Camera Reviews

Olympus Trip 35

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The Olympus Trip 35 was designed to be the ideal camera to take on vacation when it was introduced in 1967. It was small, light, and rugged; it set aperture and shutter speed automatically; it was easy to focus; and its price tag was enticing to someone ready to step up from an Instamatic. Best of all, it had a great lens – a 40mm f/2.8 D.Zuiko, of four elements in three groups. A traveler could be assured of crisp photographs with what, in those days before auto-everything cameras, amounted to very little fuss.

Olympus Trip 35

By 1984, the Trip 35’s around-the-lens selenium light meter looked pretty dated. But that selenium meter meant no battery, which vacationers enjoyed because all they had to carry was film. Today, collectors love that feature because most cameras with coupled light meters take discontinued batteries, and finding suitable substitutes can be challenging and is usually expensive. Left uncovered, selenium eventually stops responding to light, so if you are thinking about buying a Trip 35, get one that has been stored in its case or with a lens cap on. You can use a Trip 35 with a dead meter, but the shutter fires only at 1/40 second and you must set the f stop yourself.

Olympus Trip 35
Film speed, aperture, and focus rings

Even when the meter works, the Trip 35 always chooses the shutter speed for you, either 1/40 or 1/200 second. That limits the Trip 35’s versatility, but keeps with the camera’s mission of easy good results. Indeed, after you set the film speed (25-400 ASA) and enable automatic mode (twist the aperture ring to A), taking a picture is almost point-and-shoot simple. Almost, because you do have to focus. But the Trip 35 simplifies focusing by providing just four zones, which translate to 1, 1.5, and 3 meters, and infinity. A little window inside the viewfinder shows you both the aperture and focus settings, so you can fiddle with both while framing your shot.

This little camera really caught on. Olympus spit out a whopping 5½ million Trip 35s. They are easy to come by today and can be had for under $20.

Since it went out of production, the Trip 35 has developed almost a cult following. Flickr has several groups of devoted Trip 35 photographers and there’s at least one Web site devoted to Trip 35 photography. There’s even a fellow in the UK who sells Trip 35 accessories and cameras and often replaces the original black material around the camera’s middle with custom skins in many colors and materials.

Of course, I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, so I bought one. (My Trip 35’s date code says it was made in December, 1977.) A heavy, wet snow fell the day after the camera arrived, so I loaded a roll of Fujicolor 200 and headed outside. This tree, which is actually a badly overgrown shrub, sagged under the snow’s weight. I framed this tighter and am disappointed that so much that’s not tree or dog appears in this photo – the viewfinder simply shows a little less than what the camera actually captures.

After the snow

The viewfinder also doesn’t accurately frame the shot horizontally. I centered this late-1960s F-250 in the viewfinder, but as you can see it is off center in the photo. [Update 14 May 2010: An e-mail from a reader suggested that I may not have been using the viewfinder’s framing rectangle properly. I checked the camera and found that I may have been ignoring it entirely. So take my complaints about framing with a grain of salt.]

1973 Ford F250

I tried a close shot and am impressed with the detail. Notice how the bricks closest to the camera are slightly out of focus; turns out the lens can’t focus closer than about three feet. And yes, my window frames need painting. It’s on my to-do list for this summer.

In close

The Trip 35’s shutter button freezes when the light meter says there’s not enough light. The manual says that’s your clue to use flash. I’m not sure why it struck me in the middle of microwaving bacon that I ought to try my Canon Canolite D flash on my Trip 35, but as you can see it worked out okay. (Yes, that’s a Vise Grip on the counter behind the salt. You can tell I am not married! And that’s my swear jar behind it; empty because I made it to 30 days clean!)


I walked up to the corner church to shoot this cross. I just liked how this one turned out.

Where I first saw the light

I am a bit put off that the viewfinder isn’t more true, but otherwise I enjoyed using this camera. I especially liked how I didn’t need to buy an expensive battery just to try it out. But I had more fun with, and got better photographs from, my Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, despite its need for a battery. I’d rather take the Canonet on vacation, and be sure I have enough of those wacky Wein cell batteries along.

Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection.


8 thoughts on “Olympus Trip 35

  1. Lone Primate says:

    What’s it like finding film for cameras like this these days and facilities to have it developed? I wouldn’t know, but I suspect both are becoming rarer. Hearing that even Kodachrome is largely a thing of the past was sobering, even for someone whose experience with cameras is largely digital…

    • You can get 35mm film everywhere, and even the drugstore still develops it. I buy 35mm film at Wal-Mart and have it developed at Easy peasy.

      The other film size that’s still fairly available is 120, and that’s because it’s the professional standard. It’s available at most photo/camera stores, and that’s also where you’re likely to find developing.

      Old cameras that take 620 film can still be used with a little effort, as 620 film is just 120 film on a skinnier spool. You can buy 120, re-roll it onto the 620 spool, and shoot away. Just make sure you get the 620 spool back after you have the film developed.

      There are a couple companies out there who adapt bulk film to other defunct sizes. You can buy their products on the Web. I imagine developing is trickier to come by. You’d need to find a shop that can handle developing film by hand.

  2. nick says:

    Great camera!
    I’ve got one of those Trips in the glovecompartement of my car permanently.
    It’s always on, and never fails. If I somehow screw up a roll of film the dataloss will not exceed more than 36 frames which is why I switched back to film for almost all of my family picture-taking after having lost all travel dokumentation with my two boys twice, and I am completely reluctant to sheepishly follow the industries given path of buying more and more gear just to save two photographies worthwile keeping.

    Jim your writeups are so nice and giving. A pleasure to read.
    Thank you.
    Have you come across an Olympus 35 SP or RC yet? They also have great lenses on them.
    If you want to try one don’t be put off by their need of 1,35V mercury batteries: they don’t need them.
    I shot a testroll with a 1,5 battery and adjusted two stops lower ISO. The results were so good that I set off learning how to clean+seal old cameras, put in a schottky-diode to regulate voltage and be happy.


    • I recently shot my Trip again and have a new post about it queued up to appear in the next couple weeks. So stay tuned!

      I do have an Oly 35 RC, which I reviewed here:

      I’ve not had trouble simply using 1.5V batteries directly in old cameras, without adjusting ISO or adding a voltage regulator. It helps a lot that I shoot films that tolerate exposure sins well.

      Thanks for saying such nice things about my blog! I’m glad you’re digging through the archives; they get so lonely.

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