5 Frames Testing a Long Since Used Olympus 35 ECR

By Roger

This camera including its now very battered soft case is one I bought in the early 1970s as a student to complement a much heavier Pentax SLR. It had a lot of use in the 1970s and 1980s, hence the noticeable wear on the case.

The contrast with the SLR could hardly be greater, as it is totally manual, aside from the rangefinder which, for perhaps 30 years or more, has had two tiny pieces of Blu-Tack to stop the rangefinder window from slipping around. The only dials to set the ISO and the guide number for the flash. The lever on the front is simply to lock the exposure button. As it almost certainly hadn’t been used since I started using digital cameras in 1999, I was curious as to whether it would still work, knowing that, by the standards of the early 1970s it was high-tech electronics. The shutter is described as SEIKO-ESP. Though I hadn’t used it, I had a couple of batteries and was curious about how it would stand up, my comparison being the OM SLRs I would normally use for film. So I loaded it up with a roll of Agfa APX100 to see what it would do. I see from the picture that I set the ISO at 80, but I cannot remember whether this was deliberate, and if so why I did that given that it was fresh film (best before 2028).

Some 5-shot posts have a theme, but aside from the Flea Fair in one of the photos, I wasn’t doing anything worthy of a series of even five shots, so I deliberately went for variety. The goal is was to test the camera, after all. My first reaction was amazement when the entire film, all 36 exposures, came back from The Darkroom UK appearing to be perfectly exposed – or at least if there was over/under exposure it was consistent. A big relief given how little manual control there is.

Maybe I had been too ambitious loading the film – I remember getting up to 39 shots on a 36 exposure roll in the past – because the first full image had a light leak, but it was the only one, so probably nothing to do with the camera. I cropped it to square.

There is nothing remarkable about the image, of a recently build care home, but the sharpness of the image seemed to stand out. Aside from cropping I have done nothing to it. Like all the other negatives it was scanned at 3200dpi on an Epson flatbed scanner. One of the problems I find with the camera is that the shutter button has a long throw, and is very highly sprung, so I am never sure whether I have held the camera still, even though the shutter itself is very quiet and hardly shakes anything. This shows that if there is blur it is due to user error, either in focusing or in movement and that the lens is very sharp.

My second photo is of a nearby building site, chosen because I thought the mass of scaffolding was another good test of the camera. With this one I did use Topaz Sharpen AI which detected camera movement. Cloud-topped hills in the background.

Then we have a couple of local (to me) convenience stores, and an old building I liked in nearby Worcester. I made sure one of the verticals was vertical, but did not do any tweaking of the geometry of the photo to get rid of distortion, and I thought it had done a reasonable job. Finally, there is a shot of a Flea Fair at the local showground.

I had gone along hoping to see some ancient cameras going for a song, but no luck: just the occasional folder and one box which, just before I got to it, had been sold as a job lot. Next time and early start both for camera hunting and taking far more photos.

So my conclusion was that the camera was working surprisingly well for a camera I must have bought almost exactly 50 years ago and which has sat unused for close to 25 years.

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Roger on 5 Frames Testing a Long Since Used Olympus 35 ECR

Comment posted: 24/01/2024

Thank you. A point I could have added is that a pane in the rangefinder moves back and forth, so there are two tiny bits of Blu-Tack stopping this. You can just about see them in the first photo. Its not just the camera but also the Blu-Tack that still works after 25 years.

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Bob Ashford on 5 Frames Testing a Long Since Used Olympus 35 ECR

Comment posted: 24/01/2024

Lovely article. I am amazed at the quality of these auto compact cameras of the '60s, '70s, '80s, they really surprise me.

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