Olympus OM3

Olympus OM3

The Olympus OM3. One of the most advanced mechanical shutter cameras ever made. It is also one of the rarest OM series cameras around as it was only produced for 3 years (1983-1986). As a result, it is often hoarded by collectors who sit them in glass display cases whilst watching the market value gradually increase. It’s a shame, as this is a truly amazing camera which was designed from the ground up by Yoshihisa Maitani to take full advantage of the OM system as a modern professional camera body. It deserves to be used.

The OM3 was released along side the OM4 and OM2SP, so as a result shares some similarities. However, you could probably say it’s in many ways closer related to the OM1 which was also built with a mechanical shutter.  As a result, this is one of the main reasons why the OM3 was only produced for such a short period of time. In 1983, if people wanted a mechanical shutter body they had 2 choices in the OM system- the OM1n which was an older but tried and tested model, or the OM3 which was brand new and considerably more expensive. Most people chose the OM1n which was built until 1987.
The OM3 had alot going for it though. With it came an increased max shutter speed of 1/2000, iso settings from 6 to 3200, and a brand new very advanced metering which included the new multi-spot system (in addition to the regular single spot), which allowed the user to take a reading in the shadows and highlights then combine them both for an ideal exposure. All of this was displayed in a new Viewfinder that featured LCD display and a light (helpful for night shooting) which displayed detailed information on light readings and shutter speed etc. Besides all of this new technology, there remained the greatest advantage of all; that by using a mechanical shutter the camera could be operated at all shutter speeds without the need of batteries.

Of course, it must be said that with this new metering technology also came issues that worked against the cameras reputation. One of the biggest was battery life. Like the OM2SP and OM4, there were alot of cameras (not all) that chewed through batteries like they were candy. You can usually tell right away if your particular camera falls into this category by the need to replace the batteries after a weeks use. There is a common misconception that all of these models suffered from this problem which is completely false. I know people who have been using them for years without needed to replace batteries. I myself have been shooting an OM2SP for well over 8 months now with used batteries and it still functions perfectly. I haven’t had enough time to test the OM3 fully yet, but after shooting a roll (on yet again used batteries) and repeated use of the VF lights etc, it’s still holding up perfectly. On the odd chance of the batteries draining though i still can make use of the OM3′s biggest advantage – it’s mechanical shutter.

Getting hung up on the technicalities of these cameras can be a waste of time; almost as much as collecting them without the intention to take photos.
At the end of the day, It’s all about how good the camera is to use, and the OM3 carries on and in some ways improves the biggest advantages of the OM’s that proceeded it. This includes the gloriously large and bright viewfinder, compact body and user friendly function, attractive finish, looks, and construction, and the ability to use some of the greatest lenses ever created.
I have quite a few cameras now, and the OM3 is already amongst my all time favourites. However, i have to say that as good as it is, i think they’re overpriced, especially as a user camera. I’d actually have a had time justifying paying even half of the current market price for one of these. If you’re just looking for something to get into the wonderful OM system, there’s probably better options available to you. But, if you’re like me and find one for a fraction of the market value, snap it up and use it!
The OM3 is a great cameras to use, but i think mine will restricted to indoor use only and kept away from the street for now… It’s just too pretty :D

my little olympus family
For further reading you can can check out these links.
I’ve also tracked down the hard to find OM3 instruction manual that I have made available for download here

28 Responses to “Olympus OM3”
  1. 01.26.2009

    Nice use of the film boxes to hold up that back row!

  2. Arran
    01.26.2009

    haha, cheers. Yep, its a combination of 120 film and zuiko lenses holding up the back row.
    I’ll get around to taking a proper photo of my OM family one day :D

  3. Allan Hope's
    03.16.2009

    First of all, let me thank you for a great site on the OM3. I found your site thru a link on Wikipedia. Thank you Wiki. I bought my first OM (1) in 1974 because it was a different 35mm camera. It was much smaller but equal to the larger SLRs. Also, the price was right with a f1.8 50mm lens. That camera served me thru hundredes of rolls of film, most of which were shot outside in all the weather Buffalo NY could dish out. My 283 finally fried the flash contacts in 1986. I then bought a used and refurbished OM 2 (md) here in Atlanta where I have lived since 1986. I got the OM 1 repaired at the authorized repair facility and both cameras are still working fine. Like most photo amateurs, I have gone digital point and shoot. For years, since the early 80′s, I have had a good supply of bulk B & N negative film in the fridge and have decided to use it up. This got me to snooping around on the Net just looking at used OM bodys. There are a few out there that are tempting. A comment on batteries. I believe my OM 1 has the same battery in it that it came from Buffalo in 85 with. The OM 2′s, battries I believe are the one it came with. The other day I check both camera batteries with a digital volt meter and also checked for corosion. I found no corsion and the battery terminal voltage was above nameplate. Can’t beat that I guess. If I get a new body you can bet it will be put to use and not kept under glass. Thanks again for a great site.

  4. 03.26.2009

    Just a few more than I have.

    I have picked up an OM 2n and a OM 4Ti in the last couple weeks and now need to get some lenses for them.

  5. Arran
    03.26.2009

    Thanks for the comments guys.
    It’s great that you’ve had good experience with the OM’s aswell Allan. You have to get another one :)
    James, you may only have 2 OM bodies but you certainly selected some pretty damn good ones. Arguably the best. I know it may not be very exotic, but the later 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko’s are amazing value for money with terrific IQ. Definately worth having one even if it just acts as a body cap for the body :D

  6. 03.26.2009

    I do have one lens at the moment, a 85/2 I picked up in Melbourne last week and will be scoring a 28/2.8 and 50/1.8 for free later on today. Have also found a 28/2 that some one is selling and will see what is up for grabs at the Camera Market on Sunday as well.

  7. Arran
    03.26.2009

    Ahh, nice work on the 85/2, i’ve been hoping to find one of those for a while now, I think the focal length would be good for a few projects i’ve been thinking of doing.
    I have a 28/2 that I got by accident – I thought I was buying a 28/2.8 off the guy but received the f/2 so was pretty happy. They’re really nice lenses. Are you going to the camera market in Sydney? I’ve picked up some really nice stuff there in the past, but find most 35mm SLR stuff pretty pricey. I’ve noticed the best deals are on rangefinders and medium format gear, but you may be lucky, theres usually a bit of Olympus gear there.
    Good luck :)

  8. 03.28.2009

    Yep the Sydney camera market. I am working on a mates table for a while tomoro morning so can have a look for all the Olympus gear before the doors open :)

    That 28/2.8 I picked up on Thursday is cactus so will be buying the 28/2 next week if I don’t find anything at the market.

  9. Arran
    03.28.2009

    Ahh good stuff :D
    I think I may come around to the market too.
    Cheers

  10. Fábio Amano
    11.11.2009

    Hello!
    Firstly congratulations on an excellent site, great work, especially liked your article on the Olympus OM3, I also have one but in my the lightmeter does not work, I have sought here in Brazil that someone has to replace parts or know how to fix but can not find , so I want your help, will know of someone who has parts or knows how to fix? I’m losing hope!
    A big hug and thank you for everything!

  11. eugenio
    02.10.2010

    Hello, Arran. Thank’s for the OM-3 manual, that I think your site is the only one where it is possible to see it. I’m a old owner of a new Olympus om-1, and a new owner of a used OM-3, but I had only the nude body, and so was impossible to use it (and verify if all is o.k., id.e. the esposimetric system). At the moment I’m interested first in learning the way to use the exposimeter the best that is possible, and so the instructions manual was so important.
    I loved your description of the om-3 camera, so heartful and “con sentimento”, but I don’t understand why Olympus-Japan forgot old cameras owners ?
    I gave a look (for the moment) to your photos of Italy, that I appraciate.
    Best regards, Eugenio.

  12. Neal
    06.29.2010

    Nice site. I am still kicking myself for selling off my OM-3 a few years back. I have a full collection in nice clean black bodies now (OM-1 non MD, OM-1 MD, OM-1n, OM-2, OM-2n, OM-2S, and an OM-4) missing the black body OM-4T, and the OM-3, and 3Ti. All of which are unfortunately running out of my price range at the moment. I’m not even looking for an M-1 anymore as they are rare than hens teeth, but if another OM-3 comes on the market in good shape, I have a spot in my camera case for one.

  13. Neal
    08.28.2010

    Finally found that elusive OM-3!! Can’t wait to get out shooting!!

  14. admin
    09.21.2010

    Hi Neal, good luck with the OM-3.
    They really are terrific cameras but need to be used to be fully appreciated. Sounds like you have the right idea about using it and not sitting it on a shelf for the rest of its life.
    Cheers

  15. admin
    09.21.2010

    Don’t be too hard on yourself Neal! haha
    Those 3Ti’s are unfortunately firmly in the grasp of the collector so the price is really inflated.
    As for the M-1′s, I’m really kicking myself as I saw three for sale a year ago by a leading camera retailer for almost the same price as an OM-1. I hesitated and after a few days they were gone. I regret it every time I hear someone mention an M-1 haha.

  16. Ernest
    11.29.2010

    Bad news. I bought a om-3, that I payed too much, (it was like new, at a view), and I was very happy, ……. but at the first film of 36 photos, it stopped .. at 24. Maybe not adjustable. The “bullet like” camera, all mechanic, like a “tank”, stopped. So, in the meanway, I bought a om-4, all black, very fine, but …. I went to a near village for a “paysan fear”, where I maked two films of 36, with the flash, ttl, all right, a joy for a person that had a om-1 and was obliged to use the manual mode all time, but at the end of the second film, the camera stopped. I was red in face, the eyes out of orbits. When at home I maked a taste with a new set of battery and .. all right, but only for 2 (two) films, so the camera eat plus of battery that of films, just like a car that want oil more than fuel. Now, I ask you, you, olympus om friends, it was me that is wrong, or what ?
    I thinked to go to a “benedictus locus” for a magician, worse of this I think that is very difficult to find, I have nothing to loose now.

    Thank’s of gave me the possibility to talk to someone of this misadventure, I am not lonesome now ( but very unhappy) . I think that now, with the old om-1, there is a good chance to make black and white ( only black, deep blacks, with no light, ………… ). Bye.

  17. Feral
    12.04.2010

    I have an OM 3 that I found in a box of OM bits I purchased at an auction. I had no idea it was there. Cost me $40. I still use it constantly and it has a few signs of wear and tear but works great. I already had a stack of OM gear and this was the icing on the cake.
    I keep it in a display case but it comes out all the time. If only to play with it.

  18. 12.12.2010

    I’m a Nikon user from the beginning, which is 45 years. One of my dear friend used to have an Olympus system, back, 20-30 years. OM-1 & OM-2 s. Remembering him, I had a chance to pick up a OM-1 + 50/1.8 & 135/2.8 from an old couple, for a 100 C Dollar. I never realized before, this camera is a jewel, a marvel of precision engineering, and the lenses, like a zeiss lenses in touch and mechanical working. It was two years ago, and I have now, four OM s, two OM-1 and 2 OM-2 and several lenses, from 18mm to 200mm. Shooting slide and mostly bw film, with great result, and the handling of this little cameras, really a joy. Still using Nikons, film and mostly digital, but the joy is, when I pick up the Olympus and heading out to shot something. On all four I have a MW attached for better handling, but not using them as a winder. I not wonder, so many pros used Olympus on that time.

  19. ernest
    01.11.2011

    To Bela Molnar. I’m happy that people loves olympus om cameras, like you. I had a om-1 for years, then I boght the om-3 (and 4, 2, 4-T), and, if we are missing my misadventures with om-3 and om-4, it was a love affair. I used the om-3 only for 24 shots, but my only desire is to repair it, if possible, and to be able to use it for ever. I like your opinion that these cameras are a jewel. I think they are (and were) not very expensive, and now, “après vent annèe “, like the title of the Duma’s romance, in the digital era, they are better. But I must tell you that I love very much the om-3 and 4 exposimetre, that is another thing in face of previous models.
    The om in my experience aren’t so strong, they like a sweet use I think, (like a jewel). For strong use I prefer the om-2, a all-round machine, but for very strong use old Pentax, like the k-1000 (or mx), are better (they are poor, and you don’t break what isn’t there).
    I hope that I haven’t annoyed you (and Arran). Great shots with olympus om, (b&w too).

  20. 02.09.2011

    Hi! Read your review last year and I just had to get the OM-3, just to see what its like. Ended up spending quite a bit since it was in dire condition.
    What i’d like to know (if anyone does know) is the OM-3 production numbers. I can’t seem to find an estimate on how many OM-3′s were manufactured in its three year run.

  21. james barnes
    06.11.2011

    Nice article. I have been yearning to shoot some film recently, I don’t know why but digital photography is lacking something for me, I think it is the commitment you make when releasing the shutter (no trash button on the back). As an ex OM10 owner I thought about an OM1/2/3/4 especially as the OM-1 can be had so reasonably. the 3 (perhaps due to its rarity) seems to fetch a very premium price. My question for you as an OM officionado is how accurate is the meter on the OM-1 and how would you compare the models? OM-3 is out of my price range but I could spring for an OM4 looking at the market prices … or just keep it really old school and go with the 1?

  22. admin
    07.20.2011

    Hi James.
    For me, it’d be a toss up between the OM1 and OM2. I’ve never had an issue with either of these cameras as far as meter accurate etc. You do though have to take certain things into consideration when composing and thinking of how the light is working, then possibly adjust according to what you’re trying to achieve. But that’s no different to any other camera really. Sometimes I like the absolute simplicity of the OM1, and sometimes when I’m a little lazy I like the aperture priority on the OM2. I like the OM4 but just feel nervous about all the electronics in it. I haven’t had a problem yet, but I’ve read about others having some issues. I think it’s common with many cameras of that vintage and design. Personally I think all are great so can’t suggest one over the other. But if you wanted something simpler I’d choose either the OM1 or OM2, or get both! :D

  23. ernest
    07.23.2011

    In my personal experience, about the difference of om1-om2 versus om3-om4, the asset of the old models is they are simple and offer (I think) more roughness, and you feel that the machine goes on forever, and the batteries aren’t a problem for a year or more. You need to remember make off when you stop using the camera.
    The new models are better, they have a exposimeter that is fantastic, they are all metal too, they have more possibilities of interaction with flashes, and when you go back to the olds models you see some time is passed, technology is more sophisticate, etc., but I have great problems with the life batteries of the om4 and om4T. My om4, that I bought used from u.k. on ebay, was a tragedy, for it is very very hungry of energy. I don’t know what can I do. The om4T is better, but not so long way off, in fact I think the great exposimeter normal/spot, that stops itself passed about two minutes from the last use, eat some energy, like the “minotaurus” of Creta, that wanted always some young virgins.
    For the other point, digital versus analogic, I think that digital isn’t that evil, in fact I thinked to buy one (but Canon-Nikon .. not Olympus), but I’m not convinced that it is better. Maybe I’m old, I’m 52, but I find classic photography manner more serious, more mysterious, and you are like a “apprenti sorcier”. There isn’t too much possibilities to change and modificate the result of your work, and over that you aren’t so capable of change the real thing that you saw when you was there, the person who see the image thinks that the item photographed was “real”, and not the result of some elaborations post factum.
    For this, I love the classic cameras, and now I’m in way to make a darkroom for b&w. In this year I developed my two first film rolls (with the aid of a changing bag), and I hope for december (2011) to arrive to the print. I’m not sinthetic, I saw, but the whole thing is so interesting.

  24. ernest
    09.23.2011

    I’m glad to told you that I went to Venice (Venezia) in Italy last day, with my Olympus om4t, and all was very good (I must develope by myself one b&w film and bring a color slide film to print and I will see the result of my work, but it doesn’t matter). I want to say all was very good in the sense that I was or the one or one of so many film photographers, in fact I saw everywhere digital cameras, but I’m proud of my camera, and happy with it, I had much fun, and this is for me the best way to go about with a camera, to have fun, push the bottom, to insert the film into, to extract it when it is full….. to hope that the work can be a decent work, maybe.
    I saw that in commerce there is a similar “mini scanner” that for about 120 Euros transforms film photos in digital, and I think that is a very good help to interact with other people in easy manner, on the web, with the mail and so on, like you have a digital camera. I haven’t.

  25. ernest
    04.04.2012

    I’m very happy because I bought another olympus om-3, that, I hope, will go forever. It wasn’t possible to repair the oldest one, (just 24 slides, minus that a film), they told me at the restoration site. So, is it true life, I told to myself, to be without such a camera ? Because I think I am non insane, I preferred to buy the om-3, and say not to others items. For example I may to do some bargain in foods, or wears, or … Ok, now I am 90 kilos of weight, we will see at june if I will be slim.
    With others good affairs I will buy some films, and, at the end, some product for the black room. This is a good project, possible but not very easy to do. The last variable is in fact the free time to do all that, not to forgot women, certainly, and to read books of photography, and the others 10.000 things.

  26. Axel
    04.24.2013

    Hi Arran,
    Thanks for your article, I really enjoyed reading it! I just picked up an OM-3 in decent condition for a reasonable price and started shooting with it. I really enjoy the manual mode and simplicity of the camera. I shot mostly with my OM-4Ti so far, and used flash a lot with it recently. Mostly 3 light setups, using auto TTL flash. Really convenient, when the little LED in the viewfinder lets you know if enough light, too much light (OVER) or not enough light came through the lens (UNDER). I was quite disappointed to find out that the OM-3 doesn’t have that feature. Or is mine just “broken”? Can anyone confirm that the OM-3 doesn’t have that feature? Thanks! Axel

  1. [...] ”The Olympus OM3. One of the most advanced mechanical shutter cameras ever made. It is also one of... jacobvonpost.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/olympus-om-3
  2. [...] in 1981. Until ‘at the end’ just a few years back, I had an OM2 spot program and an OM3 (... spuddey.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/now-i-am-getting-excited

Leave a Reply