Compact Camera Club - Olympus Trip 500
Updated: Jan 14
Go into any charity shop and you will often find little point and shoot film cameras for bargain basement prices. The majority of time they are models from a line of mass produced cameras released during a pivotal time in photography when film was still an established photography medium but consumer digital cameras were becoming cheap enough, and readily available enough to snatch a good portion of the market share. The Olympus Trip 500, broadly speaking, sits in this category. Here's a photo of what it looks like:
The Trip 500 is fairly modern in the grand history of film cameras, despite sharing it's name with the legendary half frame brand of Olympus cameras, the Trip 500 is a full frame camera released in the early 2000's with a fixed focus 28mm lens. The camera is virtually fully automatic, with film loading and advancing carried out by a motor drive, and a built in flash that triggers automatically. For either of these to work correctly though you have to load the camera with x2 AA batteries. This means that if your batteries die, the camera cannot be used. I've personally found battery life to be pretty good though, I haven't used mine extensively but the batteries didn't die half way through a film or anything so I imagine you will rarely get caught short if you're not carrying spares. And if you're not carrying spares, AA batteries are easy to get hold of. As for more tech specs; the camera has a fixed aperture of f6.7 and a fixed shutter speed of 1/100. This is a decent combination that doesn't go to either extreme; fast enough shutter speed not to blur, and aperture wide enough to produce a decent exposure, but not too wide so as to dramatically effect depth of field. It's capable of managing DX coded film upto ISO 400, which I only learnt just now..! I haven't personally tried it with anything outside that range, or not DX coded, but google tells me it will fix it at ISO 100. The lens is fixed focus from 1m to infinity as is usually the case with compact cameras.
On paper the camera is nothing remarkable. You could probably easily find identical cameras produced by any major camera company at around the same time, but the Olympus brand carries a lot of reliability. I have good experiences with Olympus and found their film cameras to be outstanding. But what makes the Trip 500 really so likeable, or at least to me, is how well it performs. First off, the camera is not tremendously bulky and is crazy light even with film and batteries loaded so it will easily sit in a jacket pocket, or trouser pocket without causing you problems. The built in flash might be off putting for photographers preferring exposure control down to the nth degree, but sitting on a point and shoot camera with a reasonably wide aperture, you can point it at something and in low light you are still going to get a decent exposure. The flash also has built in red eye reduction and I've learned whilst writing this post that the sister cameras: Trip 505 and Trip 601 have flash control options, so you can turn the flash off, force it to be on all the time, or set it to fill flash mode, which might make them more desirable than the Trip 500. The real star of the show is the lens which is usually where point and shoot cameras fall short. 28mm is wide enough to mean as a general performer you aren't going to struggle to get things in frame. The viewfinder is one of the most accurate I've ever used (and comes with that little parallax window inside too), generally speaking, if it looks alright in the viewfinder it's going to look alright on film. But the best part, or at least to somebody into art photography or Lomography is the vignetting the lens assembly causes. Look at some of my examples below:
This type of heavy vignette is popular with Lomographers and art photographers, and something you usually get with the flagship Lomo LC-A+ or similar. A heavy vignette can sometimes be undesirable but combined with the glass element lens of this camera, and the heavy contrast between the light levels, most likely caused by the built in flash, it helps to strengthen the dramatic exposures this camera can capture. Couple this with how portable the camera is and the Trip 500 is a bargain film camera for street photography. Capable of handling most situations you can put it in, you don't have to worry about settings or getting everything in frame, you can just point and shoot. In that regard it's effectively a reloadable disposable camera! But with a much better lens and slightly wider aperture than usually found in most disposable cameras. It's not without it's drawbacks, your options are limited with no flash settings, manual override of shutter speeds (IE: no b setting), a fixed aperture and fixed lens focal length. 28mm whilst wide angle enough, is going to struggle with super huge buildings if being used as a travel camera. But all of these are options you would look for when looking for something which is a stronger performer and you are most likely not going to get a camera with all of those options at a comparably cheap price. If you feel like you can be contented enough with a small plastic camera that just takes photos, or you really like the photos the likes of the LC-A+ produces but you can't afford something like that, then the Trip 500 would be a pretty good alternative. I personally picked mine up for £1.00 from a local charity shop, you can't go wrong at that price really! If you want a camera that takes photos a little bit like the Lomo LC-A+, and you don't mind skimping on settings, the Trip 500 might be for you!