The Olympus Trip 35 seemed the perfect camera to take. Compact, easy to use, and easily replaceable should something happen to it. When I wrote my Ten Photos In Ten Years retrospective I realised how much I enjoyed using it, and how long it had been since I’d last taken it out.
I had a rummage round in the fridge for some film. The day looked like being sunny, and I found a roll of Ilford Delta 100 from when I was going through my Delta-curious phase. That’ll do.
Thorpe Park / Olympus Trip 35 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed with BelliniFoto EcoFilm (Liquid Xtol)
A Little Bit Of Development Geekery
Kodak’s D76 is my go-to developer for 35mm film. It comes as a powder that you mix with water, either in 1 or 3.8-litre packs. I use the small packs because it’s easy to mix and store.
D76 was first marketed way back in 1927, but Kodak also has a much more modern developer: XTOL. It’s used by many professional labs, and in my experience is marginally better than D76. It’s also fairly eco-friendly. But there’s a big downside. It’s a two-powder mix, which is a faff, and it only comes in 5L packs. You have to mix the whole lot in one go, so storing 5L of liquid is a pain. Plus I’m unlikely to use that amount within the shelf life.
Enter BelliniFoto EcoFilm Developer. This is a liquid developer formulated to work like XTOL. I got mine from Nik & Trick Photo Services, who are worth checking out as they have some interesting stuff. It comes in handy 500ml bottles that make 1L of stock solution. This is the first roll of film I’ve tried with it and I’m very pleased with the results. Recommended.
It’s ten years since I picked up my Olympus Trip 35 in a charity shop for next to nothing. It was certainly a camera I’d heard of, thanks to a very popular 1970s TV ad campaign with British photographer David Bailey. What I didn’t know is what an incredibly capable camera it is. That f/2.8 Zuiko lens has a great 40mm focal length and is super sharp and contrasty. And the battery-free auto-exposure system is a work of genius.
I’ve spent the last year whittling down the cameras I own to the ones that get regular use. I wanted to avoid having more than one camera in any single category. But there was never any doubt that I’d keep the Olympus Trip 35. When you consider price, image quality, usability, and simple good looks, it’s the best camera ever invented in the point and shoot department.
I’ve picked out ten of my favourite Trip photos taken over the last ten years. Tellingly, I can remember taking every single one of them.
My Olympus Trip 35, shot with the Yashica Mat with rolleinar 2 close up lens / Ilford FP4 @ 400 / Developed D76 1+1 for 18 minutes
The Olympus Trip 35 is a 35mm viewfinder camera. It uses an ingenious auto-exposure system that utilises the photoelectric properties of selenium – no batteries required. There have been many cameras that have used selenium based coupled and uncoupled meters, but I’m not aware of any that have a fully automatic system. Clever.
This was from the first roll of film I shot with my Trip. It may even have been my first photo. It’s certainly one of the pictures that got me hooked. I was walking through an alley in Windsor and came across these characters right in front of me. I was able to focus and click the shutter before they’d even noticed I was there.
One of the great things about the Trip’s zone focus system is that each setting has a very positive click on the lens barrel. Once you’re familiar with it, it’s possible to set the focus without even looking. Perfect for when you have to fire off quick street pictures.
I shot this with Fomapan 100. That’s unusual, as most of these photos are shot with Tmax 400 or Tri-X. I generally recommend using a 400 speed film for the Trip. That means smaller apertures and a wider depth of field – more forgiving if you’re not so good at judging distances.
I darkened the deep blue sky by using an orange filter. The Trip takes obscure 43.5mm screw-on filters, but these are rare, and if you find one it’ll cost you. Save some money by buying a 43.5 step-up ring and using a standard size filter. And because the filter covers the selenium cells, the metering stays spot on.
I sat opposite this thoughtful looking woman on the train and wanted to grab a quick candid. She was probably only about two feet from me, closer than the Trip’s three(ish) foot minimum focus. However, shooting her reflection in the train window managed to keep things sharp, with the added advantage of looking like I was shooting the scenery.
It’s said that you’re a true cockney if you’re born within earshot of Bow Bells. Those bells belong to the church of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of the City of London. There’s been a church on this site all the way back to Saxon times, and it was last rebuilt after the 1666 Great Fire Of London.
It’s always quiet here at weekends. I was looking at the stained glass windows, and turning around was surprised to see then-girlfriend Marge in the pulpit, apparently having a bit of a moment. Click.
When I came across this stand in Covent Garden I stood there hoping something would fill the empty frame. Almost immediately a large stomach came in to view. Shortly followed by a man.
I was walking through Trafalgar Square and saw a small protest in support of Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi. This was in 2010 just before she was released from prison. It’s the expressions on all the faces that I really love about this snap.
Another one taken in Trafalgar Square, this time on the plinth of Nelson’s Column. I rested the camera on the plinth and clicked the shutter. Et voilà – Attack Of The Giant Pigeons.
Another clever Trip feature is the inability to take a poorly exposed photo. If the meter doesn’t detect enough light, a red flag pops up in the viewfinder and the shutter release locks.
This photo was taken at a Voices Of Cuba gig in London. The red flag was probably right to tell me there wasn’t enough light across the whole scene. But I knew there was enough to light the musicians.
The Trip automatically chooses one of its two shutter speeds: 1/200s or 1/40s. But if you move the aperture from A to a specific aperture, the camera will default to 1/40s. It will also open up as wide as necessary, but not wider than the aperture you’ve chosen. Whether or not that means a good exposure depends on the circumstances. For example, set the aperture to f/5.6 in bright sunshine, and the camera will still stop down to something like f/22. At 1/40s, this may still result in overexposure. Set the aperture to f/11 for example, and the camera will not open wider than that, even if there’s not enough light.
The reason to set a specific aperture is when you’re using a flash, but it also means you can partly override the auto-exposure. In this case, I moved the aperture off of A to f/2.8, as the red flag was raised and the shutter locked. So this photo was shot at f2.8 (probably) with a shutter speed of 1/40s. Success.
A testimony to the Trip’s fiendishly clever design and success is the fact that it was produced continuously from 1967-1984 with virtually no changes. It’s hard to imagine a smartphone or a car being sold unchanged for 17 years.
This was one of the many times I’ve been crammed into a tube train as it’s stopped between stations for no apparent reason. Like the Trip, the London Underground sometimes seems like it’s remained technologically unchanged since its inauguration in 1863.
I was walking through Greenwich on a summer evening, having just been to The Royal Observatory. The Camera Obscura there completely blew me away. I was intrigued by these three couples each in their own seperate worlds. But looking at the guy on the left, it looks like I lingered just a bit too long.
One final point on the red flag. I’ve seen many people suggest that if you find a Trip, you can test if its meter is still working by seeing if the red flag pops up and the shutter locks in low light. But having come across several Trips over the years, I can say that this mechanism is one of the weaker parts. This feature can be broken but the meter still be fully working. The real way to test is to turn the camera around and look into the lens. Press the shutter halfway down and see if the aperture responds appropriately in different lighting conditions. Oh, and this is a good time to mention that pressing the shutter halfway locks the exposure. This means you can potentially have some control over exposure by locking the meter on something other than your subject.
Saturday was the hottest day of the year (so far) in the UK. As things cooled down in the evening, we headed to West Wittering Beach with Coco The Cocker, sausages, marshmallows, smoothies and sun cream.
As you can see I’m back on the Tmax 100, but there’s a couple of rolls of Delta 100 in the fridge for the next sunny day. In this country, that could be some time away.
West Wittering Beach / Nikon F100 / Kodak Tmax 100 / Developed in D76 1+1
Experimenting with different films, chemicals, and developing techniques is great fun. And over the years I’ve probably tried most things. But I’ve come to appreciate consistency and the ability to predict the results I’ll get. These days I’ve whittled down the films I use to just a handful. The flip side of this is that I can’t always remember why I might have rejected one film in favour of another. So I thought it was time I let Ilford Delta 100 have another crack at the whip.
As the so-called Saharan Bubble heat wave drifted across Europe this week, France recorded it highest ever temperature of 45.8℃. In England we generally prefer to be a little more understated, but the temperature did top out at 34℃ on Saturday. And as things heated up on Friday, we took our team meeting out of the office and into the park.
It’s not particularly sensible to make any judgement based on one roll of film shot under one set of conditions. That’s not going to stop me though. These photos clearly have a different look than the photos I shot last week of Brompton Cemetery on Kodak Tmax 100. Both films are incredibly fine-grained, but Delta 100 doesn’t have the biting sharpness and contrast of Tmax 100. Delta has a more traditional look, by which I think I mean more old-fashioned. But I like it, and I’ll be keeping a few rolls in the fridge from now on.
There are changes happening in my country and others at the moment. Attitudes that I thought were history are now resurfacing. I work for a company that has offices in over 190 different countries. Looking at these photos of my colleagues and friends, I’m very happy that I’m surrounded by people who speak Italian, French, Tamil, Spanish, Punjabi, and Portuguese, amongst others. There are 500 people in my office, representing 36 different nationalities. I feel very proud that all of these intelligent and highly educated people have chosen to come and work in London.
Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in D76 1+1
Brompton Cemetery is the third of London’s so-called Magnificent Seven Cemeteries that I’ve visited. I’ve previously been to Norwood and Kensal Green (twice), but Brompton has been the most enjoyable of the three.
Brompton was built in 1840, and it’s as much a nature reserve as a cemetery. Because it’s surrounded by a wall, a distinct area of Victorian flora has been preserved virtually intact. There are over 60 species of trees, of which the limes date back to 1838. Snow drops and bluebells are amongst the flora that appear seasonally, and because the land was once used as a market garden, it’s not unusual to find wild cabbages, asparagus, and garlic sprouting amongst the graves. There’s loads of animals too. Foxes, bats, and some incredibly tame and Instagram friendly squirrels.
Nikon F100 / Kodak Tmax 100 / Developed in D76 1+1
Most people tend to view Brompton Cemetery as park that just happens to have some gravestones. And in fact it’s actually maintained and managed by The Royal Parks. I came across sunbathers and picnickers, cyclists and joggers, dog-walkers and scooter riders. Even a teenage dance troupe having a practice session. Because, as nobody will ever hear me say, jazz hands always make the world better place.
Brompton Cemetery has been an attractive place for filmakers over the years. Indeed, there’s a bit of a James Bond thing going on. The chapel was used in GoldenEye, the outside standing in for the church in St Petersburg where Izabella Scorupco hides from the evil Janus
And the colonnades above the catacombs are used in the far more realistic spoof-Bond film Johnny English, where Rowan Atkinson plays a twit.
Of the many famous residents of Brompton Cemetery, in my mind the most significant is British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Time magazine clearly agree, because in 1999 they named her as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”. Unfortunately her gravestone was in deep shade, shrouded by numerous trees, so I didn’t take a photo. However, below is the rather grand memorial of boxer John “Gentlemen” Jackson, winner of “Champion of England” in 1795. I believe this went untelevised.
Lead an empty life with far too much time on your hands? Then why not check out my other Magnificent Seven photos?