My Experience: An Olympus OM-G (OM20) Review

It’s where it all began…

The first film camera I started with was my dad’s Olympus OM-G. I spoke briefly of this in my very first blog post – one I can’t make myself go back and read. I remember my dad’s camera from my youth, playing around, shooting an entire roll of our dogs (or so they let me believe) and walking through the woods with it around my neck feeling like a real National Geographics explorer.

When I asked him if he still had it, I was shocked to hear he did! Though, I shouldn’t have been surprised as I’ve inherited his inability to get rid of anything. In the same old camera bag I remembered when I was a kid, tucked safely in the top shelf of his closet, there was the camera I had such fond memories of.

I had just discovered this new, old world of film photography and it was more out of curiosity than anything that I wanted to get my hands back on this old camera. I was surprised at how good of shape it was still in, considering it was in my uncle’s possession for a while and had been banged against trees by me as it swung around my neck. Although a few things weren’t working; the led shutter speed readout was half burnt, and I couldn’t stop down past 5.6, that didn’t stop me. It was my only camera for over a year, and I loved it.

The Camera

The Olympus OM-G (also known as the OM20 in other markets) was introduced in 1983 as a consumer 35mm SLR. While the OM-1, OM-2 and others were the professional line, the OM-G was of the cheaper options. However, that doesn’t mean it was cheap junk.

Most often, we hear of the Olympus OM10 as the consumer OM SLR, but  for some reason, the OM-G is looked. While the OM1 and OM2 are certainly a notch or two above the OM-G, the OM10 – I would say – is a notch below, yet it still receives more praise.

As far as I can see, the OM10 and OM-G are identical cameras. The thing that mainly sets them apart is that the OM10 is auto, while the OM-G – also having auto – has a manual mode. The OM10 does have a manual option, but it requires a separate adapter to enable it. The OM-G, however, has the manual mode built in, making it much more convenient.

The suggested/selected shutter speeds are displayed on the left hand side of the viewfinder, the aperture is located on the lens, and the shutter speed – signature of OM system – is controlled by a ring at the lens mount. I’m not a huge fan of this layout: while not as quick and simple as the typical dial on top, it does the job. It also has an exposure compensation dial for when in auto.

OM-G Auto Mode

No doubt, the built-in manual option places the OM-G superior to the OM10, however, I find I don’t shoot this camera in manual very often. For that, I’ll probably grab the AE-1, or the X-700: but for auto, the OM-G is my absolute go-to. Being small and light as it is, combined with its solid metrring, it’s a joy for easy, more fast pace shooting while also having a manual option or compensation if you need it.

For the most part, keeping this camera in auto rarely lets me down. Like I said, there is a manual option if I need it, but the auto mode does a great job. As mentioned before, this was my first camere and I shot with it for over a year – mainly in auto. Still, looking back, they’re some of my favorite photos I’ve taken.

This is a really early shot of mine, from one of my first few rolls. I had recently seen some Ansel Adams work for the first time and was so inspired by him. With a new camera, I took a day trip to the mountains. The more I look at this photo, the more it really grows on me. I’m constantly impressed at how solid the aperture priority on this camera is.

Speaking of more fast pace shooting, this is a shot I was so happy to have aperture priority for. I had a split second to grab this shot and fumbling with manual settings was the last thing I wanted to be doing. Once again, I felt the meter absolutely nailed it.

For some reason, I’ve never attempted to tackle the use of the exposure compensation while in auto. It’s obviously an excellent solution for tricky lighting situations, but still, I’ve yet to employ it. Perhaps I’ll make use of it more in the future, to make an already reliable auto function even more so.

“OFF”?

Something interesting I found with the OM-G is that it’s never actually off. Even when in the “off” position, the camera is meant to be ready to shoot. This makes me curious as to the point of the off position, as the only thing it seems to turn off is the LED readout in the viewfinder.

I’ve read that it apparently limits the shutterspeeds, but even then, it still seems to fire at all speeds when “off”. This is actually a pretty handy little feature as there’s been a few times where in my haste, I forgot to turn the camera on, but the image still turns out fine.

The only downside to this, is that the camera is always on. While I’m not sure if the meter is constantly running or is only on when the shutter button is pressed, I still feel safer keeping the lens cap on at all times lest I find my batteries have died.

The Lens

I don’t think the Olympus Zuiko lenses need any introduction: they may not be Zeiss glass or anything, but man they’re great. Plenty sharp for anything you’re shooting on 35mm, and they have just the right amount of character to them.

The 50mm 1.8 lens is the typical focal length and Fstop you’re going to find on these cameras, as is most 35mm SLRs. They really have a great reputation for being very sharp while in a modest construction. The size is lovely an compact, a nice weight that feels nice on the OM-G, smooth focusing and just all around feels great in the hands.

Some people don’t like that distorted, circular, or harsh bokeh. However, I’ve always loved this characteristic, and the Zuiko lens certainly gives it. I’ve never been concerned with how razor sharp my lenses are and whether or not I’m perfectly in focus to the edges with no distortion. To me, all these flaws are charm and character. As long as I can focus on my intended subject, the rest can do what it wants: the Zuiko lenses let that happen.

While the bokeh is fun to play with, I’m pleasantly surprised at how sharp these lenses can be when they’re stopped down. While I do love the shallow depth of field and lots of bokeh, there’s something about a crispy shot of an old car that just gets to me.

Final Thoughts

So like I said before, the OM-G I received from my dad had a few issues with it: the aperture and the shutter speed readouts weren’t working properly. As I’ve used that camera for over a year, it was never too much of a hindrance to me – however, I really wanted one in fully working condition.

I searched ebay till I found one for a decent price and bought it. I thought I loved this camera already, but I’ve come to love it even more now that I have one that fully works the way it should. When I got it in the mail, I instantly threw a roll of Kodak Gold 200 into it and took it for a drive – it certainly didn’t disappoint me.

The OM-G is such a great, compact SLR: it’s the perfect size for throwing in my lunch kit or any backpack without being too burdensome. It even fits nicely in the glove box of my car, making it a great camera to take along on random drives into town.

Being nice and lightweight, you can hang it around your neck all day comfortably. If I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to shoot on a given day, a roll of Kodak Gold in my OM-G is always a great combination.

I can’t recommend this camera enough to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re well experienced, or a beginner, everyone should give the OM System a try. The OM-G is an excellent camera to learn on, and is reliable enough for any professional to enjoy. Plainly put – it’s a camera that just works, and gives great results.

I hope you enjoyed this little review of one of my favorite cameras I own! The Olympus OM-G is near and dear to my heart and it will be one that will ALWAYS be in my collection. Let me know in the Comments below if you have any experience with this camera and what you think! As always, thanks for reading.

One thought on “My Experience: An Olympus OM-G (OM20) Review”

  1. Nice article about the OM camera and inspiring photos as well.
    Interestingly, i find the way shutter is set by Olympus (i have OM-1) way better than the “standard” knob at the top as I can keep my camera stick to the eye all the time.

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