This week No. 37: From zero to two Olympus Trips

Two Olympus trips
I went from having no Olympus Trip cameras — their long-lived line of high-quality budget cameras — to having two of them, in a single day. The black Trip 35 on the left is from 1969, and the AF 4000 is probably from about 2000. (Daniel J. Schneider)

For the longest time I had zero Olympus Trip cameras. Then, suddenly and in just one day, I had two of them from opposite ends of the spectrum.

I honestly didn’t set out to Trip it up on Sunday, but since Kate was playing games with her friends (the tabletop kind), I did a little thrifting and ultimately wound up at the Brass Armadillo antique mall. I’d planned to head to the coffee shop and work on the blog afterward, but ran out of time.

First find

It wasn’t a very good day thrifting (or even a good day for thrifting, as it snowed most of the day), because after the first stop I didn’t find anything. But that first stop proved slightly fruitful.

I found, and bought on more-or-less a whim, an Olympus Trip AF 4000.

I’m not 100 percent sure this is an actual Olympus. It looks basically like a Trip XB41 AF, but there seems to be a near-total lack of useful information on Trip cameras this new. It doesn’t even appear in the most thorough lists of Olympus film cameras I can find.

Based on the fact that the same body style was used for several other cameras, and those models all originated right around the year 2000, I’m betting this is from about the same time. It might be a knockoff, but I’m guessing it was just so late (and probably short-lived) that it’s been overlooked.

That said, it looks fun for several reasons:

It has a 27mm lens, so it’s pretty danged wide. It’s not as wide as a the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim‘s wacky 22mm lens, but it’s pretty close.

Trip AF 4000 viewfinder
The viewfinder of the Olympus Trip AF 4000 is so big it was hard to photograph. The wide angle looks like fun, though. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The viewfinder is huge! It’s one of the Extra Big (that’s Olympus’ name for it — really!) ones that were popping up shortly before digital started to take over. The brightlines are quite bright.

It’s small and light, and takes AA batteries. Oh, and it’s got a self-timer. And an automatic flash. And automatic advance. It’s rather fully featured, frankly, for as small as it as and as cheap as it feels. Yeah, it does feel cheap and plasticky (but it is).

It has a date thingy on the back, but I’m not sure if that’s a bonus. I hate the idea of burned-in pink dates in my photos, but I think I have it set to “No date” after following the instructions for the Trip AF 50 QD, which appears to have the same date functions.

My only big question is — does the “AF” in the name really mean Auto Focus like it’s supposed to? It doesn’t make any focusing noises, but maybe it just doesn’t. The Yashica T2 is practically silent and it focuses just fine.

I will just have to try it out and see how it works. It’s got a roll of Walgreens 400 film in it now.

I didn’t find anything else all day until I got to the antique mall. Actually, that’s why I went. I was disappointed by my lack of thrifting success, but I’ve never left the antique mall without a camera.

Sadly, even that proved difficult this time. I looked at a number of cameras, but all were either in worse shape than I was interested in grappling with, or grossly overpriced (like a Contax IIIa with a fungus-encrusted Sonnar 5cm lens for 3-4x the eBay price for pristine examples).

Second find

Finally found something I couldn’t pass up. Since you’ve no doubt seen the picture above, you know it’s a black Olympus Trip 35.

Olympus Trip 35 black
The black Olympus Trip 35 is practically a point-and-shoot, but it’s a work of art, too. Really looking forward to testing it out. (Daniel J. Schneider)

It’s not pristine, but it’s in excellent working condition, and was reasonably priced. It did include the original Olympus neck strap, as well. There’s no brassing to speak of.

While the Trip 35 was made from 1967 to 1984, the black variant was only made from 1969-70. The earliest models had film speed settings from ASA 25 to ASA 200, but that must’ve change by 1969 because the black ones appear to have the added ASA 400 setting. The shutter button is made of brass and enameled black like the body — later silver models had a black plastic shutter button.

I check the date code on the back of the film pressure plate following Arran Salerno’s article on dating the Trip 35 and was rewarded with a date code indicating it was made in April, 1969. The serial number (while not an accurate measure of age) is similar in range to other black models I found online. I’m fairly convinced it’s not a fake (apparently some unscrupulous sellers paint silver Trip 35s and sell them as black, as the limited black models fetch a higher price).

It’s very similar in function to the Konica EE-Matic Deluxe I reviewed last year, although it adds a red flag in the viewfinder to indicate no exposure combination is possible. Additionally, a tiny prism in the viewfinder allows you to see the aperture setting and selected focus range (the Trip 35 uses zone focusing instead of having an actual rangefinder like the Konica). The lens settings are obscured when the red flag is raised, however.

Trip 35 viewfinder
They’re hard to see here, but the Trip 35’s viewfinder has parallax correction marks in three corners. The red flag indicates there isn’t enough light for the autoexposure system (and also is a good indicator that the selenium cells are working properly). (Daniel J. Schneider

You can sort of operate the Trip 35 in manual-ish mode — flash mode. Like the Konica, the Olympus defaults to its 1/40-second shutter speed when a manual aperture is selected. When using a flash, match the aperture to the distance based to your flashgun’s guide number (or use the calculator if your flash has one).

Kip Praslowicz figured out a way to lock the shutter speed at 1/200, though. You’d lose a couple stops of low-light performance, but the Trip 35’s “low light” performance is pretty limited in auto mode as it is. While the modification is really tempting for a carry-around camera, I’m not sure I’d want to try it on this one. Maybe if I ever find a more common version of the Trip 35, I can try it on that.

There’s a hot shoe on top, a frame-counter with the big, orange arrow that graces all my other Olympus rangefinders of this age, and a thumbwheel for advancing the film. The Trip 35 is surprisingly light, especially since I know the material under the black enamel is brass.

The Trip 35 is a little bigger than the Olympus 35RC, but smaller than the EE-Matic. It’s a great size, and with its black finish, a work of art.

It will be perfect for shooting some redscale film this month for…


That’s right, it’s February and therefore time for redscale again. What is #BIFscale16? It’s the #BelieveinFilm redscale celebration for 2016.

Oh yeah — and this year there’s a contest for awesome redscale photos, and you could win $100 and some free film!

With that, it’s time to dig out the re-rolled Kodak Gold I’ve had in the fridge since last year’s redscale experiments and start looking for reds and greens.

Denver Pavilions sign
The Denver Pavilions sign, made of steel I-beams, has become strongly associated with the city since the mall opened in 1998. Kodak ASA 400 film rated at 200 for #BIFscale15. (Daniel J. Schneider)