Cameras, Photography

Olympus Trip 500

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In the autumn of 2005 I traveled to Mexico on a mission trip. I wanted to take pictures while I was there, but I didn’t own a camera. I’m sure that’s hard to believe! But I was in the middle of my divorce and my life was a considerable mess. I owned very little and I was so, so broke. I could afford the trip only because others in my church paid for it. So I scrimped for weeks to afford a cheap camera and some film. The choices at my local Meijer (which, for those of you outside the Midwest, is a slightly upscale Wal-Mart) were skimpy – a few off-brand cameras and this Olympus Trip 500. I figured I was safest going with a manufacturer I recognized, so I bought the Olympus. And so I came to own my first, only, and almost certainly last brand new film camera.

Olympus Trip 500

The Trip 500 is sleek and light. It fits into my jeans’ front pocket, though it leaves an obvious bulge. It won’t function without two AA batteries, which drive the shutter, a surprisingly quiet winding motor, and the flash, which always fires and can’t be turned off. The fixed-focus, wide 28 mm lens is almost certainly made of plastic. The lens’s aperture and the shutter’s speed are anybody’s guess.

I knew I wasn’t getting fine photographic equipment for my $19.99, but I was still disappointed with the photos my Trip 500 took. The corners were always dark and badly out of focus, while the centers were frequently washed out. The effect was much worse indoors under flash. Also, the colors seemed over-saturated to me. Today I realize that these are prized characteristics among lomographers, who love lo-fi photography. But then all I wanted was decent shots of my mission trip. If you’d like to read about the trip and see some of the photos I got then, click here.

I used Fujicolor 200 on that trip. I always wondered if faster film would give better results. On the first day of spring this year, with record-breaking high temperatures in the mid 70s, I itched to get out and either ride my bike or take some pictures. Remembering my pocketable Trip 500, I decided to do both. I dug the camera out of the box of unloved cameras I keep under my bed, dropped some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 and fresh batteries into it, and headed out on my bicycle.

Unfortunately, the faster film didn’t cure the vignetting and strong color saturation. This is the only photo in this series that I’ve left exactly as it was scanned from the negative, to show the effect.

Stop Stop

The Trip 500’s viewfinder shows a lot less than the camera actually sees. I cropped this shot to show what I composed in the viewfinder, leaving behind a considerable amount of the original image. I wrote recently that the city is extending sanitary sewer to my neighborhood. These are some of the pipes, which did a great job of blocking 62nd Street.

Sewer pipes

My bicycle trip took me to New Augusta, a favorite photographic destination close to home. New Augusta was founded in the 1850s as a railroad town, but the line that still passes through town gets little use today. Indianapolis gobbled up all twelve blocks of New Augusta in 1970. This storefront is in the business district.

New Augusta businesses

Salem Lutheran Church has been meeting in this area since 1836. Their building dates to 1880.

Salem Lutheran Church

Many great old houses stand along New Augusta’s streets. This is my favorite, and it’s for sale.

House in New Augusta

Here’s another of New Augusta’s great old houses.

House in New Augusta

This one appears to be vacant. I wonder how much work it needs. I lack the skills to do a restoration and the funds to pay someone else to do it, but I surely would enjoy living in a house like this.

House in New Augusta

As usual, I burned off the last couple shots on the roll in the parking lot at work. I’ve shared too many photos of the anonymous office building in which I work. I wouldn’t have shared this one except that I happened to catch two geese flying by. That their wings are frozen suggests that the shutter is pretty fast.

Anonymous office building

I’m still not in love with the Olympus Trip 500, though I must admit the saturated colors are growing on me. That doesn’t mean I’m starting to like lo-fi photography, though! Here’s hoping this post introduces some lomo lovers to this little camera, which can be had for a few dollars on eBay.

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

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11 thoughts on “Olympus Trip 500

  1. Jim, I think you are right that this camera does have lomo appeal. I didn’t know that Olympus made a camera of this type. Most of their point and shoots are pretty good performers lens-wise. I think it would be interesting to see a guide to the point and shoots of the late 80’s to the time when most companies stopped making film cameras. I wonder if they will ever be collectible? It seems that most people, with the exception of a few cameras, shun these point and shots right now.

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    • My guess is that Olympus didn’t set out to make a lo-fi camera — they set out to make a camera that would sell for a certain price, and this is what resulted.

      Wow, that would be a fun project to buy crappy point-and-shoots from the past 30 years and try/review them. You’re right, today these cameras are all considered junk.

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  2. u got this new?! sweet. the pictures definitely look cool.. the lo-fi look is something i love. sure, not what u’d expect from an olympus.. i have a couple of friends who used this.. i dont remember seeing results like this. nice work, even if it wasnt exactly how u wanted it to be!

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  3. There is something compelling about the color saturation and vignetting. I’d probably just use it when I wanted to do that — those New Augusta homes look great as vignettes for example. Assuming of course that you ever want to do that…

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  4. Brandon Campbell says:

    The vignetting could be better, but I do like the saturation and contrast, and also the 28mm lens is a rarity in cameras in this price range, usually they have a 35 or 38mm lens instead.

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  5. Alon P says:

    I just bought this camera used as new for 5$ only because of the vinigating effect! with black and white film, pictures looks quite artistic and unique, same as a Holga camera. Love it!

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