I 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 Canonet QL17 GIII and an Olympus 35SP, but this one was a bit smaller and I could put it in my front jacket pocket. The foam sealing looked good, there was nothing wrong with the lens, and the shutter worked fine, so I picked it up.
I took it back to Shanghai and bought a battery for $1 at the camera market on Luban Road. The test roll came out fine. Nice! I was good to go.
The view finder is fairly dark (I haven’t yet cleaned the inside) and the focusing spot in the middle is minuscule. You go through the entire range of focus with about a quarter turn of the barrel. Without a doubt, this is the hardest time focusing with any camera I’ve ever had. But… it’s small and it can take really good pictures when you do catch that focus.
I was hired through Push Media to film an urban exploration project for The North Face and a music video for RSA Films in Hong Kong, so I bought 5 rolls of Kodak Tmax 400 and stuffed the Oly 35RC in my pocket. Have I mentioned I love Hong Kong?
Me and my director buddy Charlie Lanceplaine took the hour-long bus ride into the city from the airport. We slowly wove around mountains and harbors, crossed bridges, went through tunnels, and generally saw stunning scenery. I’ve always loved the bus into Hong Kong, it’s the perfect buildup to the hustle of the city.
Hong Kong island is so dense, but if you’re in a city, you might as well be surrounded by a mass of people. It’s dirty, but a city should have history and look “used”. Tinhau and Causeway Bay have a lot of car repair shops and dealerships close to the water. There was a dude lurking on a Rolls Royce parked in the middle of the street. Click. Your soul belongs to me now.
The North Face went all out and rented the roof of a building in Wanchai to shoot both a look book and part of a video promoting urban exploration. There was a security guard watching our every move.
Me and the boys took the ferry a few times. Sometimes you’ll catch a junk ship floating around think it’s neat because it’s so “Chinese”. Of course, the junk isn’t actually for anything other than hauling loads of tourists around and providing catered parties. In fact, it’s not even sailing- it’s running on a motor with GPS guiding it through the waters. This is 2016. I still take a picture every time I see one though.
Another part of the shoot took us to a reservoir way out somewhere on Lantau Island. Across the reservoir there was a huge statue of Buddha, sitting there all Buddha-like on top of a mountain, right where he should be. They had steps going down to the reservoir for seemingly no reason that made for moody shots.
Sometimes the Oly 35RC produces little light streaks, sometimes it adds to a photo, but in this case it didn’t. I could Photoshop it out, but that’s not very “film-like”, is it?
There are a lot of signs hanging around Hong Kong. Someone at some point put up a sign and said “this will get me more customers” and it probably did work… and then everyone did it. It makes for a good picture. There’s also razor wire, barbed wire, and fences everywhere.
A wise man once told me that taking photos is not about the clarity, pixels, or even if the focus is correct or not… if the picture looks good, then it is good. When you look at it and think: “nice”, that’s it. The only time you should consider sharpness, or pixels is when the picture looks bad in the medium in which it’s presented.
Anyways, I went to a beach to film this sunrise scene. The air was freezing. There were some people swimming. I don’t get it. They don’t need me to get it. Do your thing players. I snuck a picture of the “fixer” walking along the beach. Got you.