The Olympus OM Brasser
This is where it all started, with an unassuming Olympus OM-1n.
I’m a huge fan of the OM series camera, they’re small but with a massive viewfinder. I think they’re close to a Leica M in terms of viewfinder awesomeness and if you shaved off the pentaprism you’d basically be looking at a Leica. Anyway, this OM-1n was one of four OM’s I had and as much as I liked it there was something that I wasn’t so happy about. The light meter was not working and although that’s not really a big deal the meter system inside the viewfinder was a big deal to me. Little things can, over time, become big things and the non-functioning matchstick system in the viewfinder was it for me.
In the first picture you can see the matchstick needle system inside the viewfinder. Now don’t ask me why, but seeing the dead, limp, useless matchstick every time I looked through the viewfinder drove me crazy! I hated it. I assumed that a previous owner had put the wrong 1.5v batteries (instead of 1.3v) in the camera and burnt out the light meter. This is so common that most OM-1’s don’t have working meters anymore. But whatever had happened, I was left to look at that stupid needle and I decided that it had to go. Which wasn’t hard but did require opening up the entire camera.
So one day I set about reducing the OM to a pile of parts and pieces spread out over my coffee table. I was pretty sure I could still put everything back where it came from but then an even crazier idea sprang to mind. What if I removed the entire light meter system, including the On/Off switch, ASA dial and why not the Hot Shoe mount too!
I mean the OM-1 is basically a Leica M with a pentaprism so why not strip it right back for that real classic look.
This was going to get messy. I started cutting wires & pulling out anything that wasn’t deemed essential to the camera shutter and general functioning of the camera.
After removing the top and bottom plates I also had to remove the shutter button, ASA dial and On/Off switch. These proved to be quite a challenge and after some wrestling I managed to pry all the parts away and was left with a bunch of holes to fill. I got some brass from the local hardware store and set about cutting and filing it to size. I then used a small soldering iron/blowtorch to heat the brass parts before soldering them together. This makes it sound a lot easier than it was, and that I also knew what I was doing (I didn’t). That’s why I still have to replace a baking tray from the oven.
Note: Metal filings and solder will probably ruin your baking tray too
But I got it done to a level of acceptability and then filed and sanded and filed and sanded some more.
Finally, time to paint!
I could have gone a number of ways here. I could have repainted it in an original silver but what I wanted was a battle hardened, workhorse looking camera. I wanted a brasser, but I knew that it takes years and years to achieve that look naturally. No, I was going to have to fudge it. So I sprayed the top and bottom plates with a Satin Black Enamel, then before it totally hardened I started rubbing back the edges with sandpaper and finishing off with steel wool and a small buffing pad. I left in the sanding scratches on the top plate so the camera isn’t a “pretty brasser”. This thing looks like it has earned those scars.
So there you have it. The one and only Olympus OM Brasser!
I have put a roll of film through it and it still works!
So not only did I manage to pull apart a camera, remove countless parts and then put it back together again.
But I did it and it still works 🙂
Overall it’s an idea I’m not likely to repeat any time soon, although I have been contacted about selling this or making another.
Maybe one day I will part with it, but for now I’m happy shooting with the Sunny 16 rule and my very own one of a kind camera.