1980's Olympus

Olympus OM-4

Olympus OM-4

The Olympus OM-4 is the perfect blend between an electronic and classic camera. Like the Nikon F, the OM-4 was a gamechanger for Olympus.

Mass-produced from 1983 to 1987, the OM-4 was the last camera in the OM series. It used a similar body to the OM-1 and OM-2 but featured a few improvements.

So, what makes this camera unique?

Camera Features

One of Olympus OM-4’s most distinct features is the radical shift in how the camera metered.

The OM-4 featured a fantastic spot metering system that was intuitive and easy to use. With the switch of a button, you can easily switch between the default multi-spot metering system and spot metering system.

And that’s not all

The OM-4 also features a system for exposure compensation.  Coupled with the spot metering feature, you’ll surely enjoy shooting heavily backlit subjects.

As if that’s not enough

The OM-4 comes with a spectacular viewfinder.

With just the right combination of modern technology and a design that still looks retro, the OM-4 viewfinder is one of its most significant features.

Similar to previous OM versions, the viewfinder is large and bright. However, rather than a needle metering system, the OM-4 features an LCD at the bottom of the viewfinder.  The LCD displays a 36-segment bar graph that indicates the best shooting shutter speed for different scenes.

Speaking of shutter speed…

The OM-4 features faster shutter speeds of 1/2000.

And the best part…

Despite having an electronically controlled shutter, the OM-4 can still be operated using a dead battery. All you’ll have to do is set it to both “B” and 1/60th speed modes.

The ability to use the camera with dead batteries means you can easily test it if you come across it in a thrift shop or garage sale but don’t have batteries around.

What about the accessories?

Like it’s predecessors, the Olympus OM-4 uses the incredible Zuiko lenses—you can interchangeably use the accessories from other Olympus cameras in your collection.  

Physical Appearance and Design Features

Like any other single-digit OM camera, the Olympus OM-4 was well built.

If you’ve handled the OM-1 or OM-2, the OM-4 is not very different. Other than a few added buttons, the OM-4 features the same minimalist design as it’s predecessors.

At first glance, you’d dismiss the OM-4 as another 80’s electronics—cheap and plasticky. However, the OM-4 has very few plastic parts. Even the shutter release button is solid metal.

On top of the camera you have:

  • The ISO adjustment and exposure compensation dial at the left
  • The manual, auto and battery check switch
  • A fixed hot shoe
  • Highlight and shadow buttons
  • Shutter release
  • Film advance

The face features an aperture dial, the focusing ring, and a shutter speed dial. Having these three features on the same plane means that you can easily adjust these settings without taking your eye off the viewfinder.

Below the hot shoe mount, there is the diopter adjustment that moves from +2 to -2. This adjustment can come in handy if you wear glasses.

Shortcomings of the Camera

Early versions of the OM-4 were blasted for a design flaw that resulted in the battery draining extremely fast. These early versions used the battery even when the camera was set in manual mode.

To save the battery, you have to remove them when not using the camera.

Olympus however, released the Olympus OM-4T and Olympus OM-4Ti which fixed the battery drain issue.

Final Thoughts

Other than the battery drain issue, the Olympus OM-4 is a pretty amazing camera.

It combined the compact design of the OM-1 and OM-2, and the advanced features of the OM-2n and the OM-3 to give the best experience you’ll ever get with a 35mm SLR camera. The OM-4 is a worthwhile addition to any photographer.


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