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Olympus 35-SP – Arran Salerno | Photography – Blog

Olympus 35-SP

There are quite alot of options available if you’re looking for a 70’s rangefinder. Some good, some bad, but most pretty interesting in their own particular way. There is one model however that stands out amongst many.. The brilliant Olympus 35-SP.
Built between 1969 and 1976, this compact rangefinder packs in an unrivaled set of features that puts to shame many of even the most modern rangefinders. It’s tack sharp 42mm f/1.7 G.Zuiko lens produces pictures with brilliant colour and contrast. The large bright viewfinder contains parallax error indicators and an accurate rangefinder patch. Then there’s the sophisticated metering system.
The Olympus 35-SP has the distinction of being the first ever 35mm rangefinder with dual metering options. Both centre weighted and spot metering is available to the user, which is quite amazing when you consider its age, and the compact size of the camera. After the SP a spot meter was included on the Leica M5 and CL but they were already beaten to the punch by Olympus, and quite simply just didn’t rival the 6 degree spot that came with the SP. Unlike many other rangefinders from that era, the light metering works in full manual mode also, which is quite useful when shooting in tricky conditions, or if you’re after a specific effect only manual control can produce.
Besides a revolutionary metering system (it truly was, and is still unrivaled to this day), the the Olympus came with a brilliant lens i mentioned briefly earlier on. The 7 element 42mm f/1.7 G.Zuiko is regarded as one of the finest rangefinder lenses ever produced. The Olympus RD (which came after the SP) has a similar lens, but without the 7th correcting element. Don’t let anybody try and tell you that they’re the same lens, because they’re in a completely different league. The lens focuses down to about 2.8ft and has a super smooth focusing action with a convenient lever on the side of the barrel.
All automatic and manual exposure options are contained on the barrel rings, aswell as a timer. After a while you can adjust these without taking your eye from the viewfinder, but it will take a little practice.

So with the SP you get a bright accurate viewfinder, unrivaled metering options, one of the best rangefinder lenses ever produced, all squeezed into a tough and compact body that manages to weigh less that comparable rangefinders of that era… What more do you want??
Oh yes, it comes in black too, and i got one, and its damn cool :)

(picture taken with my homemade light box)

*EDIT: I just got a Silver one also, check out a picture of them together here

Check out some other info here, and here

11 Responses to “Olympus 35-SP”
  1. 02.26.2008

    nice write up mate. cheers

  2. 02.27.2008

    No problem mate. Will be cool when you get yours :)

  3. Val Pantoja

    Hi Arran, What a great camera you have. I’ve been hunting for one of these for a long time but havent been luck enough to get one ( a black one that is ! ) There is one on ebay but I placed my bid and for some reason they rejected my bid. Would you let me know if you know of anyone interested in selling his SP black body? Thank you Arran and what a COOL, COOL, COOL camera you own !!

  4. Andrea

    Hello Arran! What a beautiful black SP! I wonder if you ever take it out or if it has to remain in the display cabinet all the time…
    Let me tell you my 35SP Story: After having had some very nice results with a 35 RC (these are inexpensive and very cute cameras!!!) I wanted to try the flagship and was scanning through ebay – but the cameras I encountered were either of questionable quality, or rather expensive. A few days later I was at a flea market in the neighbourhood – and I could not believe it! A 35 SP in a heap of things on a table! I asked the man, and he… hmmm 7 Euros? I could not believe it – was like a wonder to me! The camera was perfect, meter, lens, everything perfect, alone the B+W filter on the lens is worth at least three times the amount I paid. Since then I made quite a lot of films with it and although it is quite a brick in the backback I carry it along a lot. The 35SP is really a gem and the results are outstanding! I love my SP!! Cheers Andrea

  5. 08.14.2008

    Thanks Andrea and Val :)
    Yes i love these SP’s, the blacks ones seem extra special, but i still really like the look of the silver ones too.
    In relation to your question Andrea, i definately do use the camera. It was the only camera i used for a few months and i really enjoyed it. Plus i dont even have a display cabinet if i wanted to “retire” it anyway, haha.
    You got a terrific deal with yours, 7 Euros. Mine wasnt as cheap as yours, but still a very good price. I hope you’re getting alot of use out of yours. Best of luck!
    Oh, i hope your find a black SP eventually Val, there are currently 2 on ebay at the moment which is a very rare occurance.
    Have fun ;)

  6. 10.04.2009

    Hi there my Grandma left me a silver one and I have been trying it out today. To be honest I have no idea how to use the lens. Apart form timer, focus and possibly apperture. Are there any manuals left for the camera?


  7. Arran

    Hi Isaac. Yes, I have a copy of the manual on my site that you can download, here’s the link : Olympus SP Manual
    Hope that helps.

  8. verstft

    I just got my hands on an perfect condition 35SP. My only problem is that you can’t buy mercury batteries anymore for the meter. Do you know a solution to this problem?

  9. admin

    Hi there. If you search around the web there are many different solutions. You can get battery adapters, use modern batteries and adjust for the meter differences, or convert the camera internally to use modern batteries correctly. Good luck!

  10. mark

    I too have the black version and totally love it. The camera had the issue with the battery voltage so it was repaired by Essex Camera Repair in NJ, it now uses the readily available battery rather than the original mercury. The meter is very accurate now and that beautiful viewing window really makes the camera a joy to use. I also have a Contax G1, a highly sophisticated camera with extraordinary lenses, but it’s not nearly as fun to use as the Sp35.

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