Olympus Trip 35 | 35mm film compact camera 1967-1984
The Olympus Trip 35 full-frame compact was introduced to the world of amateur photography in 1967 sporting a classy Olympus D.ZUIKO 40mm f2.8 lens, making the camera capable of high quality photography. It is now regarded as a design classic and is still hugely popular amongst many enthusiasts worldwide who find the camera a joy to use. In the United Kingdom, the renowned photographer David Bailey helped seal the fate of the Trip 35 as one of the most popular compact cameras of its time (and rightly so), when Olympus used his celebrity status via TV advertising to help ensure its success.
The Trip 35 philosophy was always one of portability and fuss-free shooting – for everyone. Whilst this approach may seem to limit the potential of the camera and portray it as something far too ‘amateur’ for serious photography, the many thousands of enthusiastic ‘Trippers’ out there would beg to differ, including those who use one for street photography! As alluded to above, a large part of the camera’s appeal is its very high quality optical lens based on a German Tessar. The 4-element design pleasantly surprises almost anyone new to the camera – it really is that sharp.
It is also very refreshing not having to constantly worry about flat batteries, as the Trip 35 doesn’t need any thanks to its selenium cell “electric eye” light meter and mechanical operation. It can simply be set it to its ‘default’ focus and exposure settings to make it a very efficient point and-shoot. And using the camera discreetly in potentially sensitive situations (below!) is not much of a problem due to its very quiet leaf shutter and smooth enough manual film advance via its rear-mounted thumb-wheel. You will hardly be noticed too because the camera is quite small compared to a normal-sized 35mm SLR, but not quite as small as some other compact 35mm cameras (the Olympus XA-series comes to mind here). It would certainly fit inside a larger jacket or coat pocket. And it weighs less than 400g.
For normal daylight photography, the Trip 35 uses a fully automatic exposure system. There are 2 shutter speeds the camera can choose – 1/40 sec. and 1/200 sec., the latter of which is sufficient to just about freeze the wing movements of seagulls at middle distance (above)! There is an exposure control maneuver possible if you know what you’re doing, which involves setting the film speed on the camera to a value other than the ASA value of the film you have loaded, but in practice, the Trip excels in almost every situation as far as yielding correctly exposed photographs. The camera’s film speed range offers values from 25 to 400 ASA (maximum 200 ASA on the very earliest cameras), although some may be disappointed they cannot use something a bit faster. 200 ASA seems to be a good ‘all-rounder’ for the camera, and the film speed most likely to ensure the camera automatically chooses middle apertures to make the most of that ultra-sharp Zuiko lens.
The Trip 35 is designed to make adjustment of its already simple functions a decidedly unfussy experience. It will simply get out of your way and let you just point and click. It is also reassuringly solid. Its well-defined bright line viewfinder frame (with parallax guide marks) makes it a joy to compose a shot, and you can always detect what is just outside the composition area also. And panning the camera (for better or worse) can lead to a pleasing blur effect (above), if you are into that type of thing!
The camera’s fixed moderate wide-angle lens design lends itself well to subject matter and shooting situations where reliance on depth of field is needed to ensure the subject of your photograph comes out clearly. However, shooting something less than about 1m from the film plane is just asking for trouble (below), as that’s it’s minimum focus distance!
The ‘zone’ or ‘scale’ focusing system itself is controlled via the larger black collar around the lens. It features 4 settings that focus the optics at 1m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. A neat touch in the viewfinder is a little extra window allowing viewing of the focus zone you have set on the lens. On most Trip 35 cameras, the “group snap” (3 meter) symbol depicting three persons is coloured red to indicate that this is the best default focus setting for general photography (mid-distance in good light). In practice, using for example 200-speed film on bright days can mean that anything from a few feet to as far as you could possibly need will be in the sweet spot focus-wise. The multi-coated lens is also extremely capable of handling into-the-sun flare (below), provided of course you don’t want much of it for ‘artistic’ purposes!
The combination of ‘take anywhere’ design, high quality optical lens, accurate exposure system and moderate wide-angle field of view (not to mention its ability to be operated with just one hand – including the film advance!), has made the camera an ideal serious ‘street shooter’ for many.
You can read a much lengthier and more comprehensive version of this post in the form of a handy PDF mini-guide specially produced by us! It includes all sorts of extra information such as using a flash with the camera and buying a range of bits and pieces like filters and cases – especially useful information if you are keen on acquiring not only the camera itself but a range of stuff to go with it. Click on the image below to get your copy. Or, click here for our whole other website dedicated to the camera, where you can also obtain the mini-guide and much more.
Many Trip 35 users choose to ‘re-skin’ their Trips with specially pre-cut materials in a range of colours and designs. The particular example pictured above sports a funky ‘tiger’ design on adhesive-backed vinyl material. Earlier Trip 35 cameras can be identified by their metal silver shutter release button (apart from the rarer black paint version, which had a black metal shutter button). Shutter release buttons were black and plastic on all later cameras such as this fully refurbished one.
Also check out the best Flickr group (click the button below) for Trip 35 enthusiasts, where yours truly is an admin. We even do meetups once or twice a year!