Sunday, July 26, 2009

Olympus 35RC

35RC & Fence
35RC & Fence; Canon 30D, Sigma 10-20mm, Canon 430EX

For my next camera profile, I thought I should talk about the camera that got me into film photography in the first place, the Olympus 35RC. I initially considered film when I was looking for a very pocketable camera to complement my DSLR. All the digital options sacrificed too much quality compared to my DSLR set up that I felt that I wouldn't have been happy with them. However, there were many compact cameras made that used 35mm film, and having seen many nice black and white film shots, I decided to investigate this option some more.

My first stop was the excellent Cameraquest page on compact 35mm rangefinders. Many of these caught my eye (and some still do, such as an Olympus RD or a Canonet QL17), but the one that stood out was the Olympus 35RC, for reasons I'll discuss below. Luckily, KEH at the time had one in decent condition for a good price, so I didn't have to hunt on eBay.

35RC Outside 1
35RC Outside 1; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L

Unlike previous profiles on this site, I won't list all the stats of the 35RC. Instead, here are several good reference pages/reviews:

35RC Outside 2
35RC Outside 2; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX

Now, my impressions. First the positives:

  1. The lens. Very compact 5 element Olympus lens, very very sharp, even wide open, and great when stopped down.

  2. The size. This was the inital attraction for me. The camera easily fits in a jacket pocket, or can be carried with one hand.

  3. The features. Full manual control as well as shutter priority AE with a meter; bulb shutter speed; hot shoe, and many more (see the pages above for a full list). Despite the wonderfully small size, it offers basically all the features I want in a camera.

And the negatives:

  1. The lens. Despite the positives above, there are two negatives. First, it's only f/2.8, so it's not the best low light camera, although some 3200 speed film helps (but see below). Second, the minimum focus distance is not wonderful (3'), although this is a common flaw in this class of camera (the Olympus XA4 focuses down to 1', but it's scale focusing).

  2. The meter. It was designed for mercury batteries, and the max speed is only 800, so if you want to use film faster than that you'll need to carry a external meter (or guess).

  3. The size. More specifically, the size of the controls. It's very hard to adjust the aperture ring, especially if you have larger fingers.

35RC Outside 3
35RC Outside 3; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX

With all that out of the way, let me say this: I love this camera. It's my go-to film camera, great for taking out with friends, or taking out for street shooting, and it would be a great travel camera too. I'm very glad I got it, and will hopefully never get rid of it, just complement it with a faster-lensed but larger camera.

35RC & Luna Pro F
35RC & Luna Pro F; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX

Since I'd already taken the traditional "camera on white" shots of the 35RC when I first bought it, I decided to take some different shots of it for this post. All except the black and white were taken with flash, and I realized again how harsh hard flash is on old cameras; I wished I had some kind of portable diffusion solution.

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