The Olympus Trip 35

As travel and film photography enthusiasts, we couldn’t continue writing for Roamer Photography without at some point covering a true icon of these genres: the Olympus Trip 35.

Most of you will most likely already be familiar with this little giant of the film camera world, but if the name doesn’t ring a bell, its looks most likely will. 

The Trip 35 features a thick, shiny ring around its D.Zuiko 40mm f/2.8 lens that sticks out from its otherwise minimalistic design. There is no part of this camera that doesn’t serve a purpose, and this ring is no exception. Far from its inclusion being a mere design choice, it houses a solar-powered selenium battery which powers its light meter, allowing this nifty little 35mm film camera to automatically choose its exposure settings when set to do so. 

I was lucky enough to take the Olympus Trip 35, loaded with an expired roll of Kodak 200 film from 1998, on a trip to Turin last year. I’ll share my impressions of it later in this post, but first, let’s go back to where it all began.

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History

The Trip 35 was first released in 1967, enduring a lengthy 17-year production run before Olympus decided to discontinue its production in 1984. During this time, Olympus sold a staggering 10 million copies of this camera, a large portion of which are incredibly still functional and in use to this day.

Following its launch, the Olympus Trip 35 was marketed through a series of ad campaigns starring legendary British film photographer David Bailey CBE. One of these adverts also included Formula One driver James Hunt (whom you may recognize from the Hollywood blockbuster film ‘Rush’), as well as Monty Python’s Eric Idle. 

These adverts were a resounding success – they put the Trip 35 on every casual photographer’s radar, a position it then retained due to its simplicity, portability, and overall quality.

The Olympus Trip 35 – The controls

While you may be forgiven for taking one look at the Olympus Trip 35 and not thinking much of it in this day and age, there is a lot more camera under the hood than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at these features to understand just why the Trip 35 was so far ahead of its time.

The battery 

This 35mm film camera, as previously mentioned, features a solar-powered selenium battery that powers its light meter. This means that the Trip 35 does not require a battery to power itself, another feature that makes it perfect for the sorts of trips it was both designed for and named after.

Therefore, if you own a Trip 35 and it seems to be malfunctioning in some way, often the best remedy is to leave it sitting in the sun for a while before trying again.

Exposure

The only manual exposure setting on the Olympus Trip 35 is its aperture ring, which can be found on its lens. This lets the photographer select their aperture before the light-meter to does the rest.

The Trip 35 will then use this aperture setting and the information it received from its light meter to choose a shutter speed between 1/40th and 1/200th of a second, allowing for sharp, handheld shots even at the slowest of the available shutter speed settings.

And if just choosing the aperture setting is too much of a hassle, the aperture ring can also be turned to ‘A’, or ‘Automatic’, which will instruct the Olympus Trip 35 to choose each of its settings independently, essentially transforming it into an out-and-out point and shoot.

If the scene doesn’t have enough natural light for the Trip 35 to correctly expose the image, a small red flag lifts into the viewfinder. This signals to the photographer that they must either adjust the amount of natural light available to the camera by altering the framing of their shot or that they must attach an external flash unit to the hot shoe mount.

The Trip 35 - portrait

Focusing

Correctly adjusting the zone focusing setting on the Olympus Trip 35 is essentially the only necessarily manual aspect to shooting with it, besides advancing the film between each shot and rewinding it after the roll is full.

Trip 35 Zone focus ring

The zone-focusing system on the Trip 35 is also very straightforward. The focus ring on the lens displays four small orange icons to choose from:

  1. Close-range portrait mode
  2. Mid-range portrait mode
  3. Long-range group portrait
  4. Landscape mode

Our review of the Olympus Trip 35

As mentioned in the introduction of this post, I was lucky enough to take the Trip on a trip to Italy last year. I managed to find a fully working copy on sale in a charity shop in the UK for just £15 (that’s around US $19 or €17), so there was no hesitation involved in picking it up.

Now, as with any camera, especially one that’s in its 50s, there were both positives and negatives. In the interest of finishing on a high, let’s start with the not-so-great.

 

The Olympus Trip 35’s shortcomings 

The highest ISO setting available is 400

While a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is pretty good, the fact that the slowest possible shutter speed is 1/40th of a second and the maximum ISO is only 400 seriously limits the Trip 35’s capabilities in low light. This means that you’ll need to carry an additional flash unit for shooting anything other than a very well-lit environment, which isn’t ideal for a camera designed specifically for portability.

The Trip 35 is prone to light leaks

I experienced this on a couple of shots, and I’ve heard many other users complain of something similar. The Trip 35 can, on occasion, allow light to leak through and partially expose film, which may completely ruin your shot.

Can be easy to advance past the end of the film

This is another issue I had with the roll that I shot in Turin – I advanced the film past the end of the roll without winding it with much pressure at all. Of course, this is avoidable if you just take care and keep track of the number of shots you’ve taken using the frame counter on the top of the camera, but I still prefer when the advance lever comes to a strong stop like with my Nikonos V.

How the Olympus Trip 35 makes up for its shortcomings

Lake with the Olympus Trip 35
Turin Castle with Trip 35<br />

Fantastic longevity

Probably the most obvious benefit of the Olympus Trip 35 is its longevity and durability. The fact that many of these models, along with all of their automatic mechanisms, are still fully functional more than half a century after they were built is genuinely astounding. It means that should you pick up a version in good condition and you look after it, it will most likely work for several more decades.

Very sharp lens

What would have been one of the biggest surprises to any photographer using the Olympus Trip 35 for the first time after it was released is the image quality that its tiny D.Zuiko 40mm lens is able to produce. In an era where the average camera lens was either humungous or of laughably poor quality, the Trip 35 brought something new to the table. That I can still describe it as sharp more than five decades later shows just how ahead of its time the Trip 35 was.

No need for a battery

While we have already mentioned this, it’s necessary to reiterate. The fact that the camera is able to completely power itself as long as it is occasionally exposed to sunlight makes it ideal for those who like their film camera to require as little maintenance as possible. My copy has also been able to survive in the little sunshine we get in the UK, which further proves its efficiency and longevity.

Turin Lake portrait with Trip 35
Tree with the Olympus Trip 35

Extremely lightweight

Weighing in at a measly 390g (or 0.86 lbs), the Trip 35 is barely noticeable when it’s in your bag or your jacket pocket. This, of course, makes it ideal for travelling and for taking out and about with you, wherever your travels happen to take you. While I love my comparably hefty Nikonos V, if I’m going on a long hike or walking around a city on a sunny day, the Olympus Trip 35 is much more likely to come along.

Very easy to use

As mentioned, the Trip 35 can essentially function as a point-and-shoot (although a quick adjustment of the zone focus ring may still be necessary). Other than that, it’s an incredibly simple camera to use for anyone, regardless of their experience with or knowledge of photography, making this a very accessible camera to use.

Value for money

If you look for a used version of the Olympus Trip 35, chances are you will be able to pick one up for an absolute steal. I bought mine in the summer of 2022 for just £15 at a charity shop. My guess is that it was so cheap because the last owner did not know and had not checked if it was working, though given point 1 in this section, there’s a fairly good chance a copy that you pick up will be functional.

Italian lake with the Trip 35
Italian landscape with the Trip 35

What to look out for when picking up your own Trip 35

While, as I just mentioned, there is a good chance that any model you pick up will still be in functional condition, there are a few things you should nevertheless check when you’re considering picking up your own Trip 35.

The viewfinder

The first thing to check when picking up a copy of the Olympus Trip 35 is the viewfinder. Firstly, check if there is any fungus and ensure that you can still see through it properly. Secondly, press the shutter button with the lens cap attached to see whether the red flag pops up in the viewfinder – this will tell you if the light meter and auto-exposure mechanism are still working.

The plastic panel

Given the fact that the panel that extends horizontally across the Trip 35 is (usually) made of plastic, it’s important to check whether there is any damage to this part of the camera. If there is even the tiniest of cracks in this plastic part, light may leak in and ruin each of the images you take with this camera.

Olympus Trip 35 - front

The aperture ring

You should also check whether the aperture ring turns and turns smoothly. You should be able to turn it with minimal resistance, and there should be a noticeable click between each of the aperture settings. If the aperture dial is sticky or cannot be turned at all, it’s best to give this one a miss.

The film rewind spool

This one is not as easy to check but it’s a reason why I always have at least one roll of film that has been exposed or otherwise damaged in some way. With this roll, you can test the advancing and rewinding mechanism without ruining a good, unused roll of film. You should check that the film advances and that it is possible to fully rewind it back into the canister before opening the back panel and removing it.

 

Conclusion

And there we have it: our guide and review of the Olympus Trip 35, possibly the most iconic 35mm travel camera ever built. If you have a Trip 35 yourself, feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think of it and where you’ll be taking yours next! We’d love to know if our enthusiasm for this icon is shared.

If you’re looking for or you have just ordered your own copy, you can also take a look through some images that other users of this great camera have produced and shared on Lomography. If your mind is truly made up, why not take a look at some of the latest prices the Olympus Trip 35 is available for on the second-hand market? Considering what this camera can do, the prices that can be had on there are sure to bag you a bargain.

As always, thank you for reading and if there are any other cameras, accessories, or travel photography locations you would like us to write about, please contact us here.

Turin mountain road with the Trip 35