5 frames with...

5 Frames with an Olympus 35RC on Lomography 800 in Bogotá – by Bob Witteman

February 5, 2020

A lot of photographers can relate to the dilemma that arises on what gear to bring when you start planning your trip. For me going to Colombia the issue of safety happened to be a factor on deciding what camera to bring. It was around that time I had recently acquired a Leica M6 which as streetphotographer suited me perfectly and obviously was going to be a candidate.

However I opted for something more compact and more concealable. Besides the fact that this camera is so compact that I could easily slide it in my pocket it was also of way less monetary value than the m6. If it happened to get snatched or lost I wouldn’t lose too much sleep on it. The camera that qualified for the job is the Olympus 35RC. I bought it for a bargain and had it in my possession for a while but never really found a purpose to use it.

Bogotá happened to be perfect for the Olympus 35RC, the city is at an altitude of 2500 meters so it really doesn’t have the tropical temperatures you might expect from Colombia. Having to wear a jacket provided the pockets to cover my camera and navigate the grimy downtown area in stealth mode.

The Olympus 35RC is a beautiful piece of engineering. I am not aware of many other rangefinders that have this many functionalities in such a small body. I’m talking about the viewfinder which displays both shutterspeed and aperature, a nice frame forward handle instead of a scroll wheel most compacts such as the Olympus XA have and the option of shooting automatic (shutterspeed priority) or manual.

My choice for Lomo 800 film was based on my needs for a high ISO color film for street photography. There are not a lot of alternatives available on the market so the choice was limited. I had never used the film prior but based on photos from friends I liked how it looked. Home in Amsterdam I had been shooting black and white film for the longest so it was time to switch things up. Although I rarely use color film for street photography I expected the grain and saturation of the color could work well in a vibrant and sunny place.

I was mostly shooting manual as with Lomo800 Film the maximum shutterspeed of 500 at times would make the shutter not fire as the camera would meter the scene as overexposed. I would rather overexpose for one or two stops instead of missing out on a shot because the automatic mode refuses to fire the shutter. Besides this reason it is common knowledge that overexposing film by a couple stops is perfectly fine and often creates more pleasing colors.

Sporting a nice 42mm 1:2.8 lens we are nearing the limits of zone-focusing with this focal length. However the high ISO combined with sunny weather provided apertures of F16 and 22 which I figured would be reasonable to make it work. In retrospect I think I made a good decision and am really happy with the photos I ended up bringing back home.
All in all the Olympus 35RC is a underrated compact rangefinder which paired with lomo800 film made a great combination for street photography.

The raw architecture and graffiti creates for a gritty atmosphere

The moderate temperatures combined with the strong sun offers a variety of interesting attire typical to Bogotá

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Roaming the downtown streets of Bogotá being confronted with widespread poverty is a humbling experience.

The Monserrate with its 3152 meter, a nice showcase of how Lomo800 handles color, they’re popping and saturated.

The police has a huge presence throughout the whole city which i’ve never seen before this big in any other country. PS Note how the yellow in this photo is almost jumping off the screen.

Im a (street)photographer based in Amsterdam. Visit my website www.bobwitteman.com or Instagram www.instagram.com/bobbiciao if you’re interesting in seeing more of my photos from Colombia and other work!

You can read more about the Olympus 35RC in Hamish’s review here

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  • Reply
    p brant
    February 5, 2020 at 10:29 am


  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    February 5, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    I’d like to take a bit of a detour off your fine article and speak to a comment you made: “For me going to Colombia the issue of safety happened to be a factor on deciding what camera to bring.”
    Of course, we can be victims of crime anywhere (our house is located in a rural area of our small town; we’ve come home twice to see our back door smashed in and our valuables stolen.) We all need to be aware of our surrounding, but not walk around in fear.
    I carry insurance on my camera equipment. It’s a supplemental add-on and it’s a non-deductible policy. It won’t help you if you’re being robbed – just give up the equipment and hope no personal injury results from the robbery. But you will be able to recover the cost of the equipment. Of course, all this is dependent upon your specific insurance, and any regulations that may govern your rights as an insured person.
    I’m retired and my Leica equipment could not be replaced at today’s prices. This solution works for me.

    • Reply
      Laurence Kesterson
      February 7, 2020 at 2:55 am

      A friend of mine recently visited Colombia and made a wrong turn into a very dangerous neighborhood. He was immediately ambushed by more than 20 gang members. He is a native of El Salvador and is now an American citizen, so language and culture was not a problem, but he barely escaped with his life. His rental car was badly damaged and he was robbed of his cash and cell phones.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Lovely photographs. I faced the same choice when I visited Brazil a few years ago, though at that time I wanted a digital camera – I wasn’t brave enough to shoot such a trip on film! Ended up with a 2nd hand Ricoh GRDIV which turned out not only to be the perfect camera for such a trip but also one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned, full-stop. It’s funny how such limitations often end in great results which can be seen in your work. Now resisting the urge to find a nice little film camera on eBay…!

  • Reply
    Mike Hannon
    February 5, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    That Lomo 800 looks lovely. I really like the colours. I wonder if it’s Portra 800?

  • Reply
    Jacob Hawk
    February 10, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    Which battery do you use with your 35RC?

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