Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-4T

Early in my career I wrote instruction manuals for software. Users would frequently call tech support to ask questions that could answer for themselves would they only Read The F$#@ing Manual, or RTFM. Despite this, I almost always put film into a new-to-me old camera without RTFM. I get away with it most of the time. I did not when I shot this Olympus OM-4T.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T, known as the OM-4Ti in some markets, was the last of the professional-grade cameras in Olympus’s wonderful OM series. Olympus introduced it in 1986 and manufactured it through 2002, making it among the last manual-focus 35mm SLRs produced. It’s a terrific camera — after you RTFM to learn how to use it.

Olympus OM-4T

It’s solidly made with titanium top and bottom plates, yet it manages to be light and easy to carry. Like all OM-series cameras, it’s small. It’s well featured, beginning with an electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/2000 sec. and a slowest speed of 1 sec. in manual mode and up to 2 minutes in aperture-priority mode. It meters through the lens in center-weighted average and three spot modes. The viewfinder includes dioptric correction for those of us with aging eyes. An innovative new electronic flash control system allowed flash sync from 1/60 to 1/2000 sec.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T takes films of ISO 6 to 3200. Here’s where it’s important to RTFM. Like many SLRs, the ISO setting is around the rewind knob. It only looks like the ISO selector on so many other SLRs — it doesn’t work like them. You lift the collar on the outer knob and twist to select ISO, but unlike every other SLR I’ve ever used the exposure compensation setting moves too. After you select ISO — and this is the part where I wish I’d RTFM — you must then lower the collar and twist the exposure compensation setting to where you want it. So nonstandard. I didn’t notice that the exposure compensation was at -2 and proceeded to underexpose my film by two stops Then I loaded some ISO 200 color film and left the ISO set to 100 as I like to overexpose this film by a stop. But because the exposure compensation was still at -2, I underexposed it by one stop. I was ten frames into my third roll of film when I downloaded and read the manual and realized my error. Argh! Thank heavens for the good latitude of the films I shot.

To shoot, move the lever atop the camera to Auto for aperture-priority mode or Manual for manual exposure mode. An LCD display at the bottom of the viewfinder shows exposure information. In manual mode, you’ll see > | < and a row of dashes, along with your shutter speed. It works like a match-needle diaplay: for proper exposure, adjust shutter speed and aperture until the dashes line up with the |. In aperture-priority mode the LCD shows the range of shutter speeds and a row of dashes. Select aperture and press the shutter button down halfway to meter. The row of dashes moves to the shutter speed the OM-4T selects. If the shutter speed would need to be faster than 1/2000 sec, the display shows OVER and the camera beeps.

The star of the OM-4T show is its multi-spot exposure option. I’m not going to get into its full operation here, in no small part because this is a feature I’d hardly ever use. In short: You activate it with the SPOT button next to the shutter button. You can meter up to eight spots and the camera averages them. You can also spot meter for the highlights or for the shadows; the OM-4T then applies exposure compensation to bring out detail.

Two SR44/357 button cells power everything. Glory be, an old camera that takes batteries you can buy at any drug store! Without a battery, you can make a photo but only with a 1/60 sec. shutter.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the OM-2n 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.

The first roll I shot in the OM-4T was my last roll of original Agfa APX 100, expired since November of 1998 but stored frozen until my film freezer died last summer. Not only did I shoot this two stops under, but I may have underdeveloped the film. I used Rodinal 1+50, which the Massive Dev Chart said needed 13 minutes at 20° C. That’s what I did, but later I learned that Agfa recommended 17 minutes for this developer and temperature. Argh! But my scanner pulled good things out of a handful of frames.

Masked knight

I made these images as Indiana was reopening from shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home during these times has let me ride my bike more, and I made most of these photos from the bike with the OM-4T slung over my shoulder and across my torso. The body is so light and small it was an easy companion on the bike.

Coneflowers

The viewfinder is big and bright enough for me, even though some other reviewers compare it unfavorably to the OM-1 and OM-2 viewfinders. I found having to look down at the LCD panel to be less comfortable than the needle display on the left side of the OM-2n viewfinder. Also, the LCD was a little laggy. None of this is enough for me to pan the camera. I just liked the OM-2n’s needle better.

Octopi

The camera has no on-off switch, by the way. Pressing the shutter button halfway activates the camera; the LCD wakes up and gives a reading. The camera turns itself off after a while.

One Nine Five

My OM-4T came with a standard microprism/split-image focusing screen. As a system camera, you can swap in any number of other focusing screens if you have them. I prefer split image focusing so I was good go to.

Queen Anne's lace

I live in a suburban vinyl village, but within five minutes on my bike I can be among the farm fields. This old farmhouse probably dates to as early as 1840.

Old farmhouse

I next shot two rolls of Fujicolor 200. I intended to shoot them at EI 100 but because I’d buggered up the exposure compensation setting I actually shot the first roll and ten frames of the second roll at EI 400. It’s a testament to this consumer-grade film that these images all turned out fine. Fulltone Photo did the developing and scanning.

Holliday Road

I made most of these images on a beautiful morning I took off from work. I got on my bike and rode around on country roads four hours. I’ll write a separate post about the red bridge — it’s restored after being mangled by a too-large tractor.

Holliday Road Bridge

Even though I’m a city boy through and through, I deeply enjoy riding out in the country. It’s peaceful, there’s almost no traffic to contend with, and you get to see lots of great old farmhouses.

Farmhouse

I left the 40mm f/2 lens on for this ride. It focuses from 10 inches, making it almost a macro lens.

Chicory

After I RTFMed and set ISO properly on this OM-4T, I mounted a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko Auto-S lens and shot the rest of the roll on various bike rides over the next week or so. I can’t imagine riding with many of my other 35mm SLRs as they are so much larger and heavier.

Lane to the old house

Except for that laggy viewfinder LCD, the OM-4T handled beautifully. The controls all felt well-made and smooth under use.

NO

Rewinding film on the OM-4T is a little different from on the OM-1 and OM-2. Press in the R button atop the camera next to the shutter button. Then pull up the rewind crank and rewind away.

Coneflowers

See more from this camera in my Olympus OM-4T gallery.

I had a fine time with the Olympus OM-4T. Because I never fully took to the LCD display, it never disappeared in my hands like the OM-2n did. But this camera passes my litmus test: if it were the only one I could own, I’d shrug and get on with making beautiful images with it for the rest of my life.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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20 thoughts on “Olympus OM-4T

  1. For some reason, my OM-4 gobbles up batteries like there’s no tomorrow. Not sure what the issue is, but others have noted on various online forums that this is a problem with this camera. Yours does not seem to suffer from this.

    • I shot just three rolls with this camera, perhaps not enough to gauge battery life. But if it’s true of this camera, it will probably be a dealbreaker for me. It’s why I let go of my otherwise brilliant Pentax ES II: it took *four* SR44s and it blew through them like candy.

      • Michael says:

        Battery drain may be because of the display though one wouldn’t expect a great deal from properly designed LCD vs LED. I guess I never realized cameras from the mid 80s had larger ones like that already.

        • Thing is, it’s not a big LCD. It’s inside the viewfinder! So I don’t know what would make this camera eat batteries.

  2. Hi, thank you so much for sharing your experience and great photo’s. Testimony to the fact a man on a bike with a film camera and a beautiful day are all it takes to enjoy life.
    Many thanks
    Andrew
    Ps Having succumbed to your review of the Om 2n I am going to try to be more resolved not to give in to your nefarious plan 🤔

    • I think the OM-2n is a more likeable camera anyway, so you’re good to stick with it!

      And yes: a bike ride with a camera truly is the good life.

  3. -N- says:

    I have all OMs except the OM-3. FYI, the OM4 (non T / Ti model) is known to gobble up batteries – the T version was made to replace the OM4 and solve the problem. I like the small size of the OM series and the lenses. I think the Ti is my favorite “auto” camera and the OM1 is my favorite manual in competition with my Nikon FM2n. Nice post!

    • The fellow who gave me this 4T also gave me a regular 4. It’s a little battered and the rewind crank lever is broken so I haven’t shot it yet.

      I so clearly prefer the OM-2n among the OMs I have (two OM-1s, two OM-2ns, this OM-4T, and that OM-4) that I’m likely to shed OMs down to probably one of the OM-1s (as it was a gift from a friend, and it had been her father’s) and one OM-2n.

  4. Randy says:

    I own an OM-2n and an OM-4. I sold a Ti a year or so ago because I like the OM-2n so much better. The OM-2n feels like it is made better that the 4/4Ti. The wind-on for instance is much smoother.

  5. nigelkell says:

    The plain OM4 ate batteries as the metering system is always on; putting it on the red B or 1/60 settings only turns off the viewfinder LCD display. So all the time it’s sat in your bag, the battery is slowly discharging! Late 4’s and Ti’s had a modified circuit which turned the meter off after a while, which partially cured the problem.
    I use the spotmetering a lot on mine, especially with slow films like Pan F that are a bit fussy about exposure, and to see if the tonal range will fit on the film I’m using. But it’s surprising how often, after carefully multi spotmetering a scene, you discover it’s the same exposure as the plain center weighted metering came up with…….
    Matrix metering does nearly the same thing, of course, and you don’t have to think about it.

    • Makes sense. Does capping the lens slow or stop the battery drain like it does on the Pentax K1000?

      The OM-4T’s multi-spot system really does seem like a lot of work for minimal gain.

  6. nigelkell says:

    Sadly, unlike the CdS cells in the K1000, the silicon blue cell based metering system used by the OM4 (and OM2) pass an appreciable current in the dark. This isn’t a problem in the OM2 as the cells are only energised when the shutter is released; the viewfinder meter is powered by a separate CdS meter as in the OM1, which is switched.
    The OM4 only has the silicon blue cells, and should really have had an off switch; but to conform to Maitani’s dictum that a camera should be ready for instant use at all times, there was no switch! Apparently the fact that most cameras spend a lot of time not being used slipped by them. But Olympus rather followed their own way in the eighties, and totally misread what photographers would really want.
    I quite like playing with the spotmeter, but really the correct way to have gone would have been a multi segment matrix meter. They had put a basic, 2 zone, version in the OM40. But then, they also eschewed autofocus, which rather sealed the OM systems fate.

    • Olympus may have missed the boat in the 80s, but the cameras that remain are so right for a good chunk of collectors and photographers today. These are sweet cameras.

  7. Great read….my Dad had an OM1, I think my niece may have it now. I have an OM2 on my shelf, but it is not working and probably not deserving of a CLA. I have always liked the small form and the great optics of the OM series, but never really got around to trying one. I think it’s time you tried a Contax 139Q, I would love to see how you think that compares ;)

  8. I confess to never having opened a manual for all the still cameras I’ve used. The only time I got caught up was with the original Nikon F, I had to look up on Youtube how to actually rewind the damn camera! I WILL however read a manual several times for every new super 8 camera I use, just to make sure I understand what features it does/doesn’t have.

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