Olympus Trip 35
Despair not at the abundance of text - there are photo-examples below, but the text is all good so give it a go!
Well... At last. Not before time, some would say. How could that Jim have got to all those other natty Olympus cameras without trying a Trip? Well, to be honest, I've always thought Trips looked rather weird with all that knobbly stuff going on on the front where it should all be lens, lens and nothing but lens. But, having had the thought one day, I gave in and visited the Bay of E and spent £15. £15! It's pathetic, isn't it? Some go for less than that, too. Anyway - the important thing is that when it got here the red flag flagged and the general impression was that it would do. I spent a little while scraping gunk out its orifices, and put some new seals in around the hinge (he said casually, as if he was used to doing all that fiddly tech. stuff), loaded it with Tri-X @ 400 asa and headed for the hills.
Now I should say, right at the start, that I came to the Trip from a position of no preconceptions; no awareness of how the internet is somewhat awash with Trip worship, and, indeed, as much Trip non-understanding verging on Trip hate! Trip this, Trip that - there are opinions of this camera that seem to have little to do with my understanding of what the camera can actually do. What I don't understand is that even avowed Trip-haters admit the lens is crackingly sharp and that it gets the exposures right. Well... er... ? So, I don't pay any attention to the general back-chat surrounding the Trip and, if you're reading this because you're wondering about getting one, neither should you. My opinion of my Trip has come about simply as a result of my using one, and, if it helps to point this out, I am an experienced photographer used to working with a range of film cameras, including, since it might clarify the situation, a Leica with Leitz on the front. I am only interested in working with quality images; I don't care if they come from my Leica or my Trip, but my Leica hasn't had a film through it in months and neither have my other cameras, and I use the Trip all the time. This is absolutley not affectation but about getting great, usable images from film after film. I'm silly enough to sometimes like using some cameras for their own sake - wouldn't it be nice to get the 35-SP out, or the OM's? Or bother with all the faff of the Leica? Well, clearly, there are situations where a specific aspect of the task in hand requires, say, the use of different focal lengths, or the ability to set and use 1/15th or 1/1000th exposures, or to make a timed exposure, or use a timer-release facility, and so on, but for general stuff-it-in-my-pocket-before-going-out-ness there is now, for me, just one choice. I've even got as far as loading a film into other cameras, winding it on to the first frame, and then thinking to myself "I've got to carry all this round now..." or "I'm going to have to fiddle with the focus/exposure meter now..." and even (to my shame!) "what happens if I get the exposure wrong - when the Trip just gets it right" and so on, and I have ended up winding the unexposed film off those cameras and loading it into the Trip and heading out without a further thought.
So why have I taken to the Trip so fundamentally? Well, if the negatives were anything other than superb I wouldn't have - that's it in a nutshell. I don't know if I'm just very lucky with my own Trip but achieving consistently good, sharp exposures with it is ridiculously easy, and I'm not just talking about straighforward lighting situatuions. Obviously there is no computing going on inside the Trip; it just uses the simple technology of its meter and subsequent mechanisms to great affect - a wonderfully happy piece of analogue design.
One further point: I think is important is to say that whilst a Trip is a good camera for a novice and will take good photographs, knowledgable photographers can take a Trip further by using their understanding and experience of light and photographic processes to maximise what a Trip can do, and I am certain that they would be both surprised and delighted if they did.
I ought to explain that I have never run a colour film through my Trip, so all my experience with it is with black and white film as I have always liked working with the graphic qualities of black and white. I'm sure the camera is just as capable with colour film, but I have less faith in the colour process after the film has been exposed. People do develop their own colour, I know, but not many, professional labs would be fine but are too expensive for most, and the more common mini-labs are inconsistent in output to say the least, and they are still really expensive compared to me processing my black and white films at almost no cost with a squirt of HC-110. Colour transparencies? I don't know much about them, but although the centralised processing is no doubt spot on, I wonder what people do with them after they get them back?
I suspect that part of the success I find I get with the Trip is down to the affinity it has with the particular development regime I hit upon with the first roll of Tri-X I ran through it. The highs on Tri-X can, in my experience (because I get it wrong some of the time), get a bit blown out and you can't get them back. I find this is true particularly with my OM-2SP, and I need to do a bit of testing with it to set the camera's asa to compensate for a tendency to overexpose. With the simple needle in the viewfinder of my OM1 there's no problem so maybe the OM-2SP is just getting a little too clever and I ought to simply back it off a bit. Getting back to the Trip; it pitches its exposure of Tri-X, set at 400asa box speed, just right so that the highs stay useable while the mid and lower tones still have plenty going on. Maybe I hit upon the right regime straight away by sheer luck, but it worked so well I've stuck with it, and I now handle the camera in ways that give it the best chance of giving me a good negative after my development regime has done its stuff. By "handling the camera" I mean I might wind the asa dial round to 200asa or 100asa for backlit subjects, or force the aperture out a bit by pointing the camera away from a bright subject, holding the shutter down half way and then returning to face the subject for the click of the shutter. Then, if the red flag pops up in low light, but I think there's enough light to give it a go, I just turn the flash dial from "A" to f2.8, and click away. That's it. In this way one can, within these parameters, "manualise" the Trip and this becomes second nature, and very quick to do, and doesn't get in the way at all of taking pictures. Besides - the generous and forgiving exposure latitude available with negative films accomodates any minor indiscretions.
All this handling stuff is very well documented and widely known, but what appears to me to be slightly lacking in the wider (internet) world is just how good the negatives and subsequent prints from a Trip are. I nearly wrote "can be" there, but that would imply one is lucky to get a good picture and that is just not the case; If there are duff shots in a roll it won't be the Trip's fault.
I started with, and have never found a better regime than this: Tri-X @ 400asa, developed for 6.5 mins at 20 degrees C in HC-110 using 6.3ml syrup to make up to 300ml in my tank. I don't pre-wash though one could, but since it all works fine I don't see the point; it's going to get wet with the developer. I put the developer into the tank, knock it down hard a couple of times to get any air bubbles off (never had a problem), then invert once each whole minute, sometimes being more gentle with a twist rather than a full inversion, and I don't agitate at all on the 6th minute. I do use a stop bath, but probably water would do - I just like to extend the life of my fixer as much as I can. The rest is just fixing and washing (Ilford Rapid Fix 5 to 10 minutes depending on how fresh I feel the fixer is, then four changes of water with 30 or 40 inversions each time, a bit of Fairy Liquid to help it dry evenly, a dubious scrape with a rubber thingy (I know...) and hang it up. After it's dry but not hard I wind it back onto a reel with the emulsion facing out so that the negs dry without curl (which Tri-X is prone to and which this sorts out) and then let it harden a bit if I can wait that long (2 or 3 hours or so).
Why Tri-X? well, it worked first time so well that I don't need to fiddle too much, and 400 asa is a good thing if it generally puts the Trip's aperture at a sweet spot in general daylight conditions. I have put FP4 through it, and it was also fine, but I just get on with Tri-X so well I don't see the need to fiddle about unnecessarily.
Please bear in mind when (if!!) looking that the resolution on this page is going to be low, and that your screen may not be like my screen or like a print, but you know that.
Top of page
A general landscape shot:
Into the light:
Zoomed in a bit - on my screen the selected enlargement would be part of a print 1.7m x 1.4m!
And this is Tri-X!;
Tipped down to trap meter:
General lighting, camera to hand with no fuss (I was stopped. For 15 minutes...):
Low light: I went to Borough Market along with about 800 other people with cameras. None found it as rewarding as I did, and I even bought some food which is more than most other camer-users managed to do.
Much more than reasonably good, and in the real world of looking at the equivalent of a 10" x 8" print, absolutely the sharpness equal of any of my other Olympus cameras. I think, with more familiarity, I may come to say that it's the sharpest of all apart from my Leitz Summaron at f5.6 or smaller (or Elmar 35mm at f6.3 or smaller), and it might even match those. I think its lens at f2.8 is sharper than anything else I've got. But, although I wouldn't use any camera if the lens wasn't sharp, it's not all about sharpness; primarily it's about having it to hand and setting it off. If I'd had my Leica I would have got a similar picture of the Globe pub door because it hasn't moved for years, but the chap sorting through his mushrooms in the market would have got wise to the whole thing if I'd taken time to focus with the camera to my eye, let alone, maybe, seperately metering then focussing if I'd had the Leica on the job. But nor is it just about the sharpness and the handiness - look at the tones across the images; there's life in all the greys to black and it all looks smooth and right, so the exposures are absolutely spot on and consistent. Once the development regime is matched to the exposure "decisions" of a camera, and the camera behaves consistently in a variety of lighting conditions, that's as good as it gets.
I didn't hold the camera up to look through the viewfinder for more than half a second:
and, if I blow it up, I can read the prices - and this is Tri-X. So; it's good. Really good.
So, where does the Trip fit in? Well, literally, it fits into my coat pocket, but it's not as trouserable as my Mju-II or XA. In really low light, of course, the automatic long exposures possible with the OM-2SP, XA or Mju-II win in that they'll sort out an exposure of several seconds, but for general purpose photography the Trip produces images that are, overal, the equal or better of any of my other 35mm cameras possibly even including, dare I say it?, my Leitz lenses. Not sure about this - but I can't imagine Tri-X ever showing more detail than this.
If someone asked me to do a job, and I thought it sort of mattered, I'd probably not turn up with my Trip to the fore in case the situation became a bit unpredictable and I would need to cover myself for really low light or some other factor. Probably not anyway. I'd probably load up my Leica and its meter and put up with the lugging about - and I do like using the Leica. Or I'd take my Nikon D80 if colour was the order of the day. If, however, I go out for myself, thinking "ooh... there'll be lots of photographs out there today," I'll take my Trip, no questions asked.
I use my Trip all the time; the usability of the images is truly exceptional. On top of this there is the unobtrusiveness of the taking process. I got worried my Trip might stop working, so I'm hoping to buy a second one so that I shall be, I hope, with two 40 year old cameras, more future-proof!
Oh, I can't stop now... more pictures below...
I should have stopped. And so should you. If you're still looking at this I'm afraid it's a bit like staying to the end of the titles in a cinema. I don't think that even getting a Trip can help you.