The Rollei 35 may be the best secret of all. Introduced in 1966, this miniature 35mm film viewfinder camera is more than the sum of its beautifully engineered parts. With a little practice this camera can create a magical image and that is the reason I call it “The Art Machine”. This article covers my early experience with 5 rolls of Ilford Delta 400, a Rollei 35S camera and a few days around my daughter’s wedding.
Scale focus film cameras also tend to be quite small, but rather than rely on autofocus, they are manual and require the user to set the focus based on an estimated guess of the subject distance.
Many of these cameras are older, but are also a little more simple than the autofocus cameras found elsewhere on 35mmc. In some cases this can mean they are more reliable, though this is by no means the rule.
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My photographic journey took a new route recently. I had been scared of scale focus and viewfinder cameras for years – I mean how would one shoot people and portraits with a shallow depth of field without being able to critically adjust the focus on their eyes? Guessing exact distance isn’t something I’ve ever been confident with. And zone focusing isn’t anything I had ever tried before in anger though I knew how to set distance on a lens it seemed far easier to use something like a manual rangefinder or SLR for what I like to photograph – especially as my main interest is travel and with travel there’s people.
The Olympus XA2 is tiny, it is quick to turn on, it’s zone focus, and has a brilliant lens. In my humble opinion, it is the best EDC (every day carry) and travel camera, and a good first camera if you are starting with analog photography too.
This is my second XA2, I came across this blue XA2 in an Amsterdam thrift shop. I put a battery in to check if it works, and it did. I bought the camera for 50 Euros – what a steal. I don’t hoard expensive and rare cameras, I am not a collector. It was okay to let my GAS take over and fork over the cash for this camera. I had some Nikon SLR with me for vacation, this XA2 was a fun little bonus for the remainder of my trip. I popped in a roll of Portra 400 and proceeded to document my trip.
In 1955, having attained the grand old age of 16 and somehow managed to pass 8 of the 9 GCE O-levels I had sat, I received a neat little blue and silver box as a reward for one or the other achievement, can’t remember which now. That beautiful little box contained my first camera of real quality. Fast forward 67 years and move to the other side of the world, the same little box arrived in my mail box.
It contained the same thing, a Voigtländer Vito IIa and ERC that I had found in the original one except for the “1756-1956” text which was added from 1956, to commemorate the firm’s 200 year history.
The Olympus Trip 35 is a compact 35mm viewfinder camera released in the late 1960s that sold millions of units and had a long production run. It’s a famous benchmark camera for sure. (A look at the Olympus website is instructive here.)
It was a pretty basic camera in the Olympus lineup and came out after the Pen EES of 1962 that shared the electronic exposure system and before the more advanced Olympus 35DC compact of 1971 (that needed a battery) and the OM-1 of 1972. Obviously it was spot-on for the time it was made – its sales success attests to that.