Scale Focus

The Olympus Trip 35 taught me to be (a little bit) more spontaneous photographically – By Andrew Morang

In the past, I always used manual cameras. I measured the light, set the exposure, and focussed myself . Even in a car, I like to be in control and only drive manual transmission, which is almost unheard of in the United States. The point-and-shoot craze of the 1990s completely passed by me. But now I have this funny little Olympus Trip 35, a “point-and-shoot.”

Why I bought it is a bit of a story. In preparation for a 2017 trip to Nepal, I sent my Leica IIIC off for repair. But in case it would not be ready in time, I bought three inexpensive compact 35s from the ‘Bay. A Minolta was dead on arrival, but a Yashica Electro 35CC and an Olympus Trip 35 were fully functional. However, the Leica was overhauled in time for Asia, so the Trip stayed home. But I was curious to see if the Trip 35 was as good as so many reviewers claim.

As you can see, this is a simple device. Film winding is via a wheel on the back. Exposure is automatic, controlled by a selenium meter that is coupled to the aperture and shutter. If the light is too low, a red flag pops up in the finder to tell you that the shutter button is locked. (If you buy one from the auction site, make sure the red flag feature works; that means the selenium cell is functioning.)

Canadian Pacific rail yard from Fortification Street, Jackson, Mississippi. Kodak TMax 100 film, ISO 80, yellow filter.


This little Olympus has limitations:

  1. There are only two shutter speeds: 1/40 sec and 1/200 sec. The camera sets them for you based on the amount of light, but if you turn the aperture dial off “A” to one of the f-stops, the shutter is 1/40.
  2. The light meter, being a selenium cell, does not have low-light capacity. The selenium cell (behind the bubbly plastic) surrounds the lens. If you want a low-light camera, you need one with a battery-powered CDS or SBC cell.
  3. The viewfinder does not have a focus aide, so you need to estimate the distance. The lens has some symbols to help you, such as a mountain or a person. Really, it is not difficult, especially with the semi-wide 40mm lens.
  4. The filter size is a unique 43.5mm fine pitch. Why did Olympus do this, to sell their own unique size? Color filters are very hard to find, and they do not screw in easily. Maybe the assumption was that most casual users took color negative film and did not care about filters.
  5. For some unknown reason, hoods are unobtanium in the USA. I had to order one from a UK vendor, and it cost as much as the camera did.

North Washington Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi, yellow filter, Kodak TMax 100 film, ISO 80, dev. in Xtol.

North Washington Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi, yellow filter, Kodak TMax 100 film, ISO 80, dev. in Xtol.

The Trip 35 In Use.

Regardless of these limitations, this Olympus is fun. With this little Trip 35, you can leave the focus at infinity (the mountain symbol), raise the camera to frame, and snap away.  It is so simple, so liberating. I can take it with me on the bicycle, stop where I see something interesting, and snap a photograph. But I noticed I still support it in the same way as my bigger cameras: left hand cradling the lens and right hand holding the right side and index finger on the shutter button. Solid grip, no breathing, and careful press. So maybe I am really not spontaneous, but it is less of an effort than one of my “serious” cameras.

TJ’s Lounge, Wood Street, Jackson, Mississippi. Kodak TMax 100 film, ISO 80, dev. in Xtol. TJ does not allow anyone under 31 or any drugs, hard liquor, smoking, weapons, or firearms in his club.

1107 North Lamar Street, Jackson, Mississippi, Kodak TMax 100 film, ISO 80, dev. in Xtol.

At low light, you can see the limitations of this Olympus. Contrast is a bit low, and you should use a hood. And once the red flag pops up and locks the camera, your only option is to move the aperture control off “A” to 2.8 and hope the exposure will be adequate. Because I often take pictures in low-light conditions or in old buildings and factories, this little Trip is rather restricting. Also, although there is no indication of when the selenium meter has set the lens wide open, the edges of the frame in dusk are a bit soft. I assume the lens is close to 2.8. It is certainly not as well corrected as a 35mm Summicron or 35mm Super Takumar, but, of course, those are more sophisticated and expensive designs.

11th Street (formerly Route 66), Tulsa, Oklahoma, polarizing filter, Kodak BW400CN film.

Despite some limitations, do not let me dissuade you from trying one of these little cameras. They are fun, inexpensive, and take good photographs. Thank you for reading, and thanks Hamish for letting me post these ramblings.

For more urban decay photography, please see:

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  • Avatar
    Paul Graham
    May 6, 2018 at 9:02 am

    For odd filter sizes like 43.5mm get a step up ring to a more common 46mm or 48mm. You can use multiple ones so you only need filters for your largest lens.
    I use a 24-30.5mm on my Rollei 35.

    • Avatar
      May 6, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      Yes indeed, a step-up adapter is a possibility. I considered that, but there are two problems with the Trip 35. First, The genuine Olympus hood will not fit over the adapter ring, so then you need a screw-in hood that fits the filter that you finally adapt. Second: the viewfinder is partly obscured. Olympus used this size for several of their cameras, so once upon a time, there may have been more 43.5 filters available.

  • Avatar
    Philip Brooke
    May 9, 2018 at 5:39 am

    I love my Olympus Trip! Took it to Rome and got some excellent pics with xp2 and Expired film.

  • Avatar
    Nigel Cliff
    May 22, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I love the results from my Trip but Ido feel the long travel of the shutter release is very irritating

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