The Olympus Trip 35 was designed to be the ideal camera to take on vacation. It was small, light, and rugged. It set aperture and shutter speed automatically and was easy to focus. Finally, 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 amounted to very little fuss in those days before auto-everything cameras.
Olympus introduced the Trip 35 in 1967. 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. That’s still attractive today, especially given how many cameras from the era take batteries you can’t buy at the drug store. However, left uncovered, selenium degrades and eventually stops responding to light. If you’re 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.
The Trip 35 has a two-speed shutter: 1/40 and 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 (ISO 25-400) 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, making them easy to come by today.
Since it went out of production, the Trip 35 has developed almost a cult following. Flickr has several groups of devoted Trip 35 photographers. 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.
If you like the Trip 35, then check out my reviews of the Canon A35F (here) and AF35ML (here), the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Konica C35 (here), and the Olympus Stylus (here). Nothing is quite like the Trip 35, but these cameras have similar missions. You can see every camera I’ve ever reviewed here.
My Trip 35’s date code says it was made in December, 1977. It has a chrome shutter button; that button on later Trips was black. A heavy, wet snow had fallen when I loaded my first roll into it — good old Fujicolor 200. This tree, which is actually a badly overgrown shrub, sagged under the snow’s weight.
I thought I had framed images correctly on the test roll, but it turns out I was ignoring the viewfinder’s framing lines entirely. My images had far more in the frame than I intended. D’oh!
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 seldom need to do that, as I shoot the Trip 35 outside the vast majority of the time. I put another roll of Fujicolor 200 into it and shot along the Michigan Road. This Shell station near my home has since been razed and rebuilt as some other brand.
Farther up the Michigan Road, in tiny Kirklin, I found this old Oldsmobile parked in front of this building that’s seen happier days.
The Trip 35 was born to use consumer-grade color film. Here I shot some Agfa Vista 200, which is just rebranded Fujicolor 200.
I prefer cameras with in-viewfinder focusing aids, such as you’d find on a rangefinder or an SLR. Without those aids, I forget to focus! But I found if I leave the Trip 35 at its landscape focus setting, the majority of the kinds of things I photograph are in focus. Just look at the jewel-like color that Zuiko lens delivers!
The Trip 35 is a good size for the hand. Its controls all feel solid though not luxurious, except for the winding thumbwheel, which feels cheap. But that’s the only chink in the Trip 35’s armor.
I put a roll of Kodak ColorPlus into the Trip and took it around everywhere I went for a couple weeks. I shot whatever felt good, even while stopped at a stoplight.
When you want to shoot the Trip up close, you need to be good at guessing how far away three feet is. I managed it here.
And here. The Trip is capable of yielding a little blurred background to make the close subject pop a little.
To see more photos from this camera, check out my Olympus Trip 35 gallery.
The more I use the Olympus Trip 35, the more I love it. I especially like how I don’t need to buy an expensive battery to use it. But even more, I like how I get good results from it with little fuss. The Trip 35 is a keeper.