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 first 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 type of camera in any 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
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, handy 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 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 colum. 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 strolling 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.
Spending the afternoon at the Beach in West Wittering, it seemed fitting to take that archetypal holiday camera, the Olympus Trip 35. Millions were sold during its lengthy production run from 1967-1984, during which time there were hardly any changes made to the original genius design. No batteries required; a solar-powered selenium light meter measures the light, and even though selenium photocells don’t go on forever, mine still meters perfectly. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember those classic commercials in the 70s with fashion photographer David Bailey.
Camera: Olympus Trip 35 Film: Fomapan 100
Coco The Cocker loves the sea
She may be 15, but Daisy still gets excited about going for a walk. The square format and the belly level perspective probably give away that this was taken with a twin lens reflex camera, in this case a Yashica Mat. If you’re shooting a meter-less camera and using sunny 16 to calculate exposure, then these sunny cloudless days are the easiest. You can set and forget. I’ve it said that in the UK full sun is never that bright and we should actually use sunny 11, but 16 always works out perfectly for me. Perhaps it’s different if you’re further north.
Camera: Yashica Mat 124G Film: Ilford FP4
When I step outside my home first thing on a sunny morning, this is one of the first things I see
Camera: Pentax KM Film: Kodak Tmax 100
And this is the view coming back after my morning coffee
This is not a great photo of The Copper House, mainly because it gives no sense of scale or location. Next time I’ll do better. It’s a statue of George III mounted on a plinth in 1831, atop of Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park. When I’m cycling round the park, this is my favourite pace to stop and have my sandwiches. On a clear day you can see the control tower at Heathrow and the arches of Wembley Arena.
My current home of Chertsey is one of the oldest market towns in England. Of particular historical note is Chertsey Abbey. Founded in the ungodly year of 666, it was sacked by the Vikings in 875, who burnt it down and killed all the monks. Bastards. It was later rebuilt in stone, although all that remains is a pile of several dozen bricks, and I’m not totally convinced of their provenance. Its former presence is evidenced more strongly in many local names however, for example Abbey River, Abbey Fields, and Monk’s Walk.
Monk’s walk is an enclosed footpath that apparently once started from the Abbey, but now begins several hundred yards further along in Ferry Lane. It runs for about a mile and a half and you emerge quite suddenly next to St Mary’s Church in Thorpe. The exact date when the Church was built is unknown, although in 1963 a Roman cinerary urn was dug up in the churchyard and subsequently dated to around 150 A.D., indicating that the site itself has been of religious significance for going on 1900 years. It seems likely that the church itself was built in the 12th century, and perhaps Monk’s Walk was indeed a secret route between the Church and the Abbey.
When I cycle along there now the first thing you notice, at least in the summer, are the screams. It runs along the back of what is now Thorpe Park, and through the wire fence you get occasional views of some of the rides. Despite the presence of CCTV and razor wire-topped fences, I think there’s still a few opportunities to sneak into the park, if you’re so inclined.
For fast 35mm film I tend to flit between Tri-X and Tmax 400. Tri-X is a classic, but Tmax has very fine grain for a 400 speed film. I’ve seen ISO 100 films that are far grainier than this.
Camera: Nikon F90X Film: Kodak Tmax 400
We went to pick our own at Durleigh Marsh Farm. I specifically voted to remain in the EU so we could continue to exploit East Europeans and I wouldn’t end up having to pick my own damn vegetables </sarcasm>