I came across this old Olympus Trip 35 camera at a pawn shop in Central Oregon and couldn’t pass it up for the price. I’ve shot a handful of different Olympus film SLRs in the past, but I’ve never gotten my hands on any of their point-and-shoot or rangefinder models. Make no mistake, the Trip 35 is a true point-and-shoot, grab-and-go camera that can produce some fun and surprising results.
Of course, if you’re seeking out a repair blog, you probably already know all this or you’re looking to patch up your ailing Trip 35 and make some memories.
I didn’t know much about these cameras before grabbing this one off the shelf, so I just loaded it up with a roll of Fuji Superia 400 film and handed it over to my wife to shoot a test roll. It came back with some spot-on photos, but also some missed opportunities with off exposure and weird focus shifts. So I started digging…
One of the most obvious things was that the lens barrel was very loose and wobbly. It’s a common problem where 4 mounting screws that secure the lens to the camera body work themselves loose overtime. In fact, one even came all the way out and started rattling around in the camera when my wife was using it! I think this was leading to some focusing issues, especially on close-up subjects in low light, where a small shift could throw have a greater affect.
Take these two photos for example, both taken back-to-back in low light in our living room. One came out, the other is blurry even though we’re the same distance apart in both photos.
Ok, so neither photo is tack-sharp, but this little camera did well given the lighting conditions.
One other thing I noticed is that the exposure was off a bit in a few shots, mostly in extreme conditions of bright sun and low light. Digging around on the internets I learned that this may be a death sentence for the camera since it’s full-auto and depends on its meter to function. Scary shit, right?!
But I don’t have much invested in this camera, so I figured this was a great chance to test my knowledge of vintage camera repairs and see if I couldn’t get this old Trip 35 in top working condition once again. These cameras are pretty straight-forward to work on, if you take careful steps and do a few key things that’ll make your life a lot easier.
Here are a few of the helpful resources I’ve come across for disassembling and repairing the Olympus Trip 35, plus a few notes worth keeping in mind before you go tearing into this thing:
Wobbly Lens Repair:
Flickr user Math.leduc went through the trouble of solving this one for us, even posting pictures online to help walk you through. Having just done this repair, I can feel his pain and frustration, and I have to offer him my thanks for saving me a lot of headache with this tutorial. This is one of the simpler repairs on the Trip 35, but it’s a little unsettling when you pull the camera apart in 2 pieces. It’s also a great time to replace the inner light seal between the camera body and lens unit.
Disassembly to Fix Stuck Aperture Blades/Shutter Mechanism:
I have absolutely no idea why the guy that runs the ThermoJet Microlight Stove website has a page dedicated to Trip 35 repair, but I’m not going to complain. This is an excellent step-by-step walk through of how to disassemble the lens unit to access inner lens elements, aperture blade assembly, and even the shutter unit (if you so dare).L
***NOTE: Take special care to mark the position of your front lens element and take note of how far it turns to the right (as ThermoJet Guy recommends) before you get it out of whack. This element twists when you turn the zone focusing ring, and if it gets out of place it is a really, really big pain to get it right again. ***
Refocusing the Front Lens Element:
If you’ve come to far and didn’t head the *** warning in the above post, then check out 120 Studio’s guide on refocusing the Trip 35 front lens element using wax paper, a measuring stick, and an upside down newspaper. HEED THE MANY WARNINGS. MARK YOUR LENS BEFORE DISSASSEMBLY AND PROSPER!
Complete Tear-Down and Parts Guide:
This guy Peter Vis has put together one of the most comprehensive guides to the Olympus Trip 35 that I’ve seen thus far. His posts cover everything from basic operation to detailed notes on circuitry, lens barrel assembly, and how the camera functions with its various parts and magical wizardry.
If you’re troubleshooting a problem or looking for a good place to start on your repairs research, this is it.
Modifying Shutter Speed to Stick at 1/200th
This crazy kid K. Praslowicz found a way to jam a paperclip in the Trip 35 and peg shutter speed at 1/200th of a second, thus allowing him to override the camera’s automatic setting and shoot with manual aperture settings. It’s a pretty cool mod that also kind of defeats the purpose of using a point-in-shoot, but hey whatever! Where there’s a will there’s a way I guess.
Adding Light Seals and Green Lizard Skin:
The scribes over at Lomography put together a how-to post aimed at freeing up stuck aperture blades on the Trip 35, but honestly there are other better resources online for that procedure (linked above). They gloss over some important points in that procedure, but offer a good overview of replacing light seals and applying a green lizard skin leatherette covering to the camera. Take for what it’s worth I guess.
Dealing with Light Meter and “Red Flag” Issues:
Somebody hit the panic button. The light meter is basically the heart of the Trip 35. Without it, the camera is toast. If possible you should always do a quick test of the meter before buying a Trip 35. Simply point it at bright light and push the shutter button to see if the aperture remains small (f22 is its default position) and listen to see if the shutter is fast. Next, stick it in a low-light area and do the same, these time checking for wide aperture and slower shutter. It’s not perfect but you can at least see if it’s responding to light in the right manner, although it could still prove to be inaccurate.
I noticed a few exposure errors on the first test roll through my Trip 35, but nothing to warrant too much concern Yet, once I repaired the lens wobble and reassembled the camera, I started getting the dreaded “red flag” pop up in the camera’s viewfinder regardless of the light situation. Even in bright light the camera was indicating there wasn’t sufficient light to take a photo — NOT GOOD!
While the selenium light meter on these cameras have a reputation for being pretty reliable, my research online pretty much gave my camera a death sentence — the “red flag” issue could mean your camera’s meter is dying and you’ve got a nice paperweight on your hands. That’s what I was led to believe, at least.
Yes, some light meters die and they’ll all die eventually I guess. But fortunately that wasn’t the problem in my case. I opened the camera’s top plate to take a closer look at the light meter configuration and see how it was responding using ThermoJet Guy’s details on how it should be reacting.
Confusingly enough, once I opened the camera up again, the light meter seemed to be working as-normal and was responding to different lighting scenes as expected. WTF?!? The more I fiddled with it I noticed that the meter’s needle get stuck randomly, not really hung up but sticky. It looked like the spring or magnet may have been gummed up and was hindering the needle’s movement at times. If I hit the camera body it would often jar it loose and the meter would start bouncing around again, so it seemed that at least the meter was still working.
I wasn’t prepared to open up the light meter housing (that just seems like a recipe for disaster) but with my gummy theory in mind I decided to take a calculated risk and attempt to clean the light meter, specifically where the needle comes out under the housing. Using a spray can of electronics cleaner (which shouldn’t leave any residues), I lightly doused the light meter housing, let it dry, and repeated the process 5-6 times. Slowly the meter started freeing up and behaving as intended. Crisis averted.
Now, time to burn another roll.
If you have any helpful Trip 35 repair links, insights, or other tidbits feel free to comment below. Per usual, attempt any of your own repairs at your own risk, or send it to me and I’ll fiddle with it for you.