Classic cameras › Olympus 35 SP
Compact 35mm rangefinders with fixed, often very fast, lenses were all the rage in the 1970s. Canon, Minolta, Yashica, Konica, Ricoh and others, all had very similar models, though strangely neither Pentax nor Nikon saw fit to join in with the compact rangefinder love-fest. The Olympus 35 SP was sold from 1969 to 1975, and it's a classic example of the genre. It has a number of disadvantages and (fortunately a rather longer list of) advantages over it's competitors:
- The auto mode is a fully programmed mode with the camera setting both aperture and shutter speed.
- The viewfinder only displays EV (exposure value) numbers, so you have no easy way to tell what the camera is setting in auto mode.
- Size: this thing really ain't all that compact! In fact it's not that much smaller than the emerging genre of compact SLRs that Olympus themselves pioneered with the OM1 in the 1970s.
- The auto mode is a fully programmed mode with the camera setting both aperture and shutter speed. Well, it all depends on your needs whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage! If you want to just concentrating on framing a quick snapshot without spending time worrying about shutter speed and aperture I guess this is an advantage!
- The shutter is totally mechanical. This is actually rather a rare feature amongst totally automatic cameras. It means you get access to all the shutter speeds of your batteries run out.
- The meter works in manual mode. Almost all the 35 SP's contemporaries are really designed to work mainly in automatic mode with unmetered manual modes really intended just for occasional use. The viewfinder on the 35 SP has a needle which points to the suggested EV value, and you then just set this EV value in a cut out window on the shutter speed ring. It is then easy to grip the shutter speed and aperture rings and move them in unison to keep a constant EV while you set the shutter speed/aperture combination you want.
- There is a spot metering button conveniently positioned on the back. When pressed the metering system measures light only from the area covered by the rangefinder patch. It works in both auto and manual modes. This is a unique feature amongst fixed-lens rangefinders… indeed the 35 SP was the first camera of any type to combine spot metering with automatic exposure.
- Finally the lens on this camera is a big reason behind it's cult status… it certainly has quite a reputation!
Photographs taken with the Olympus 35 SP
The shutter makes a rather funny noise on this camera, rather like the noise a shutter that doesn’t work properly makes! I have to admit I don’t really like the sound and action of the shutter, but at the end of the day the results speak for them selves, so I’m very happy with this camera! With most of these photos I was either just letting the auto exposure mode do it’s thing. I only used manual mode to take some control of what aperture the camera so even then I was just setting the EV value suggested by the camera… I think the metering system on this camera does a grand job! All these photos were shot on my usual film: Kodak Portra 160.