A Comfortable Companion

Of all the cameras I have, there’s one I keep coming back to, the Olympus OM-2n.

I don’t entirely know why. It’s a good camera, but it’s not an outstanding camera. I have a couple other cameras that fill the same compact SLR niche and that have better specs on paper than the OM-2n, but I still go for it over them.

It also doesn’t have any especially nostalgic value to me, my first film camera was the similar Minolta X-700 (which I still have, and pull out on occasion). I don’t have any Olympus brand loyalty, my first real camera was a Nikon, and my current digital cameras are Fujifilms. And yet the OM-2n just somehow hits all the right notes for me.

If I had to guess why I’d say it’s because the camera is unpretentious. It does exactly enough that I never find it lacking, it doesn’t try to be flashy, anyone can pick one up and understand how to operate it with almost no effort, and it just looks and feels right.

The only way for me to expand on that is to compare it with the other compact, manual focus SLR cameras I have, specifically a Minolta X-700 and Nikon FM3a.

The biggest difference between the Minolta X-700 and the Olympus OM-2n is that the Minolta is entirely plastic bodied compared to the Olympus’ nice metal and leatherette finish. The X-700 doesn’t lack any of the OM-2n’s features, and even has a program mode in addition to the aperture priority mode, but that plastic body really pushes me away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera, but I’ll always love the way an angular metal camera looks and feels over plastic.

By the Nikon FM3a is also an angular metal body camera, and is superior to the Olympus OM-2n by any spec measure (and it should, being Nikon’s final attempt at a manual focus SLR). It has two extra shutter stops (1/4000 instead of 1/1000), it has a neat multiple exposure switch, and its dual mechanical/electronic shutter can use any shutter speed without batteries. But its got one quirk (shared by several Nikon cameras) that while super useful slow me down more than I’d like: the shutter advance acts as a lock. If the advance is flush with the body you can’t fire the shutter, you have to pop it back a little to unlock the shutter.

If I’m being honest, my Nikon FM3a is the camera in my bag for “big things” because of the objectively better specs, but if I’m just walking around I’ll probably grab the OM-2n. And especially if I’m suggesting a camera to someone new to film or photography in general, I’m definitely going to point at the OM-2 which you can find for $80 over the FM3a for $600 at best.

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