Olympus OM system close-up and macro equipment

Going digital

None of the digital SLRs have a macro system that approaches the one that was available for the Olympus OM, and so there is considerable interest in making the old Olympus equipment work with a modern, digital SLR body.

Adapters that allow normal lenses to focus to infinity are only available for 2 SLR systems – Canon EOS and Four-Thirds, which has bodies from Leitz, Olympus and Panasonic. Canon EOS digital SLRs have become the most popular bodies to use as OM replacements for close-ups, macro and photomicrography, because of their sensor sizes and ability to reduce or eliminate vibration.

None of the early digital SLRs had viewfinders and focusing screens that were well-suited for use with macro equipment, but models from 2007 onwards have introduced features that are proving useful, including:

Live ViewProvides real-time preview on the LCD screen that can be magnified to aid focusing.
Articulated LCD screenMore convenient viewing with the camera low down, or pointing down on a microscope or a copy stand.
Remote Live ViewMakes the Live View image available on a computer to check focus and exposure, and allows the camera to be operated from the computer.
Silent modeSignificantly reduces vibration when used with Live View. The mirror is already up, and an electronic first shutter curtain (EFSC) removes the need for any mechanical action when the exposure starts.
Full frame sensorMakes full use of the 36×24 mm image produced by OM lenses, instead of cropping to APS-C (22.2×14.8 mm) or Four Thirds (17.3×13.0 mm)

The ideal digital SLR for macro photography (and for photography through a microscope) would have all of these features, and be affordable. These are the Canon models that have been available up to mid 2015:

Live ViewArticulated
Live View
Canon EOS 5D Mk IIYesNoYesYesFF
Canon EOS 5D Mk IIIYesNoYesYesFF
Canon EOS 6DYesNoYesYesFF
Canon EOS 7DYesNoYesYesAPS-C
Canon EOS 7D Mk IIYesNoYesYesAPS-C
Canon EOS 40DYesNoYesYesAPS-C
Canon EOS 50DYesNoYesYesAPS-C
Canon EOS 60D***YesYesYesYes***APS-C
Canon EOS 70DYesYesYesYesAPS-C
Canon EOS 100D (SL1)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 450D (XSi)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 500D (T1i)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 550D (T2i)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 600D (T3i)YesYesYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 650D (T4i)YesYesYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 700D (T5i)YesYesYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 750D (T6i)YesYesYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 760D (T6s)YesYesYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 1000D (XS)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 1100D (T3)YesNoYesYes**APS-C
Canon EOS 1200D (T5)YesNoYesYes**APS-C

** The Canon EOS 100D (Rebel SL1, Kiss X7), EOS 450D (Rebel XSi, Kiss X2), EOS 500D (Rebel T1i, Kiss X3), EOS 550D (Rebel T2i, Kiss X4), EOS 600D (Rebel T3i, Kiss X5), EOS 650D (Rebel T4i, Kiss X6i), EOS 700D (Rebel T5i, Kiss X7i), EOS 1000D (Rebel XS, Kiss F), EOS 1100D (Rebel T3, Kiss X50) and EOS 1200D (Rebel T5, Kiss X70) do not have a selectable silent mode, but this feature is included and is permanently on when Live View is selected. More information from Charles Krebs and Canon USA.

*** The Canon EOS 60D has been reported to have a vibration problem in silent mode.

Most of the Olympus equipment can be fitted to a Canon EOS or Olympus E-series body using readily-available adapters. One exception is the Auto Bellows, because the long release lever on the camera body mount hits the protruding pentaprism on the EOS and E-series bodies. For the EOS 40D and 600D, this problem can be fixed by using a 14 mm extension tube, while the EOS 5D Mk II needs only a 7 mm tube. Most Olympus E-series bodies also need a 7 mm extension tube when used with the Auto Bellows, although the E-1, E-300 and E-330 do not need a tube.

Compact system cameras

Several manufacturers have produced digital cameras that are not SLRs but do have interchangeable lenses. Most of them have shallow bodies that allow Olympus OM lenses to be mounted and to focus to infinity, but most of them have sensors even smaller than APS-C. Canon make EOS M series mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors, but have made them incompatible with remote use with EOS Utility.

Live ViewArticulated
Live View
Canon EOS MYesNoNo?APS-C
Canon EOS M2YesNoNo?APS-C

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Created 8th October 2008   —   Updated 7th July 2015
Copyright © 2008–2015 Alan Wood

Olympus OM system close-up and macro equipment