Why I love the Olympus Trip 35

RIP 1968-2018.  Unfortunately after shooting this camera for 3 years the shutter is now stuck halfway open and I haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet.

It will happen though, because it’s small, light, easy to use, gives me spot-on exposure, and has an absurdly sharp lens.  The Olympus Trip 35 and it’s my favorite mirrorless camera.  Reading about some of my photo friends’ experiences with the Trip and also finding this fantastic store made me want to sing again the praises of this mechanical wonder that I found at the thrift store for all of $8.00.

It needs no battery: it has a selenium meter which gives perfect exposure, something I tested by shooting slide film in it.  After reading about “night tripping” (which basically means using high-speed film in the Trip manually set to f/2.8 and its slower speed of 1/40sec), I’ve felt comfortable using the Trip in all kinds of situations indoors and outdoors.  One thing that I’ve talked about a lot (though never tried yet) is putting a few rolls of Cinestill 800T through it; or now that T-Max P3200 is back that might have to happen.  Either way I’ve yet to test the extremes of film latitude yet, but it will happen.

And the Trip 35 does indeed live up to its name: it travels so well!  I took it to Wales where it was my camera for color film, and threw it into my bag for a last-minute trip to Ohio.  Though the lens sticks out a bit it still easily fits in a jacket pocket without getting in the way.  Speaking of the lens and its zone focusing, you do have to be careful when shooting inside, but made it perfect for shooting my William Klein masters’ study.  Since then focus doesn’t mean as much to me as it used to, though most of the time I’ll get it right.

When looking through all the shots I’ve taken with this camera I couldn’t believe just how much I’ve used it in the last few years!  It’s a large gallery–in order we have: Tri-X (6), Velvia 100 (3), Double-X (4), Provia 100F (3), T-Max 400 (4), Fomapan 100 (2), Kodak Gold 200 (2), Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (2), and Ferrania P30 (2).  There will be other films shot in this camera one day, but for a while now I’ve been concentrating on the Spotmatic for my photo project that’s been going on since January (and long before).

I would definitely recommend this camera for people who don’t want the bulkiness of an SLR, don’t like relying on batteries, but still want an AE camera.  My camera’s shutter still had accurate speeds after nearly half a century.  Zone focusing can take practice but is doable, so don’t let that dissuade you!


Color negative film in the Trip 35

I’ve shot color film in the Trip before, but it was always slide film.  I was a bit afraid that the lens wouldn’t be contrasty enough for color negative film, remembering my experiment with the Leitz Summarit.  But I went ahead and risked a $3 roll of Gold 200, and I’m glad I did, because I think these pictures look pretty nice.

So main point to take away?  You won’t know what works until you try.  And now I know that the Olympus Trip 35 is a more versatile camera than I had originally imagined.  I can shoot damn near anything in it and be happy with the results.

Super 8 camera: Canon 1014XL-S

This Canon 1014XL-S is the first super 8 camera I used, on which I shot my first experimental documentary, Overwhelming Majority.  My friend/classmate/colleague bought it at a garage sale in California, had it sitting around his apartment for a year or two, and let me borrow it indefinitely.  I eventually gave him money to ensure that it is officially mine.  For the last two years I’ve been shooting a documentary on the Colorado Springs tourism industry using this camera, and it has served me well.

Many say that the 814/1014XL-S models are the best super 8 cameras ever made.  That’s not true, because there are features offered by other cameras that I’d like to have, but what this camera does give the filmmaker is versatility.  It has a great range of framerates, an intervalometer, a zoom lens covering 6.5-65mm, accepts all the necessary film speeds, takes only AA batteries, has exposure compensation as well as manual aperture control, and the option of two shutter angles of 150 degrees for outdoors or 220 degrees for indoors.  Plus lots more.

I also find it do be pretty ergonomic, with a handle that easily flips up or down, the filming “trigger” (for lack of a better term) can be set so that it films with or without the button constantly held down.  Most controls are on one side of the camera, which is where I like them.

My copy has seen much love over the years: plenty of scuffs, ancient masking tape on parts, a previous owner’s contact information carved into the bottom plate, the side plate came off, a UV filter that is jammed on so tight it can’t be removed, and the eyecup was lost.  I call that character.  What matters most is that it works.  And it works after having taken a considerable beating, and I’m a bit to blame for that myself I’ll admit.  It’s been thrown around my Jeeps for two summers in a row with nary a complaint.  It’s about 90% working.

The downsides?  The first thing that comes to mind is the price.  It has a reputation for better or worse, and it’s crazy what one of these go for now.  There are plenty of other cameras out there with nearly the same features, in the $100-200 price range, so I wouldn’t recommend buying one of these Canons unless it were working and cost $150-250.  I’m hearing from a lot of people that the lens has its limitations past f/4, though considering it’s super 8 film, I don’t know just how sharp one would expect the footage to be.  And evidently a lot of people think it’s way too heavy.  If you need a CLA it can be done but expect to pay a lot. There are cameras out there that are just as good that can be serviced for much less.  Personally I can think of better ways to spend the money.  I paid $200 for mine and it looks like this:


Super 8 camera: Yashica Electro 8 LD-6

I bought the Yashica Electro 8 LD-6 because I wanted something that I wouldn’t worry about loaning out to budding would-be filmmakers.  Yashica super 8 cameras are not as well-known but supposedly their lenses are great–I’ll put that to the test myself in the next month or two.

The camera might look a little basic at first glance, but as far as I can tell it has all the essential features, which means that even though I’m not necessarily a beginner anymore this camera will see use with me.  Cameras of this sort have one glaring weakness, though: the filter key!  1965-2008 the vast majority of small format film was tungsten-balanced, and camera manufacturers assumed that the unwashed masses using super 8 would not know to use a Wratten 85B filter when shooting outdoors, even though they were installed inside every super 8 camera.  So, in an attempt to make the consumer-grade cameras as idiot-proof as possible, they made the 85 filter automatically engage unless one was using a movie light or had a filter key to insert into the slot on top of the camera.  Such a small detachable part is easily lost and when buying a camera online one should take care to get one with this filter key.  If not you might be in a pickle as I was…until I found references to the coin trick.

If you insert a dime or quarter into the filter key slot, it will disengage the 85 filter!  What they don’t tell you and that I had to learn for myself is that you don’t insert the coin, you slam it in, push hard!  There’s a lot of resistance, and I was afraid that I would break something, but it just needed that extra bit of elbow grease.  Also the dime is finicky, and takes some wiggling around sometimes to get the correct position, though it is more compact (also harder to get out).

What better use for a Canadian quarter? Queen Elizabeth can oversee my filmmaking endeavors. 

The camera has its downsides too.  No exposure information like f/stop is projected through the viewfinder, so what benefit can be gained from the exposure compensation dial is dubious.  While it has a single frame option, there’s no intervalometer.  The lens’ widest angle is 8mm; the top-of-the-line LD-8 widens that out to 7.5mm, but there are plenty cameras that go much wider.  The handle doesn’t fold up so it’s not as compact as it could be, also its metal construction makes it heavy to hold in the hand.  You can see I’m nitpicking now, right?  It’s a robust camera, has a great set of features, and can on occasion be found pretty cheap.  I paid $15 shipped for mine, not gonna complain about that.

Super 8 camera: Bauer S609XL (completely refurbished)

Say hello to the Bauer S609XL, my new super 8 camera.

Since Kodak’s super 8 camera has been continuously pushed back, and every time we hear something the price goes up, I thought it was time to future-proof my ability to shoot super 8 film with a high-quality used camera, made in the early ’80s (which means it isn’t going to cost me $2000).  The Bauer Neovaron 6-51mm f/1.2 has a reputation as an extremely sharp lens.  Of course there’s no such thing as a best super 8 camera, every one has its drawbacks.  With the Bauers, the most glaring issue is its limited accepted film speeds of ASA40 and 160.  I found the solution to this problem thanks to my super 8 compadres Marc Marti and Ignacio Benedeti, who discovered a camera tech in France named Andre Egido who fixes only Bauer and Nizo cameras.  I don’t know the full details of how it works, but there must be some potentiometer used for the fine-tuning of the light meter, Mr. Egido drills a hole in the casing and adds a knob with correct markings so that one is able to manipulate the auto exposure at will and set either 40 or 160 to a lot more film speeds.  This means that I can correctly expose the new Ektachrome 100, Kodak 500T, and whatever else comes along in the future.  The S200-700 models can be modified to read any ASA25-400, some of the others are a bit limited, only ASA40-200, but still a heck of a lot better than nothing at all.

And it didn’t cost too much either, thankfully, between buying the camera and having it shipped to France, then the modification, parts, and shipping to me in Colorado.  Altogether I spent less than $300.

Speaking neither German nor French, I owe an incredible debt to Google Translate.  Modern technology can sometimes be wonderful.  I bought the camera off ebay from a camera store in Austria, requested it be shipped to Mr. Egido in Paris, being in contact with Mr. Egido previously so that he would know to expect the camera and it worked out…with a few snags.  Either Osterreichische Post is very rough with packages or the camera store didn’t wrap it very well, either way there was damage to the filter ring and battery door, requiring that I pay extra for replacement parts (but thank God they’re available).  I did ask for pictures of the damage but never got them, so much for trying to claim insurance.  I knew it was a gamble, and even with the extra parts it was much cheaper than shipping from Austria to America to France.  The downside of course being that one cannot verify the condition beforehand.

All fixed up!

I mentioned that the Bauers’ most glaring issue is its limited film speed reading?  The other big downside (for the XL/existing light models) is its fixed shutter angle of 220 degrees, about 1/40 second, a bit blurry for fast motion and camera movements.  Some have a shutter angle of 150 degrees which is about 1/60 second, and the results are reported to be much sharper because of this, and makes the Canon 1014XLS with its dual shutter angles more versatile (the Canon’s main drawbacks being its weight and a lens that gets quite soft at wider apertures).  I’ll see for myself just how blurry that extra 2/3 stop is soon, but it’s my hope that it won’t be too glaring of an issue.

I’m pretty satisfied with the work done and the price, having a camera that should be reliable for years to come is a necessity I’ve come to understand in the last few years.  If you have one of the later Bauer models, you have a good camera that at the very least can shoot Tri-X, Vision3 50D and 200T.  If you send it off for a CLA and ASA modification, and you will have an incredibly versatile camera that should last you a good long time.

Andre Egido’s website is http://cine-super8.net/ and he has Bauer and Nizo cameras for sale on there, along with film, camera parts, and lots more.  To get in touch with him directly, email contact@cine-super8.net.  I sent him emails in French using Google Translate, though he does understand Spanish and some English, I think it’s nicer if you use his language, plus I’m told he’s quicker to respond if you use French.

Ignacio Benedeti’s article on his Egido-modified S409XL

A friend’s wedding

(Actually they’re both friends) It was Summer and dry and hot, definitely a memory I need in these cold months.  My friends wanted some pics taken for their wedding, I was happy to oblige.  There were all the standard pictures that are taken at weddings, though these are my personal favorites.

There were two other photographers so I didn’t have the pressure of getting all the needed shots, I could play around and have some fun.  It gave me an opportunity to test out the re-released T-Max P3200, plus play around with a new point-and-shoot, one of the Olympus Stylus Epic line.  I can’t complain about the camera (at least not too much), because it cost me $3 at the local Goodwill (the battery cost four times that), but I will anyway.

The Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 has all the failings of its ilk: autofocus that can sometimes be inaccurate, a pretty salient and distinctive lens flare (or that might be a plus depending on one’s mentality), a flash that must be turned off every time one opens the camera, plus automation in film winding and shutter release that might make one lose a critical shot.  But if you know anything about these cameras you already know all the downsides.  For the price I paid I’d say the camera was worth it.  It’s small enough that I can carry it in a pocket or around my neck everywhere I go, and for that purpose it does what it needs to.  For off-the-cuff shots during a wedding it was a good compliment to an all-manual camera; the zoom lens–though slow–came in handy too.

As for T-Max P3200, the jury is still out for me, but this is only my first roll of the stuff and I’ll admit that I did the film no favors by shooting it in the Colorado sun.  I mostly wanted to look at the grain structure and can see that it will not handle high-contrast scenes as well as Tri-X, but then it’s designed for low-light shooting.  I actually pulled the two shots that show the film to its best advantage, and I don’t think they stand out too much from the Tri-X I also shot.  I fully intend to use this film for shooting inside where it’s dark, so until that I have nothing to say about the film yet.

Post-CLA roll in the SPII

I used a roll of the AGFAPhoto-branded Fuji Provia, it seems to be what it’s for these days. The Spotmatic is metering well, for the most part!  I noticed that for some reason when I focused the lens one way, it metered one way and when I focused the other direction the meter read overexposed by a stop.  I had Cameraworks tighten a few things up and now it’s not doing this.  These are some of my favorite shots off that roll of film, that are well-exposed (and I feel better now that the lens works properly).


…At least the lens did work properly when I originally wrote this…it’s back to its old tricks now, so I guess the 1.8/55 could use a CLA too.