I have always had a soft spot for one camera all my life. It was a birthday present from my dad way back in the 70s, when me and my friends used go around wearing flared trousers first, then onto pants which had wide legs…”Oxford bags” I think they called them!
Those were huge pants, and I recall running for a bus one day when I was wearing them. On the way, I passed 2 girls walking down the road. That made me feel rather macho, so I ran a little faster just to show them how fit I was. Unfortunately, my bravado got me in trouble. One of my shoes got tangled with the gigantic Oxford bags I had on, tripped and fell on my face, with girls giggling as they walked past. I felt the biggest fool on the planet that day! I suppose my platform shoes didn’t help much either!
Anyway, those were the days. Around that time as I was saying, I was given an Olympus Trip 35 for my birthday (I won’t tell you which birthday….it’s rude to mention age…).
The only other camera I had used till then was the family Yashicamat, a heavy trundling old thing that took ages to set up and use. Little did I know at that time the magnificence of medium format cameras. That was to come much later.
The Trip was a revelation for me. It was so damn simple to use, any fool could use it…even me!
And when I had the first roll of film developed, I couldn’t believe that such a simple camera could come up with results as good as any SLR camera. Even my friends who carried fancy Canon, Nikon and Minolta slrs were astounded.
So, back to the present. When the Olympus Trip first hit the sops, it was advertised with a TV campaign in the UK, with David Bailey, the famous photographer shown using one. Since that time, the Trip has always been called the “David Bailey” camera. That’s what many readers have asked for recently….could I do an article about that David Bailey camera!
Ok. Let’s talk about what makes it so fast. Well, it has 2 modes; one is a fully automatic mode whereby you set the thing to “A” and shoot…simple. The camera will prevent the shutter from firing if there is insufficient light. The camera selects one of two shutter speeds, either 1/200s or 1/40s with an aperture matching the speed. If you prefer to use flash, it will sync automatically at 1/40s as well. This mode also will make it impossible for you to fire the shutter accidentally with lens cap fitted, the bane of many a professional as well as amateur.
The second mode is the manual one. Here you set the aperture yourself and the speed will usually be the default 1/40s, but he Olympus engineers weren’t stupid, oh no. Just to ensure the user got more than a fair chance at exposing excellent shots, the camera still has it’s meter active at manual settings, and if it thinks it necessary, it will choose a different aperture for that particular shot. Clever eh?
The camera has zone focussing, so to set the lens, you choose between a set of symbols….chest-high people (3ft to infinity), group (5ft), infinity (well…er…infinity!). For most of the time when I use it, my Trip is always set at infinity, and as my shots are in the streets, the closest I ever get to any subject is way more than 5ft, the infinity setting is fine. That said, if you choose a smallish aperture anyway, like f8 or f22, the large depth of field will ensure everything is in focus anyway.
Another very clever thing that the Trip is capable of is exposure lock. This is a very, very handy thing indeed…I have used it myself with superb results. Imagine this scenario….you want to take a shot of an object or person that is in front of a very light background. Normally if you took this shot without thinking, all you’d get would be a very dark, almost black subject, with the background being exposed correctly.
But with exposure lock, your subject will be correctly exposed. This is how it works….get withiin a few feet of your main subject, point the camera, and depress the shutter button halfway….then recompose the shot to include the whole background, and press the button fully. Job done. Your subject will be correctly exposed even if the background is overly bright.
The more demanding photographer can still play around with the ISO settings to instill a bit more creativity into his/her shots.
Now to the lens, which is the stuff everyone talks about even now, well over 30 years since the camera was invented. Though it looks like a cheapo plastic lens, it is in fact a superbly crafted one, with 4 elements in 3 groups. But the main thing is that it’s a Tessar lens, a design though first used over a 100 years ago, is still very difficult to beat. A guy who is very knowledgeable about the Trip tested the Trip against his Canon 5D digicam fitted with a 17-40mm f4 lens, and the Olympus Trip beat it hands down.
What else is handy about the Trip? It has a clever viewfinder. Just below the one you look through before taking a shot, there’s another little window which shows you, without removing your eyes from the main viewfinder, what aperture setting and distance the camera is set at.
Something else that the Olympus Trip has in it’s favour is EMP survivability. Let me explain; EMP means electro magnetic pulse. If, one fine day, the people of our planet decide to fire nuclear bombs at each other, thereby totally annihilating the whole world, when those nuclear bombs explode, they release an EM pulse, which will destroy each and every computer, digicam, TV set etc….basically everything that runs on ICs, transistors, or semiconductors, which is effectively everything we use! And this suggestion is not simply a story…it’s a fact that EMP studies are a closely-guarded secret.
Because the Trip has no semiconductors, ICs or transistors in it, you will, if you are lucky enough to survive the devastation, be the only one able to document it with photographic ability. I know, it’s a silly notion, but, hey, who knows what’s to come, what with so many crackpots running the world!
How much should you pay for one nowadays? It all depends. I have bought several at thrift shops for less than $20, some as low as $5 even, but some turned out to be faulty…you pays your dough and gets what you pays for!
You see, the Trip does have one weak point, the only weak point. It’s the automatic exposure system, which is powered by a selenium cell around the lens. That selenium cell sometimes, not always, fails after time, and so when you come to use the camera on auto-exposure, the camera won’t stop you taking a shot in low light as it’s supposed to, and that red plastic flag that pops up won’t do so. That doesn’t mean the camera is kaput of course…you can still use it on manual settings. Legend has it that if you always keep a lens cap on the lens after use, that will protect the selenium cell. A user who has done that since first buying his Trip in the 70s still has a fully working one today!
So look at paying anywhere between $50 to $100 for a good, refurbished Trip. Once you’ve use done, like me, you’ll never be without one….I have more than 15 of them, and still can’t resist buying one if I see it for sale! A little plug from here…I always have an Olympus Trip for sale…before buying one elsewhere, take a look at mine!
What kind of shots can you expect? Here are some examples:
all photos courtesy http://www.flickr.com