In my little camera bag No. 7: Olympus OM-G 35mm SLR

Olympus OM-G
The Olympus OM-G is a fairly run-of-the-mill 35mm SLR, but I suspect it was aiming to be economical moreso than amazing. (Daniel J. Schneider)

This week I swapped out both cameras in my little bag, and currently I’m carrying an Olympus OM-G and a Kodak Instamatic Reflex. Both are SLRs, but that’s about where the similarities end.

The Olympus OM-G, known as the OM-20 outside the U.S., is the second generation OM-System high-end consumer SLR, succeeding the OM-10 (the professional series were named OM-1, OM-2, etc.). It features shutter speeds down to 1/1000 sec. and has a self-timer, and simple exposure compensation system. That’s about all I can really say for it.

That’s not to say it’s bad — it’s not. It has automatic exposure, a plethora of decent OM-System lenses available and uses easy-to-find LR44 batteries. It has manual settings. It uses 35mm film. The mirror moves out of the way of the shutter when you take a shot.

Yeah, there really is that little that’s remarkable about the OM-G right out of the box. This is clearly a camera that meant to make its mark by being economical and well-made rather than by having a lot of bells and whistles — a strategy I can really get behind.

I found the OM-G at the flea market a few weeks ago, on the same trip when I found the Pentax Spotmatic SP1000.

Obviously a full review will be coming. It’s only been in my bag three days and I’ve already burned two and a half rolls of film.

The second camera is the Kodak Instamatic Reflex — a German-made 126 film SLR. It’s sturdy — almost heavy — and features interchangeable Schneider-Kreuznach lenses.

The annoying thing about it really is the 126 film. I love it from an ease-of-use perspective, and the 28mm-square negatives are lovely, but availability is currently almost nonexistent unless you want to buy some 46mm bulk film stock and roll your own. Some poorly-stored, expired cartridges commanding upwards of $30 each on eBay. I stumbled on some at a thrift store at one point and I loaded the camera before I realized Ektachrome-X 64 used #-4 process and no longer could be developed.

I loaded the Instamatic Reflex and started shooting early last year, though. It’s been sitting on the shelf with 4 frames left in the cartridge for almost a year, ever since I realized how difficult processing would be and got discouraged. I’ve finally resolved, though, to finish the roll. I have several more unopened cartridges in the refrigerator so I may just get some useable shots through experimentation.

I haven’t decided how yet — HC-110 stand developing or caffenol, maybe? — but I’m going to try to develop it as black-and-white negatives, I think. If I can’t get it right by the penultimate roll, maybe I’ll send the last roll to a place like Film Rescue International and suck up the expensive (and probably well-worth-it) processing.

In order to start the experiment, though, I’ve got to finish the roll.

Kodak Instamatic Reflex
The Kodak Instamatic Reflex 126 SLR camera. German-made, superb interchangeable lenses made by Schneider-Kreuznach. (Daniel J. Schneider)