You know that feeling you get when you have just acquired a new camera and wonder if the other one you’d been considering would have been a better option? Yeah… that. I had not long ago gotten myself a lovely Olympus 35 RC – but had been looking at the Olympus 35SP as well.
How much better could it be? Well I suppose the 7 element f1.7 lens may have been a good justification? The spot metering at the touch of a button? Or, like the RC, it’s ability to squeeze more frames from a roll than the stated 36?
Whatever way I looked at it and the more I read glowing reviews I felt it only right to get my hands on one – how could I go wrong?
Not liking the idea of posting something that was this old/delicate, I found one on eBay that was fairly local. It was expensive – not Leica/Contax expensive – but even so… Bidding was quite intense, but I managed to win it. I found out later that apparently this camera had belonged to the former Olympus sales rep in the area. So perhaps it has some provenance? 😉
I’ve not yet had this camera serviced. I changed some of the light seals myself, and have installed a Weinn cell for now. As I did with the 35RC before, I will no doubt get it serviced and converted to modern voltage at the excellent Luton Camera Repairs.
When compared to the diminutive RC the Olympus 35SP is a beast of a camera! It feels solid in the hands, the focus is smooth and quick with what I think is a short throw of movement on the focus lever. Manual metering takes some fiddling, but does work well once you get used to it. However, left in auto, I don’t seem to have had a bad exposure out of it, in either colour or black and white.
I started my book project with this camera, as it was contemporary with the subject; silly things like that matter to me for some reason. The images that came back were in my opinion ‘of the time’, and could have been taken forty years ago as well. They’re just what I was looking for. Holidays, street and family photos followed. All great!
In conclusion, I don’t think this is ‘better’ per se, compared to the RC, just different. OK the f1.7 lens helps in low light, and the spot metering is useful, but it is bigger/heavier and has a louder shutter, which seems more conspicuous compared to the RC. Also, the meter window to the left of the viewfinder could also be obscured by errant fingers if you are not careful.
I still like it though.
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