Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-2n

I enjoy using my Olympus OM-1 from time to time. My film-photography friends all have encouraged me to get an OM-2 or OM-2n, as it offers all of the OM-1 goodness with aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. I held off because I couldn’t find one at a price I was willing to pay. They’re not expensive, not really; you can find good ones for under $100. I’m just a cheapskate. My reticence paid off — a reader recently donated this Olympus OM-2n to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras!

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-1 came first, of course, in 1972. In 1975, Olympus introduced the OM-2, which added an electronic shutter and aperture-priority exposure. Then in 1979, Olympus released the OM-1n and the OM-2n, both of which offered a few improvements over the original models.

The OM-2n is a 35mm SLR featuring an electronic focal-plane shutter operating from 1/1000 sec. to 1 sec. in manual exposure mode and a whopping 120 sec. in aperture-priority mode. It offers through-the-lens metering with a clever inner shutter curtain imprinted with black and white blocks that mimic an average photograph. The meter reads light that bounces off those blocks.

Olympus OM-2n

You set film speed, from ISO 12 to 1,600, with a dial atop the camera next to the winder. Lift the dial and twist until your film speed appears in the window, then lower the dial and twist until the line from the window points at the tick mark. That mark can be hard to see. This dial also lets you adjust exposure by up to two stops in either direction.

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-2 is a system camera with interchangeable focusing screens (see a list here) and interchangeable backs. I know of two backs: a data back (one of which I have but have never used) and a back that lets you shoot up to 250 frames of bulk film. My OM-2n came with a 1-12 cross-hairs screen inside, but also with a smattering of other screens. I found a 1-13 microprism/split-image screen among them and swapped it in.

Unlike the OM-1, the OM-2n needs batteries to work. Without a battery, when you press the shutter button, the mirror stays in the up position. I’ll bet a lot of people think this means the camera is broken! Pro tip: insert two fresh SR-44 batteries and move the switch atop the camera to Reset. The mirror will come right down and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of batteries, the OM-2n natively takes two silver-oxide SR-44s. It was designed for them. That alone makes the OM-2n a wonderful choice for a film photographer today. So many other old cameras take now-banned mercury batteries and/or batteries of an odd size. You’re stuck ordering silver-oxide or alkaline equivalent batteries online, which carry different voltages than the mercury originals. In theory that could mess up your exposures, although I think that worry is overblown. In contrast, you can buy SR-44 (also known as 357 or 76) batteries at any drug store!

The OM-2n is so pleasant to use! Because it’s small and light, you can sling it over your shoulder and shoot fatigue-free all day. The controls all feel precise and smooth, even luxurious. The OM-2n is solidly built.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

For most of my camera reviews I shoot just one roll then write up the camera. But I enjoyed the OM-2n so much that I put three rolls through it. The first one was Kodak T-Max 400 which I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution H (1+63).

Masked

This OM-2n came with a bunch of lenses. I tried the 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S first. It’s a delightfully thin and light lens, and it focuses from 10 inches making it almost a macro lens. It handled beautifully on the OM-2n.

I was mugged!

I shot the OM-2n while Indiana was slowly reopening after coronavirus lockdown. We decided to take a walk along Main Street in Zionsville one Thursday to find the street closed to traffic. Tables and chairs were set up for people to buy dinner at local restaurants and eat outside. It felt like too many people in too little space to us, and we didn’t linger.

Dining in the street

This camera also came to me with a 21mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-W lens — yes, that’s right, 21mm. I’ve never shot a lens so wide! I made a few photos with it but will explore it more deeply later.

Down the lane

I loaded good old Fujicolor 200 next and mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-Macro lens. This lens lets you focus from 9 inches.

Weathered wood

I shot a lot of flowers on this roll. The OM-2n continued to handle flawlessly. It achieved that holy-grail state of seeming to disappear in my hands — I composed, focused, and shot fluidly, as if the camera were an extension of my eye.

White with a touch of pink

My, but do I love moving in close with a camera. This suncatcher hangs in our back door window. My mother-in-law made it.

Suncatcher

This lens is just a peach. Look at that up-close sharpness, and look at that bokeh. Given the hexagonal shape of the light points in the background, you should not be surprised to learn that this lens has six aperture blades.

Tiki

A 50mm macro lens is fine for non-macro photography, as well. I took it on a bike ride around the neighborhood and made a few photos.

Swimming pool

Because the OM-2n offers aperture-priority shooting, it eliminates my top complaint about OM-series cameras: the shutter-speed ring is around the lens mount. Every other major camera maker made it a dial on the top plate next to the shutter button. But shooting aperture priority means I never have to change the shutter speed.

XXX

I made all of these photos during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fortunate to keep my job and be able to work from home. But my work computer needed service while I was using the OM-2n. I had to take it to the office Downtown for IT to look at it. I loaded another roll of Fujicolor 200 and walked around Downtown after IT fixed my computer. This was a couple weeks after the riots motivated by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Indianapolis, some windows were broken and there was some looting. Many buildings boarded up their windows as a protective measure.

I used the 40mm lens for this walk. It was a good focal length — wide enough that I didn’t have to back out into the street to get a good look at a scene.

After the protests

I’ll share more from this walk in an upcoming post. I’ll wrap up with this photo of the outside seating at the Downtown Five Guys. A Five Guys cheeseburger is such a calorie bomb, but it is so good.

Five Guys

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus OM-2n gallery.

The Olympus OM-2n is a fantastic 35mm SLR: compact, light, precise, smooth. The Olympus Zuiko lenses are similarly fantastic optically, and are solidly built with great feel in the hand. If you could have only one manual-focus 35mm SLR, the Olympus OM-2n would be an outstanding choice.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Last updated on 3 September 2020 by Jim Grey

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47 thoughts on “Olympus OM-2n

  1. The Olympus OM-2N is my favorite SLR, I like to use it with the Zuiko 24mm f/2.8. Your camera came with a nice selection of lenses. I’ve always wanted try the 40mm pancake, but it’s a little out of my price range.

    • I’ve looked up this 40mm lens on the used gear sites — and oh my, yes, this lens is not inexpensive. I feel fortunate to have it as a donation.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Love the idea of a 40mm, and Oly had a good one. If you do the math, the actual diagonal of the 24mm X 36mm frame is around 44 millimeters, which makes the 40mm closer to “true” than a 50mm or 52mm!

    I’ve been getting excited over the last few months on seeing the protest art as shown in newspapers and on TV. I hope someone is putting together a web site for people to download their photos of the actual artwork around the country before any of it gets destroyed.

    • This 40 is very nice, both to use and in the results. It was a good lens for making these photos downtown as I didn’t have to back into the street for them. I hope this art is well captured nationwide as well!

  3. Richard Davis says:

    I am so jealous. At some time in the past I had remarked how my OM-2n disappeared from my car when it was towed. I loved that camera. It was everything you described. Not sure why I didn’t replace with another one, but I bought a Canon T-70 instead, it was probably the price.

  4. I’m a big fan of the OM-2n, super glad I got mine fixed it works so much better. I’m planning a 52 roll project with mine next year! Awesome review!

  5. nigelkell says:

    I think the OM2 is possibly the nicest of the OM’s to use, though it’s a close call with the OM1. I use the OM4 a lot for the spotmetering, but it never seems quite as smooth, somehow.
    You have a seriously generous benefactor!
    Oh, and Olympus aren’t the only user of the “shutter speeds on lens mount”. Nikkormats have it too……..

    • I very much prefer the OM-2(n). I’m not crazy about the aperture ring being where it is and the OM-2n takes away my need ever to use it. Everything else about this camera is just as delightful as the OM-1! And yes, of course, about the Nikkormats. How could anyone forget?

  6. I really enjoyed reading your blog because you brought so many happy memories of a time in my life when I was at my happiest, I’d purchased my OM10 after several months of saving from my salary I finally had enough to realise a dream and I got my first camera from the NAAFI in 1985/6?. I collected all the lenses and filters which I stored carefully in a metal storage case I’d chosen from the Markoff & I’d cut the foam out to fit all of my precious camera & everything I’d so far collected exactly.
    I even went further with a Durst darkroom so you can imagine even now how I feel about automatic cameras? Hehehe, I still prefer manual ones because, and I know it may sound silly? but it feels “right” if you know what I mean?. Although these days many smart phones have excellent cameras and I wondered what you thought about the leaps in technology? I said goodbye to my darkroom because it became ok for the occasional b&w photo but it certainly wasn’t cost effective.
    Thank you for making me smile, and for bringing back some good memories too!.
    Kindest regards
    Lynda

  7. Michael says:

    Always nice to get a donation to the Home! I’m really shocked that 21mm is the widest lens you own. I just figured you don’t like shooting landscape shots. :)

    Typo in 4th paragraph: “LifT the dial and twist…”

  8. tbm3fan says:

    Speaking of which I acquired an OM-2 just two weeks ago. Had a 28mm Zuiko for 15 years in a bunch I bought in 2005 so it was an orphan. I could sell it or get a body. Another body with another mount. Really, do I need to do that. Besides every time I looked for an OM-1 they were so expensive compared to others I had and I am like you. There has to be a bargain out there somewhere.

    Turns out it was the Goodwill site with a black OM-2 body at auction. Then a 50mm f1.8 showed up cheap. Next, a 50mm macro with extension tube showed up. Got all three and the cost was less than an OM-1. The OM-2 has been resealed and is fully functional as are the three lenses I have now. A 75-150mm Zuiko, cheap, is due in soon to try out. This is what happens when one doesn’t leave the house much nowadays.

  9. I bought myself an OM-2n recently too. Mainly becuase my beloved OM-1 keeps missing frames from time to time. I’ve only put a single roll through it as yet, but am looking forward to many more. My only complaint would be that the viewfinder is not as beautifully simple as the OM-1 with it’s match-needle and nothing else. Although the OM-2 has the same functionality PLUS the aperture priority mode, the way it’s displayed is a little more fiddly. Perhaps it’s because I wear specatacles though.

    Mine came with a plain microprism focusing screen, but I’ve swapped it out for the 1-13 screen too as I prefer the non-fussy way I can be confident of accurate focus using a split-prism.

    I’m planning on shooting a roll of E6 through it soon – that ought to test the meter! :)

  10. Olympus OM2n

    The Olympus OM2n is my all-time favorite camera. I currently have two, one of which works, and another that needs servicing.

    I switched from Nikon to the Olympus OM system in 1979. I loved, loved, loved my OMs. Carried them on documentary/PJ assignments to 28 countries on five continents and around much of the US, plus a ton of commercial work.

    By 1992, aging eyes made it difficult to focus quickly and accurately on the grid screens with very fine microprisms that I had installed in all my bodies. In retrospect, I should have just changed screens and kept on using the OMs. But I sold everything, and switched to Canon for its excellent autofocus, eventually moving to Canon digital. (Now Fuji since 2017.)

    At the time I sold my OM system, I had several bodies and 13 lenses. The workhorse body was an OM2n, but I also had an OM-1, an OMPC, and a recently acquired OM2S.

    When I first began to use Olympus, I bought a 21mm f3.5, a 28f2.8, a 35-70f3.6, a 50f1.8, an 85f2, and a 135 f2.8. I later decided that the 24f2.8 could do the work of both the 21 and the 28, so they went on the shelf. I added other lenses over time, and on my last trip abroad with Olympus I carried the 24, a 35f2, the 85f2, and the 180f2.8. This seemed to be about the perfect set of lenses for the kind of work I did. All were very sharp, and with the exception of the 180, were all quite small and light.

    Over the 13 years that I used Olympus, I would estimate that about 70% of all exposures were made with the 85mmf2.

    • I wondered if I’d hear from you on this! I remember your devotion the OM series from your blog. It’d be really lovely to see some of your favorite work from your OM-2n, especially with that 85mm lens.

      The fellow who gave me this OM-2n also gave me another OM-2n, an OM-4t, and an OM-4. They all appear to be fully working except the rewind crank is broken on the OM-4. They also came with a smattering of lenses, including the 21mm f/3.5, two 50/3.5 macros, a 50/1.8, a 40/2, a 35-70 zoom, an 80/4 macro, a 35/2.8 shift, and a 300/4.5 lens that’s so big it has its own tripod mount. The reader who gave me all of this gave me an incredible gift!

      I have the 40/2 on OM-4t right now. It is a peach.

  11. wbsmith200 says:

    I consider the Olympus OM-2n as the sweet spot of the Olympus single digit OM system, much more intuitive than the OM-4(Ti) and takes silver oxide Energizer 357 batteries while the OM-1 you have to find a work around for the 625 battery. I’ve taken some of my best photos on OM-2n’s and I’ll keeping an eye out for an older OM-2 black or chrome in decent shape, just because you can’t just have two.

    • It sure seems like it. I’m shooting an OM-4t now and while it’s clearly very good I like the OM-2n better just from an ease of use standpoint.

  12. I never kept notes about which lenses I used. Unfortunately, I kept almost no notes at all until the Eastern Europe trip in 1990, and then I stopped doing it until the Rock City barn project in the mid-’90s. Since then I’ve kept notes pretty faithfully, but mostly only about locations.

    The photographs on my blog alifeinphotography.blogspot.com from March 9th of this year through April 10th (Mayalan and Eastern Europe) are almost all Olympus OM shots. I did use a Leica M3 for some indoor, extremely low light shots in Eastern Europe.

    I must confess that I used a Vivitar 75-205mm f3.8 lens extensively in the Mayalan coverage, and a Tokina 100-300mm f4 (great lens) in Eastern Europe.

    I owned the OM 300/4.5 lens for a while, but got rid of it. It was unnecessarily big an heavy — did not seem to fit into the Olympus system at all.

    Currently I have a very pared-down kit of lenses — 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 50mm f3.5 macro, and 75-150 f4 zoom. I don’t really need anything else (but if your donor has a friend . . .)

    • Dave, your comments got trapped by my spam filter. My apologies – you are clearly not a spammer!

      I do try to keep track of body/lens/film but I tend to do it after the fact, when I develop the film. Sometimes by that time I can’t remember the lens anymore!

      I’m really enjoying the 40mm f/2, by the way. I took it and my OM-4t on a long bike ride yesterday and photographed rural scenes all over the southwest part of the county.

  13. That scene from Main Street in Zionsville makes me feel like showering in disinfectant. That’s insanely too close to be safe. People are stupid.

    As for the Verma. It’s beautiful and the colour images are nicely done.

    • Yeah, we haven’t been back for a Thursday thing since then. It just felt like too many people to us. They’re still doing them, by the way. When we want to stroll Main Street we pick a different evening.

  14. Greetings. Why did you have to go and write a review of this camera ?Just after I read your review on the Nikon FA and successfully acquired one yesterday?😩. I was content to own Om 10-40 but now after your great results from this camera. Now what do I do?
    Andrew

    • Suffer. Muahahahahaha!

      No, seriously. I know your pain, I read reviews all over the Internet and frequently feel that serious gear lust. It’s just part of the hobby, my man!

  15. Oh, I so wish I hadn’t sold mine…as I say with all my cameras, but selling this one was foolish. As Julia Roberts said… big mistake, big!

  16. Jim, nice job. Your OM2n is a winner. I used one from the office quite a bit about 20 years ago. That one had the data back. As I recall, the date only extended to something quite limiting, like 2010. So if you could find one in working condition, it might not help much today. As I recall, the display in the finder failed, but the camera still computed the right exposures. The 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-Macro lens is exceptional at all distances. Sadly, the office dumped 10s of lenses and bodies. Being DoD, they all went off to some surplus place. Cheers and keep having fun!

    • I do have a data back, in its box. I’m not much a fan of them so I probably would never have installed it. But now that I know its limitation I certainly won’t. And you’re right about the 50/3.5 macro!

  17. Well it looks like I will be having to make room on my shelf for an OM2n after a successful win on a certain auction site.
    Perhaps contentment will now prevail😊
    Andrew

  18. Jim great review on this beautiful Olympus! I still have my 2n. Over time, I tended to favor the OM-1 because of its non reliance on batteries. However, the 2n always felt like the better, more polished camera. Great post and pics!

    • Sam, the OM-2n might just be the perfect OM-series camera. The OM-1’s simplicity is charming, but the 2n just works so beautifully. I’ve also shot an OM-4T (review forthcoming) and it is overcomplicated compared to the 2n.

      • Hard as it is to choose from the OM cameras, I’d have to say you’re right! I know what you mean about the OM-4T. I used one, it took nice pics, but it just didn’t feel right. The OM-2n strikes the perfect balance of all the OMs.

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