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In 1978, Olympus Camera Corporation, the United States distributor of Olympus cameras, came up with a plan of featuring Maitani, the chief camera designer at that time, in its advertising and publicity campaign. Since then OCC had been demanding Olympus Tokyo for permission for a year.

This request conflicted with the Japanese corporate culture that a product is regarded as the creation and property of the company.

In October 1979, Olympus Tokyo accepted the demand of OCC.

In elaborating why Maitani was chosen to be the star of the advertisement, Kunio Yanagida* writes :

"A camera is made up of so many advanced technologies that a single designer could not hope to make the whole thing single-handed. The final product calls for the concerted efforts of a host of experts in many and various fields. All the more reason why Yoshihisa Maitani stands out in this daunting field for his conspicuous talent in tackling such fundamental questions as "What kind of camera are we trying to create?" and for his uniqueness and originality in creating new concepts and basic camera designs"

*Author of the article "The Man Who Changed History by Compact Design" which appeared in the Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai in 1980. The English translation of the article appeared in the Olympus Visionage magazine.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

BEHIND THE GENIUS OF OLYMPUS CAMERAS IS A GENIUS.

When he was ten he built his first camera. By the time he was a university student, he had four important camera patents to his credit.

His name : Maitani. Designer. Craftsman. Visionary. Impeccable technician. Creative rebel. He is all of them.

One recalls Nabokov's statement : "Without fantasy there is no science. Without fact here is no art."

The record of the last twenty years reads like a roll call of Maitani's accomplishments :
The first half-frame 35mm camera, the Olympus Pen.
The first half-frame 35mm SLR, the Olympus Pen F.
The first compact 35mm SLR, the Olympus OM-1.
The first compact 35mm system, with lightweight lenses and motor drive.

And last, the Olympus XA, the 35mm pocket camera with the world's first internal focusing system.

Maitani designs cameras that others say cannot be built. And he builds cameras that others cannot design. This is a man who sculpts cameras in clay. Who studied the size and shape of hands from the world over, to design the controls of the OM-1. Who analyzed the material used by Japanese fishermen in their nets, because he needed a thread of incredible strength.

Back when was in the university, Maitani debated between camera and automotive design. Had he gone the other way, we would have lost some astonishing cameras.

But we would be driving some astonishing cars.

   
   
 
 

THE CAMERAS OF MAITANI.
THEY'RE MORE THAN CAMERAS.
THEY'RE INVENTIONS.

By 1966, the press had already dubbed him " the camera magician". His technical acrobatics and engineering guts had amazed the camera world.

What was left for Maitani? Just one challenge : to take on the oversized, overweight, noisy 35mm SLR.

And the odds were not encouraging. The SLRs of the day were built to the hilt with features : to slash size and weight seemed a dubious prospect.

Not to Maitani.

Thus began a 5-year development program that would produce the OM-1, and later the remarkable OM-2 and OM-10.

OLYMPUS OM-1

Some called it a photographic fantasy. But with the structuring vision of the inventor's eye, Maitani created it. He relocated the shutter speed adjustment to below the mirror. And he transplanted the exposure meter to the left of the pentaprism. This provided more internal room.

Next, Maitani set his sights on the shutter. Conventional cameras settled for a wide ribbon in the focal plane shutter. In the OM cameras you'll find Maitain's Solution : a single, thin thread. This allowed the prism to be sunk deeper into the camera. Shrinking the external dimensions.

Maitani knew that he had to kept the weight down. Prodding the metallurgists, a special steel was forged - a steel lighter and stronger than the brass then in use.

The next challenge was to cut down on noise and vibration. To smooth the ride of the OM-1, Maitani designed four ball bearing trains, a unique lightweight curtain drum, an air damper and over twenty shock absorbers.

Within the compact dimensions of the OM-1, some 600 parts are engineered. But while reducing the overall camera, Maitani refused to miniaturize parts. So the viewfinder has an extra large mirror, for a big, bright image.

The shutter-speed dial is larger.

The rewind knob is oversized.

The shutter release button is ample and comfortable. Thus you can imagine the glee with which the OM-1 was greeted. A light, compact, 35mm SLR with guts and stamina. And an entire system of compatible components - all revolutionary , all both light and tough.

Today, the OM-1, the camera that clawed its way to the top of Mt. Everest… the camera that's been mounted to the tails of jets and the hulls of ships… remains a classic and a standard.

OLYMPUS OM-2

After Maitani's triumph with the OM-1, he didn't rest on his laurels. Soon after came the OM-2, the fully automatic SLR that has an OM-1 built right into it.

But the OM-2 goes beyond the full exposure control of the OM-1. Because it's also a fully automatic SLR.

In fact, so automatic is the OM-2 that it actually measures the light during exposure. Even at a blazing five frames-per-second! How? Two sensors read the light that reflects off the film surface the instant the shutter opens.

And with the OM-2 the shutter remains open until the film has received precisely the proper amount of light for perfect exposure - then it automatically closes. How long can this go on? From 1/1000 of a second to over two minutes. No other camera made is this sensitive or gifted.

OLYMPUS OM-10

Maitani believes that serious photographic equipment shouldn't belong only to serious photographers. So he designed the Olympus OM-10. A fully automatic SLR that puts Olympus engineering and design, as well as the OM system, within reach of almost everyone.

This is Maitani's personal expression of a focus and shoot camera. The OM-10 displays the shutter speed in the viewfinder by simply touching the shutter release collar.

The OM-10 also has an LED in the viewfinder that lights to signal a fully-charged flash, and blinks to confirm correct flash exposure.

And if one should find himself constrained by the limits of automatic photography, the OM-10 can grow along with him. An optional full-exposure control device lets one shoot with total artistic latitude.

Maitani has created three very individual cameras, for three very individual needs. Anyone who has ever shot with either an OM-1, OM-2 or OM-10 knows that every millimeter of the camera has been thought out. When no technology existed to reach his objective, Maitani designed it. When no material existed to accomplish the job, he designed it.

So even though each year dozens of new cameras are hustled to market, glittering with the gimmick of the moment, these classy Olympus cameras remain in a class by themselves.

Along with the man who designed them.

For information write Olympus, Woodbury N.Y. 11797

   
   

"I designed the XA from the film out instead of from the camera in."

"You can miniaturize a full-size 35mm camera all you want. But when you're through, what you'll have is a miniature of full-size camera. With controls too cramped to control. A viewfinder with no view. And a lens you have to dig for.

The moral : a full-size camera was never meant to be a reducing act. Since a 35mm picture can fit in your pocket, there's no reason the camera that took it can't do the same. So I made the XA from scratch, making the film itself my starting point."

The first pocket camera with as many advances as an Olympus SLR. The Olympus XA has a razor sharp 6-element 35mm F2.8 lens that boasts Maitani's solution to the protruding lens problem : the world's first internal focusing system.

And what you focus on stays in focus because that shutter is so touch sensitive , it's virtually impossible to jar the camera. Which just happens to be the Maitani solution to another major pocket camera problem.

Nothing can take a pocket-size camera out of the ranks of the pocket-sized like a bulk flash attachment. Maitani's solution to this is an electronic unit that integrates so spectacularly it looks built in. Yet it needn't be carried unless required.

A big, bright viewfinder indicates shutter speeds. Exposure control is automatic and aperture-preferred from 1/500 sec. to 10 seconds. There's a backlight compensation button, a self-timer with audio-visual cues and an audio-visual battery check. More of the Maitani touch.

The first pocket camera that comes in its own pocket. When you're not shooting, an exclusive dust barrier protects the lens, the viewfinder and the rangefinder. Maitani figures this beats a loose lens cap that could fall off in your pocket.

The Olympus XA. Whether it's in your pocket or your hands, nothing sticks out. Which is one of the main reasons it stands out.

For information write Olympus, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797.

   
   

"I cannot take sole credit for designing these lenses. I had help from a computer."

Witness the perfect partnership of man and machine. The man: Maitani. The machine: a system of computers integral to the complex computations involved in optical design.

Without the computer the process would have been longer and more tedious.

But without Maitani these lenses would indeed have been impossible. (Maitani's been known to reject some of the computer's suggestions.)

Who else could have conceived of a series of featherweight lenses of noteworthy precision and durability?

Imagine a 21mm f2.0 lens that's faster than any other lens in its focal length and is approximately the same size as most manufacturers' 50mm prime lenses.

In all, the Maitani-computer partnership has produced 33 different lenses. And now, after bringing down the size of these lenses, Olympus proudly announces that we're bringing down the price. So now you can put an Olympus lens on your Olympus camera for the same price as a no-name lens.

The OM camera bodies were a remarkable achievement. But it's the OM lenses that put everything else in perspective.

For information write Olympus, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797.

In Canada contact W. Carsen Co., Ltd., Toronto.

   
   
 

 

 

"Everyone else has a flash unit. But does anyone else really have a full professional flash system?"

Introducing the new Olympus T-32 Flash System.

The powerful new compact T-32 automatic electronic flash with "Centralized Control" from Olympus starts off as a single flash unit. But that’s the least of what it can be.

With the T-32, Maitani brings the world its first studio quality dedicated flash and flash system.

Totally modular, the T-32 is designed to work within the entire OM System. And being more than a simple single flash unit, it does more than provide illumination for the OM-1, the OM-2 and the OM-10. The T-32 Flash System maximizes the features of each.

Quite simply, the Maitani genius has created a flash system which, like you, has the ability to expand.

We light up your life. Sure, the T-32 is a flash unit. But that’s not all it is. Because with the T32, you’re not limited to a single flash unit connected to the top or the side of your SLR, or held out at arm’s length. Indeed, you’re not limited to a single flash unit at all.

The T-32, in conjunction with multi-adapters, can fire up to nine electronic flash units with any OM camera.

The distance of each flash unit from the camera is limited, not by the length of your arm, but by the length of the connecting cord provided by the T-32 System. And right now there are four cords available – 1ft., 2t., 7ft., 16ft.

Neither are you limited to either front lighting or bounce lighting. You can have both and still add the rich dimensionality of side lighting and back lighting.

Only a professionally equipped studio can offer this high a level of versatility and lighting potential.

Versatility within the versatility. Each T-32 flash head tilts to 7.5degree or 15degree below horizontal, with additional click stops at 45 degree, 60degree, 75degree and 90degree above. In addition, the quick-release Bounce Grip allows a full 300degree horizontal swivel, a full 90degree tilt above and a tilt 15degree below horizontal.

The flash head tilts while it’s on the Bounce Grip, for a total 210degree possible vertical adjustment.

Still more professional studio level lighting versatility.

A revolution within the revolution. When used with the OM-2, the T-32 doesn’t have to rely on a sensor built into the electronic flash. The camera reads the light that hits the film and turns the electronic flash (or flashes) off when enough of that light has reached the film.

Since only the light entering the lens – no matter what focal length lens you’re using – is read, this camera-regulated automatic off-the-film exposure control provides far more accurate exposures than the conventional flash-dependent types. No matter how many flashes you’re using.

And this incredibly exacting quality is one of the capabilities that set Olympus OM-2 OTF exposure control apart from other SLRs.

It’s a dedicated full system flash. When the T-32 is used with the OM-1, OM-2, or OM-10, the viewfinder signals "full charge" and blinks to confirm correct exposure.

When used for direct flash, it covers lenses as wide as 21mm.

With the OM-2 on automatic, if exposure calls for less than 1/60sec., the flash is deactivated and the camera provides automatic OTF exposure using available light.

Four "AA" cells in T-32, four "C" cells in Bounce Grip – Alkaline, Manganese or NiCd. No waiting. When using the motor drive, these batteries guarantee instant recycling – recycling as fast as the motor drive itself.

This is more than any other so-called flash "system" can promise. In fact, it makes possible a broad range of components especially designed for sophisticated medical, dental, macro, scientific, technical and other specialized applications. Never before has all this been offered with any other 35mm reflex system. But there’s nothing radical about radical innovations from Maitani.

Only the man who brought you the world’s first compact SLR system could bring you the world’s first dedicated professional SLR Flash System.

And like the man, both are still growing.

For information write Olympus, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797. In Canada contact W. Carsen Co., Ltd., Toronto.

   
   

THE CAMERAS OF MAITANI. THEY’RE MORE THAN CAMERAS. THEY’RE INVENTIONS.

By 1966, the press had already dubbed him "the camera magician." His technical acrobatics and engineering guts had amazed the camera world.

The remaining challenge for Maitani was to take on the oversized, overweight, noisy 35mm SLR.

Thus began a 5-year development program that would produce the OM-1 and, later the remarkable OM-2.

Olympus OM-1. To create a compact SLR, Maitani had to do more than simply shrink the boxy SLRs that were then the vogue.

He had to build a camera up from scratch.

Maitani started by relocating the shutter speed mechanism to below the mirror. And he shifted the exposure meter to the left of the pentaprism. This opened up more internal room.

What about the noise and vibration? To smooth the ride of the OM-1, Maitani designed lightweight curtain drums, ball bearing trains, twenty special shock absorbers and a unique mirror air damper.

It’s the same story for every aspect of this camera. The innovation just doesn’t quit. And remarkably, while reducing the overall camera, Maitani was able to actually increase the size of critical components. So the viewfinder has an extra large mirror for a big, bright image.

The shutter speed dial is larger. The rewind knob, oversized. The shutter release button fits the finger comfortably.

Thus you can imagine the glee with which the OM-1 was greeted. A light, compact 35mm SLR with speed and stamina. And an entire system of compatible components – all equally compact, light and tough.

Olympus OM-2. The OM-2 goes beyond the full exposure control of OM-1. Because it’s also a fully automatic SLR.

In fact, so automatic is the OM-2 that it actually measures the light during exposure. Even during its motor drive’s blazing five frames-per-second! How? Two sensors read the light that reflects off the film the instant the shutter opens.

And with the OM-2 the shutter remains open until the film has received precisely the proper amount of light for perfect exposure – then it automatically closes.

Between the OM-1 and OM-2, virtually all photographic needs are met. Met with a startling array of components for medical, macro, scientific, technical and other specialized applications. Met with system components that are added continually.

So even though each year dozens of new cameras are hustled to market, glittering with the gimmick of the moment, these classy Olympus cameras remain in a class by themselves.

Along with the man who designed them.

For information write Olympus, Woodbury, NY 11797. In Canada contact W. Carsen Co., Ltd., Toronto.


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Last updated on 15 July, 2001
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