Film      Camera Reviews

Introduction


The Olympus Trip 35 is a camera that I've been using on and off for years.  This article includes some notes on the camera's features, usability, repair issues, etc.  Like many reviews that will be appearing on this site (or already have), it existed either as an incomplete review or a perpetual item on the to-do list, waiting for me to finish it and just upload it to the site.  So there might be a number of cameras that you've already seen reviewed elsewhere, but I'll include my own insights (and photography) for your enjoyment. 

The Olympus Trip 35... let's see what we've got here.




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In This Article


Meet The Trip 35

Some Specs

Basic Use

Low-Light Indicator

Manual Override

Selenium-Based Light Meter

What The Trip 35 Can't Do

What's Great About This Camera


Conclusion



Meet the Trip 35


It's a "viewfinder" camera, which means the focusing is not coupled to what you see while composing the picture.  It's also not exactly the view of what you're photographing, but it's so close that most of the time it's accurate enough.  (At greater distances, it's pretty much right-on.)  This simpler design allowed the manufacturer to offer these cameras at lower prices than rangefinder cameras of their day.

Today, the Trip 35 has acquired quite a fan base.

The standard Trip 35 is silver-colored metal with black leatherette.  I got this one with a custom covering, though;  it's just the way the seller was offering them when I got my camera.  Generally I don't care as much how cameras look as how they function, but I have to say, custom "re-upholstered" Trip 35's can look pretty nice.

So, the first thing you should know about this camera:  if you look for one, yours probably won't have the exact covering shown here.  However, at the time I write this, there are at least two sellers who are refurbishing these and putting new coverings on them.  Try this link or this one.



Some Specs


Aperture Range:  f/2.8 through f/22
Bulb mode?:  No
Close-Focusing Distance:  3 feet (1 meter) minimum
ISO / ASA Range:  25 through 400
Film Type:  35mm
Focusing:  Manual zone-focus only
Lens:  40mm f/2.8 Olympus D. Zuiko
Light Meter:  Selenium
Made In:  Japan
Shutter Speeds:  1/40th and 1/200th only
Viewfinder:  Brightline-type with 0.55x magnification
Years Manufactured:  1967-1984 (or 1968-1983, depending on whom you ask)



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Basic Use


After you've got the film loaded and the correct ASA/ISO number set (lens barrel, chrome-plated ring), you're ready to take pictures.

First you have to decide how far away the subject is, comparing that with the four little pictograms on the focus ring.  They're pretty much self-explanatory;  they're very similar to what you'll find on a Holga. 

Unlike an SLR, this camera doesn't let you see through the lens.  So make sure you don't have your fingers in front of the lens, and make sure the lens cap is off.  Even now, I still occasionally get one or two pictures on a roll where I forgot to remove that lens cap.

Compose the scene and take the picture.  This is one of the easiest film cameras to use.


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Focusing


The zone focus takes some practice, but you'll probably be able to master it within a couple rolls of film.  For a while, when I was using this camera every day, I knew exactly what setting corresponded with what distance.  It also has the meters / feet printed on the lens barrel, but it's an acquired skill to be able to estimate distances accurately. 

When you nail the focus, wow.  You'll know it, but only when you get the pictures back.

Olympus Trip 35
Superia 200 film


It's those two trees in the front;  the distant ones are not really in focus.  No idea what the aperture was, but I'd guess it was probably f/8 or wider.  It could have been f/4 or something ridiculous;  see below.


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Manual Override


The camera doesn't have a full manual mode, but actually there sort of is. 

When you select the aperture for the flash, that's a manual aperture setting.  The light meter needle still moves and still engages with the aperture mechanism.  This leads many people to conclude that the camera will stop down the aperture more than you selected.

Actually, what you're seeing is "fill flash" capability, if anything.  Here's how I know that the meter can't get too much in the way of manual photography.

Let's say you're in a dimly-lit room with your Vivitar 3900 flash connected to the Trip 35.  If the light meter knew ahead of time how bright that flash is, it would probably stop down to f/22.  But it's not going to do that, because you're in a dimly-lit room.  In fact, the meter wants to use f/2.8 because of the ambient lighting, but now it can't... because you've set the aperture limit to f/16 (let's say).

If the camera could use f/2.8 as it "wanted" to, it would ruin all your flash pictures.  People would have stopped buying the Trip 35, and camera reviewers of the 1960's and 70's would have all said how stupid the camera was.  But they didn't, because it doesn't do that.  Olympus designed the camera with a manual override for the aperture so that it's compatible with external flash units.  But because of how it works, you can just as easily use it without the flash unit.

The camera uses 1/40th of a second, no matter what, when it's outside of Auto mode.  So it does "sort of" have a manual mode, just a rather limited one.  However it's not as limited as some of the other "auto" cameras that were popular in the Sixties and Seventies.  (Most of the 1980's auto cameras are just flat-out useless if their "auto everything" malfunctions....)

f/2.8 at 1/40th second with 400 film is somewhere between EV 6 and EV 7, which means this.


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Selenium Light Meter


These cameras have what looks like an array of glass bumps around the lens.  This is actually the camera's light meter. 

Selenium light meters tend to lose their sensitivity to light, especially if the lens cap was left off for a while.  It happens faster with heat and moisture. 

The result will be overexposed photos.

I believe that Se photosensors use the so-called "metallic" variety of selenium.  And if I had to guess, it's probably metastable, meaning it interconverts to some other form of selenium... which is not as photo-active.  One really weird thing about allotropes and metastable states is that you can have one sample that lasts practically forever, and another one that changes.  This might explain why some Se light meters are still working forty years on, while others went bad in less than a decade.

The one major technical drawback of this whole camera is that meter.  Because there's no manual mode, the camera becomes semi-useless when the light meter goes bad.  To fix it, you would need a parts camera where the selenium photocell was still good. 

Technically you can still use the camera at 1/40th of a second even if the meter goes bad.  You can set the aperture manually (see above) and it would just be on 1/40th sec.  That's a little too slow for 400 film on a sunny day, unless you held a neutral-density filter over the lens.  But if you're using Velvia 50, Ilford PanF Plus, Rollei Ortho 25, or something like that, then 1/40th would be OK.  And you'd need to use either the Sunny 16 rule, or an external light meter, to figure the correct aperture.


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Low-Light Indicator


There's a little, translucent red plastic flag that's supposed to pop up in the viewfinder when there's not enough light to take a picture. 

Sometimes, this can malfunction. 

If you want to verify that the rest of the camera is working, point the lens toward a moderately-bright light source (such as the sky about 30 minutes before sundown).  Look into the front of the lens, being sure not to block the light from getting to the selenium meter.  Press the shutter button lightly and make sure the aperture is opening, but not fully (which would be f/2.8).  Try pointing the camera at different light intensities;  you should see the aperture adjust differently for these.  If that test works the way it should, but the flag pops up for every picture, the camera should still work OK.

As the selenium photocell loses light-sensitivity, the camera will act as though there's not enough light.  So it will use too wide an aperture and too slow a shutter speed (40th instead of 200th). 

Now, here's the key.  If you can see that the camera is stopping down even a little bit, that means there's enough light that the red flag (low-light indicator) should not be appearing.  The red flag is only supposed to activate when f/2.8 and 1/40th is still not providing enough light.  So if it's stopping down at all and you see that flag, it's probably not the selenium cell.  

When I figure out exactly why it does this, I'll update the article.  But there are lots of people using these cameras without issue, and I've even used slide film in my Trip 35 with perfect results. 


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What The Trip 35 Can't Do


The Trip 35 can't use high-speed films (800 or above) unless you pull-process them as ISO 400 or less.  So, you can't use it to shoot highly-pushed films for night photography... unless you use Manual Override... now that I figured out how to push Tri-X to 12800, I might actually try this. 

The Trip 35 can't zoom.  The lens is one focal length, 40mm, and that's that.  In a way I'm glad of that, because either something is worth photographing at that focal length or it's not.  Instant compose, quick yes or no, walk on to the next scene.

The Trip 35 can't autofocus, but that means there's no AF mechanism to go bad.

The Trip 35 can't run out of batteries, because it doesn't need a battery.


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What's Great About This Camera


It's well-made, especially compared to modern point-and-shoot cameras.  That we're still using Trip 35's that were made more than forty years ago... that says a lot about the quality of materials and workmanship that went into these cameras. 

What else is great about this camera?  When it works, it just works.  I think this is what I like the best about it.  It's a vacation camera, designed so you can just pick it up and take pictures.

Olympus Trip 35
Superia 200 film


The whole experience of using this camera, even down to the way they designed the bright-line viewfinder, is pleasant:  more so than with other "viewfinder cameras", especially the plastic ones.  There's even a solid mechanical click when you set the Trip 35's focus ring.  And when you trip the shutter, it's quiet and smooth.

When you compare this camera with some of the other brands and models that appeared later (1980's and on), there's quite a difference.  I like some of those AF point and shoot cameras, and some of the cheap viewfinder cameras too, but many of them are obviously plastic, and they feel like it.  Some of them even squeak and creak when you handle them, like the whole heap of plastic is flexing.  The Trip 35 is not like that.  It may not be the finest camera out there-- not by any means-- but it's still from that era when consumer cameras had a lot of metal in them.

For about the first ten years of manufacture, they made it almost as well as their other cameras, just with fewer capabilities. 

The simplicity, the handling;  I really just want to be out there taking more pictures with this camera.  I've used a lot of cameras, but there is something about the way this one handles that keeps me going back to it. 


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Conclusion


This is almost, and sometimes is, my go-to film camera, except that it has no manual modes.  And yet, every time I use the Trip 35, it's so much fun.  After each roll of pictures, the first thing I want to do is take another roll of pictures, then another.

There's a lot to be said for a camera that "just works", even if it lacks some of the advanced features.  Or, perhaps because it lacks some of the advanced features. 


         

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