I have been looking for a compact rangefinder for almost a year, at the top of my list there initially was the Canonet QL17, but as time went by it got replaced in my wishlist by the Olympus 35 SP, not before a long and informative period of intense geeking about any other camera of this category. I guess the appeal of rangefinders is mostly due to their good looks, but also the stealthiness and the relative quickness of operation. Moreover, I was looking for a fixed lens compact rangefinder because I can’t afford a Leica and I don’t have the patience to fiddle with the various Russian clones; at this period in time at least. Also, the lenses on some of these bad boys are incredible and the reduced lens-to-film distance due to the compact design seems to result in even better sharpness (not that I care particularly about sharpness, but I am a nerd: it’s things like these that get me up in the morning).
Well, I had given up my hopes of finding an SP (especially in Italy they are very rare because at the time of the launch the cost was nothing short of prohibitive), so when I found a used Olympus RC I reached for 50€ and bought it. Unfortunately it was not in great condition and I didn’t like almost anything about it.
At this point I was sad and filled with remorse. Then a few weeks after I paid a visit to my trusty local camera shop in Turin, and while chatting with the owner I noticed something on a shelf… I swear I heard angels sing out loud while I realized it was a pristine Olympus 35SP (only the meter doesn’t work, but who cares). I quickly managed a deal, and traded my RC and paid a small difference, it was mine.
The camera is beautiful, everything about it feels amazing, I just love it. Besides, it fills the one missing spot in my collection and it does it majestically. I couldn’t wait to use it so I grabbed the first roll that I had available and put it to the test, and here I am with the results.
The camera performs beautifully, when there is a capable individual taking the shot. I had never used a rangefinder before this one and it was disorienting. I am so embedded into the dslr’s “frame the shot while seeing what will actually be in it” state of mind, that the rangefinder-way felt disarming. I managed to take a few decent pictures, especially the ones with a far away subject, and in those I could really appreciate the character of this camera.
There is some vignetting at f/1.7, that I don’t mind at all, and that might have been exaggerated by the scanner’s profile. But other than that the 7 element – 5 groups lens is pretty awesome and I can’t wait to try it with colour!
It was my first time with Fomapan 200 as well, since I had luck developing Fomapan 400 in 1+50 Rodinal I did the same with his lower speed brother and I have to say I kinda like it. It is “crispier” than the 400 version and the grain is less prominent but still present and quite pleasant. I will have to have a few of these pictures printed to judge this emulsion further, because I am pretty positive that it is not intended to end its journey on a screen. Nonetheless I am going to shoot a lot more of it because it is one of the cheapest film stocks around.
In conclusion, the leitmotif of this experience has been that I am not familiar with neither the camera nor the film and sure this motivates me to shoot more with a renewed enthusiasm, what else could I’ve asked for?