Olympus Trip 35 – Camera Review

Olympus Trip 35 – Camera Review

1280 720 Josh Solomon

As enthralling as photography can be, long days, months, and years spent shooting can wear you out. In the worst case, it can lead to a photographic malaise that can dismantle even the most well-built minds from the inside out. It can render the best shooters incapable of even the simple task of pressing a shutter button. It’s shooter’s block, our equivalent to writer’s block, and it hit me hard over the summer.

I jumped out of bed one morning full of energy, ready to take on the world with my trusty Nikon F and Leica M2. But instead of plunging into a world filled with beauty, intrigue, and possibility, I found my surroundings cold, ugly, and indifferent. The images I tried to form seemed trite and overplayed, and I soon lost confidence in my ability to make a decent picture. Even the storied reputations of my F and M2 failed to inspire me. Every time I peered through their viewfinders I saw nothing but dust in the pentaprism and emptiness between the framelines.

Sufficiently depressed, I decided to stay home and put my cameras on the shelf. And it was while I was lying face down on a pillow listening to the opening lines of Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” that I realized I did, in fact, need a little time away. But I didn’t need a full-on vacation from the hobby itself – no, that would be too drastic. I just needed a change from the manual cameras that sat on my shelf. I needed an easier camera, and I had a feeling one camera in particular could fit the bill – the Olympus Trip 35.

Olympus Trip 35 003

The Olympus Trip 35 is a camera I’d heard a lot about but had never tried myself. Its reputation for ease of use and high quality seemed the perfect cure for my shooter’s block. And if the Trip 35 was the prescription, the Pasadena Camera Show was the pharmacy. There I found a beautiful Trip 35 for an absurdly low price, bought it, and quickly threw it in my bag.

One would think the Olympus Trip 35 would seem out of place next to legendary cameras like the aforementioned Nikon and Leica, but it actually fits right in. This camera, although not as capable as the other two, holds an equally lofty place in photographic history. Just as the F and the M defined the SLR and rangefinder genres respectively, the Trip 35 defined the point-and-shoot game. More impressive still, the Trip 35 actually outsold the Nikon F and the Leica M2 by millions. Take that, fanboys.

Olympus achieved these massive numbers by appealing to the casual shooter rather than pro photographers, specifically focusing on the new generation of moneyed vacationers. Racing from landmark to landmark and airport to airport, these sightseers simply lacked the time and interest needed to learn the boring particulars of photography required to operate a camera. Instead, they required a camera that was simple to use, but sophisticated enough to beautifully capture their memories.

Good design marries aesthetics to functionality, and the the camera gods couldn’t have picked a better company to bring the Trip 35 to life. Olympus’ design house, fresh off the ingenious half-frame Pen F, struck gold again with the Trip. The design is classic Olympus; clean-cut lines and an impossibly small form factor, the Trip wastes no time and gets straight to the point. It’s as well designed as any machine of its day, more impactful when we recall that the Trip came of age in an era where cameras were still fully mechanical, save for the occasional battery powered light meter. Automation seemed a distant (and expensive) fantasy, so when Olympus created a genuine auto-exposure camera out of primitive nuts and bolts, the world took notice. This was in no uncertain terms an engineering miracle.

The Trip 35 accomplishes this sorcery by determining the amount of light that enters a Selenium photo cell surrounding the lens, and choosing a correct aperture based on this reading. The camera then chooses a shutter speed of either a 1/200th or 1/40th of a second and we get a perfect exposure. When the camera’s incapable of making an acceptable exposure, a little red flag shows up in the viewfinder and the shutter locks out. The magic of this system is that it takes all exposure-related worry out of our minds. We don’t have to agonize about aperture, shutter speed, or even battery life, a godsend for vacationers and anxious photo geeks.

But before we experience it, it’s quite easy to question the Trip 35’s simplicity. After all, how accurate could a camera this old and primitive be? And could the lens be good enough for our 21st century eyes? As I drove home from the camera show, my new Trip in the passenger seat next to me, these questions rolled through my mind. I really needed this camera to be decent, if I was to pull out of my photographic death spiral.

Just then, I received a text message from my sister. Can you pick up some pork buns in chinatown? thx. With this, I had my mission; buy some pork buns, shoot the Trip, and see if this ancient camera could walk the walk.

The first thing I noticed was its build quality. Comprised of metal and plastic, the Trip 35 is solid, but never heavy; lightweight, but never flimsy. The only disappointing aspect of the camera’s feel is its film advance wheel. A dinky plastic affair reminiscent of disposable cameras, this lackluster cog is forgivable when we remember that the Trip was built to be a consumer-level camera.

Peering through the viewfinder showed bright frame-lines with tick marks both for up-close shots and for landscape shots. These are helpful in view of the Trip’s lack of automatic parallax correction. Having used fancy Leica, Nikon, and Contax rangefinders renowned for brightness and clarity, the Trip’s viewfinder beats most of them. Its relative simplicity is a nice change from the cluttered and overly complex viewfinders of other machines. The Trip 35 also features a small window in the bottom right of the VF (affectionately dubbed the “Judas Window” by Trip 35 disciples) which shows both the chosen aperture and exposure setting on the camera.

Olympus Trip 35 009

Olympus Trip 35 008

So far, so good. But how was I to determine focus? I quickly realized that the Trip’s a scale-focus camera, which is not ideal for accuracy. But before I started feeling like Olympus left me all alone and helpless, I realized that they were kind enough to provide some handy distance-measuring tools. Settings along the lens barrel show a picture of one person for portraits, two people for pictures of two people, three people for group pictures, and a mountain symbol for everything in the distance, including mountains. I stopped hyperventilating, and realized that, for a point-and-shoot camera, this is more than enough. And for all you nitpickers, Olympus also included precise distance measurements in both meters and feet on the underside of the lens. Phew.

Once shooting the Trip started to shine, and I was easily able to focus on exactly what matters most in photography – composition. From the first frame I found myself joyfully snapping away at whatever tickled my fancy, even though I didn’t know what aperture values and shutter speeds the Trip 35 was choosing. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn. All that mattered to me was finding different angles, new ways to play with light, and how to capture Chinatown’s unique charm. It felt like with each and every frame, the Trip was dissolving my shooter’s block more and more, and I wanted to just keep shooting.

So the little Olympus and I danced through Chinatown’s colorful landscape, happily snapping away. In no uncertain terms, it was the most fun I’d ever had with a camera. Even though the heat of the afternoon beat on my shoulders and the sweat sizzled on my brow, the Trip 35 and I ran through the city without a care in the world. The streets led us to the door of a steamy Chinese restaurant, then a pile of steaming pork buns, then back to the equally steamy interior of my car. I didn’t care how long the journey took or how much fluid I lost in that heatwave. It seemed like I sweated out my shooter’s block, and I eagerly raced home to deliver the buns, and develop the film.

But something was nagging me about the camera the entire way home; the focus issue. Had I gotten the focus correct for every shot? How was I to trust those markings? How could I possibly live without a focusing aid? Anxiety began to rear its head again and I had to stop myself from speeding over to a one-hour photo lab to assuage my fears. I gripped the steering wheel tight and told myself to trust the Trip. Besides, I still had a job to do. These pork buns weren’t going to deliver themselves.

After delivering and munching on said pork buns with my contented sibling, I decided to get the roll developed and scanned. My fears were partially founded. Some of the shots, especially photos of close subjects or darker scenes, came back fuzzy due to a combination of my poor distance estimation and the nature of the Trip’s exposure and focus systems. While the Trip automatically helps achieve sharp focus by selecting a smaller aperture for greater depth-of-field, this is only possible in bright light. As things get dark, the ability to shoot at a smaller aperture quickly disappears. In these situations it can be really difficult to nail correct focus. One minor consequence of this is that shooters with an affinity for portraiture and those sweet bokeh balls will probably be disappointed by this camera.

Olympus Trip 35 004

Olympus Trip 35 007

Olympus Trip 35 006

Olympus Trip 35 005

Olympus Trip 35 001

But expecting creamy bokeh and close range performance from the Trip 35 (or most point-and-shoots for that matter) is like expecting a ‘93 Honda Civic to outpace a Tesla Model S. It just won’t happen, and trying will lead to frustration. But just like that Honda, if you regard the Trip 35 as a reliable machine good for an occasional joyride, it will never disappoint. The Trip 35 is capable of a great many things, but we must be careful to recognize and respect its own limits.

When we get the focus right, the Trip’s fantastic 40mm F/2.8 Zuiko lens delivers in spades. The lens is a front-focusing Tessar type lens, which means that it’s very simple and very sharp, and it retains this sharpness edge to edge without chromatic aberration, spherical aberration, or any kind of distortion due to its simple optical formula and Olympus’s masterful execution. The lens’ quality even overcame the limitations of expired film, and ended up giving me some great results.

For whom is this camera best suited? First and foremost, the Trip 35 might just be the perfect camera for the casual photophile. Olympus built this camera to document the daily adventures of the everyman, and the Trip does this beautifully. And for experienced shooters, the Trip 35 can be a great way to break free of shooter’s block, or inject our shooting with something fun and carefree. It emphasizes the art of composition rather than the cold calculations of exposure, but even more importantly, it reminds us to relax, have a pork bun, and not take ourselves too seriously.

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon
  • Merlin Marquardt October 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Very nicely done.

  • Great review of the Trip! This is the camera that lured me away from Lomography and the whole low-fi aesthetic. While the metering system is somewhat primitive and the zone focusing can be imprecise, especially in low light, it’s obvious that all the money and work went into the lens. In the right circumstances it’s absolutely tack sharp. Once I started getting sharp images from my Trip, the Lomo LC-A+ and the Holga started looking a lot less appealing.

    The Trip definitely has some big limitations but on its own terms it’s a great camera.

    Here’s my Trip album on Flickr to get an idea.


    • James – Founder/Editor October 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks for adding your Flickr album. It’s great for people to be able to see what these cameras can do in varied situations.

    • Thanks so much! Those images are fantastic; they really showcase what that lens can do. Funny you mention the LC-A+… ?

      • Thanks! The LC-A+ was the camera that got me back into using film after an extended dalliance with digital photography. I used it really heavily for about 2 years before becoming curious about other cameras. The fact that the Lomo is also a zone focuser made it very easy for me to switch to the Trip and the XA2.

    • Great write up Josh, and really nice album Neilson! I had to do a double take on some of those shots, especially the close up portraits, realizing that you had used a Trip.

    • I agree, what a great review and some fine shots on that flickr gallery. I’ve just bought my 50th Olympus Trip 35 and am steadily rebuilding them from head to toe. I’ve posted some reviews and other helpful reviews on my site https://trip35.co/

    • Great pictures from the Trip. You got to love these little cameras!

  • The Trip 35 was *made* for landscapes and group photos in good light outside. It’s really dang good for those things. For everything else, not so much! But like you, on a day when I’m just out and about shooting stuff, I find the Trip 35 to be big fun.

    My last outing with my Trip 35: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2015/04/20/olympus-trip-35-revisited/

    • James – Founder/Editor October 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      If I ever get on an airplane again I think I’ll be bringing this camera… We’ll see. Josh and your post have helped convince me. Thanks for sharing.

  • Great review of one of my favourite cameras and one of the best free cameras I’ve ever been given. The quality you can get from this little package has always astounded me, this is an example taken with just bog standard Poundland special film (Agfa Vista 200)

    And yet again I confess to being an Olympus fanboy.

  • Cheyenne Morrison October 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Great article Josh, and thanks for publishing it James. There wasn’t a link, but I started the Olympus Trip 35 users group on Facebook, here is the link. P.S. A few famous photogrpaphers in the group.


    • James – Founder/Editor October 4, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Hey my friend! Thanks for commenting. We did include a link there, it’s in the third to last paragraph where it says the Trip is “capable…” etc.

      And for anyone down here in the comments, do check out the FB group. Amazing talent there shooting with all kinds of Trips.

  • The Trip Flickr group is worth checking out too. Lots of good stuff there.


  • Great write-up! I have three of these and, while I’m by no means a great photographer, I do love the pick-up-and-go nature of the Trip 35. For those who are interested, I spent an entire day refocusing the lens on one of mine;


    Almost drove me nuts!

  • Bought a Trip after reading a recommendation by Ken Rockwell. At the time I thought I only ever needed one camera – an FE – and I had one. However, the Trip is great for other things. As you say, the pictures are so sharp. And its so easy to use.

  • Joe shoots resurrected cameras March 23, 2018 at 6:02 am

    I love my Trip 35. Fantastically sharp lens and incredibly easy to use! The zone focusing took a bit getting used to and I do still occasionally misfocus, but when that happens I embrace my inner William Klein. Also, my copy came with a lens cap and zipped up in a bag so the selenium is not at all worn out and the AE is spot-on. I actually trust shooting slide film in this camera more than any of my all-manual cameras!

  • Hi! Thank you so much. I am seriously considering to buy a Trip. I want to go traveling and bring a good camera. Do you think this one will do? And some people say it’s not really for taking photo’s in the dark/on parties. Are they right?

    Thanks again 🙂

    • Hey Nikki! The Trip is the perfect camera for travel and casual outdoor shooting IMO, but it does suffer in low light without a flash. A little compact flash will help, and it does have a manual aperture override for accurate flash exposures.

      If you’re going to be spending lots of time indoors I would suggest either picking up a cheap P&S with a built in flash, or upgrading entirely to a compact SLR/fixed-lens rangefinder with a fast (f/2 and under) lens for low-light shooting without a flash. Hope this helps!

    • Cheyenne Morrison May 28, 2018 at 10:28 pm

      Hello Nikki, I am the Admin of the Olympus Trips 35 Users Group, I recommend you join to get advice, and there are trustworthy sellers in the group.

      See the website link below my comment

  • I’ve recently picked up aTrip 35 and have been very pleasantly surprised by the ease of use and picture quality. I even tried some low light close shots and had better results than I expected.
    Tip #1: use 400 speed film to increase versatility. You get more depth of field in any situation and therefore more focussing accuracy. You will also hold off the “red flag” for a stop or two.
    Tip #2: learn how to guesstimate the zone distances as accurately as possible. If you’re shooting close-up in lower light try to nail the actual distance e.g. set the lens on 1 meter and try to be 1 meter away. Use a tape measure at first so you can see what the distances look like. As the light falls or distances get closer then more accuracy is required from the photographer.
    Tip #3: remember that you can press the shutter button half way down to lock the exposure. Meter off a mid-tone then recompose and shoot. This will help with back lighting and other tricky light.
    Tip #4: try to shoot within the limits of the design and you will get good results. The Trip 35 was meant for family holidays and a whimsical approach to photography. If you require critical focussing or metering the Trip was never really designed for that.

  • 𝔸𝕙𝕓𝕦𝕟𝔹𝕜𝕜 (@AhbunBkk) May 18, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    Hi, Josh. Great writing. I enjoyed reading your review and laughed so much at the pork bun adventure! Thanks!

  • Thirty-seven years of shooting film and the Trip 35 was a camera I’d always ignored for being ‘too simple’. I spotted one in a local charity shop last week that was cased, boxed and in lovely condition and I got it for next to nothing. I ran half a roll of FT-12 ASA50 cinema film through and the results were far better than I expected. I started out on Olympus all those years ago (still use them) but I’m a bit ashamed of myself for ignoring this little gem. My 8 year old is just starting to take an interest in photography and this is going to be ideal for her.

    Thanks for a great review and for pointing out a couple of little features I hadn’t spotted.

  • Michael S. Goldfarb December 10, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Quick pedantic note: In virtually everything I’ve seen online about the Trip 35, there’s one thing that nobody ever seems to say:

    The Trip 35 is essentially the full-frame version of the earlier half-frame Pen EES and EES-2.

    I had an EES-2 and it was a great shooter for an inexpensive camera. It worked exactly the same way as the Trip: the selenium meter around the lens chose one of two shutter speeds or raised a red flag if there wasn’t sufficient light; it had a four-icon zone focus lens; there was one manual speed for flash along with adjustable f-stops when not in Auto. Of course, the Trip had a different focal length lens to produce a full-frame image, but I suspect it’s of a very similar design to the EES-2’s. And note that the Trip 35’s top plate includes the EES-2’s hot shoe, along with the back cover/rewind knob from the Pen series (and frame counter from the Pen F series), and the viewfinder is essentially the same as the EES-2’s.

    My point is: the Trip 35’s super-successful design wasn’t actually new, the camera was scaled up from the already successful Pen EES series.

  • Curt Ola Abrahamsson April 3, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you… Now I’m on my way for fun an Mindfulness 🙂 A very brilliant text who give me interests and energy. Thank you 🙂

  • Just bought one, trying it out tomorrow. I would suggest to buy a tripod and a self-release cord, set it to A and just set for the distance. I used to carry a 110 film camera back in 1977 and was taught photography back in 1981 from a WW2 vet. Warhol used a Pentax 35afm because he could set a high iso without flash.

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon