Camera Reviews, Photography

Olympus Trip 35, revisited

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Five years ago I reviewed an Olympus Trip 35. I shot it again recently, as a more experienced photographer, and came away with new impressions. So I’m reviewing it again.

Trip 35: a 35mm camera you are meant to take on vacation. I can’t think of a more aptly named camera.

Olympus Trip 35

I also can’t think of a camera better designed for the purpose. Its selenium meter means the traveler need carry no batteries. Its 40mm lens is a great width for landscape and group shots — wider than a standard 50mm lens but not quite wide angle. It offers just four focusing zones: 1, 1.5, and 3 meters, and infinity.

Olympus Trip 35

But even if you forget to focus (which, sadly, I do all the time when using viewfinder cameras) you might still get a crisp shot. The Trip 35 keeps aperture as narrow as it can, between f/8 and f/16 under most outdoor daytime lighting conditions, for best possible depth of field. It does this with just two shutter speeds: 1/40 and 1/200 sec. It uses 1/200 sec for most outdoor daylight conditions. But even when the light grows dim enough for the Trip 35 to switch to 1/40 sec, you’re likely to get a crisp shot according to the Reciprocal Rule: you can shoot handheld with the shutter set at or above the inverse of the lens’s focal length and avoid most camera shake.

In your hands, the Trip 35 feels light — too light, almost cheap. The shutter fires with an uninspiring clack, and the knurled film winder looks and feels like it was borrowed from a crappy Instamatic. None of this inspires confidence. But it’s all a clever ruse, because when you get your first photos back from the processor you see that this camera really performs.

Sheridan Carnegie Library

It’s because the Trip 35’s D.Zuiko lens is a 4-element design, probably a Tessar. Even on workaday Fujicolor 200 film, this lens returned wonderful, rich color and excellent sharpness and contrast.

Sheridan Carnegie Library

After a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association board up in Michigantown, I took the long way to pick up my sons in Fishers, passing through both Kirklin (below) and Sheridan (above), where I photographed their Carnegie libraries. I’ve shot a lot of 50mm lenses lately and had grown used to backing way up for shots like these. Refreshingly, the Trip’s 40mm lens gave me just enough extra margin to shoot almost any subject from wherever I happened to be standing.

Kirklin Carnegie Library

I lingered a while in Kirklin, a Michigan Road town for which I have inexplicable affection. It’s undergoing a renaissance, with new businesses filling, and often renovating, what had been vacant, dilapidated buildings. This building awaits its renovator.

Downtown Kirklin

The Cold Beer joint looks as it has for at least the last 10 years, but its two neighbors to the north are new in town and have freshened the facades and presumably the interiors too.

Downtown Kirklin

My drive brought me into Noblesville, where I walked the square with the Trip 35. There’s plenty of money in this county, and the buildings on the square show it.

Downtown Noblesville

I finished the roll close to home early one sunny evening. This is the new Walmart Neighborhood Market that I so eagerly anticipated last year. It astonishes me how much easier having this store so close to home makes my day-to-day life. But enough of that. Just check out the blue of that sky. This is another reason the Trip 35 is great on a vacation: its colors are a little more vibrant and rich than in real life, which sweetens your memories.

Walmart Neighborhood Market

I’ve been gassing up at this Shell station for 20 years. Now that this corridor is hot again, I wonder whether this station will be razed in favor of a bigger convenience store, or maybe a CVS. There’s a Walgreens nearby, and it sure seems like wherever there’s a Walgreens, a CVS is soon to follow.

Shell

To see more photos from my Trip 35, see my Trip 35 gallery.

I loved this lens’s 40mm focal length, which let me get so much more in the frame than the 50mm lenses I usually shoot. Yet horizontal subjects could usually still fill the frame, unlike what I often experience when shooting wider lenses.

I shot all of these using the Trip 35’s infinity focus setting, except the one of the Sheridan library’s doors, which I shot on the 3 meter setting. But because the autoexposure biases toward big depth of field, even that shot would probably have turned out fine on the infinity setting, or all the others on the 3 meter setting. It makes the Trip 35 almost point-and-shoot simple.

But I did find that the viewfinder frames a lot more than the lens actually sees. I cropped all of these photos down to the subjects. And I couldn’t manage to get any of my subjects straight in the frame, so I straightened them all in Photoshop. Vacation photographers of old just got prints, and therefore got misframed photos from their Trip 35s unless they shot the camera enough to learn how to compensate.

Despite these quirks, I had great fun shooting my Trip 35 again, and I really enjoy the colors I got from this roll. This camera is a keeper.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my camera reviews!

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21 thoughts on “Olympus Trip 35, revisited

  1. Just about my first camera and if was honest probably one of the best. It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture with it. Ah that was a very pleasant walk down memory lane.
    Thanks Jim.

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      • It is kinda amazing that even what were economy level cameras from that era seem to have held up pretty well. I wonder if there will be any comparable technology from today that people will look at 50 years from now and marvel at its continued usefulness and durability?

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        • bodegabayf2 says:

          I doubt it. I can’t imagine that 50 years from now, someone will be walking around with an iPhone 3 saying…”Look, this thing still works great!”

          Like

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    Looking at your photos which are very good perhaps I should put a film through mine I haven’t had chance as yet, and the best thing about a trip is not battery in sight.

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  3. Excellent post Jim! I got one of these a while ago and never used it. Your photos make me want to finally put some film through it. Nice work!

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  4. josh (safe as milk) says:

    hi jim – i got here via curbside classic. really like your pix. you’ve inspired me do dig my old olympus 35rd out of the closet and take it for a spin. i have owned several olympus cameras and the thing that keeps bringing me back to them is the incredibly good zuiko lenses.

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  5. nick says:

    Such a neat little camera: always ready to shoot.
    I’ve got one permanently stored in the glovecompartement of my car. It’s been frozen and it’s been cooked several times, andt just works when you need it.
    First time out I had no knowledge about it and no trust what so ever of that kind of flimsy camera thingy. I put in the worst overaged film I had and went to our out door public swimming bath prior to it’s closing, trying to save some childhood memories. I took along the whole paraphernalia of camera gear just to make shure I’ll get some decent results somehow.
    Guess wich camera supplied the most apalling pics….

    Hopefully some of the film makers will survive the digital blast, and we can still enjoy these cameras.
    Thanks for posting this blog!
    Nick

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  6. David Wilkes says:

    I agree with all the positive comments.My trip is a 1969 model and still delivers.I also own a Minolta Hi-Matic F and a Konica C35 but these rely on batteries which can be a pain.Also an old working Trip can be cheaper to replace.It is well worth looking up the web-site of Jim Simon Photography in the UK.He collects and uses Olympus Film cameras but also owns a Leica M3 and a collection of fine lenses.He develops and prints B&W but with all the quality equipment he owns he usually ends up using the Trip.He rates it’s lens very highly even in comparison to a Leica Elmar etc!.The site is recommended to all you trip users.
    David Wilkes

    P.S.I also love the Olympus Mju-1 (Stylus in the US).A great little camera and very liberating to use!
    Cheers

    Like

    • I think I stumbled upon Jim Simon’s site while researching my original post on the Trip 35. He looks like a great resource. I’m a fan of getting in close, which the Trip doesn’t really allow — or I’d use it a lot more! I have a Stylus too, or did until it recently bit the dust, and it’s a fun little camera.

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  7. Pingback: Pick a camera… | Ann Arbor Area CRAPPY camera club

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