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Tripping the Light Fantastic: The Original Olympus Trip

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In writing this topic, I feel that I should produce a lengthy and learned treatise on this product, and yet, at the same time, the nature of the subject matter is in itself utterly concise, needing little text to draw out the inevitable main conclusions. Put briefly, the original Olympus Trip was, and amazingly still is, a camera for everybody, utterly simple to use and able to give professional level images as well as being a marvellous companion for the amateur traveller who just wants some snaps to show friends and relatives. OK, it is a film camera and not a snazzy bit of digital kit, but its useful life has carried on regardless of the onslaught of modern camera technology, with a sufficiently large band of hardy adherents and the characteristic of being a camera that still works when all those digital cameras and smartphones have run out of juice. 







(Pic from upload.wikimedia.org)






If I was writing this review back when the Olympus Trip 35 was launched, I wouldn’t have considered the camera to be an outstanding item aesthetically, but now, as it soldiers on, it’s “prettiness” does please my eye and its aesthetics have worn well; indeed, it is a perfect model for proponents of the “form follows function” school of product design. What I would have praised then is its compactness (about 124.8mm W X 72.7mm H X 57.6mm D), quality of construction, using mainly metal in its armour against knocks and bruises, and having a slight and reassuring heft in its weight (13.77 oz or 390.5 grams empty and no strap) without being cumbersome. I would also have noted the quality of its optics, way ahead in quality when compared with many other contemporary and even more recent point-and-shoot cameras.


There is some “debate” as to when the Olympus Trip 35 was introduced and when it was discontinued. Wikipedia states that the camera was introduced in 1967 and ended production in 1983. Another authority gives 1968-1984 for the camera, while yet another source indicates that the production run ended in 1988. Whatever the case, the camera had a very long production run and was a highly successful product for Olympus - some 10 million pieces being made over the years of production. The name, Trip, was an inspired choice, referring to the ideal role of the camera as a compact and simple to use companion for holidaymakers and snap-shooters. Interestingly though, the 1970s advertising campaign featuring the photographer David Bailey, more than hinted at the fact that the Olympus Trip could be, and was, more than a holiday snaps device. Hardly surprising then that the camera was so popular and in production for so long.










(Above two pics from wycameras.com at cdn.shopify.com)






It is often said that the judgement of a good camera is largely in the performance of its lens and so we shall start on the specifications of the Trip with this aspect of the camera - an aspect where the Olympus Trip scores highly. The coated Zuiko non-interchangeable 40mm f2.8 lens on the Olympus Trip 35 seems to have be of Tessar type and comprises four elements in three groups, with the choice of a focal length of 40mm (ten millimetres short of the standard camera lens on quality SLR cameras) being a good one; not prone to the distortion of perspective created by wide angle lenses yet just wide enough to allow the photographer to get closer to the subject than with a 50mm lens). The sharpness of the lens has also been praised, giving high quality images sharp to the edges and corners of the frame that are impressive even by today’s standards.


Always a good idea is a UV filter, not least because it adds an extra layer of protection between the dangerous outside world and the lens itself - the Trip features a 43.5mm screw thread for this purpose and for other filters, with the thread diameter being uncommon, probably as a means of “persuading” customers to buy only Olympus filters. The lens of the Trip focuses down to 2.9 feet (0.9 metres) and uses “zone focusing” at 1 metre, 1.5 metres, 3 metres, and infinity. Apparently, there is an art to obtaining the best focusing for subjects in the different zones that doesn’t quite match the zoning instructions on the camera; one way of increasing the likelihood of accurate focusing is to use a 400 ASA film which gives more depth of field when using the camera.















(Above four pics from i.ebayimg.com)







The viewfinder on the Olympus Trip 35 is unsophisticated but functional, with no parallax correction but with parallax markings in the frame for close focusing. If the light level is too low, a transparent red warning flag comes up from the bottom of the finder, and when in Automatic “A” setting, if the exposure would go below 1/40th of a second at f2.8, the shutter locks, preventing a picture from being taken. When this occurs the use of flash is needed (a hot shoe and Prontor-Compur socket for use with studio strobes are provided on the camera); the shutter speed in flash mode being 1/40th second. Taking the camera off the “A” setting can also be used for high speed films and night photography. Below the viewfinder window is a very small additional "Judas window" that shows the current aperture setting and distance symbol which are on the lens barrel.


Although the programming of the exposure in the Olympus Trip is relatively simple, it is surprisingly effective, and what is more, the camera is solar-powered without the need of batteries. Adjusting the film speed is done by turning the front filter ring, with increments of a third from ASA 25 to ASA 400 apart from ASA 32. The selenium metering is functional down to about EV 8 (1/40 at f2.8) and up to EV 16 (1/200 at f27), and above EV 13, the aperture is opened by one stop while the shutter speed increases by two stops to 1/200 second, perhaps leading to a slightly inaccurate exposure (although the general accuracy of exposure in the Trip is remarkably good). The diaphram itself is two-bladed and diamond shaped - in practice, stopping down to about f22. Note that a strong light source just outside the frame/field of view may affect the meter when taking pictures, and to prolong the life of the selenium cell it is probably wise to keep the lens cap on the camera when not in use.


The shutter on the Olympus Trip, with its two speeds of 1/40 and 1/200 second is quiet and relatively unobtrusive. There is no “Bulb” setting but usefully, the camera has a standard cable release socket in the shutter release button. Another useful feature is the exposure lock, frozen by pressing the shutter halfway. Thus, if there is a strong backlight then one can point the camera at something as bright as the subject, press and hold the shutter partway, recompose and shoot. 






An Olympus Trip 35 shown here just to confirm that this is the original production leatherette on the Trip - there seems to be a fashion for replacing the leatherette with leatherettes of different texture and colour. I prefer the original, although if in bad condition then replacement might be called for (pic from Trip Man at cdn.shopify.com):









The Olympus Trip 35 is extremely easy to use, and the Automatic or “A” setting will cover a multitude of situations with the minimum of fuss. Film advance is by a few turns of the thumb wheel while retrieving the used film is by pressing the button under the base and winding the film back using the crank-wheel on the top of the camera. Once the film end has been taken up, open the back, pull up the crank handle and pop the film cassette out. The Olympus Trip is not only a great little performer but it is also a reliable device, partly as a result of sturdy construction and containing no electronics. Indeed, while an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) would destroy most devices that use transistors or ICs, the Olympus Trip might then be left as the most advanced working camera on the planet.


Having written the bulk of my topic, I shall now just provide some hints and tips for camera collectors interested in the Olympus Trip. Prices for a working example of the Trip in decent condition seem to be between about £40 and £60 but really clean examples, recently serviced and with a guarantee, vary in price widely from about £90 upwards and into the £200 league for something a bit special. When buying an Olympus Trip, it is useful to know how old the camera is, and fortunately the dating of this model is not difficult. The guidelines for dating are as follows:


A small number of very early cameras feature a film speed setting only up to 200 ASA.


The earlier cameras have a chrome shutter release button while later cameras, after June 1978, have a black plastic button.


A precise date for an Olympus Trip can be found by opening the film compartment and carefully removing the pressure plate on the back cover - it slides free from its locating pins. Look for the code on the reverse of the pressure plate, which consists of three characters:


1st Japanese character or letter (in later models) signifies the assembly plant;

2nd number represents the last digit in the year of assembly (5 = 1975, 0 = 1980);

3rd number or letter represents month of assembly (1-9 for Jan-Sept, X,Y,Z for Oct-Dec);

Thus the code N1Y = November 1971.


Note that serial numbers for the original Olympus Trip 35 go up to about 5,400,000, which may mean that the figure of over ten million units sold over the production run may include later plastic-bodied Trip-branded cameras.













(Above 4 pics from filmadvance.com - the last pic shows the Olympus OM2 compact 35mm SLR camera, also a classic, alongside the Olympus Trip)




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Somewhere in a box I have my original one. It was replaced with one like this,


which went to a charity shop when I moved house. The original Trip was bought second hand to replace my temperamental Zenit, like this.


The Trip 300 was a great little camera.

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You probably won't like this - I don't as it's a bit of a hatchet job but if someone offered a quality conversion or a modern re-run might it attract customers? 


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16 hours ago, Shoughie0 said:

Who do you think you are - David Bailey? :)

No, David Bailey thinks he's me.

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3 hours ago, WRENCH said:

No, David Bailey thinks he's me.

when i read the title i thought you were the scarlet pimpernel in a tent 


thats lovely 

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A great post and an enjoyable read.

I owned three of the original Olympus Trip cameras over the years and found them all to be excellent. I even found an original Olympus Trip User Manual in a charity shop and later obtained a couple of the original soft zip up camera cases.also from various charity shops. I bought a flash attachment from a guy on Ebay who assured me it was an Olympus Trip flash unit complete with its plastic cover. Not sure if it was a genuine Olympus item but it worked fine so I was happy. 

Oddly enough I also obtained my Olympus Trip as a replacement for a Zenith  SLR although mine was the equally troublesome and more basic Zenith E model. 

Your post has brought back some very happy memories for which I thank you.

Kindest regards,

Chris (Service Engineer)

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