Olympus OM1 VS OM2 – What’s The Difference?

Over the years I’ve come across a lot of OM1s and OM2s and I’ve discovered the pros and cons of these classic cameras.

The Olympus OM1 is a small, fully manual SLR camera with shutter speeds from 1s-1/1000s and the Olympus OM2 is a super compact, auto/manual SLR camera that has an electronic shutter.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re wondering which of these two cameras to get, not just the differences in settings but how reliable the cameras are, if you want to find out more then read on!

A Brief History Of The OM1 & 2

Originally named the M-1 before Leica forced them to rename it, the OM1 was created in 72′ and it was pretty well-received by professionals of the day. The OM1 was to be much smaller than most SLRs of the day but it still packed a punch with Olympus’ Zuiko lenses.

Over the next few years, Olympus made the OM1 MD (Motor drive) and the OM1n which had a few small changes.

In 1975, Olympus decided to produce the OM2, producing the smallest SLR ever made and an instant classic. The OM1 and 2 were never quite seen as being as good as Canon or Nikon SLRs but realistically, they’re still brilliant cameras for the 70’s.

Specs Of Each Camera

Shutter Speeds1 s – 1/1000 s; Bulb1 s – 1/1000 s; Bulb
ExposureManualManual/Auto/Aperture Priority
BatteryPX6252 x LR44
FlashHot ShoeHot Shoe
ISO Range25-160012-1600
Weight599 g520g
Size136 x 83 x 50 mm136 x 83 x 50mm

As you can see from the specs, it doesn’t seem like there are many big differences but as I’ll explain in a short while, these are very different cameras.

Of course, the mount is the same and ISO range is similar but when you take a look in-depth, these cameras have very different types of exposure, weights, common issues and can have slightly different prices


This is one of the key differences when it comes to these two cameras, The Olympus OM1 is a fully manual camera which has a built-in light meter. The light meter is very basic, just like a line that moves up and down inside the viewfinder.

This kind of manner of exposure is just fine and of course, if you wanted to you could use your own light meter but it’s not overly specific.

On the other hand, the OM2 has TTL exposure which measures the light reflected off the camera film and allows for much better metering.

Not only that, but the OM2 has auto exposure, aperture priority mode and manual mode which is pretty impressive for such a tiny camera.

The ease with which you can shoot the OM2 is a massive plus when it comes to choosing between these two, If you want to shoot without having to think then you can, if you want to underexpose slightly or overexpose slightly then you can.

It’s a much more intuitive camera than the OM1 but there are some downsides to this more electronic camera which I’ll comment on later.

Battery & Power

This might seem like a really small aspect to consider but the Olympus OM1 takes a PX625 battery which isn’t very common. This battery only powers the light meter so the OM1 can be shot without a battery but it’s worth noting that the battery is annoying to get hold of.

The OM2 on the other hand takes 2 X LR44 batteries which are much easier to get hold of but the OM2 needs a battery to work, you can’t shoot it without batteries because the shutter is electronic.

There are obvious pros and cons to both of these. The OM1 can be used without batteries but you’re then missing the other abilities of the OM2. The OM2 can’t be used without batteries and if your power supply becomes damaged then you can’t use the OM2 at all but technically, it’s a better camera.

Size & Weight

The OM2 is effectively one of the smallest 35mm SLR cameras ever made, it’s really compact and really light, especially for a camera of the 70s.

The OM1 is bigger but it’s still not a big camera really. They would both be good options if you need something that’s especially small. In my experience, a small camera like the OM2 is a great option for stuff like street photography, travel or lifestyle!

Reliability & Common Issues

I think this could be one of the biggest deciders and it might be one of the reasons why these cameras aren’t quite as popular as you might expect.

Both of these have some common issues and problems, especially because they’re nearly 50 years old. But I’ve personally found that they tend to have more issues than you’d expect.


I buy a bunch of these cameras so I’ve got to notice the common issues that arise with them.

The most common thing I see with the OM1 is that the shutter jams up completely. I think this is just due to the age of the camera, the shutter or shutter release button just jam up.

Otherwise, they usually need their light seals replacing which is pretty much true of all SLRs. It’s not a difficult thing to fix, you can do it yourself or get a CLA done (which probably costs quite a bit now).


With the OM2 it’s a different story and this is mainly down to the electronics. The OM2 needs power to work so if something goes wrong with it then you’re pretty done for and you’d have to get it fixed properly.

This kind of shutter issue is one of the reasons why I think the OM2 isn’t as popular as it could be because I’ve seen so many OM2s or OM2ns with this exact problem.

I’d suspect that fixing an OM1 is far easier than fixing an OM2 so this is really something to take into consideration, especially if you’re buying on eBay or something similar.

If you’re buying either of these cameras from someone reputable then you shouldn’t need to worry too much, just try to take care of them.

Which Is The Best Then?

The question of which is the best is fairly complex. On paper, the OM2 is a better camera, it’s got a number of different exposure settings, it’s smaller and a more recent camera. It’s not that simple though because we’re talking about these cameras today.

The OM1 is more reliable and easier to fix and due to the fact that it’s fully manual, you don’t need a battery in order to use it.

I would really say that it’s up to you, do you want the fully manual, slightly more reliable, slightly bigger OM1 camera or do you want the smaller camera with more functions which is less reliable?

Both of them can house the same lenses but the OM2 does have better metering.

I will give you something concise. If the OM2 comes from a really good seller then it’s a better camera.

Final Word

I hope that all this info has helped you to pick between the OM1 and OM2. They’re really top quality cameras that might be showing their age just a little, but they can still pack a punch.

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