Sometimes the best things in life really are free, at least that’s what it feels like with the Olympus Trip 35 I was given by my girlfriends dad earlier this year. Near perfect condition, barely used, could it become one of my favourite cameras? Well from the fact I’m a huge Olympus geek, and that many of you know that already, you can probably guess the answer to that.
The Olympus Trip (which is what I’ll refer to it from now on, I just can’t bring myself to bother to put that “35” at the end of the name every time) is probably one of the most iconic amateur film cameras ever made, small, compact, easily pocketable (well in a jacket, don’t try to shove it down our trousers) and with a light meter that runs off the power of sun making it near indestructible. The design itself is instantly recognisable, slim, sleek, minimalist but function-able, isn’t that we want from a compact camera? If you want to know more in depth specs about the camera there’s plenty of info elsewhere online, in a lot more depth than I plan on going into here (probably a lot better than here too) however the basics I’ll cover off.
First introduced in 1967 and finally ending it’s production run in 1984 (how about that for popularity?) is a fully automatic 35mm compact rangefinder camera which features a 40mm f2.8 lens which also has the selenium light meter surrounding the front element, it operates without the need for batteries as the light meter is solar powered . Despite being a relativity basic design and the camera itself being aimed at essentially amateurs and tourists, hence the name Trip, the lens is surprisingly sharp. I’d read about how the lens is a pleasant surprise but until I’d used this I wasn’t sure how accurate that was, I can confirm it is a bleeding good little lens. You can’t set the shutter speed, it will pretty much always fire at 1/40th sec although will shoot at 1/200th sec in automatic mode if there is enough light and the EV is high enough (not stated by Olympus but rumoured to be around EV 13). Personally I tend to shoot wide open the vast majority of the time set at 2.8 and then just deal with it, this is because a lot of the images I have taken with this have been in low light situations where automatically the camera would not fire, a little red flag appears in the view screen if the light meter deems the situation too dark.
As you can see from the above image, the viewfinder is pretty small but is actually pretty bright and has nice clear frame lines, that cheap looking film advance dial to the right doesn’t detract to much from the overall look of the camera as it’s mostly hidden within the top plate. as a rangefinder the focus is not something you can see through the viewfinder but there are several useful zonal markers on the lens barrel for various situations. A little picture of a single person (for portraits), two people (for a dual portrait), a group (for groups) and a mountain (for landscapes), this is a little hit and miss for me between single and dual people images but does work as a good guidance of how close or faraway from the subject you are likely to be standing. Below is an example of where I’ve got it wrong;
However once you get the hang of the guesswork, which comes with practice obviously you can get some crackingly sharp images such as this;
So then, what’s it like to shoot with? One word I would use; Fun. Yep that’s right, this is a fun little camera to use, it’s small and light so it can be carried around on plenty of activities and doesn’t get in the way, unsurprising considering the original demographic this was aimed at. It copes pretty OK in low light situations, useful considering I’ve been taking it with me on nights out but I’ve also found it’s pretty good for landscape images too, in fact one of my favourite low light landscape images I’ve taken was shot with this little beaut while my DSLR was on a tripod next me (see below). It’s also easy to use, foolproof almost once you get used to the focusing, non photography friends of mine have used it and made nice images, again likely down to Olympus’ original idea of this being made for non serious photographers. What’s probably the most surprising is how good this feels in the hands of a serious photographer, now that’s when a camera manufacturer has hit the holy grail, a cross demographic camera.
I can heartily recommend the Olympus Trip, it’s a great little camera which you’ll have a lot of fun with, it’s built surprisingly robustly for such a small tool and the lens is a great performer and a genuinely pleasant surprise. I can honestly say I was ecstatic when I was handed one for free, it’s a camera I’ve always wanted but just never got around to getting hold of, now I do I very rarely leave it at home.