Amarcord: Olympus 35 SP



We now know that Olympus will release a new Micro Four Thirds camera within the next 1-2 months. As they always took inspiration from the past let’s check back some of the Olympus historical cameras. Today I make a short intro to the is the Olympus 35 SP.

Like so many Olympus cameras also that one marked a point in the camera history. Launched in 1969 it had a unique feature: It was the first Rangefinder camera with a dual metering system (spot or centerweighted readings). It has a high quality 42/1.7 fixed G.Zuiko lens. Yep, there is a “G” letter before the “Zuiko” because it refers to the seventh letter of the alphabet to signify the seven elements of the lens construction. And according to Andrew from UTexas: “It truly matches or surpasses many prime lens available today.“.

But there are many unique features on that camera. a controls (including exposure modes and timer) are on the lens!
Really, you have to read the wonderful written article at Utexas (Click here) to understand all the greatness on this jewel. One more interetsing article is also available at Cameraquest.

The camera itself is of course available on plenty of acutions on eBay (Click ehre to see them). Great camera that (unlike all digital cameras) will likely work fine for all the rest of our long life :)

  • Personaly, I’d like Olympus to release something original for the m43 system and I mean body-wise. Something not based on their past models, something really new and innovative. Just my opinion on it.

    • _katira_

      Something from the future ;-)

    • Bob

      I would be very open-minded to that myself…although I really, really like the OM-D “with” the grip. I like the weight, I like the feel. Could it be more ergonomic? Yes. …but you know…I just HATE the Honda-Toyota-Nissan homogenized sedans…so I am willing to trade a little ergonomic for a beautifully designed (and with form and function with the IBIS in the prism), retro camera that is the OM-D.
      …but, yeah..I would love to see what Oly could do with an innovative, modern design as well. Bring it on! (but don’t give me the GH-3/Canon D-SLR pop-out…give me something refreshing and functional).

    • Edwin

      A steampunk style camera would be great ;)

      • Well, put the VF-2 on any Olympus (or Leica), add a half case….they start to channel steampunk quite well!

      • cool, that would mean lenses in brass too :-)

    • Miroslav


      I don’t like retro looking tech. And I’m with Bob on grip – I really like DSLR-like grips. And I guess they’re like that for a reason…

      Moreover, E-M5 is not selling well because of its looks, but because of features and size/performance ratio.

      • Dave


        I would not have bought the E-M5 for its feature set if it didn’t have the looks. There are less expensive options that have the same features, but with that tedious, boring, aren’t-you-sick-of-it-yet, all-black “modern” look that’s been our only option for 30 YEARS!

        I just can’t get excited about yet-another lump of molded black whatever. It was semi-cool back when I bought my Minolta 7000i back when Star Wars was new and the Darth Vader-ish black on black look was different. But that was a lifetime ago. Let’s move on! Or back to the future, in this case. Just anything but all-black!

  • Anonymous

    How many months have we been saying “they will release new m43 in next 2 or 3 months”?

  • nobody

    Admin: “We now know that Olympus will release new Micro Four Thirds cameras”

    That would be more than 1 camera?

    • admin

      Sorry copy and paste error from a previous “Amarcord” post. There is one camera to come within 1-2 months. :)

  • For the first time in the digital era I’m not interested in new camera releases. Maybe I’m getting old or perhaps it’s the E-M5’s “fault”? Anyway, it’s nice to be reminded of the SP. Definitely one of the best fixed lens rangefinders ever.

    • Litchao

      I agree, with the new silent shutter, the only other thing I see as missing, is dual memory card slots, so you can have video on one and pictures on another. I may still be interested in a Rangfinder style body, but it’s nothing that I would loose sleep over. Things are good for me now, in fact I probably have more than I really need and may have to thin things down a bit in the near future.

    • Anonymous


      The E-M5 really hit the sweet spot, I wont be looking for a new body til it breaks.

  • Rutrem

    well… if the OMD or a PEN camera had a different name it would be totally new ;)
    …i had a chance to see recently a Nikon FM2 film camera near a Nikon D7000 and D5100.. and that film camera impressed me much more then those dSLRs by build quality and hendling

    • The FM2 was more of a higher end consumer slr, i guess the FG model was more comparable to such cameras as the current lower class dslr’s, but i get your point (even when i tried upgrading my OM-1n with a FM2, but switching quickly to an OM-3). Even more recent classic digital cameras sometimes have that special built quality if compared with nowadays models. Last week I was able to get a mint sample of the E-20 for a lousy 89 euros incl. the batterygrip and FL-40, a camera i admired so much back in 2000. I prob wont use the camera except for some testing, but oh man….it feels even better then an E-1.

      • Rutrem

        yeah…some cameras just feels right.
        i have an OM10 and i like have it in my hends.. i hope to find a cheap OM2n to get a little beter build quality, but also the OM10 feels very nice, the viewfnder is amazing!

        • Oh ya. And I’d really love to have a mint OM-4ti.
          I thought they were quite cheap to get… like almost all other SLRs. But, boy… ~€400 or even more for a mint analog camera… that I’d pretty much only wanna have and use “just for fun”?!
          No, thanks. Too expensive for me. At least for that kind of purchase.

      • Mr. Reeee

        Yeah, I sold an FG (and a pile of crappy Tamron lenses) and bought an FM2 back around 1990. Though I could have bought a more complex, higher-end Nikon, I preferred the bare-bones quality of the FM2.

        Still have the FM2 and wish someone would release a modern digital camera with the utter simplicity of it… and similar size. It’s one of the reasons I prefer manual lenses and M mode over the auto-everthing my GH2 can provide… that’s all the FM2 had and all I really needed… and still need.

  • Renze

    And that 35 SP is a beauty as well!

  • Ranger 9

    Sorry, but I owned a 35SP for years and it was a good camera for its day, but that’s all. The “spot” meter was a clever idea, but hard to aim accurately, and the meter response was somewhat slow. The shutter release stroke was very long, the shutter was fairly noisy for this type of camera, and manual metering was a real nuisance (you had to read an EV number off a scale in the finder and then manually transfer it to the camera controls.) the lens had seven elements, all right, but in practice it was no better than the ones on the RC or RD, and not as good as the one on the Minolta HiMatic 7S2, which I also used during the same period.

    It’s time to get over this nostalgia kick…

    • I agree with you. Nostalgia is OK, but not an end in itself. I may be alone in feeling the OMD is an ugly camera; I was into Minoltas so I don’t have any history with them and thus no nostalgic feelings… Al

    • adaptor-or-die

      While I appreciate the nostalgia, and have owned many of the older Olympus, the RD, RC and SP models weren’t the top of the line quality and so when you see these things decades later, they don’t always live up to their design wonder? The trigger mechs in all of these are very dodgy when it comes to the design and materials. They don’t survive well with time. The XA cameras were also brilliantly designed, but again the electromagnetic shutters in them bring you back to reality? When these constructs fail, the camera becomes a doorstop, a museum piece, something to display. Not a working tool. Which is why a good circa 1940s rangefinder will far outlast them all.

    • adaptor-or-die

      Really the Trip 35 in all it’s simplicity out performs the the higher end SP, RC, RDs in the test of time … other than the Selenium meter wearing out, there is very little to go wrong. Just as the ugly duckling the XA1, the only XA to have a ‘mechanical’ shutter. Those old models will work as they did when they were first made.

    • Jeffrey S.

      It’s time to get over this nostalgia kick…

      Well, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be….

      However, I’m still surprised that my old film scans from my Oly SP, RD, and RC’s (my favorite), are so much sharper than my Nikkor f/1.4’s that cost me so much more. It was an amazing & humbling experience to see that the little cameras had something there that the larger/more expensive cameras lacked.

      I like the HiMatic 7S2’s IQ too, but was a little disappointed by the viewfinder flare.

      No, you can’t live in the past. But if we didn’t compare the new cameras with the old, we wouldn’t have cameras with built in EVF’s or actual dials and dedicated/programable function buttons.

      It’s best to look forward while giving a nod to the past I think.

  • Ash

    Still keen for more lens rumors, especially if they happen to involve a 25mm 1.8 lens…

    • Anonymous

      Whats wrong with the Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4? or the Voigtlander 25 0.95? or the soon to arrive SLR Magic 25 0.95?

      The last thing we need is another 25mmm prime

      • and the first thing we need for the lenses you mentioned is alot of money. A 25mm 1.8 will be much cheaper.

  • Yun

    Hopefully this is the dream camera every rangefinder lover is waiting for . I expect the sensor to edge OMD & with 5 axis then I’ll give it a try .
    The new aka L style camera from Panasonic although is my dream but it just took too long .

  • Anonymous
    • admin

      Yep. February-March.

      • dau

        G successor? Didnt we just get the g5?!

    • admin

      GF and G successor plus a new Olympus MFT.

      • Anonymous

        Exciting times. And then next omd later this year.

  • George

    Having the shutter speed around the lens mount is one thing I really like about my OM-1n. Hopefully that will appear one day.

  • J Shin

    > But there are many unique features on that camera. [All] controls (including exposure modes and timer) are on the lens!

    This was a fairly common feature of leaf-shutter cameras, if they had such controls. Canons, Yashicas, Retinas, Hasselblads, and Mamiyas for instance. Leica, Contax, and Nikon rangefinders did not, because they used focal-plain shutters. Contaflex, as an exception to the Contax line, did have leaf shutters, and hence on-lens controls. Not sure if they had timers.

    In leaf shutters, it is easiest to put the timer on the shutter timing mechanism. Same with X/M sync selector. Since the aperture dial often had an electronic or mechanical connection communicating with the meter, ASA settings and automatic exposure selection usually show up on it as well. Spot metering is different, as it needs to interact with the meter, so even on the 35SP it is on the body, along with battery check.

    I like having all the settings on the lens, since they can all be accessed with one hand, the other hand’s only responsibilities being the shutter and film winding, occasionally also turning on the meter. However, with your eye on the viewfinder, it was easy to turn the wrong ring, or to turn two rings at a time. Rolleiflexes and Yashica 124 had dials right next to the lens, as an important exception. Hasselblads, Rolleiflexes, and, I think, some Retinas have “coupled” shutter/aperture combinations that can be fantastic once one is used to it, but can also be annoying when you don’t need it; on non-coupled cameras, you could often just grab and turn both the shutter and aperture ring, achieving a “coupled” effect of keeping the exposure value while changing the aperture/shutter combination.

    Or perhaps you meant something else?

    • Anonymous

      I liked the control ring on the lens of the OM-2. But control rings on the lens are not likely in the m43 world, I guess: the flange distance doesn’t permit much between the lens and the sensor, unless they move the sensor forward in the body, which will also cause the lens to stick out more.

  • Anonymous

    This retro soul searching is really a lame substitute for the lack of information about the coming Oly model.

    If anything it will have to be completely original, since it has to be miniaturized further to include an EVF in a RF form factor.

  • Joze

    “…But there are many unique features on that camera. a controls (including exposure modes and timer) are on the lens!…”

    Handy, yes. Unique? Hardly. Werra line of (yes, with interchangeable lenses) cameras featured this from 1950 to 1968. Being produced by Carl Zeiss Jena, one shouldn’t neglect these little gems just on the grounds of country of orign (DDR).

  • Alobama

    Used to have one of these years ago, and I remember it as being a fine sharp lens. But even then the lens coatings weren’t quite as good as those from top SLR ranges, and there have been further improvements in this area since.

  • danielm46

    I am not found of nostalgia for nostalgia except if it is the expression of innovative ways of thinking and doing things like in photography. The Olympus OM line of 35mm film cameras was a real jump in term of innovations in 1972-1975 (OM-1/2). It is the spirit under the design that we tend to see in the digital “look alike” present OM-D which is small, discrete and as a part of a modular system.
    Many of the so-called past innovations can be seen now as guide lines for the “future” designs. Ergonomics can not be reinvented everyday. The optical contraints can not be overcame so simply. A good esthetic can live longer than many “short trendie” designs.
    I am still considering the OM original design as modern, actual and practical as it was at its first release in 1972.
    Photography is an art of expression that allow us to select our own tools which are part of the shaping elements of the result.

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