It would have been much better to share these photos closer to the day I made them, which was the first of July. The nationwide protests were still happening then, in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the hands of Minneapolis police.
I had been avoiding Downtown. But my work laptop quit working and corporate IT needed me to bring it in for repair. That meant a visit to our Indianapolis office in the heart of the protest area. I knew I’d be seeing my city all boarded up, so I took a camera. But I shot film, and film takes time, especially since I shot color and have to send it out for processing.
This is the building in which I work. It’s on both the Michigan and National Roads, better known as Washington Street in Indianapolis. Walking up to the building, I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. I was saddened, and I felt a little anger deep down, both over the destruction and the generational, pervasive poor treatment of Black Americans that led to it.
After IT fixed my laptop I walked up and down Washington for a few blocks. This is what I saw there.
After seeing photos of colorful murals on boarded-up windows in other cities, the many bare boards on Washington Street surpried me. Maybe it’s the same in other cities, but nobody shows the unpainted boards.
After a few blocks, I turned around and walked to Monument Circle, the heart of Downtown.
The southeast quadrant of the Circle was closed to traffic for the weekly summer farmer’s market. It is normally held a few blocks away on Market Street, between City Market and the City County Building, but street work there has moved the market to the Circle all summer. I felt encouraged to see it there. I’d seen a number of news photos of protesters on the Circle, including heartbreaking photos of a minivan driving right into some protesters. The farmer’s market felt to me like a reclaiming of the space for good, normal life.
I’m infuriated that as a nation we still don’t treat Black people with the full honor and respect due any human being. I hope these protests, along with those across the nation, cause us to finally face and change our shameful racist behavior.
Seeing my city like this was hard. But it’s even harder for my Black neighbors that they have had to live for so long with fear and anger.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.