Rangefinders (Fixed Lens)

The Olympus 35rc – yet another classic Oly

Olympus 35rc

The most obvious feature of the Olympus 35rc is it’s size! When I first read about it after seeing it on Dan K’s twitter avatar, I was dead set on getting one! I was at the time though deep in the depths of an obsession (that hasn’t quite left me) with fully automated cameras. You may have seen a few mentioned on this blog?? This obsession put the purchase of a 35rc on the back burner, but I continued to watch them on eBay in the hope one would jump out as a bargain. I’d been watching one for a few days that looked ok when someone I know got in touch and asked if I had any recommendations for a compact, “vintage” camera that would be easy to use. I mentioned I was watching a few 35rc’s on eBay and that one of those might suit. Long story short, he ended up with the one I had been watching. Some weeks later (he’s a bit of a numpty this guy) he gets in touch to say he has lost it and is buying another. Of course when the new camera turns up, he finds the old one, leaving him with two… And that’s how I ended up with my “user” condition 35rc!

Still in the throws of my auto-everything phase, it hit the shelf, only to be set upon for some shooting over the Christmas period. I had played with it a lot of times, just never really got around to putting a film into it. I’d initially just not felt entirely comfortable with the viewfinder/rangefinder … But the reality is, it’s fine, my issues lay elsewhere! More on the VF in a mo!

Firstly, it probably is a small as you hope it might be! I can fit it in my jeans pocket, just, and it goes in the coat pocket without any issue at all. You can see in the following picture how it compares to the XA2, which really is a compact camera.

Olypmus 35rc

I’m lead to believe that it is one of, if not the smallest fully manual rangefinder. This piece of information was one of the major facts that piqued my interest in the camera, and is major selling point! But with the small size, surely comes some compromise!

Initially the compromises didn’t jump out at me, but they start to creep in! The most major of which I didn’t notice until I started shooting with the camera! There are no depth of field markings, so short of using some sort of external chart or guess work you are limited to the rangefinder. Thinking back, I remember Dan mentioning this as a negative … Fortunately guess work isn’t really an issue for most daytime shooting, set the lens to f/11 and 5m and you’re good from 2-2.5m to infinity.

Olypmus 35rc

And then, to the rangefinder/viewfinder… Well after realising if I use my left eye, the one I can actually see properly with, the VF did seem a great deal better than I had originally thought … But it’s not perfect, the RF certainly ain’t a patch (pun intended) on the Leica M’s of the world, but you would be mad to expect it to be! It is unfortunately like most rangefinders in cameras like these, indistinct and without a solid edge. The viewfinder itself is ok though, a little small, but bright, and the frame-lines rarely seem to give up to bright light, too badly at least!

Olypmus 35rc

The one area where I think the viewfinder really excels is in the level of information relayed to the user. Both shutter speed and aperture are shown, which for such a small camera is pretty impressive! In ‘A’ (for auto) the camera automatically sets the aperture, the chosen aperture is shown to the user in the bottom of the finder. If the light hitting the camera’s CDS lightmeter is too bright or too dark for an appropriate aperture to be selected with the chosen shutter speed and film speed, the needle in the finder will point to the red and the camera will refuse to fire.

Olympus 35rc view through finder (crappy iphone view through the finder)

When out of range, the shutter button feels almost exactly as the trip 35 does when it shows you the red flag. When this happens you just change the shutter speed accordingly. The maximum shutter speed is 1/500th and the smallest aperture f/22, basically, in good daylight 800iso film is your upper limit … Which is convenient as that is when the ISO selection dial tops out too. Obviously this relatively low top end shutter speed means you won’t be using larger apertures in daylight too often, unless of course you mount an ND filter, which is perfectly viable thanks to the lightmeter sensor being inside the filter thread.

Olypmus 35rc

As well as the auto mode, the camera can also be shot fully manual, but in doing this the meter is also disabled. In this instance the aperture scale in the VF just shows you the aperture you have chosen.

I haven’t used it myself, so I can’t comment as such, but there is also a pretty nifty flash system. The user simply sets the guide number of the flash on the side of the lens, sets the camera to flash mode, load 100iso film, and shoot away. They call it “flashmatic”, as far as I understand it, the camera sets the size of the aperture to vary exposure to the flash light dependant on the subject distance.

There is also a self timer, for those who like being part of the action!

The lens, is a 42mm 2.8 and is held by many in high regard. I’m not sure what, but olympus seemed to be doing a lot right with camera little 40-ish-mm lenses of this era! The trip 35 is equally regarded for image quality! My experience is fairly positive, you can judge what you will from my images, but it might be worth digging deeper on flickr or the like. A good place to start would be this 7000+ photo group! I will also continue to add photos to my flickr.

The only thing left to talk about is how the camera handles. Well! is the short answer, it has a surprisingly good weight to it for its size and despite the winder having an almost 180 degree travel it doesn’t feel too awkward. The action of focusing isn’t especially smooth as it doesn’t feel lubricated, but the throw is short allowing fairly quick focusing! One thing that I constantly feel I should be able to do with this camera is use it with one hand. It almost teases you with it’s size and feel, making you want to try and focus with a spare finger of your right hand … for me it just isn’t possible, I’m not dextrous enough. This possibly sounds a little odd, but if you get one in your hands, give it a go!

Some shots…

Taken with Olympus 35rc

Taken with Olympus 35rc

Taken with Olympus 35rc

Taken with Olympus 35rc

more here

So in summary, I like this camera, It’s hard not to! For me, it represents yet another classic compact from olympus and for the £30-£50 they go for, they are almost a no brainer!

Just one final word of caution, the battery it takes is the 1.35v 625 which are no longer reality available… Wein make one, but its around £6, personally I choose to fit a 1.4v hearing aid battery and a bit of blu-tak.

Cheers for reading

Hamish


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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Adapting a 675za Hearing aid Battery for use as a px625 replacement
    January 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    […] ideal is very cheap and provides the camera with a much closer voltage to that what is required. My Olympus 35rc appears to meter perfectly with these batteries, so if you have a camera that requires a px625 this […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andrew Cotterill
    January 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Nice camera, good results. I really like the canal lock in shadow.

    Have you checked out the Olympus ECR? very small – not a lot bigger than a Pen, and surprisingly heavy for the size. Completely automatic, though, so no choice but to use hearing aid batteries and a load of tin foil.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish
    January 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I haven’t, have you got one? Looks like it has the same lens? Be interesting if it is smaller still than the rc, even if it is fully auto

    • Avatar
      Reply
      irreverentreverend
      September 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      Rather than using ‘a load of tinfoil’, try using copper foil. Or better yet, stainless steel washer. That way you’ve got a spacer that will always be the right size.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Shreyas
    November 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I got an RC just a week back from UK! The camera is very light and feels a treat to use.The viewfinder is the best part with its info on aperture and shutter speed.

  • Reply
    3 Days in Hong Kong with An Olympus 35RC - Guest post by Brandon - 35mmc
    February 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    […] found an Olympus 35RC at a thrift store in the US for $15 during the summer of 2015.  At that point, I already had a […]

  • Reply
    Chinon 35EE - The Poundland Rangefinder - Guest review by Alan Duncan - 35mmc
    April 20, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    […] If you want more control to your compact rangefinder but don’t have the budget for a Olympus 35RC – I’d recommend the Ricoh 35RF & 500G which offer shutter priority & metered […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Stephen Parker
    August 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Hamish
    My wife has one of these and I use Sunny 16 when I get the opportunity to take the camera out. Can you advise me on the battery and washer set-up so I can use it on automatic. Great website!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 22, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Stephen – try this

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Stephen Parker
    August 22, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the quick response. I shall sort it in the morning.
    I have a Minolta CLE with the Rokkor 40mm, 28mm (with fungus!) and a tele elmarit 90mm lens. Of course we also have the Olympus as well. Should I go for the Leica M-A or MP as I have just retired and have always fancied a Leica. Difficult decision! I am sure there that there could be quite a debate about that.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 25, 2016 at 9:09 am

      M-A … thats my side of the debate … 😉
      Have a read of my M-A review here, and M6 review here – both posts might help in your decision 🙂

  • Reply
    Twins. The Olympus 35 SP vs Olympus 35 RC - By Matt Parry - 35mmc
    March 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

    […] meters. Yet they are really quite different to hold and use. For individual reviews on the two see here for Hamish’s review of the RC on 35MMC and here for my review of the SP over on […]

  • Reply
    5 Frames With An Olympus 35 RC - by Julian Higgs - 35mmc
    May 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    […] recommendation of a Olympus 35 RC rangefinder camera kept on coming up. Most notably on this very 35mmc blog and on Ken Rockwell‘s site. Eventually the GAS took over. I simply had to have one, I […]

  • Reply
    There's a first time for everything... - Guest post by Joe Thomlinson - 35mmc
    May 28, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    […] About a month ago I was at a friends house, a friend who happens to be a photography enthusiast. I was sat in his living room and whilst gazing upward at the shelf to the left of the chimney breast which displays his dozen or so cameras I said “I’d quite like to get into taking photos.” Then as quick as the thought had entered my mind and found it’s way out of my mouth into the ears of my long time creative compadre, he replied “here you go. Have that”, and handed me an Olympus 35RC. […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sara Bravenboer
    July 25, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Hey there, I recently found my late grandfather’s 35rc, he owned a camera store in the 60’s and 70’s so knew this one that was still kept would be of good taste. I am wondering what kinds of rolls of film these days would be a good starter for using this camera? If you have any good suggestions I’d love to know!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 26, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      Ilford Hp5+ would be a good start – it’s very forgiving

  • Reply
    The perfect 21st Century film camera? - Kosmo Foto
    April 2, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    […] 35RC, launched in 1970, was a pint-sized rangefinder about the size of a Trip 35. But instead of a […]

  • Reply
    Kosmonauts: Matt Evans - Kosmo Foto
    June 2, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    […] people I’ve got a few! Mostly compacts and rangefinders. The ones that get the most use are the Olympus 35RC, Olympus Mju-1, Minolta Himatic 7S, Holga 120 for medium format and Holga 135PC for […]

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