Recently i have come to acquire an “unloved” camera. According to the seller Eugene, he came across this camera from a bundled sales of various film cameras and he was surprised to find this gem. Unfortunately in Malaysia, seems like there isn’t much love for film cameras of any other brand except Leica, Nikon and Canon. Listed on his page is this peculiar Olympus 35 UC with a fixed 42mm 1.7 lens.
I bought it and i been using it for 3 weeks now. Now, just to bring some context to my short review here, I do own 2 (two) Leica M7s among other film cameras that are M mount, Lomo LCA120s/LCA+ and Nikon F100. I have used all the mentioned cameras for both model shoot and particularly the M7 on my recent trip. After i have used this Oly and seen the results though, i am totally stunned.
The lens is SHARP and the rangefinder focusing is very easy to see. The fun of using this camera, its operation and simplicity of setting it to 1/500 almost everytime on an ISO 400 film at 1.7 for outdoor is just dummy proofed.
Lets see some results.
All the images here are shot at f1.7 handheld. On an ISO 400 film, i didn’t bothered to load the batteries into the camera because the metering is a series of EV values and i have never used or set EV in any single shoot that i have done in the last 4 years. I prefer to keep things simple by ISO, Shutter and Aperture, EV to me is nothing more than a distraction. Granted the camera shows the EV values and you just need to turn either the aperture or shutter speed to get the “same” shown EV in the viewfinder and your set. Since i am always on f1.7, the metering was merely a cosmetic feature.
These shots on Stephy (stephy yiwen) are one on Petaling Street, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. The backdrop you see here is the oldest tailor shop in malaysia and has been in operation for over 100 years. Love the fact that i am using a very old Olympus camera to match the whole theme.
The Oly uses a leaf shutter and the size is kinda perfect for my hands. The camera is not “solid” like the Leica in terms of build quality and the feel you get when you hold it but it has its own charms. Among some of the things i really love about the Olympus 35UC is that its a very serious tool with a simple and humble front. There is nothing inferior when it comes to its output.
42mm is an odd and vintage focal length. There is something about this focal length that i really love. It just looks a tad more natural than 35mm that i use on my M7. For some days i couldn’t figure it out, i alluded the reason to placebo effect of having a “new toy” but after 5-6 rolls of images done across three weeks, i found myself preferring this focal length more than anything else.
It was only later some friends pointed out to me that 43mm is most likely the actual focal length of our eyes in the central zone that i became convince that the “its just more natural” have some credible reasons behind it.
In summary, i totally dig this camera. So much so i got another copy of the more common Olympus 35SP (they are the same camera with differing cosmetic changes) as a backup for parts. The lens reminds me of a Leica 35mm 1.4 summilux that i have tried sometime ago but at less than USD 250 per camera + lens, its impossible not to love this camera.
This opens up my mind entirely when it comes to Olympus film cameras. If they could do “this” quality setup since 1969, i am intrigued to find out what else we the “new generation” have missed out on this perceived underdog brand.