Blurry Trip – the fix

I decided that there was no point not trying to fix my Trip 35 with the focussing problem, but knowing that I don’t have the best record when it comes to disassembling cameras, I also decided to use the least invasive method possible. Here, for the record, is what I did.

Ingredients

  • Very small jeweller’s screwdriver, flat head
  • One roll of film – in this case, some old HP5+ 400 that I had
  • A tape measure
  • Small tripod and cable release (you may not need either as long as you can keep the camera in the same place reliably)
  • A newspaper or other detailed object, to focus on

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Blurry Trip – maybe it is the focus after all

I did take a test roll with the Trip to test the focussing, and it looks like I may have been wrong about the speed and camera shake. This is good in that it means I am not a useless trembling photographer, but bad in that it means that there is probably something wrong with the camera.

I took pictures of a walkway outside my flat using the four different zones, being quite careful to hold it properly. The four settings seem in practice to correspond to:

  1. Fairly close things in focus (this should be 1m)
  2. Things further away in focus (this should be 1.5m)
  3. Everything out of focus (should be 3m – this is the recommended zone for the Trip, I expect it has the most useful depth of field)
  4. Everything even more out of focus (should be infinity). Zones 3 and 4 are actually worse for distant objects than zone 2.

This is not what the distance says, and was confirmed in other pictures, which means it looks like it needs adjustment in some way. I am quite confident in my ability to take cameras apart, but I am not very confident in my ability to put them back together again. Trips are so cheap, though, that it barely seems worth it to send it off to somebody to get it fixed – the cost would be about the same as a fully refurbished one from, say, Trip Man. Plus I really need to spend less on cameras.

Adjusting the focus seems to involve opening the front and top, jamming the shutter open and then turning the lens to focus on an object at a known distance, using a piece of tape or ground glass on the film rail. Or I’ve seen people referring to using other cameras as collimators, though that looks more confusing to me. I suppose I might as well try to do this myself, given that the alternative is a camera that looks nice but doesn’t work. Everything else about it seems to be fine.

A Blurry Trip

I’ve been looking at the results of a couple of test rolls that I put through the Olympus Trip 35. The exposures are all fine, but they are annoyingly inconsistent – some are very blurry, and some are quite nice and sharp. At first I thought that perhaps the focussing was stuck on a particular zone, but that doesn’t work because I have pretty sharp photos at a few different ranges.

Not too bad

Now these aren’t great at all

I am thinking that it may be camera shake. Blur does tend to correspond to pictures where I remember not taking much care. The Trip has a relatively simple program auto-exposure system that mostly alters the aperture for low light, but which also switches the exposure from 1/200 to 1/40 when it feels like it. I found a graph which indicates that it goes down to 1/40 at EV13, which in theory with 400 film should be relatively dark, but, you know, this is London. 1/40 is fine for digital cameras with image stabilisation but without that, you have to be quite careful. I rarely go below 1/125 with other cameras, and am sure to keep myself still when I do.

Of course, it might be something else. I should try another roll, being more careful to keep myself as still as possible, which is always good practice anyway. Some people can keep handheld cameras rock steady for up to half a second, and if you’re that good it means that with image stabilisation you could take huge long exposures with a digital.

I hope that I can make my peace with the Trip, because apart from this issue it’s really a lovely camera to use on the street – really comfortable and natural. Not too big, not too small, everything in the right place. Perhaps it’s too comfortable, and I’m half forgetting it’s there, as opposed to using something like a TLR which constantly reminds you that it is a camera and you should be paying attention to it.