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Olympus fragility...still an issue?
Old 07-24-2010   #1
Dogman
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Olympus fragility...still an issue?

New EP-1 owner here. While I was researching buying the camera, I was reminded of early problems with Olympus cameras, specifically the OM system. I remember when the OM-1 was first introduced, I bought two used Nikon F bodies from two different people who had decided to go with the OM system. Within a year, both of them had sold the cameras and returned to Nikons due to near-constant camera body equipment failures. While I was working for a daily newspaper in the 1970s, United Press International bought Olympus OM equipment to use as their pool equipment instead of Nikons. I spoke to a UPI photographer sometime after that who was using Nikon equipment. He said he bought his own Nikon equipment rather than use the UPI-supplied Olympus gear because UPI was having constant breakdowns of the equipment. I also was recently re-reading a book of articles by the late nature photographer Galen Rowell in which he said his workshops always had at least one participant's higher end Olympus gear to fail whereas even the lower end Nikon and Canon equipment only had "a smattering" of failures.

Now this was all stuff from the film days that may have no relevance to the current digital equipment. My only experience with Olympus cameras prior to the EP-1 has been with an XA. I bought that when they were first introduced and it's still working fine. I'm also really enjoying the EP-1 but I admit the lenses seem pretty "tinker-toy" as far as build quality is concerned.

Thus the question, how do the current Olympus digital stack up as far as reliability? Any consistent problems in the line?
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Old 07-24-2010   #2
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The Olympus digital cameras are as reliable as their film counterparts, which are excellent and equal to any other manufacturer. I am afraid you have been taken in by a grumpy camera/brand snob.
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Old 07-24-2010   #3
igi
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As far as I can see, my E-P1 is still alright and hadn't failed once but I've only had it for around 4 months and without so much abuse so I can't really speak for long term build quality/reliability issues...

Though for the OM gear, you're probably just lucky to have heard that many isolated(?) cases. The resurgence of OM cameras lately seems to be a nice proof of the longevity and reliability of the OM
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Old 07-24-2010   #4
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I used an E-420 for 2 years and my friend owns an EP1 for about 9 months now. They all worked flawlessly even if they were somewhat abused. Really reliable cameras IMHO, excellent build quality.
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Old 07-24-2010   #5
shadowfox
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
I remember when the OM-1 was first introduced, I bought two used Nikon F bodies from two different people who had decided to go with the OM system. Within a year, both of them had sold the cameras and returned to Nikons due to near-constant camera body equipment failures. While I was working for a daily newspaper in the 1970s, United Press International bought Olympus OM equipment to use as their pool equipment instead of Nikons. I spoke to a UPI photographer sometime after that who was using Nikon equipment. He said he bought his own Nikon equipment rather than use the UPI-supplied Olympus gear because UPI was having constant breakdowns of the equipment. I also was recently re-reading a book of articles by the late nature photographer Galen Rowell in which he said his workshops always had at least one participant's higher end Olympus gear to fail whereas even the lower end Nikon and Canon equipment only had "a smattering" of failures.
I have heard variations of stories like this with any of the big five brands (Nikon, Olympus, Canon, Pentax, Minolta) interchanged freely.

My take on it is that if you don't have *real* personal experiences with the failures across multiple cameras, then take those stories with a big-fat-grain-of-salt.

Back in my collector days, I have purchased and sold more than twenty different OM cameras. Only one (a black OM1) has a problem that can't be tracked down even by a good camera technician. Now I kept one OM-1, OM-2, and my favorite OM-3. They are as reliable as any Nikon I have (love my F3).

Moving on to digital, I just came back from two weeks trip abroad, where my Pen E-P2 is constantly at standby or active for hours every day in a hot and humid climate. Never once did it had a hiccup, that includes hundreds of time it came in and out of my bag.

It's probably one of the most solidly built digital camera I've ever used that doesn't boast "industry-professional class".

If you want to see a sample of an unreliable camera, have a look at the M8 sub-forum here on RFF
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Old 07-24-2010   #6
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While my EP-1 has proven to be a reliable performer, no way do I expect it to be as robust as my old Nikon F. Just different cameras from different eras.

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Old 07-24-2010   #7
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The digital Pen is NOT as robust as it feels unfortunately.


I'll just say this about it - the bottom plate is a microscopically thin metal or alloy layer and if you use it with a tripod, be VERY careful of bending the bottom plate.
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Old 07-24-2010   #8
Dogman
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Glad to hear the current Olympus cameras have a good track record.

Just so you guys know, I'm asking this question from the standpoint of having been a news photographer in the 1970s. If you were around back then, you will remember the stereotypical news shooter carrying around multiple Nikon and/or Leica cameras, all with dents and the finish worn off due to daily use and abuse. I fit the stereotype well back then. (Think Dennis Hopper in "Apocalypse Now" but without the fried brain.) We respected hockey puck traits in cameras. I have since moved on and no longer beat the hell out of my equipment--I have to pay for the repairs and replacement myself these days.

I'm not trolling or dissing the OM system, as some imply. The OM was, by design, a much smaller camera than the traditional SLR of the time. The internal components had to be smaller to accomplish this. Common sense would lead to the conclusion that smaller, lighter parts using similar material would be more prone to wear and breakage under frequent abuse. Compared to the hockey pucks of the day, the OMs WERE more prone to breakage if abused. That doesn't mean they were unreliable cameras--it just means they were not designed to be hockey pucks.
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Old 07-24-2010   #9
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Within consumer level digital cameras, I don't think there is much of build qualoty difference between first-tier manufactures. And I also believe Made in xx vs Japan doesn't make difference neither.

"Pro" class digital cameras are more durable than "casual" consumer products, and you pay more for it. Between Nikon D3000, Canon Rebel and Olympus E-P1, none lasts more than others by design. Of course you can pick up a lemon, but odds are also the same between manufactures.

My Nikon FM3a and F3 were built like tank. I dropped FM3A on concrete and an edge got huge dent. The camera worked just fine like nothing happend. And all three of my OM bodies are going strong after thirty some years. It's just that today's digital cameras are all electrical appliances and you just can't expect the same life span as those film cameras from the past.
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Old 07-24-2010   #10
Dave Jenkins
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I'm a professional commercial and editorial photographer. I switched from Nikons to the Olympus OM system in 1978 and used them very happily until 1992, when aging eyes made a change to autofocus with the Canon EOS system necessary. My Olys accompanied me to 27 countries and around much of the US on photojournalism assignments, while giving me almost no trouble. Still my all-time favorite camera system.
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