Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Camera History, Part III

Olympus OM-1As I began to use my Leica IIIc alongside my Nikon F during the middle '70's, I started to wonder about a more compact SLR. Here again, my friend Rich Schnabolk, the former Kowa owner, influenced me. Rich had started using an Olympus OM-1, and I was very impressed with how compact it was.

In 1977, I sold my Nikon F and used the proceeds to by my first OM-1 body and 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens.

Brunei Boys, 1977Though smaller than any other SLR at the time, the OM-1 was full-featured and even a "system" camera - with a full range of lenses and accessories available. The little camera had a very solid feel, and surprisingly, a brighter and larger-appearing viewfinder than contemporary cameras.

I was very taken with the OM-1, and in short order, bought a second body (black "professional" model, no less!) and a 24mm f/2.8 Zuiko lens.

In October 1977, on a business trip to Brunei for GE, our team stopped on the way over in Hong Kong. One of my collegues, a fellow photographer, joined me in an expedition to the photos shops of Kowloon on a mission to by some equipment. I left Hong Kong with a nifty Zuiko 75-150mm zoom and a power winder. So by this point, I had a nice little outfit of OM-1 equipment to work with - the first time I had anything more than a camera and its normal lens.

Momma Don't Take My Kodachrome Away...

With the Leica, I shot mostly black-and-white film. But with the OM-1's, I went after slides in a big way. Now that I had a range of lenses and two cameras, I felt, I could crop my shots in-camera.

Man with White Beard, Rome 1978In my job at GE in those years, I travelled extensively overseas, and the little OM-1 outfit proved to be a good fit for travelling and travel photography. The kit came with me on trips to Frankfurt, Zurich, Milan, Paris, Jeddah, and of course, Rome.

Because I was in Rome on several occasions for several days each, I eventually accumulated an especially big stack of yellow boxes of Ektachromes and Kodachromes of the Eternal City, shot with the OM-1's. My friend and GE collegue Mike Tzougrakis pointed out on more than one occassion as he stood near me hearing the weeeee-chunk! weeeee-chunk! of my power winder that that sound was music to Kodak's ears.

Alas, my OM-1 period was too short... and not because I necessarily wanted it that way. In December 1978, I came home to my apartment from work one evening, and after about a half-hour, noticed that the venetian blinds on one of the two windows was rattling in the breeze.

Girl Drinks at Fountain, Rome 1978Breeze? In December? Before I even looked at the window, I shot a glance to the corner of the room where I always left my camera bag... and it was gone!

And sure enough, the window leading to the fire escape was open - I wuz robbed! A few minutes later I heard a shout from the apartment upstairs and a commotion in the hall. Whoever had hit my place also hit most everyone on the five floors on that side of the building.

Besides my entire OM-1 ensemble (it was all in that one bag,) the thief also made off with an old Crown Graphic 4x5 press camera and, sad to say, that Dad's Kodak Retina, the camera with which I had learned photography.

But all was not lost. Still sitting in a drawer was my Leica IIIc with its Summicron lens, along with a Weston Master V light meter.

In fact, almost nothing was truly lost - the cameras were all on a rider to my renter's insurance policy. I wasn't very careful with just about anything in those days except my cameras.

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