Saturday, August 22, 2020

Spotlight: Olympus Trip 35


The Olympus Trip 35 is a point-n'-shoot 35mm camera designed for tourists, and was first manufactured in 1967. The Trip 35 features fully automatic exposure, and requires no batteries. It's solar powered by the hard-to-miss selenium cell that surrounds the entirety of the fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens. It works with 35mm films that have an ISO between 25 and 400. The Trip 35 has become somewhat of a cult camera lately, popular with hipster Youtube influencers. It can fetch prices close to $100 online! I found a working one at an antique mall for 20 bucks (thanks to a family connection to the dealer). 

At first glance, the Trip 35 looks like an aperture-priority camera, but this is not really the case. The selectable apertures on the aperture ring (f/2.8 ~ 22) are only there for flash photography. The shutter will only fire at 1/40 if one of these manual apertures is selected. For non-flash, general photography, the aperture ring should be set to "A." In "A" mode, the camera will select an appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the amount of available light. Apertures vary between f/2.8 and f/22, but the camera only has two shutter speeds: 1/40 and 1/200! This may seem pretty limiting, but the Trip 35 can handle anything from bright exteriors (f/22 @ 1/200), to well-lit interiors (f/2.8 @ 1/40). If the current lighting situation is too dark, a red indicator will pop up in the viewfinder and the shutter will not fire. It's a simple exposure system, but it works in most situations. 

Even simpler is the focusing system. It's a straight-up viewfinder, with no rangefinder focusing aid. You choose between four zones, which are represented as symbols on the focusing ring. You can focus between the zones, and there is an exact distance scale on the opposite side of the focusing ring. The focus range is 3ft. to infinity. There is a little window in the viewfinder that shows your current focus zone setting, as well as your exposure setting. 

The build quality and handling is excellent. Like most products from Olympus, the camera feels light, yet robust. A lot of point-n-shoots feel like they might spontaneously crumble in your hands, but not the Trip 35. Most of the camera seems to be made out of metal. The only aspect of the Trip 35 that feels cheap is the thumbwheel film advance, but it works fine.

I shot a roll with my Olympus Trip 35, where I mainly focused on documenting family activities. My exposures came out pretty much perfect! I found the 40mm Zuiko lens on the Trip 35 to be sharp, though hitting exact focus proved difficult with the camera's zone focusing system. The camera seemed to use the 1/40th speed at times when 1/200th would have been more useful to freeze the action. Overall, the Trip 35 is a fun camera for film newbies and hipsters, but it's not something I'll ever use again. Anyway, my results are below. I used Ilford HP5+ 400 film.