As a result, I've had some mixed experiences. How about buying three early 1960s Pentax screw thread bodies, all of which were supposed to be working properly, and finding that they all had faults that rendered them unusable? Keith eventually put things right after a phone call but the point here is that the bodies were all about half of what you would expect to pay buying the same camera privately on Ebay. We're all different, however, and while I was happy to persevere until we sorted things out, others might have gone to their favourite forum and bad-mouthed Keith - with some justification.

If you've wondered why the OM Winder is cut away at the side then here's the answer: it lets your left hand adopt its natural shooting position more comfortably. By the way, that's not a dirty hand in the pic but the result of overdoing the highlight recovery tool in Lightroom!

The Olympus winder fell into the "screaming deal" category. How about a mint, boxed winder with instructions for £12? At the same time, I picked up a mint 50mm f2.8 C.E. Rokkor enlarging lens for £14. Those are the bargains that can be had when you buy during Keith's big sales when up to 40% is knocked off his already cheap prices. If you decide to check out his wares, though, do so at your own risk and don't come complaining to me if you get a dodgy camera! My strategy is not to spend too much on items, sticking to things costing no more than about £25. I can handle the downside of that if the deal goes badly wrong and Keith's not available because he's on a buying trip somewhere.

So there you have it. I can now shoot with pretty much the same outfit that I used as an 18-year-old and it's a brilliant package. The winder transforms the handling of the OM1, especially when using a largish standard lens such as the 50mm f2 Zuiko macro, and the release is so good that I'm certain it will enable me to shoot at slower speeds hand-held or to get slightly sharper pics at faster speeds. Plus, it looks super-sexy, of course!

Back-to-back

3 comments :

Herman Sheephouse said...

Good stuff Bruce - hope the OM does the job. They're lovely cameras actually. My first and only was an OM 10, bought (also) in Dundee in 1980 . .
It did me for 95% of my college 35mm work, and I've still got it somewhere . .

Omar Özenir said...

You're tickling a soft spot here, Bruce. I try not to be a gearhead but OM's are too sweet to ignore. Instead of waiting for my OM-4 to be repaired (it's almost one year now), I should probably just get an OM-1 or OM-2 and enjoy that. Those Zuiko lenses are just too good to be sitting around unused.

Cheers

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Omar,

I have to say that I had an OM4 a while back but didn't think it had the same quality feel as an OM1 or OM2. I sold it. I've got most emotional attachment to the OM1 for the reasons I posted above but the OM2 is probably my favourite. The aperture priority auto is handy especially with an easily used +-2 stop over-ride. The OM2 just does enough without ever trying to do too much.