Olympus OM 4-Ti black

So far I have been writing mostly about classic cameras with full mechanical construction with only one exception the Cosina CSM with electro-mechanical shutter. It was because my collection fundamentally consists of such mechanical beauties.

But time goes on and my camera count is also increasing in many unexpected ways. My last camera in the row is still using  film and being my camera it is naturally having only manual focus, but it is an ultra modern professional beast in every other aspects. Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce to You the Olympus OM 4-Ti!

Olympus OM 4-Ti

Olympus OM 4-Ti

Olympus OM 4-Ti (black) Data sheet

  • Type TTL auto-exposure 35 mm. Single Lens Reflex Camera.
  • Produced 1989-2002
  • Film type 24mm x 36mm ISO/ASA 6-3200.
  • Weight 540g (body only)
  • Dimensions 87 mm height, 139 mm width, 50 mm depth
  • Construction weather sealed titanium alloy body
  • Lens mount Olympus OM Mount
  • Shutter horizontal cloth focal plane shutter, electronically controlled
  • Shutter speeds 1s-1/2000s, B, 1/60s can be used mechanically without batteries
  • Sync speed 1/60s but with Olympus F280 Full Synchro flash  up to 1/2000s
  • Viewfinder dioptric correction; dioptric correction range from +1 to -3 diopters; viewfield: 97% of actual picture field; magnification: 0.84x at infinity with -0.5 diop. (50mm lens)
  • Exposure meter dual concentric segmented silicon photodiode, Center weighted and multi-spot-meter (2% of view; 3.3˚ with 50 mm lens) up to 8 points
  • Batteries   Two 1.5V silver-oxide batteries SR44 (Eveready EPX-76) or alkaline manganese batteries LR44
  • Self-timer 12s delay electronic self-timer
  • Hot shoe with contact for T series flash; 5-pin connector for T series flash; PC synchro socket.
  • Motor drive optional motor drive 1 or 2 can be attached, up to 5 frames per second

What is it really?

This camera is the latest model of the one digit (upper grade) line of Olympus OM cameras and in addition mine is the last sub-version. While the OM 4 was introduced in 1984 my version shown up around 1990. Apart from some extra controls, the body design is pretty much the same as the original OM 1 (1972) which pioneered a new trend of really compact sized SLR bodies. Therefore this camera is one of the smallest reflex cameras ever made taking the 35mm film type.

Focusing

While other manufacturers introduced auto focus in their cameras Olympus sticked to the traditional manual focus design. There is a debate on why, but eventually to me the important point is that the lack of AF allowed to keep this wonderful classic shape.  The lenses are also very small, there is no need to place a motor into the body not into any lenses.

Metering

So why is this metering so legendary? Well apart from the fact that it is reliably accurate it leaves the control in your hand. Other brands like Nikon developed metering systems where the camera compares the scene with a database of stored situations and tries to figure out the best exposure for you. It is a convenient and most of the time satisfactory approach, but you have low control over it unless you switch to full manual or you guess what the camera thinks and you can compensate accordingly. It must be said that it is an issue only among challenging lightning conditions.

In contrast the OM-4 allows you to select up to 8 points of measurements and than the camera calculates the exposure. In other words, you can select what is important for you and what are your priorities. For example if you take too measurements on the same area and one on another than the first is more important to you than the other.

multispot metering

Back-light situation where both the subject and the background is measured for correct overall exposure. (OM 4-Ti instruction manual)

I know, it sound strange for first, but believe me it is so much intuitive and joy to use after you tried once. Of course if you don’t want to get bothered with such evilness,  you can still use the traditional center weighted automatics, which just works well in most common situations.

Olympus OM 4-Ti metering and controls

Olympus OM 4-Ti controls

All in all for someone like me, who working with a very low frame-rate, prefers to think and focus instead of the machine but sometimes likes to get some precise support ,this camera is the ultimate choice for 35mm photography. It is worth to note that (as far as I know) some professional medium format cameras also used similar metering system.

Finally the OM4 features a high-light and a shadow mode. It is useful in some cases where black or white surfaces are dominating on the frame.Normally if you take a photo with an auto-exposure camera of a gray, black and white piece of paper, it is likely that you will get middle gray on all frames (even instead of the black and white). It is because the metering system tries to achieve an averaged exposure which is good in most cases, but causing troubles when there is no reference. For example a landscape covered by snow, or documents on white papers are typical cases.

To overcome on this, you can use manual exposure, exposure compensation or in this case the high-light and shadow functions. You select the brightest (supposed to be white) or in other case the darkest (supposed to be pitch black) area on the frame, push the respective button and you will get the correct exposure  with correct white or black representation. In fact these buttons are doing  simply programmed over and under exposure correction.

Flash control

Another interesting aspect is that this camera is one of the first ones able to use flash with very fast sync speeds (up to 1/2000s) when appropriate flash is coupled (like the Olympus F280). The problem of low synchronization speed was common of these kind of cameras due to the construction of the shutter and the very short burst time of typical flash guns. The OM 4-Ti solved this issue by continuous pulse bursts of the flash during the whole exposure which allowed to expose the entire frame correctly, although for the price of limited range.

Durability

This camera is very well made, it is weather sealed and indeed feels solid in my hands. All buttons, switches and knobs works really definitely and smoothly at the same time .

But how though it is exactly? I have found a really exhaustive description about a crash test done by the Camera magazine 4/’89 (Germany) translated by Wiliam Wagenaar.

The methodology was:

  1. The OM4Ti is stored in the freezer overnight at -20C  for 8 hours.
  2. The OM4Ti went into the oven for one hour at a  temperature of 75C (Only 50C allowed according to the  manual)
  3. The OM4Ti is hung in the grid of the air outlet of a sand blasting company for 2 hours, so that dust, dirt and  sand can intrude deep into the mechanics.
  4. The OM4Ti went into a steaming hot shower cabin for on  hour.
  5. The OM4Ti went into the shaking machine for a certain time.
  6. The shutter is operated about 15.000 times while the aperture is set at f8.

This camera survived the torture very well, only the cold caused some temporal problems with the shutter. Here are the summarized test results:

Shutter speed  error: + 15% for the long times from 1/15
 Meter error: none (< 0.1 EV)
 Spot meter: deviation of 0.5 EV
Defects during test:  none, except jerky manual film advance
 Battery use of camera and drive:  normal.

Maximum points for each item : 10.
A total of 70 points gives the qualification of  “CAMERA MAGAZINE PRO-CAMERA”
Item:   Points:

  • cold test   7
  • heat test   10
  • dust test   9
  • moist test  10
  • shock test  10
  • internals   8
  • price quality       9
  • ease of use 8
  • design      8
  • equipment  8

 Total :         87

In comparison the Leica R6 received 88 points in the same test. If you want to read the full review, please follow this link.

Conclusion

So here is the answer to the my question “What is this camera really?”. To me this camera is a lightweight, compact tool with sophisticated metering and flash control but with the maximum control over exposure and focus possible in an admirable classic shaped yet durable body. It is unlikely that I will take advantage of the flash features, but I can clearly appreciate the excellent metering.

The lenses are very well made and with nice performance as well. Last but not least these cameras are affordable, they used to be called by many as “poor man’s Nikon” in the USA. Nowadays in the digital era you can definitely find a good deal of an OM camera.

My Olympus OM 4-Ti

I always adored the OM cameras because of their small size, stylish design, good lenses and reliable construction, but until now I have never even touched one. I came close in dimensions with my Cosina CSM which is really similar at first look, but clearly not in the same league at least with the professional OM cameras.

Olympus OM 4-Ti vs Cosina CSM

Olympus OM 4-Ti vs Cosina CSM

How did I get it?

I was not really wanted to get an OM since I had no lenses for the system, plus I was happy with the Cosina as my light travel companion. But one day I walked into a small optics shop which I didn’t know before but I was attracted by the old photo commercials on the front of the building. As it turned out they don’t sell cameras or any photographic equipments any more (they focusing on eyeglasses), but I spot a few old cameras in the cabinet behind the desk.

This OM 4-Ti was among them without a lens, only the body cap was mounted. I asked it out for some inspection and I immediately knew, this camera has a place in my bag. There was no price though, so we had to call the owner of the shop who is around 80 years old and collects cameras as well. We had a nice chat but he couldn’t tell me a price neither. So we agreed to talk about the camera in a few days as he can look after a bit.

Of course this made me struggling a lot in the proceeding few days as I was not sure that I can afford this camera at all especially because I had no lens. After a few days of hell I went back to the shop and asked again if they decided the asking price of he camera and they had. The offer was so generous that I bought the camera right away along with some film. The man told me that he likes that I am collecting and using film cameras and I will probably have a good use of it, that is why he is selling the Olympus to me. Of course I went back to show the camera as soon as I have got this great lens I have mounted on it right now.

Olympus OM 4-Ti

Olympus OM 4-Ti

Hunting for lens and focusing screen

Because the camera is in an incredibly good condition and because it is the last evolution step of the professional OM cameras, I decided to get a lens which is matching both in capabilities and cosmetics  to the body. I wanted something behind the standard 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko (which is a great lens by the way) especially because I have many f/1.8 fifties for other systems and I really preferred to have something different. On the other hand I like standards when I have only one lens and naturally I had a strong constraint on the money to spend.

At the end I have gone for the Zuiko AUTO-S 50mm f/1.4 lens and I did some research which serial number to look for. It was not an easy search, but I have got my lens on e-bay in perfect shape in the original box with the serial number I was looking for (greater than 1,100,000) that marks the latest design and best coating. For more information of the different variants of this lens look around here.

After I received the lens I had to realize that my focusing screen is good for anything but normal use. The type I had in the camera was made for microscopy and other extreme macro purposes. So I had to look for a replacement focusing screen, but it was not an easy ride. I found many of these on e-bay, but on the price that I started to think if I really did a good deal with this camera. After a few weeks of desperate research I have managed to find a screen in Hungary for a reasonable price .

Almost 2 months after I first seen the camera in the cabinet I have managed to get a working set which takes photos while I am capable of focusing with it. It cost me way more than I thought when I bought the body, but  undoubtedly worth it. This is really an amazing camera to use and hold and I don’t think I would have considered to get one in any other ways.

The way it looks

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Olympus OM4-Ti

Personal experience

Until now I shot only 3 rolls of film, therefore it is hard to claim that I masters the camera. Nevertheless the start is very promising as I feel very comfortable and natural to use and the initial results are encouraging as well.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics are really good, although due to the classic shape it is not as convenient to hold as more modern cameras. The bright side id that there  is an optional grip available, but honestly I don’t feel it is necessary. The layout of the buttons and other controls are nice as well, maybe the “high-light” and “shadows” buttons are not the easiest to hit blind, but I don’t think to use them often. The most interesting part of the controls for me is the OM-style  shutter speed ring on the lens mount, which is unusual but also brilliant at the same time. You can set both the aperture and shutter speed at almost the same place with the same hand. Of course it is probably not for everyone, I personally like it.

As I have mentioned already, the camera is really small even with modern standards. It is bigger than mirrorles camerasbut it is definitely smaller than any budget DSLR- If you consider that it is a “full-frame” camera than it is quite and achievement.

Olympus OM 4-Ti in hands

Olympus OM 4-Ti in hands

Operation

Focusing is really easy, smooth and accurate with my fast f/1.4 lens and so far I am very happy with the metering system as well. Most of the time the normal center weighted metering mode was fine for me with aperture priority mode. Note that aperture priority is the only automatic mode available on this camera, but in fact this is the mode I prefer on digital cameras the most also. I have tried the spot and multi-spot metering as well with success, but I need more time to gather greater experience experience with them.

Battery life

I basically I took out the batteries from the Cosina CSM and put them into the Olympus. These batteries were in use for more than a year from now and so far I had no problems. Considering how tiny and cheap these batteries are and how long they last I think this camera is very economical in this respect. I have heard that the regular OM 4 was eating batteries, is seems the Ti version has corrected this issue

Test shoots

I have a Zuiko AUTO-S 50mm f/1.4 lens which has a good reputation in terms of overall image and build quality although it has some barbell distortion. I can confirm all of these statements. The lens is sharp, contrasty, not too prone to flares, the bokeh it produces is also pleasant to my eyes. Indeed the distortion is there , but it is not disturbing unless you shoot  brick walls or other well defined geometrical subjects. I may make some measurements and create a lens profile in order to correct this digitally, but as I said this is a minor problem you won’t even notice in the 90% of times. The coating works great and flares are not really threatening you, I think a lens hood is generally a good idea, so I will get one soon.

As for other lenses, I really wish to get some exotic ones most notably the Zuiko 80mm f/2 is my greatest wish for portraits.

Márk (Gyöngyössolymos, Hungary), Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Fomapan 100, Kodak 76, Canoscan 9900F

Eszter (Budapest, Hungary), Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Fomapan 100, Kodak 76, Canoscan 9900F

Gabi (Gyöngyössolymos, Hungary), Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak portra 160NC expired, Canoscan 9900F

Eszter

Eszter (Budapest, Hungary), Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak portra 160NC expired, Canoscan 9900F

Temps de flors Girona 2012

Temps de flors Girona 2012, Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak portra 160NC expired, Canoscan 9900F

(Budapest, Hungary), Olympus OM 4-Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak portra 160NC expired, Canoscan 9900F

Some other OM 4-ti shoots of mine in this post.

Recommendations

This camera is for:

Everyone who loves 35mm film photography and needs a light, reliable and stylish companion. It is for everyone who likes to focus manually and prefers full control over metering yet likes to have a sophisticated system to aid the evaluation of exposure times. Last but not least this camera for those who does not mind to keep a pair of small knob batteries in their pockets.

This camera is NOT for:

I don’t recommend this camera for automation junkies, action or sport shooters or in contrast for more conservative people who prefers full mechanical constructions. In the case if the electronic operation would be the problem, there are plenty of full mechanical choices in the OM series such as the OM 1 or the very rare mechanical counterpart of the OM 4 the OM 3.

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24 comments

  1. spcamerastyle · June 19, 2012

    Your article are like your cameras: flawless. Great work.

    • camerajunky · June 19, 2012

      Thank you! I am really happy that you like this post, although I always find some errors any time I check it.

  2. jasonehowe · June 19, 2012

    Hey Gabor, a great read as always. I really enjoyed the story behind the purchase of the camera!!! I only wish perhaps we were geographically closer, it would be fun to go out and shoot our respective OM’s together. Keep up the great work. All the best, Jason

    • camerajunky · June 19, 2012

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, I was wondering too on how nice would be go out and shoot together. New Zealand is really an interesting place for us, so we may step by one day, in that case I will let you know. Also when you have decided your city to stop in Europe, you can send me a message, who knows may be I will be around.

      Take care, and thanks for the comment. Gábor

  3. Marco Venturini-Autieri · June 19, 2012

    Lovely camera, lovely article!
    The closest I have is a Nikon FM2n. I sure like the Olympus a little better though.

    • camerajunky · June 19, 2012

      Thanks for the kind words.
      Your Nikon is a really nice camera with awesome durable shutter, I really hope I will have one at some time. I think the difference is so minor and the lens selection is way bigger for Nikon I guess. Eventually what really matters is the photographer.

      Thanks for the comment again. Gábor

  4. Paulo Moreira · June 19, 2012

    Great piece of writing about a classic beauty. Thank you for sharing with us all.

    Paulo

  5. O.F. · June 19, 2012

    Very nice article, full of info and great photos too.

    O.F.

  6. peti · June 19, 2012

    It looks like it’s nearly in mint condition and I envy you for that. Your article pushed me even closer to finally getting one, although it doesn’t have to be a 4 Ti, since they’re fairly expensive here in Germany.
    (I know one shouldn’t ask, but, c’mon, what did you pay for it? ;)

    Thanks for the great read.

    • camerajunky · June 19, 2012

      I was really lucky with the body it cost me around 40€. Than I needed to buy a focusing screen for approximately 8€. The lens came from Germany through E-bay and that was very pricy as I wanted a really nice lens for this camera. I don’t remember the price of the lens as my mind tries to protect itself and besides my wife could also read this comment and I am not sure I told her everything :-)… If you check E-bay for similar lenses, you will get an idea. Overall I am very lucky with this even if the lens was relatively expensive.

  7. Scott W · June 19

    Hi. Great blog post! Are you still enjoying this camera and lens? If not, any chance you’d sell it to me? =)

    -Scott

  8. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Wow, it is great to read about the OM4-Ti. I bought one (I still have it) in about 1985, maybe a year or two earlier. I had an OM40 as my first camera but when I saw the OM4-Ti brochure I wanted it! Back then it was not a popular choice amongst the professionals (they were using Nikon or Canon) and it was considered a bit old fashioned because it did not have autofocus. But I loved it. I also have an OM1 and an OM2 which I bought some years ago from a collector but I have never used them. One day I will buy some film and take the OM4-Ti out for a spin… These days I am learning to be a film-maker and I have a Pentax 35mm digital camera which is ok, but bulky. But I just discovered I can use my OM lenses on my new Blackmagic pocket cinema camera, which uses the Micro four thirds system for which Olympus makes an adapter. Yay.

    ps: I never had trouble with my OM4-Ti eating batteries…

    • camerajunky · June 19

      Yeah the Om system is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately my OM-4 gave up recently and locks the mirror up even with new batteries.I guess I have some bad luck with it. I hope that it can be repaired some day. I wish you a lot of fun with yours and sure the lenses are great for cinematography.

  9. Oleg · June 19

    Hallo, the OM-4 (Ti) would never stand a crush test described. This is a bunch of lies and mystifications. It’s a very fragile camera per se. Must be taken good care of. If something breaks, you will not in 95% of cases be able to fix it yourself, even if you had previous experience with other cameras of that epoque. It is reliable in the manner an electronic system could be and mechanically it is perfect. That is why many of them still work today. Do not try to put the OM-4 under strain. If it breaks, you can’t fix it yourself unless you devote the rest of your life to this art.

  10. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Have you tried this? This is from a webpage about the OM2 but it may be the same issue – the mirror locks up if the shutter is pressed when the battery is flat…

    * Reset Procedure”
    * If the mirror is up and the shutter is locked, press the “RESET” button at the lower left corner of the body mount, and rotate the manual shutter speed ring until the reset mark (*) is aligned with the red triangle on the lens mount. Then the mirror comes down, and the shutter is unlocked.

    • camerajunky · June 19

      Thank you for the lot of good tips. I have tried several of them already. I was trying different fresh batteries as well and the battery check gives me a continious beep. Yes, I finished the last roll of film partially in manual mode. On the other hand you gave me some ideas, so I will try them over the weekend. Thanks a lot again. I will let you know how it went.

  11. SunbeamRapier · June 19
  12. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Or you could ask this guy: “John is not just a guy with an opinion. He is a magician with OMs. He has kept many OMs working for me over the years. You will be happy with his work. No, it isn’t 2 or 3 cameras, but more like 30-40. He is the man! zuiko.com is where you can find him.” http://photo.net/olympus-camera-forum/00TzBi?start=10

  13. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Another thought: I had a similar problem once and I discovered that the self timer lever was not completely turned off – the little button on the top much be fully in, not sticking up. From memory the mirror locks up when the self-timer is engaged to reduce vibration, but I can’t find anything about this in the manual.

  14. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Also, try setting the camera to the manual shutter speed – 1/60. You can take pictures without the battery at this speed. To do this:
    a) press in the “B” lock button – a tiny button on the body at the front on the right if you are looking into the lens. It is marked in tiny writing B Lock.
    b) hold this button in and rotate the shutter speed to the RED 60 position.
    c) shoot your picture
    Do you have a manual?
    Stephen

  15. SunbeamRapier · June 19

    Gábor,
    One last tip before I go to bed – this from another poster on the lockup issue:
    “Removing the motor drive covering cap, there is a small lever that, when slid over with a finger nail, enables the shutter to fire and the rewind button to re-set.
    I removed the bottom base plate and saw some gooey residue around the lever. I carefully cleaned this off and the action of the lever was restored. The wind-on would operate and the shutter would fire. I then carefully rubbed a pencil around the lever and its path, lubricating it for a smoother action.
    Result- the camera operates perfectly again!”
    Good luck!
    Stephen

  16. Marga · 20 Days Ago

    camerajunky,
    this is a perfect article. I habe bought myself the OM-10 30 years ago and i appreciate Olympus’ old technology everytime I shoot a picture.
    My question is about yout perfect B/W scans. Are you using the genuine canoscan software or Vuescan (or something else)? If you might give me your scanning parameters (especially for Vuescan) I yould be very gratefull.
    Marga, Berlin

    • camerajunky · 20 Days Ago

      Hallo Marga,

      I have been using the stock canoscan software, but I had many problems with it. It works reasonably well with perfectly exposed negatives, but the quality is not amazing. I tried Vuescan, but somehow it handles the scanner incorrectly and my scanner used to stuck in the end position from time to time.
      I am currently using SilverFast which is simply works for me almost out of the box. The only problem I have is that I have only the demo version which is limited in features and it adds watermarks to the images. So I need to retouch them which is time consuming, but it is still worth it. The only reason why I did not buy it is that I want to get a new scanner soon, and Silverfast versions are locked to scanner models.

      According to settings. I have only general rules, most things depends on the image to be scanned. My general rule is that I try to get a relatively flat image, which I can manipulate best in post processing. So I keep the contrast low during scanning. I usually scan in the highest possible native resolution of the scanner, and I save to TIF files. I like to keep everything free from dust, so I can disable dust removal, as it may also cost some quality (and slow).

      I think VueScan is a really powerful tool, but I have little experience with it. I will probably try again when I have my new scanner.

      Hope that I could give some useful advice. Gábor

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