Olympus Trip 35 Film Camera Review

A Cult Classic, an Engineering Marvel, and an Excellent Value for a Modern Film Photographer

11 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .
Olympus Trip 35 (black paint) and a few trip necessities.

Olympus Trip 35 is one of the most popular 35mm film cameras ever produced. It’s affordable, it’s easy to use, the lens is sharp, it needs no batteries, and it’s compact.

Trip 35 uses a scale focus system, which may seem daunting at first — but it’s not difficult, and the camera has unique aides to help you get the right distance — I’ll explain below.

I’ll also cover all the basics of operation (including the auto and manual modes), lens performance, and build quality of this excellent entry-level Olympus film camera.

A Cult-Classic, Engineering Marvel, an Excellent Value for a Modern Photog

Why is Olympus Trip 35 a favourite of so many photographers?

Olympus Trip 35 is not an expensive camera. It has decent specs, but it’s not the sharpest, fastest, or most compact camera. Yet, it’s loved by many photographers of all levels today.

Back when it was introduced — over 55 years ago — it was a huge hit. The camera was in production for 15 years, having sold between five and ten million units.

Trip 35 sold for $59.95 at launch in 1968, or $530 in today’s money. But you may still find a working copy for $50 in 2024!

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus.

But it’s not just the price that makes this camera good. Trip 35s are built very well with lots of metal components and an excellent glass lens. They are a pleasure to hold and use. They’re nearly pocketable and don’t require any advanced photographic know-how or a manual to get started: if you know how to load film, you can use this camera.

🤓 Trip 35’s automatic exposure system that chooses an aperture and shutter speed by converting light energy into mechanical force is of particular interest to film nerds like me. Though many fancy cameras from the era used selenium light meters for aperture or shutter-priority modes, Trip 35 combined both functions in a relatively simple and remarkably reliable design.

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus.

Olympus Trip 35 specs and features.

Trip 35 is a successor to Olympus PEN (namely, EES and EES-2) cameras’ excellent mechanical/optical design and portability.

My black paint brass Olympus Trip 35 version weighs 413g/14½oz, though some copies of this camera may weigh up to 20g lighter. The camera is nearly pocketable at 12×7×6cm (4½×2¾×2¼”), though it’s not the smallest.

Olympus Trip 35’s remarkably small (for the time) dimensions and ease of use are undoubtedly at the core of this camera’s name and ethos: a camera that’s easy to throw in a small bag or a pocket for a trip.

 ☝︎ Further reading: How to Travel With Film Through Airport Security.”

The leaf shutter on Olympus Trip 35 has two speeds: 1/40s and 1/200s. It can switch between the two automatically via the mechanical trap-needle system. In manual mode, Olympus Trip 35 only uses the 1/40s shutter speed. There are no Bulb and no self-timer modes.

The lens is a non-interchangeable Olympus D. Zuiko 40mm 𝒇2.8-22 (four elements in three groups). The closest focus distance is 1m/3ft. The lens uses an odd 43.5mm screw-in lens filter thread that can be adapted to the more common 40 or 46mm threads.

Fully automatic exposure (A) is controlled mechanically by converting ambient light energy via selenium cells (bubbles around the lens) into mechanical movements that modify the aperture and shutter speeds. The camera can be operated manually via the aperture ring around the lens, which will always trigger the shutter at 1/40s if not set to A. The exposure meter is operational between EV8 and EV17; it accepts films with ISO 25 — ISO 400 (which needs to be dialled in manually before shooting). No batteries needed.

The viewfinder features a mechanical “red flag” warning system for scenes with insufficient lighting (the camera will also prevent exposures in those conditions). It shows bright lines with parallax markings inside a small but bright window with 0.55x magnification. The eye relief isn’t great, but if you aren’t wearing glasses, you’ll notice a “Judas window” that overviews the camera’s shooting mode and distance settings.

Film advance is done with a thumb wheel; rewinding via the rewind knob is unlocked with a rewind button; the film cover opens with a small latch a the bottom-left when looking at the camera’s back.

Hot shoe and a PC socket are available for flash sync. Learn how to use flash with cameras like Trip 35 here.

Free Olympus Trip 35 manual download.

I’ve recently scanned the manual that my camera came with and converted it to a convenient PDF file that you can download for free here:

➜ Free Download: Olympus Trip 35 Instructions Manual (PDF)

This manual took some cropping and assembly as its pages aren’t standard (it’s folded like a map). I hope that this little bit of extra effort makes it easier to read on your screen. However, I’m not sure how well it will look in print.

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Taking the first photo with Olympus Trip 35: loading film & setting focus.

Trip 35 is easy to load — the only tricky part is finding the latch to open the film door. (If you’ve never loaded film in these types of cameras, check out this guide.)

Given that you’ve loaded your Trip 35 with film rated between ISO 25 and 400, you’ll need to set the ASA/ISO dial to match your film speed. In general, ISO 100-400 films do best with this camera (a higher-ISO film works best in subdued light, and lower-iso film provides finer grain).

For automatic exposures, the ring around the lens closest to the camera body should be set to “A.” But manual exposures are possible at the constant 1/40s shutter speed (can be metered as 1/30s) with the apertures selected via the same ring (i.e., any number other than the “A”). Learn how to shoot film cameras in manual mode here.

A view through the Olympus Trip 35 viewfinder window.

I appreciate the bright frame lines with parallax markings in the viewfinder. They make framing feel a little easier than on cameras with masks. Though I would prefer the self-illuminating kind.

The viewfinder window is fairly small. It’s usable with the glasses on; however, I had to use contacts to take advantage of the “Judas window” — a small secondary view below the main finder frame lines that shows the set distance icon and camera shooting mode/aperture.

Pointing the camera at things that are insufficiently lit for the film ISO/ASA set on the camera would raise a small translucent red plastic flag and block the shutter button. This would not happen when the camera is in manual mode (i.e. when an aperture value is selected instead of the “A”).

Olympus Trip 35’s shutter button provides medium-high resistance, it has a long travel distance, and it’s very well-balanced with the rest of the body for shake-free hand-held exposures. The leaf shutter is also shake-free (though it feels a little loud for what it is).

Trip 35 uses a zone-focusing system. For a casual photographer, it works by turning the focus ring around the lens until it clicks to either a single-person icon 👤 for portraits, a two-person icon 👥 for group portraits, a red “group-snap” icon ⍒.⍒, or the mountains icon 🏔️ for landscape photos.

Below the lens barrel, there are more precise focus markings in feet and metres. Learn how to zone-focus quickly and accurately here.

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus.

Olympus D. Zuiko 40mm 𝒇2.8 lens.

One of the most celebrated components of this camera is its lens. It’s very sharp in the middle, especially at 𝒇5.6-8, with only minor swirl and softening in the corners.

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus. No sharpening applied.

The lens renders a medium-low amount of contrast on my copy, but the coating appears to work well, as I noticed no overwhelming or unexpected flaring in any of my photos.

Overall, I found D. Zuiko 𝒇2.8 well-corrected, suitable for reproducing fine detail on high-resolution films.

The 40mm focal length is common and well-suited for a non-interchangeable camera system. It translates to ~57° diagonal angle of view — very close to the 60° in our central vision. Essentially, this means easy framing for most situations.

The 40mm D. Zuiko may not be appropriate for interior/architecture photography, close-ups, telephoto, or certain landscape images.

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus.

Olympus Trip 35 portability and ease-of-use (ergonomics).

Even though Trip 35 isn’t the smallest or the lightest 35mm film camera, it’s reasonably portable for the type of lens it uses and a full metal body. All of its controls are perfectly positioned for quick, intuitive action. With a little practice, you can use this camera one-handedly.

I kept mine in wool jacket pockets and hoodies with no issues. Despite fitting will in hand, Trip 35 is noticeably hefty; my Peak Design wrist strap solved any danger of dropping this camera.

Olympus Trip 35 build quality & variations.

Trip 35 was a remarkably successful design; understandably, Olympus didn’t want to change it much while it continued to make record sales. All of the Olympus Trip 35s look nearly identical, with some known changes introduced in the 1970s that had little effect on appearance and no effect on performance (i.e. a plastic shutter button instead of the metal one).

The only significant divergence from the standard design was the black paint brass Trip 35, which remained in production for just two years. This variation is much rarer than the silver aluminum bodies, but in Olympus’ world, this means that there are less than a hundred options available at any time, and they cost $50 extra.

If you plan to keep this camera for a while and are willing to spend a little more, the black version may be worth it (if you like the look of brassing). It has excellent build quality and an impressive appearance; every part fits perfectly, in line with what you’d expect from the much more expensive Olympus PEN half-frame SLRs.

Olympus Trip 35 wtih Kodak ColorPlus. The Auto mode added about 1-2 stops of over-exposure.

But despite their clever design and quality assembly, Trip 35s can be prone to deterioration.

In my copy, the light meter over-exposes every brightly lit frame by 1-2 stops. It’s difficult to say if it’s the time taking a toll on the intricate cells or if it’s the imprecise nature of the selenium metering that’s preventing me from taking perfectly exposed images.

A clever photographer can always compensate by setting the film ASA/ISO higher in full sun or shooting Trip 35 manually. But if you’re looking to get a copy, you should verify that the camera is sold as fully functional. An online listing would say that in the title or the description.

Trip 35 mods, hacks, and repairs.

Repairing Trip 35s may cost as much or more than the value of the camera. The good news is that simple fixes (like cleaning oil of the shutter and aperture blades) aren’t difficult if you’ve got the right tools and know-how.

Another common issue with cameras this old is the light seals. The soft, spongy material tends to crumble over time, which in turn can create light leaks. I have a guide on fixing that quickly and cheaply here.

Being a mechanical camera with manual controls, Trip 35s can survive past the span of the selenium cells that power its fully automatic shooting mode. Some photographers may prefer to use the camera in the manual mode for more precise control over exposure. You may even modify yours to shoot with the faster 1/200s shutter speed for improved action snaps and reduced motion blur.

How much does Trip 35 cost, and where to find one.

Olympus Trip 35 film camera is a fantastic value in terms of fun, image quality, and build quality. Most copies of these cameras can be bought between $20-120 — depending on the condition. And a few bucks more can get you the rare-ish black paint version.

By the way: Please consider making your Olympus Trip 35 purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!