Don't get me wrong, I love taking photographs with my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT dSLR, but sometimes it helps to get back to the real basics. I'm talking about one camera, one lens, one focal length, and just you, your subject, your composition and the light. Say hello to the Olympus Trip 35!
Olympus sold about ten million of these beauty's from the late '60's to the early '80's, and there's some good reasons why. The Trip 35 has a lovely sharp 40mm lens with a nice bright f/2.8 maximum aperture - so it can plenty of light in, but this piece of glass in renowned for competing with the lenses used on the SLR's of it's period. The Trip 35 needs no battery, yet uses Automatic Exposure, setting the shutter speed and aperture for you.
So far so good - but then we come to the "Zone Focussing". The Olympus trip 35 is a viewfinder-type camera. You're not looking through the lens, rather a small window to one side. To focus the lens you rotate the barrel to the appropriate icon - which relate to 1m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. On the underside of the lens is a more traditional distance scale, in feet and meters. This sounds a bit hit and miss, but actually works fine. When we're used to dSLR's with dozens of auto-focus points, the idea of "guessing" is difficult to get used to, but once you do, it's quite liberating.
As I said earlier, the Olympus Trip 35 is an automatic exposure camera. You turn the ring on the lens to "A", then shoot away. The camera selects either a 1/40th or 1/200th of a second shutter speed, and the appropriate aperture from f/2.8 to f/22. There is no way of shooting manually unless you make some custom modifications to the inside of the camera. The only time you take the camera of "A" mode is when you need to use a flash. If there's not enough light to take a photograph, the camera stops you pressing the shutter and pops up a little red warning tongue in the view-finder. Now just put a flash in the hot-shoe, consult the distance / power guide, and set the lens to the appropriate f stop.
I'm not saying that the Olympus Trip 35 will replace your dSLR, but as a very capable but fun compact, it's hard to beat. With no expensive battery to replace, your Trip 35 will be ready to go when you are - faithfully waiting for a roll of film and an adventure to go on!
Trip 35's are quite abundant at car-boot sales, second-hand and charity shops, but you do need to know how to check if it's working. To do this, wind the camera on with the thumbwheel, set the lens to "A", put your palm over the front of the lens (including the plastic surround) to block the light, the look through the view-finder and press the shutter button. The camera should not fire, and you will see a red "tongue" appear in the viewfinder window. This means that the camera is probably working ok and it's worth spending a couple of quid on it. If the camera fires anyway, the aperture blades are probably seized, and although fixable, you may be better off moving along and finding a working model.
I've talked a lot in the past about how I enjoy shooting film, and if you head on over to the Digital Photography School Forums, you'll find a short tutorial on why I think the Olympus Trip 35 is a perfect camera to help us enjoy a simpler form of photography.
The Olympus Trip 35 obviously has some short-comings, and the most glaring one is that it has no built in flash, which makes low-light (indoor!) photography challenging. You can put an external flash on the camera, but I'd be tempted to just switch to f/2.8, let the camera set the shutter-speed to 1/40th, then see what happens - you could get some rather cool shots!
As I'm finishing off this article I'm looking across at the two Trip 35's that are on my shelf. One's loaded up with Fuji C200 colour 35mm film, and the other's waiting for some Ilford XP2 Black and White film - it uses the C41 process to be developed, so normal colour labs can do the prints for you. I've got another two trips that don't work, and another that does, but because they're so cheap I can't resist buying them!
In conclusion then, if you want a cheap film compact, with a great lens, that doesn't take batteries, you can't go wrong with an Olympus Trip 35 (as long as you check it works!). I've got five, and I'll probably have more by the time you read this!
Do you use a Film Camera, maybe even the Trip 35? What do you think of it? Would you ever shoot film, or is it a dead format? Why is it that Olympus can have the same camera design for 15 years, yet new cameras change every five minutes? Please put your comments below!