This guide will show you how to load film into your Olympus OM-1 and how to make sure the camera is functioning properly. If this is your first time using your Olympus OM-1, make sure to read through the before you load film section.
Before You Load Film
Check the Battery
The Olympus OM-1 is a mechanical camera so it will work without a battery. However, a battery is required to use the light meter built into the camera, which makes using it easier.
The Olympus OM-1 was designed to use a PX625 mercury battery, which are no longer available due to containing mercury. Fortunately, you can find PX625 equivalent batteries online.
The on/off switch on the Olympus OM-1 turns the light meter on or off. It does not prevent the shutter from being fired.
Make Sure There is No Film Loaded in the Camera
If there is any film left in the camera, it will be ruined if it is exposed to light. The Olympus OM-1 does not have a way to see if film is currently loaded in the camera.
You can look at the film counter to see if a number is showing. If you see an 'S', either there is no film in the camera or the film door was open and the film in the camera has been exposed.
If you see a number, you can shoot the rest of the roll or you can follow the steps on how to rewind and remove the film from the Olympus OM-1. This is also the process you'll need to follow once you're done shooting all the film in the camera.
Make Sure the Olympus OM-1 Functions Correctly
If it is your first time using the Olympus OM-1 or the camera has not been used in a long time, make sure the camera functions correctly.
Cock the shutter with the film advance lever and press the shutter release. You should hear the mirror slap and shutter. If this does not occur, there could be a problem with the camera.
Do Not Load Film in Sunlight
Film can be ruined if it is loaded in bright light, such as direct sunlight. That's because bright light increases the chances of light piping. This is when light is able to get past the light seal on a 35mm film canister and expose part of the film.
The film is not guaranteed to be completely ruined. You could end up with varying degrees of fogging.
Fogging can produce a range of undesirable outcomes such as a loss of contrast, blown out streaks, or a completely exposed frame. If this problem occurs it should subside with progressive frames.
For Best Results, Use Fresh Film
Film degrades in quality over time and also if it is exposed to hot temperatures like those found in a car on a sunny day. Expired film can be used, but you're likely to get unpredictable results unless it has been stored in a freezer.
For the best results, use a fresh pack of film that is not expired. I have a list that includes all of the best film for the Olympus OM-1. For the more widely available and commonly used film stocks, my recommendations are:
Step-by-Step How to Load Film
Time needed: 1 minute.
How to load film into the Olympus OM-1. For demonstration purposes, I am using a roll of film that has been exposed.
- Open the film door.
To open the film door on the Olympus OM-1, pull up on the film rewind knob. This will cause the film door to pop open. Leave the film rewind knob in the raised position.
- Load the 35mm film canister.
Load the film canister into the camera. Take note of the orientation of the film leader. The film leader is the half-width cutout at the start of the film roll.
- Push the film rewind knob back down.
The rewind knob has prongs that fit into the film canister. This keeps the film canister in place and is used to rewind the film.
You may need to rotate the film rewind knob a small amount to get the prongs to align correctly with the film canister.
- Insert the film leader into the take-up spool.
Gently pull the film leader over to the take-up spool. Thread the tip of the film leader into one of the slots in the take-up spool. Make sure that the film leader is held securely in place.
- Use the film advance lever to take out the slack.
Using the film advance lever will pull the film taught so that the film door can be closed. It will also allow you to be sure that the film leader will not slip out of the take-up spool.
Alternatively, you can fold out the film rewind lever and gently wind the film back into the canister until the slack has been taken out of the film.
- Close the film door.
Carefully close the film door.
- Advance the film and fire the shutter.
Fire the shutter and advance the film several times until the frame counter is on the first frame.
Pay attention to the film rewind knob. It should turn when you are advancing the film. If it does not turn, the film is likely not loaded correctly.
- Set the ISO (ASA) on the camera.
To set the ISO for the film you are using, push down on the small button that locks the ASA dial and then turn the dial to the speed of the film you loaded into the OM-1. This will allow the built-in light meter to meter light correctly.
- You're ready to take photographs.
Congratulations! Your camera is now correctly loaded with film and ready to shoot.
Once you've shot the roll of film, check out this guide that will show you how to unload film from the Olympus OM-1.
Where to develop film? You can do it at home, or send it off to a lab to be developed and scanned.
How to Know When a Roll of Film is Done?
The film roll is used up when you are no longer able to easily crank the film advance lever. Never force the film advance lever as you could rip the end of film out of the canister or damage the camera.
This usually aligns with the number of exposures the roll contains that can be seen on the film counter. Most rolls of film will have either 24 or 36 exposures.
You should then rewind the film back into the 35mm canister. To do this, flip out the film rewind knob lever and press the film spool lock button on the bottom of the camera. You'll then be able to rewind the film back into the canister.