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


Canon EOS 50E

Canon EOS 50E
Canon EOS 50E

This is a serious amateur camera aimed at the top of the amateur (or “consumer” to be modern) market.  It contains a number of features not found on most EOS cameras.  The most significant of these is eye-controlled focussing.  More of this later. As well as this EOS film camera, I have an EOS 650 and an EOS 5(A2).

One of the problems of modern cameras is that they are all much of a muchness and Canon’s EOS range is no exception.  It seems that the desire by designers to produce something that stands out has gone.  The 50E is instantly recognisable as an EOS camera.  The basic shape and design concepts are much as in others of the range.  So, we have the facilities we expect: a choice of three focussing modes, a choice of three metering modes, five pre-sets – portrait, landscape, macro, sport and automatic – and Tv, Av, M, Dep and program.
Focussing lock is accessed by partially depressing the shutter button and exposure lock has its own button on the top right rear of the camera.  It is possible to alter this arrangement using the Custom Functions – see below.  There is a built in flash and a hot shoe for connecting Canon’s Speedlite flashguns.  So far, no surprises.
Canon EOS 50E
EOS 50E rear view


There are six settings that can be set in the software – ISO, usually read from the cassette via the DX system – auto exposure bracketing – red eye reduction – beeper/no beeper – multiple exposures – flash exposure compensation.
In addition to the normal shutter release, there are two forms of remote shutter release.  1) a cable plugged into the jack socket at the right hand side near the bottom & 2) a zapper that can only be used from in front of the camera but will work at a significant distance.  The zapper will allow a two second delay if required.
Lenses – this is an EOS camera and will take all of Canon’s EF lenses.  As this is a 35mm camera and so a full frame camera it will not take the EF-S range of lenses intended for the APS-C format digital cameras.  It is not possible to make any mistake here as the EF-S lenses will not fit into the EF bayonet fitting.
Canon EOS 50E
EOS 50E with flash raised

The only other feature worth mentioning is the ability to rewind a film part way through.  This might be easy on a manual camera but the EOS 50E automatically rewinds the film when the film is finished and there is no rewind crank as there is on the other 35mm cameras I describe in this blog.  I think that it is Canon’s assumption that you will develop the partially used film, but if you want to finish the roll of film you have partially used, you will need to note the frame number of the last shot and take that many shots in manual mode with the lens cap on.

Eye controlled focussing.  Using this, you look at the focussing point you want to use (there are three focussing points) and press the shutter release half way.  The camera then focusses on that focussing point.  Canon take this further and by looking at the top left of the viewfinder image and then half-depressing the shutter release, you can activate the depth of field preview, albeit in a dark (very dark at f22!) image.  Personally, I prefer to have depth of field figures printed on the lens barrel alongside the focussing scale – but neither of those is at all common on modern lenses.    This eye control works better than I expected it to, particularly as I wear spectacles.  As there are only three focussing points with this camera, what eye controlled focussing really means is that you can decide to focus on the left, the right or the centre of the intended image.

Custom Functions:

  1. Automatic film rewind mode (fast and noisy or slow and quite)
  2. Film leader position after rewind leave leader out of the cassette or not)
  3. ISO film setting method (uses DX system or not)
  4. AF and AE operation (AF via shutter release, AE via button; AE via shutter release, AF via button, AF and AE via shutter release button)
  5. Self timer and mirror lock up.
  6. Second curtain synchronisation for flash
  7. AF assist beam on or off
  8. Partial metering and FE lock on centre focussing point or not
  9. Flash sync in Av mode
  10. Focussing point flashing or not
  11. Eye-controlled depth of field preview on or off.



Some sample pictures taken on Agfa Vista plus 200 ISO print film:

Canon EOS 50E
The Witch and Wardrobe pub, Lincoln


Canon EOS 50E
Church reflected in office block, Hull


Canon EOS 50E
Busker, Castle Hill, Lincoln

And on Adox Silvermax film:

Canon EOS 50E
Lincoln cathedral


Canon EOS 50E
Arboretum, Lincoln
Canon EOS 50E
Arboretum, Lincoln


Voigtlander Bessamatic

Voigtlander Bessamatic
Voigtlander Bessamatic – 1961
This is Voigtlander’s answer to Zeiss Ikon’s Contaflex range and Kodak’s Retina reflex range.  It was developed sometime after the Zeiss Ikon and Kodak models and this allowed Voigtlander to learn from its competitors’ mistakes.  The most obvious lesson learnt is that the entire lens assembly is detachable rather than just the front element as in the Contaflex range.   The main advantage is that better quality lenses can be added.  It also has the advantage that you can access both the mirror and the focussing screen and so can keep them clean.  This is a major fault with the Contaflexes as after fifty years of use there is a build up of dirt which can be very annoying when looking through the viewfinder – although, to be fair, I don’t suppose Zeiss Ikon were thinking about  a fifty year life span for their cameras.
This is a very heavy camera – significantly more heavy than a Contaflex Super.  It is similar to the Contaflex Super.  It has a coupled light meter with match-needles in the viewfinder.  Moving the match needle also moves the aperture ring – the shutter speed must be set first.  This can only be set to a value within the current exposure range.  If the shutter speed is already set to an unacceptable value (as in moving from the shade into bright sunshine) it is not possible to align the match needles.  This can be overridden by a lever on the lower right of the shutter housing.
The shutter is a Synchro-Compur – the same as on a Contaflex Super.  The speed range is 1 second to 1/500th second and B.  The lens is a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 1:2.8 50mm lens made in 1961 (going by the serial number).  These are superb lenses and are Voigtlander’s version of a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar.  Focussing is from 3.5 feet to infinity.
Voigtlander Bessamatic
Voigtlander Bessamatic
A nice innovation is a couple of red pointers that move apart or together as the aperture is changed.  These mark out the depth of field on the focussing scale.  Focussing is by the whole lens assembly moving rather than just the front element so image quality should be maintained throughout the focussing range.
I have run one film through this camera, and, alas, there is light leaking into the back from three different places – without replacing all the light seals, this camera is useless.  I have now replaced the light seals but I have yet to test it with another film.

Zenit E

Zenit E – a 35mm film SLR from the KMZ factory in Russia.

The Zenit E is a Russian camera made in the USSR by KMZ in the town of Krasnogorsk (also made in Belarus). Soviet era cameras have a poor reputation – mostly undeserved in the West – but my Zenit E purchased in 1973 was an excellent camera. It performed well for many years with much neglect (including being dropped off a moving bus!). I now have a newer Zenit E from 1981
Zenit E
lens:  Helios-44
focal length:  58 mm
apertures: f2 to f16
focus range: 0.5 m (2.6 ft) to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1 s to 1/500 s
flash: PC socket
film size: 35mm
The camera is solid and weighty – weighing 700g. The body is made from die cast aluminium with brass base plate and top housing. The controls are well placed and accessible – they compare well with a Fed 5 where I have to fumble for the poorly placed shutter release. I have large, not very nimble, hands and I find this camera very easy to use.
The shutter offers speeds from 1/30 to 1/500 plus B which is plenty for normal use. The focal plane shutter  synchronises with the flash socket at 1/30 both for electronic flash (X) and for Bulb flash (MF).
The built in meter is a selenium meter which does not require a battery and is not TTL. It is no improvement over a hand-held meter other than you only need to carry one item. The meter is of the traditional match needle type and has settings for 13 – 28 DIN and 16 – 500 ASA (new scale, the same as ISO).
Zenit E
Zenits came with a Helios-44 lens with a focal length of 58mm which is normal for 35 mm film (‘normal’ means it gives the same perspective as the human eye does). The Helios-44 lens is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotor lens. This lens has an aperture range of f2 to f16 which is more than adequate for most situations. The aperture setting ring has click-stops and there is a second ring to close the aperture after focussing. – the lens does not stop down automatically when the shutter release is pressed, you have to do this manually after focussing and before touching the shutter release. This lens has an excellent reputation and is considered to be better than the Carl Zeiss Jena lens it copies – the Helios lens is multi-coated which the Biotar lens was not.
Focussing is from 0.5m to infinity. The fitting is the Pentacon M42 thread as was standard on Praktica and Pentax (and many other cameras) up to the advent of bayonet fittings in the 1970s. The focussing screen is plain ground glass with no micro-prism or split image focussing aids found on more expensive cameras. There is a printed depth of view scale on the lens barrel and a hyper-focal position marked which will give a focus range of 5m to infinity at f8.

There is an accessory shoe fitted on top of the pentaprism but it is not a “hot” shoe, flash connection being by way of a PC connector on the face of the camera.

Zenit E

Loading film is simple and easy. The back is hinged along one short side and the other short side is locked by a sliding catch. The rewind knob has to be pulled up to allow for the insertion of the film cassette and when pushed back in, locks the cassette in place. The film travels over the film plane, over two sprocket wheels and fits into a slot on the take up spool. Once the back is closed it is necessary to wind on two frames to place unfogged film behind the lens. At this point, you can set the film counter to zero.

Focussing is not as easy as with most manual SLRs of the period as the focussing screen is plain ground glass – no micro-prism, no split image – but it is certainly adequate.

The Helios-44 lens is very sharp and if stopped down to f8 the depth of field is more than capable of removing any defects in poor manual focusing.

When one is used to an automatic camera, it is easy to forget to manually stop down the lens before pressing the shutter release. To make focussing easier, the aperture ring has click stops at each f number but does not actually alter the aperture which remains wide open until the secondary aperture ring is turned after focussing. Once used to this camera, it becomes second nature and adds to the slowness of using this camera. I find that this slowing down to be useful as you are forced to be more considered in your actions and this leads to better pictures.

Zenit EZenit E

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex

I have been after a Contaflex for while now. Zeiss Ikon put a lot of thought into the design of their cameras and all that I have come across have been a joy to hold. The Contaflex is no exception.

P1040144After WWII with the partition of Germany, Zeiss Ikon became two concerns.  Both continued to use the Zeiss Ikon name and initially produced the same range of cameras.  After litigation, East German Zeiss Ikon were not allowed to use the Zeiss Ikon name outside the Warsaw Pact countries – their products became Pentacon and Pentax.  West German  Zeiss ikon continued as much as before as they could.  Both Zeiss Ikons developed Zeiss Ikon’s flagship camera – the Contax.  This article is concerned with the West German Zeiss Ikon’s development of the Contax into, amongst others, the Contaflex.

The Contaflex is actually a completely new camera which owes little to the Contax.  Zeiss Ikon continued to use elements of the Contax name – Contaflex, Contina.  Zeiss Ikon needed to produce a camera to compete with East German Zeiss Ikon’s new range of SLRs – the Pentaprism Contax.  They took a different route and used a between the lens leaf shutter rather than a focal plane shutter.  This proved to be a developmental dead-end but continued in use for a decade or so. Initially, several manufacturers followed suit – Voigtlander, Kodak – but now just about all SLR’s follow East German Zeiss Ikon’s (Pentacon, Pentax) lead with a horizontally travelling focal plane shutter.

P1040146The Contaflex was aimed at the serious amateur market.  It is very well made and very heavy.  The quality of both design and build is evident in that they still work just fine  fifty-plus years after they were made.  The cameras were introduced in pairs – I & II, III & IV, Alpha & Beta and so on.  The pairs either did not have a built-in exposure meter (I, III, Alpha) or did (II, IV, Beta).  Up to and including the Beta, the meter was not coupled and offered nothing over a separate hand-held meter and had the disadvantage of being attached to a very heavy camera making it harder to use than a separate hand-held meter would be.

The shutter is a between-the-lens leaf shutter rather than a focal-plane shutter. This is a superior design in several ways. Firstly, the shutter moves radially and so confers little in the way of vibration to the camera. This is, unfortunately, offset by the need to close the shutter, lift the mirror, open the secondary shutter and then open and close the main shutter again. The result is a very firm shutter release and a respectable “clunk” when the shutter is fired. Secondly, the shutter and flash can be synchronised at any shutter speed. Thirdly, the shutter does not distort moving objects in the way a focal plane shutter must.  Usually, the shutter was a reflex version of a Synchro-Compur shutter, but the Alpha and Beta models has a Prontor Reflex shutter (the Super has Synchro-Compur shutter). Similar cameras were produced by Voigtlander and Mamiya amongst others.

The main (only) drawback of having a leaf shutter is that the lens is difficult to replace. Zeiss Ikon overcame this by having the front element replaceable to give wide angle and telephoto versions. This was not as big a drawback as it might seem as in the 1950s and 60s it was rare for amateur photographers to use anything other than the standard lens that came with the camera. Collections of lenses had to wait for modern design and manufacturing systems and cheap lenses. The strangest part of Zeiss Ikon’s shutter design here is that the mirror does not return automatically after the shutter is fired. It is hard to understand why Zeiss Ikon did this as there is no great technical problem with having the mirror return automatically.  In the Super, the action of the shutter has been improved by angling the secondary shutter to sit just behind the mirror so it has less far to move before the primary shutter can open.

P1040145In the Contaflex I, II III, IV and Super, the lens was the renown Carl Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens.  The Alpha and Beta models had the cheaper three element Pantar lens, with front element focussing.  The filter size is 27 mm.  In the Super, the Tessar lens focusses by moving the entire lens.

P1040147To load the film, the camera is opened by removing the base and the back as one. I was a little nervous of this technique initially as the only time I have come across this before was with my Ukrainian FED 5. With the FED 5 the fit is loose to say the least and it leaks light. The Zeiss Ikon version works well, fitting together reassuringly well.

As I mentioned earlier, the lens in the Alpha and Beta focuses by turning the front element.  With this camera, there are two drawbacks to this. The first is common to any camera and that is that the performance of the lens drops as the front element moves relative to the rest of the lens elements. It is much better to focus by moving the whole lens. This is difficult with the shutter in the middle of the lens so front element focussing was easy option in the lower priced models.  The second drawback is that the front element can be removed to allow a replacement element to give either a wide angle or telephoto lens. There is a small lever below the lens that needs to be depressed to remove the front element and this lever gets in the way whilst focusing. Apart from that niggle, focusing is easy as the viewfinder has a split-image microprism circle in the centre. The viewfinder is certainly bright enough to see what you are doing.

With the Super, the whole lens moves and has two ‘knobs’ attached to the focussing ring which makes focussing much easier – in fact, only one finger is required for fine adjustment.

There is also an light meter which is not a TTL meter.  With the Beta, it is not coupled and gives you an exposure value which you set on the Prontor shutter.  The meter covers film speeds from 12 to 33 DIN and 5 to 650 ASA.  Unfortunately, this is old style ASA where 21 DIN equates to 40 ASA rather than to 100 ASA as the new style ASA standard would have it (new style ASA is the same as ISO).  The ASA range was adjusted in the late 1950s to be a more “sensible” range.  This makes using modern films with old exposure meters fraught.  Personally, I rely on using the DIN scale which has remained constant since its introduction.
With the Super, the exposure meter is still not TTL but is coupled.  It has an indicator in the viewfinder which makes using this version much easier.  It also uses the modern ASA range and so can be used with modern films easily.  This is a shutter priority system – you set the required shutter speed and then turn the front meter-setting knob until the meter needle in the viewfinder points at the central notch.  Turning this knob moves the aperture ring on the lens to an aperture that matches the shutter speed for the required exposure.  If your initial setting of the shutter speed was inappropriate, it will not be possible to set a suitable exposure and it will be necessary to change the shutter speed accordingly.

The following extract is from the 1957 copy of the British Journal of Photography Almanac. It is not the model described here but gives a flavour as to how this camera was presented to the public.

1957 004

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex
Busker, Lincoln Stonebow
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