Olympus OM 10

(I also have an Olympus OM1 camera)

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 front view

Excepting my Canon EOS cameras, this is my newest camera dating from between 1979 and 1987.  Behind the pressure plate inside the camera is a code which tells us exactly when it was made. The first digit is the factory code, the next digit is the year and the third digit is the month of manufacture. My camera has the code S19 so it was made in September 1981. It is an aperture priority automatic exposure camera.  Olympus produced a manual adapter which more of later.  At this age, the camera only offers manual focussing but as I am not a fan of automatic focussing this is no big deal.

lens: Zuiko Auto-s
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f/1.8 to f/16
focus range:  0.45 m to infinity
lens fitting:  Olympus bayonet
shutter:  cloth focal plane
speeds:  1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash:  hot shoe – X synch
film size: 35 mm

The camera is very light suggesting it has a plastic construction and so will  not be as durable as a die cast alloy camera.  It measures 136mm wide by 83 mm high and 50mm thick and weighs just under half a kilo (so is half the weight of my trusty Zenit E!).  This camera requires batteries to work.  Luckily they are not mercury cells so will still be available.

In use, one selects the required aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed.  This shutter speed is indicated by way of a red LED in the viewfinder.  As a landscape photographer, this is the way I want to work, so this is ideal.  Available speeds are 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 and 1000  (all fractions of a second).  The one second setting is actually one second or longer, according to the manual.  What I do miss that more modern cameras offer is an exposure lock by half depressing the shutter release.

Available apertures depend on the lens being used.  I would have liked my ‘new’ OM10 to have had an Olympus 50mm lens but it came with a Vivitar 75-205 macro zoom lens.  This lens is very well thought of but its minimum focal length is too long for most work.  I have just replaced it with a Vivitar 28-200 macro zoom which does not have quite the same reputation but seems to be at least ok.

There are three controls on the top plate –

1) B-Auto-Manual
2)Film speed (ASA 25 to 1600)
3) Off-On-Self timer-battery check

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 top plate

1) is normally set to Auto.  B will allow the shutter to remain open while the shutter release is depressed and manual allows the manual adapter to be used.

2) sets the film speed and also allows exposure compensation of either 1, 2 or three stops each of which is available as over or under exposure.

3) is self-explanatory.  in the off position photos can still be taken, correctly exposed, but there will be no visual indication of the shutter speed.

Also on the top plate are the shutter release, film advance lever and rewind knob.  There is also a frame counter and, around the shutter release, a collar that will take the camera out of sleep mode.

The only other control is the rewind switch which is on the front of the camera just below the shutter release.  You need to turn this 1/4 turn to dis-engage the sprockets inside the camera and allow the film to be rewound.

Below the rewind switch is a light/bleeper unit.  This sounds and lights up when the control (3) is set to battery check.  If the battery is flat or missing it neither sounds nor lights up.  It also sounds and th light flashes when the self-timer is selected.  this lasts for about twelve seconds before the shutter is released.

This camera sports a ‘hot shoe’ accessory shoe with three contacts.  The metal sides, centre spot (x synch) and a flash charge/auto check contact.  This last designed for using Olympus’s own flash units but can be used with generic flash guns in Auto mode and the manual adapter set to 1/30 seconds.

Underneath the camera are fittings and contacts for a auto winder.  It would seem that this camera will not accept a motor-drive.

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 underside

The last detail I shall mention is that the shutter release is threaded for  a standard cable release.


The Manual Adapter

Olympus OM 10
manual adapter – front

Contrary to the practice with other manufacturers there is no built in way of over-riding the automatic exposure system.  To do so, you have to buy the optional manual adapter which plugs into a jack socket on then upper left front of the camera.

Olympus OM 10
Manual adapter – side

To use this you need to set the selector (1) to manual.  This over-rides the automatic system and allows you to set the shutter speed yourself, as well as the aperture.

I cannot quite see the point of this as it is much easier to just use the Auto mode and adjust the aperture until the camera selects the shutter speed you require.

Using the Olympus OM10:

While most cameras made since the mid-1950s have very similar controls, it helps to become used to a particular camera.  I am currently on my second roll of film in my OM10 and the camera is becoming easier to use.

One thing I am getting used to is only being able to adjust the aperture, the camera taking care of the shutter speed.  mostly, I use entirely manual cameras and I am just learning not to look for the speed selector with this camera.

I am also getting used to the split-screen focussing circle in the centre of the viewfinder.  I am actually quite happy with just a plain focussing screen but the split-screen is actually faster when I remember it is there.

I am using a Vivitar 28-200mm zoom lens with this camera which is a fairly heavy lens – it completely unbalances the light-weight body of the OM10.  It is my intention to get a Zuiko 50mm lens for this camera at some point – I mostly take pictures at the normal focal length but the camera came with the Vivitar so that is what I am using at the moment.

Apart from the unbalancing effect of the heavy lens, this is a delightful camera to use.  While there is a definite “clunk” when you press the shutter release, I suspect I am sub-consciously comparing this to the whisper of the leaf shutters in the cameras I mostly use.  It is certainly a lighter action than with my Zenit E!


I am getting to really like this camera. The controls, such as they are, are easy to access. I always shoot with aperture priority which is what this camera is designed for. If I ever shot with shutter priority I might change my mind. The simple way to give automatic exposure system shutter priority is to adjust the aperture ring until the required shutter speed appears in the viewfinder display. This is unnecessarily slow. The other way to get shutter priority is to use the manual adapter and set both shutter speed and aperture from a seperate light meter. The only time I have used the manual adapter is on a beach in bright sunlight where I wanted to give more exposure than the camera wanted. It is not a well thought out system, but it does not reallymatter as I use aperture priority and that is well thought out.

The shutter is very gentle – most of the quiet noise is the mirror moving. There is no discernable jarring – more than I can say for my Voigtlander Bessamatic I am also using at the moment. Film advance is a very managable sweep of the lever.

18 April 2013:  update.

I now have a Zuiko 50mm Auto-s lens for this camera.  It is a solidly made lens, weighing slightly more than my new Canon 50mm lens that also has auto-focus machinery in it.  Available apertures are from f/1.8 to f/16 and the lens focusses from 0.45m to infinity – the distance scale is marked in metres and in feet.  The focussing ring has a nice, tactile rubber finish which will make this lens easy to use by feel.

There is a button on the side of the mount that allows you to stop the lens down to see your depth of field.  The lens is entirely mechanical – the aperture settings are fed to the exposure system in the camera by a moving nudger and the diaphragm is closed just prior to exposure by a second nudger.

To be technical, it has six elements in five groups – the previous version of this lens was marked ‘f Zuiko’, the ‘f’ indicating the number of elements (a=1, b=2 etc) but this lens is just marked ‘Zuiko’.  It takes 49mm threaded filters.

I shall upload some test pictures when I have some.

Sample pictures from the Olympus OM10 with a Vivitar 70-205 macro zoom lens:

Olympus OM 10
Whitby Pier
Olympus OM 10
Abbey over Whitby old town

Pictures taken with the Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens:

Some evidence of vignetting, but not too much.

Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk
Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk
Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk


Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

3 thoughts on “Olympus OM 10”

  1. This was my first “proper” camera. I get nostalgic tinglies looking at your photos of it. I really should find myself a good example of one. I loved mine. I spent endless hours as a young teen playing with it. Just enjoying the physical quality of the thing.


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