TRIPping into film. A digital stalwart dips his toes into analog

TRIPping into film. A digital stalwart dips his toes into analog

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Olympus Trip

Well, I did “it”.

I succumbed to peer pressure. Analog bullying, if you will.

I bought a film camera.

You might be saying, “pfft, what’s the big deal?” Well, it is a big deal. I’ve been a digital loyalist from the get-go. I’ve triumphed the ease and convenience of digital cameras for over a year. It’s all I know. Now, in my second full year of being “into” photography, it’s all I’ve shot. An Olympus e620 and the wonderful Sony NEX 5n and 6 cameras. I’ve been so in love with NEX cameras, that I believed I’d never stray. I own three prime lenses, the Sony 35mm and 50mm 1.8 and the Sigma 30mm 2.8. I love them all, but the 35 stays mounted most of the time. The NEX 6 and these lenses still surprise me to this day. How can this quirky looking camera and these relatively inexpensive pieces of glass produce great images with a novice (yes, I still consider myself a novice) behind the lens?

And the speed and ease of it all. Everything is fast. Fun putting the camera up, to downplaying the images and then to editing.

Ah, editing. So easy. I just adjust a few sliders in Lightroom and voila! Done! And I know squat about Lightroom. I’ve only been using it for a few months and really have no idea of what it’s capable of. Someday, I’ll get on that. I have a book. The free time I have, if not spent shooting, is looking at images or reading about great photographers.

So why, why did I buy a film camera?

Trip Bully 4
“I will NOT be bullied into film photography!”

Under the influence

Just like the title of the recurring blog I write, I was under the influence. The Influence of great photographers of the past. Of my partner in crime, Spyros. Of the members of the www.streethunters.net Reader’s Community (the SHRC) on Google+. The titans of the past and these current film junkies have bombarded my eyes with wonderful work.

I’ll be honest, I’m a pushover usually. But I was determined to stand my digital ground as I listened to Spyros extol the virtues of film. And as I read how others wrote how much better film it’s than digital.

But as time passed, it hit me.

I liked the “look”.

I was digging on Spyros’ unbridled enthusiasm and passion for film. And not just his, the other purists that pushed the analog gospel in the SHRC.

Why be so stubborn???

Film was romantic. I’d seen it. I knew it. It has a richness, and a grittiness, that’s undeniable.

It’s classic. It’s timeless. The work that all of the greats I had researched and loved for Under The Influence was almost exclusively shot on film.

Not only that, it’s the artisan aspect. The craftsman-like quality of shooting film. I wanted to experience it. Not that there isn’t an artisan aspect to shooting digital. Analog is different. It’s more hands-on. And I really was enamored with that. Now, I knew I wasn’t going to jump into developing my own film. The time, the space, the money… it just isn’t there right now.

But there’s drugstores. There’s mail-in developers. There’s a camera shop in town who’s hours don’t fit my schedule.

I started doing research.

Seems like I’m always researching!

So many options

There’s film cameras everywhere! Ebay. Online camera stores. Craigslist. All kinds. And all kinds of money. Get away from the Leicas and there’s thousands of choices. I don’t even go through the names, you know them.

What to choose?

I read and read. I gawked. The beauty of the internet: so much information on these machines. Over time, I narrowed my choices. My criteria was the following. It had to be small. It had to be reliable. It had to be in the $100 USD area or less. Maybe a rangefinder. Looks certainly didn’t matter. I own a NEX!

The Yashica Electros were the front-runner for a while. This mostly due to Spyros’ praise and their availability. I liked what they were capable of. One thing I did notice, that prices on the Electro series cameras seemed to keep creeping up on eBay. Perhaps others were bit by the bug as well?

But then, I saw the one.

The Olympus Trip 35.

Trip 3

It was like love at first sight.

I can’t even put my finger on it, but I was instantly love-sick for the thing. I dug in hard finding out all I could about this camera.

I read about it. I combed through the Flickr gallery dedicated to it. I fell harder and harder for the Trip.

As I researched, a name I recognised popped up again and again. Stewart Duffy! A member of the SHRC and the owner of StreetShooters.co.uk! Not only did he shot a trip, he refurbished them!

So, I reached out to him and began picking his brain. The questions I had about the Trip, he graciously answered.

But first, these were the things I liked about the Trip 35.

No batteries! That funky-looking area around the lens is packed with selenium cells! That’s what powers the light meter! Nice! It’s mechanical and rugged! AND it’s Zone Focus! 40mm lens? Right in my wheelhouse. Limited controls? Hell yes, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Trip 4

And, it was an incredibly popular camera. From 1967-1984, Olympus made over 10 million of them! That is a lot of cameras. Obviously, Olympus had a winner.

Then the stars aligned.

Mr. Duffy just happened to be sitting on a Trip that just needed a little cosmetic finish. He said if I wanted, I could buy it from him.

I think you know what happened next.

Something old, Something definitely new

I pulled the trigger and the Trip was in its way across the ocean. I was giddy. Seriously.

When I got the package at work, I tore it open like a kid at Christmas. Wrapped in bubble wrap was the prize. It was beautiful!

It looked like new. The Trip felt solid in my hand. The weight felt reassuring. I wound the thumbwheel (no lever) so I could fire the shutter. I was rewarded with a beefy click.

The Trip didn’t feel like a toy. Like a novelty. It felt like a piece of *equipment*.

Trip Confused
“Wait… where’s the LCD?”

Man, did I want to shoot right then and there, but the film I ordered was at home. It would have to wait.

Just like you’ll have to wait to hear what I have to say about my first film experience. And to see some images, of course.

But I’ll give you a teaser. When I got home and loaded my first roll of film, ever, the feeling was something I never felt when inserting a SD card into the NEX.

I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel… sexy.

17 COMMENTS

  1. You could not have picked a more classic piece of kit Andrew.
    Everyone I know who has one of these little beauties is inanimate with it, including myself.
    I am sure it will give you hours of pleasure and enjoyment.
    Once again, welcome to the smelly side (^_^)

    • Very comforting to hear you say good things about the Trip, Anton! I consider you an AUTHORITY!
      Smelly… I embrace it!

  2. Andrew, finally! : )

    I so relate to your enthusiasm, it’s infectious.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your experiences with the Trip 35 – it was one of the first “proper” film cameras I had (after a Holga and Black Slim Devil) and I shot loads with it. They’re wonderful little cameras, and the meter working without needing a battery still feels like some kind of magic to me. They really are one of the best cameras to start learning with – far more than the Yashica Electros, as wonderful as they are.

    I’ve very recently bought an Olympus 35RC, like an older, smaller, more manual version of the Trip 35, that also feels a very special little (like, tiny!) machine. I’m also currently watching a number of PEN EEs on eBay – the model I’m looking at are basically a Trip 35 but a bit smaller and they shoot half frame, rather than full. Olympus knew their beans when it came to cameras…

    Enjoy every moment Andrew…

    • Lol yes, finally Dan! Black Slim Devil sounds like it should be a very heavy band name!
      I’m glad you say the Trip is a great camera to learn with since I’m truly a babe in the woods here. I looked at the 35RC and the EE as well! I saw Tripman refurbished those. Actually saw an EE going pretty cheap on eBay!
      I’m definitely going to enjoy it, my friend. But, I do expect frustration!

      • Re the frustration, it’s about how you set you expectations. If you expect 24 shots on a roll of 24 to be amazing, you’ll be disappointed. But one or two “keepers” per roll, in my view, is worth shooting the roll for. This is an average, sometimes I don’t consider a single shot worth keeping and sharing, occasionally I might get as many as 6 – 8 on a single roll.

        And with film cameras, the whole experience is so enjoyable, before you even get to developing. A couple of times I’ve shot a roll, only to get to the end and realise that my counter keeps winding on – 26, 27, 28, 29. Then discovering the roll never engaged properly and hasn’t moved! Despite this, the experience of me composing, framing and capturing those shots remains identical. I still went through the physical process, I still made the photograph, even if I have no physical evidence to show for it.

        So, I’d say –

        1. Focus on the experience of using the camera first and foremost.

        2. Tell yourself if you get one or two keepers per roll, it’s an added bonus.

        This might seem low, but with digital people might shoot dozens, hundreds, even thousands of shots on a photowalk. Then keep 10 or 20, if that, after hours of sifting through them all.

        (I heard an interview with Marie Laigneau who said her ratio with a digital Leica is about 3% – she might shoot 300 photographs and keep 10. If she shot film, that’d be about one on a 24exp, and one, maybe two, on a 36exp roll.)

        It’s much more enjoyable to spend a matter of minutes, not hours, looking through your 24 or 36 film photograph scans/prints and choosing the one or two you love most. Then spend those extra hours out shooting more. : )

    • Thank you so, so much Lee! It is an attractive little thing, isn’t it? Part 2 will be coming once i fully get my feet with the Trip!

    • Thanks for asking, Nia. Since I’ve only shot a few rolls, I’m taking them to the local Walgreen’s drugstore chain for processing. It’s relatively cheap and they’re open around the clock! There is a local camera shop that I’ll use in the future, but i’m always at work when they’re open.

  3. Hi Andrew, great article!! You know…I had my dad’s old Canon AE-1 with a 50mm 1.4 lens laying around and I was using the lens alone adapted on my Fujifilm X-E2…then..I went to a store and they had a roll of kodak 36 exp 400 ISO there….I thought, why not? I bought the film, loaded it to the camera and went out shooting!! And…what the heck!!!! How am I to know if I’m exposing this thing correctly??!!!! That is a hard habit to break. The film is still there because I did not finish it yet, but, man….I have no idea what is going to come out. I then set it up to mostly automatic setting just to be sure I’d save a few shots. I need to go out shooting and finish the roll to see how it comes out. It has been an interesting experience. I did shoot film when I started shooting a while back, but most of the cameras I used were point and shoot so the shots would almost always come out nicely, but with a SLR, and manually adjusting without seeing the results rigth away to change settings or in the evf…it was hard!! Made me appretiate even more how the great photographers got those shots back then.

  4. The Trip is nice looking. I have an RC and the very rare RD. The Olympus 35 RC is probably my favourite film camera for so many reasons. I must have put over 100 rolls through it in the last year alone. It’s my holiday camera 🙂

    • +1 for the Olympus 35RC! I got one just a few weeks ago, and is up there amongst the most special cameras I’ve owned, even after a single roll of film.

  5. Thanks Andrew! Can y’all be a sport and change that ‘streetshooters.net’ link to streetshooters.co.uk? Pretty please?

  6. The Trip 35 was my first camera. Sharp lens, but guess-focus! You would be better-served with the RC35 (basically same camera with a rangefinder), or SP35 (same camera with a rangefinder and sharp f/1.7 lens). Those are the true Olympus film “classics!”

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