The Olympus OM-3. 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 waiting for the market value to 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 in that they both have a mechanical shutter. Consequently, 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 OM-1n which was an older but tried and tested model, or the OM-3 which was brand new and considerably more expensive. Most people chose the OM-1n naturally due to the price so it was produced until 1987, outliving the OM3.
The OM-3 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 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 a 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 OM-2SP and OM-4, there were many cameras (curiously 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 OM-2SP for well over 8 months now with used batteries and it still functions perfectly. I haven’t had enough time to test the OM-3 extensively yet, but after shooting a couple rolls (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 thankfully make use of the OM3’s mechanical shutter.
Getting hung up on the technicalities of these cameras can be pointless though. At the end of the day it’s about how the camera performs, and the OM-3 continues or 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,design and construction, and the ability to use some of the greatest lenses ever created.
I have quite a few cameras now, and the OM-3 is already among 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 hard 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 are better options available to you such as the OM-1 or OM-2. But, if you’re like me and find one for a fraction of the market value, snap it up and use it!