The Olympus Trip 35
If you hunt around in yard sales and thrift stores, sooner or later
you'll find one of these 35mm cameras for $5 or $10. And that's
really what it should cost, unless you know it's in perfect working
I wanted one that I knew would work, with no need for replacement
parts. You know, new light seals and the whole deal.
I bought a "refurbished" one on Ebay. Normally an
overhauled camera will work fine, but this one didn't.
aperture blades were not opening. This was about a two-hour
repair job, not counting a trip to the store.
Testing the Aperture
Want to know if that Trip 35 you bought has a stuck aperture?
That's easy. The way you tell is to depress the
shutter button in low light. Even if the light meter is
dead, the blades should
still open up on the manual settings. (And let's not forget that
little red flag. It's supposed to show in the viewfinder when
there's not enough light to take a picture.)
Here is the Trip 35 at its smallest aperture, f/22:
If the aperture is stuck, it will probably rest at f/22 permanently.
A working Trip 35 aperture should do this:
See how the aperture opens wide in dim light?
When you know what to look for, you can
buy one on Ebay
with a better likelihood of success.
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When you press the shutter button halfway, the aperture should open up in
low light. If it doesn't, try the manual aperture settings. The
Trip 35 shutter will still function at 1/40 of a second, even if it has
a bad meter. You will have to hold it extra-still if you're going to
use such a one in daylight. Might as well carry a tripod around
with you. For daylight use at 1/40 of a second, you'll want
to use the slower films (ISO 50 to 100). f/22 at 1/40 second
would be just about right for 100 film on a sunny day with no shade.
After Taking Off The Top
There is a notched cam or riser ("B", shown in photo below) that is supposed to trap the light meter needle
against a notch. This notch corresponds to the aperture
setting. Very ingenious, but potentially finicky. If you take
the top of the camera off and press the shutter, watch to see if the
cam rises at all.
If not, then don't make other plans for the day.
You will notice in the picture, the meter needle is all the way over to
the right. With or without a working meter, the aperture cam "B"
should still rise. The photo actually shows the cam after I fixed
the camera. It moved to where it should. The needle is
still all the way over to the right because I have the lens cap still
on. (Keep your lens cap on this camera when it's not in
use. Constant exposure to light will gradually cause CdS selenium meters
to lose their light sensitivity).
To do this job, you need a good set of jeweler's screwdrivers. I
had a cheap set from the local discount store, but I had to hand grind one of them
to fit the smallest screws. I think I still messed up a couple of
the screw slots. (If you do a lot of repair work on precision objects, you might want to invest in a set of these...)
I'm not going to get into repairing a stuck aperture here. It's
pretty tedious. There are a couple good web sites that detail the
job. Whatever you do, don't lose those tiny
screws! Put them in an empty film canister or something and
label it so it doesn't get thrown away.
After I got the aperture all squared away, I noticed the front lens had a big ol' abrasion in the center.
You couldn't really see it unless you tilted it just right in the
light. Or, like I did, hold the shutter flywheel open and look
through the camera.
Somebody must have had a habit of using their grimy shirt to wipe
this lens. You can't repair that kind of abrasion without getting
somebody to re-grind the lens. I'm sure it costs more than a whole
Trip 35. When it's this bad, it's going to affect your pictures.
Thankfully, the seller was reasonable and sent me a replacement
Re-Focusing The Lens
Now comes the fun part. Whether
you had to install a new lens, or whether you accidentally forgot your reference
point when taking the Trip 35 apart, it's all the same. You have
to re-focus the lens element. Otherwise your pictures will all be blurry.
There is only one practical way to focus the element. That's with
a focus screen.
You can make your own with a piece of wax paper,
some clear tape, and a thin, flat piece of glass or plastic. If
you're using wax paper, a piece of custom-cut acrylic would
work. Clear plastic or glass by itself cannot work as a
focus screen; you need something frosted.
I used waxed paper and a plain microscope slide. A frosted piece of glass would have been
nicer. After spending too much on this camera the way it was,
though, I was not going to buy a focus screen.
You have to pretend the wax paper is the film. That means it
faces inward, toward the lens, then the glass or plastic goes over
it. Don't get sloppy. Make sure the wax paper is flat
. You can't afford to mess this up.
A millimeter of play, and your focus will be in error.
Pretend you are the 35mm film. Where would you be? Right
against the film rails, with the gear teeth going through the sprocket
holes. That's where you'd be if you were film, and that's where
the wax paper should be.
Focus is touchy! Some of the instructions on the 'Net sound great at first, but I can
see they have never done the procedure on a real Trip 35. (After seeing my
article they will probably update their instructions...) They say
you should move the lens in 1/4 turn increments. No way. The entire focus range of the camera is less than 1/4
turn. 1/8 of a turn is still way too much. Think more in
terms of a couple millimeters, if that.
Here is how you do the focus. Get a newspaper with a decent-sized
headline. Set up your camera tripod and tape the newspaper to it,
preferably upside down. Measure 3 feet, 3 inches from the newspaper, and
that's where you want the camera. One meter equals 3.25
feet. Make sure you set the camera focus ring to 1 meter.
The Brass Flywheel / Post
This is where it gets tricky. There is a slot in the brass
flywheel for the shutter. Normally when you snap the shutter,
this slotted brass post rotates VERY fast. You can hold it still
by using a screwdriver. Well, you probably shouldn't use a steel
one because it will gouge the brass. You could use a thin piece
of plastic, or maybe a brass shim. Either way, you have to hold
that flywheel open while holding down the shutter button. Retarding
the movement of the flywheel, let it advance only a TINY bit.
SLOWLY is the key. The shutter will open when the flywheel
rotates just a hair... but don't let it go too far, or it will close
Now hold everything in place. It would
be nice if you had two free hands just for this.
If you really want to see whether the lens is in focus, look at the
focus screen with a magnifying glass. You will need another free
hand for this. If you are really deft, hold everything with your
3 hands while using another hand to turn the front lens element very
slowly. Watch as the image comes into focus. You will find
the sweet spot eventually. You can do the job with two hands, but
if you're not coordinated, forget it.
After setting the focus with the wax paper, carefully put the lens ring
back on the lens. Keep reading to see why I said "carefully".
Don't Touch The Sides
The lens ring is the piece that says "Lens Made in Japan, Olympus D.
Zuiko" on it. So I'm calling this the "Olympus ring". I
don't know what the real term is for it. This ring has a
protruding piece of metal. This piece is supposed to go between
two dark-colored prongs of metal that belong to the zone focus ring
assembly. Before you try to put the lens ring back on, turn the
zone focus ring on the camera and you should see the prongs I'm talking
about. They're the ones that move when you turn the zone focus
ring to various settings. They push or pull the protruding piece
of shiny metal from the "Olympus" ring that goes in between them.
You want the metal from the Olympus ring to go right in between those
Make sure you don't rotate the "Olympus ring" at all while you're
trying to get the metal in between those prongs. If you do, it will grab
hold of the front lens element and turn it out of focus. You
don't want that. Even when the set screws are not tightened, it
could still have enough grab to move the focus. So, be careful.
Put that piece of metal between the two prongs. Make sure your
focus ring was on 1 meter, or you will have to do the entire thing over
Now, take a roll of pictures with the camera. Try to photograph
everything at distances you know for sure. Bring a tape measure
with you. Yes, people will probably stare. So what.
Take pictures of them. (People who stare make great street
photography subjects, unless they are surly bikers.) Besides,
nowadays you'll probably get stared
at for having a non-digital camera anyway. (Little do they know,
film is still
superior to digital in terms of image warmth and depth... but that's
subject of another article).
My repair job worked. All but two of the pictures on the
first roll were in sharp focus. I've since used this camera quite a bit, even with slide film, and it works well.
As long as all the parts are
working OK, the Trip 35 is worth getting. (Buy yours through this link to show your support for my website.)
Fixing these old cameras is possible, as long as it's just a
temporarily stuck part. If the repair had been more
involved, I'd probably have just gotten another Trip 35 and saved a lot
Victorian Brick House
Olympus Trip 35
This has been a look at re-focusing a Trip 35. If you enjoyed
this article or found it helpful, please help me out by shopping
through any of the links on this website. You can pick up 35mm
color negative film here, and shop for used Olympus Trip 35's through this link.
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