Home  Donate  New  Search  Gallery  Reviews  How-To  Books  Links  Workshops  About  Contact

Olympus 35 SP
7-element 42mm f/1.7 lens (1969-1975)
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


Please help KenRockwell..com

Olympus 35 SP

Olympus 35 SP (EPX-625 battery for meter, 49mm filters, 21.2 oz. / 600g with film and battery, 2.8'/0.85 m close focus, about $100 used if you know How to Win at eBay — I paid only $80 for this one). enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).

This free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I get no government hand-outs and run no pledge drives to support my research, so please always use any of these links for the best prices and service whenever you get anything. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.


December 2013   Olympus   LEICA   Fuji   Zeiss   Nikon   Canon   All Reviews

Why We Love Film

How to Shoot Film

Film specials:    transparency (slide) film   B&W film   color print film


Sample Image File

Sago Palm,

Sago Palm, 04 July 2013. Fuji Velvia 50, EV 13 (about 1/100 at f/9), 0.93 meters focus distance, NCPS process and scan, Perfectly Clear. bigger. Are your photos as sharp? Maybe it's time to dump digital and get back into real photography!

I've been getting my film directly from B&H and Adorama ever since the 1970s, and they ship world-wide. I use NCPS to process and scan all my film, and they also do mail-order from anyplace on earth daily. If you're reading this, you have a mailbox, and can get all the film and processing you need.

35mm film specials:

35mm transparency film (slides)

35mm black and white film

35mm color print film

Olympus 35 SP

Top, Olympus 35 SP. enlarge.


Olympus 35 SP

Rear, Olympus 35 SP. enlarge.



Small and light camera with a superb 7-element high-speed "perfect normal" 42mm f/1.7 lens.

The rangefinder 42mm f/1.7 lens is sharper than my equivalent Nikon and other SLR lenses!

Super fast and easy focus; faster and easier than a LEICA.

Full program auto exposure — just focus and shoot!, or metered manual.

Flashmatic guide-number automatic flash exposure: just focus, and the 35 SP sets the aperture automatically for perfect flash exposure.

The battery only runs the meter; everything else, even automatic flash exposure, works mechanically.

The meter is always on, no wasted time looking for the switch.

Wide-range meter covers all light levels without needing a range switch.

In-finder light meter read-out.

Spot meter at the press of a button, otherwise center-weighted.

Exposure locks as shutter pressed halfway.

Focus lever for fast focusing!



Full in-finder exposure meter readout, but no in-finder indication of exposure mode. If you set the camera to manual, you might not realize you're not on AUTO until you look at the lens again.




Everything on this camera serves a real purpose.



No cocked indicator - LEICA don't have these either.

No meter scale illuminator - LEICAMETERs don't have these either.

No depth of field scale.

No automatic parallax compensation, but does have manual compensation marks. These marks do however compensate for the reduced angle of view at close distances, which LEICA does not.


Extra Features

Spot meter!


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

The Olympus 35 SP is a fixed-lens mechanical rangefinder camera with a leaf shutter and completely automated program autoexposure, as well as full manual exposure controls and a dual spot or center-weighted meter. My photos from it are always sharp and well exposed, and it's always ON: it needs no power switch. Even at 1/15 of a second, hand-held shots are super sharp thanks to its smooth trigger pull and quiet leaf shutter.

The Olympus 35 SP just shoots. It looks good, feels good and sounds good — all with a super-fast and sharp f/1.7 lens. With its fully automated Program mode exposure as well as fully metered manual, and a focus tab that flicks instantly with a fingertip, the 35 SP is easy to shoot fast and accurately.

The Olympus 35 SP stands out for its superb, fast lens and fully automated mechanical program exposure, along with a spot meter and full manual controls.

The 35 SP has "Vacation!" written all over it. I can't think of a better camera for vacations and family fun. The Fuji X100S is the closest imitation in digital, but the 35 SP is always ON and ready to shoot with zero delay, and you never have to charge its battery. Who wants to go on vacation and have to remember to bring a battery charger and charge batteries — and miss shots waiting for a digital camera to turn on?

The 35 SP runs on a mercury PX-625 or PX-13 cell for years at a time. Today, use the Wein EPX-625, or the PaulBG adapter with any 675 Zinc-Air hearing-aid cell available everywhere (I pay $8.99 for forty at Costco!).

At 600 grams (21.7 oz.) fully loaded with lens, film and batteries, it's big enough to have every feature one needs, and small enough to take everywhere. It's

The Olympus 35 SP is the best camera ever made by Olympus for serious photography. While the newer Olympus XA series is smaller and even more convenient, for the photographer who knows what he's doing and demands a camera with better reliability and better and faster handling than even anything from LEICA, the Olympus 35 SP is the answer.

The 35 SP's 42mm lens is the "perfect normal," equal to the usable diagonal of the image, the definition of a normal lens. While 50mm lenses are often a little too long and 35mm lenses are often a little too wide, with the 42mm Perfect Normal, one never needs to swap lenses. With a 42mm lens, you've got the perfect lens for everything, all the time.

Likewise, the f/1.7 speed is perfect. It's about as fast as the SUMMILUX, and about as sharp as the SUMMICRON. Some call this lens the SUMMILUXICRON, offering essentially the speed of the SUMMILUX and the sharpness of the SUMMICRON, all in one lens. LEICA has never made such a lens; the closest LEICA has come is the 40mm f/2 SUMMICRON-C which is a simpler lens, and doesn't work properly on any LEICA except the CL and CLE which have framelines for a 40mm lens.

While with LEICA lenses you need to carry at least four lenses: a 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX, a 50mm f/2 SUMMICRON, a 35mm f/2 SUMICRON and a 50mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX, you get all four lenses in the one G. Zuiko 42mm f/1.7. 42mm is also exactly in between 35mm and 50mm, and f/1.7 is exactly in-between f/1.4 and f/2. While every other camera makes forces you to buy four lenses, none of which really hits the mark, BINGO!, this Olympus provides you with a lens that replaces all four other lenses. While the LEICAMAN is fumbling with his impressive lens collection, you've already got the shot.

The meter is always on — there is no need for a switch. It turns itself off automatically in the dark or in its case. The meter reads directly in EV in the finder, which is set directly on the aperture and shutter rings. The EV system makes it trivially easy to use the SP as a meter for another camera with EV markings, or use another meter with the SP.


Personal History

My dad bought one of these when I was a kid as the family's "good" camera. My dad taped a note on the back of her flash that said "• A A I" for outdoors (program auto) or "• 30 dash I" for automatic guide-number calculating flash indoors, and my mom easily could focus and snap all the photos of our family growing up.

Of course dad bought a 35 SP instead of an SLR for my mom; there was no such thing as a fully automatic exposure SLR in those days, and the rangefinder 35 SP weighs so much less than an SLR — and has a much better lens, too!


Versions and History

1965-1967: 35 LE (not reviewed here)

The earliest Olympus 35 LE uses the same lens, and featured 6 transistors!

Its Seiko-ES electronic shutter operated autocratically from 1/25 to 1/500 second, and worked only in its programmed automatic mode — or Flashmatic for flash.


1967-1969:35 LC (not reviewed here)

The Olympus 35 LC uses the same lens, but lacks the Program mode.

Instead, it has a coupled manual meter and manual exposure.


1969-1972: 35 SP ("spot meter")

Chrome camera as reviewed here, the most common version. It offers program and full manual exposure controls.

There were some made in black, but few people wanted them so there weren't many sold. They are easy to find on eBay in any color.


1972-1974: 35 SPn ("newer SP")

The Olympus 35 SPn is the same thing in chrome, with an uglier black aperture ring, ugly "black-eye" trim around the finder and add a battery-check light. These are less common.


1973: 35 UC ("ugly camera")

The 35 UC is an even uglier version of the SPn with a black insert covering most of the front chrome.

It's still the same 35 SP underneath.


1975: 35 RD (not reviewed here)

The 35 RD is a completely different and cheaper camera. Yes, it has a 42mm f/1.7 lens, but it's a simpler 6-element (F. Zuiko) design.


Production Totals

I see serial numbers as low as 100,000 and as high as the low 300,000s, suggesting that Olympus made at least a quarter-million original 35SPs from 1969-1972.


Groovy, Baby!

The 35 SP isn't shy about its use of fluorescent paint for various markings.

As seen under black light common at 1960s parties, many of the markings glow out loud!

Olympus 35 SP Groovy Colors

Olympus 35 SP Groovy Colors.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More



G. Zuiko 42mm f/1.7 "SUMMILUXICRON."

Olympus G. Zuiko 42mm f/1.7 diagram

Olympus G. Zuiko 42mm f/1.7 diagram. bigger.



7 elements in 5 groups.

Highly optimized double-Gauss, similar to the LEICA SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4.


Filter Thread



Closest Focus

0.85 meters (2.8 feet).



5 straight diaphragm blades.

Stops down to f/16 manually or to f/22 in its auto modes.


Angle of View

54.5° diagonal angle of view.

31.9° vertical angle of view.

46.4° horizontal angle of view.



Standard 35mm film.

Full-frame 24 x 36mm image area.

I've been getting my film directly from B&H and Adorama ever since the 1970s, and they ship world-wide. I use NCPS to process and scan all my film, and they do mail-order from anyplace on earth daily. If you're reading this, you have a mailbox, and can get all the film and processing you need.



25 ~ 800, set on dial on the top left.

Also DIN 15 ~ 30.

Olympus 35 SP

Finder and meter windows, Olympus 35 SP. enlarge. Note diaphragm in front of meter window which adjusts the meter's sensitivity as you set the ASA.


Olympus 35 SP ASA dial

Olympus 35 SP film speed dial.



0.7x magnification (a little more than the LEICA M9).

Parallax compensation marks (doesn't auto compensate).


Focus and Rangefinder

Traditional superimposed double-image rangefinder with yellow spot.

Single-geared direct-advance helicoid.

31.5mm mechanical base length.

22mm effective base length.


Light Meter


Center weighted or spot — just push the button.

20° or 6º

15mm diameter or 4.4mm diameter meter zone.

20% or 1.76% of total image.

Reads EV 3-17 regardless of ASA setting.

Programmed auto exposure from EV 5.5 - 17 (1/15 at f/1.7 to 1/250 at f/22) regardless of ASA setting.



SEIKO-FLA 5-blade mechanical leaf shutter.

Programmed EE (electric eye).

1 - 1/500 second and Bulb in manual.

1/15 to 1/250 in AA (Program Auto).


Self Timer

9 seconds.


Cable Release

Standard screw-in cable release.


Flash Sync Speed (maximum shutter speed with flash)

1/500 second.



X-sync to 1/500 second.

Hot shoe.

PC terminal.

Flashmatic mechanical automatic exposure system: set the Guide Number on the camera, and as you focus, the 35 SP sets the correct aperture, even without batteries!

Flashmatic works with working GN 10-80 meters (32-260 feet), regardless of ASA.



Common 625 cell, used only to move the meter needle. No power is needed for film winding or setting auto exposure.Your finger pressure sets the auto exposure system, but of course it needs the needle in place to know what values to set. The flash exposure system ignores the needle.

Ideally use a mercury PX-625 or PX-13 like the Mallory RM625R, Eveready E625, GE 625, National M-1D, Toshiba TH-MC or similar.

Today, it's much easier to find the Wein EPX-625, or use the PaulBG adapter with any 675 Zinc-Air hearing-aid cell. I get at least 6 months of use out of a Zn-air cell.

The meter is always on. It turns off automatically in the dark or when the case is closed.

The meter and battery don't care how many photos are taken; a mercury cell ought to last for years and a Zinc-Air cell ought to last 6-12 months — longer than it does in a hearing aid!



Camera and case both Made in Japan.



129 x 76 x 61 mm WHD.



20.370 oz. (577.5g) with battery.

21.150 oz. (599.6g) with film and battery.

25.145 oz. (712.8g) with case, film and battery.

Olympus rates it at 600g, empty.



Olympus 35 SP case

Olympus 35 SP case.



Optional Accessories

49mm filters.

35SP Lens Hood.

Flash CL (uses AG-1 or AG-3N flashbulbs).

PS100 G Electronic Flash.



April 1969.


Price, USA

24,800 Yen list price at introduction in 1969.

About about $100 used in 2013.


Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More


For smaller) and tech image quality, and costs a whole lot less.


Loading and Winding

Load completely, no cheating
Full stroke only
Winds nice and fast

32s to load, once case is off
11s rewind
Fast load; no need to pull up crank

Frame counter
S • • 1 2 • 4 • 6 to 36
Yellow 12, 20 and 36
(24 is silver)
Dot at 37
Stops at dot at 37

Film economy
to what would be frame counter 38 with RVP = 39 if you shoot 0.



Smooth and fast tab, better than Leica! (SP outsold Leica, too)
Close focus stop is perfect for self portraits



Illumination windows for both bright lines and meter
Meter runs backwards



Shutter release smooth and long

Long pull means no need for a safety switch lock
Degrees of commitment



1. 1.085
2 .55
4 .26
8 .121
15 6600
30 3265
60 1618
125 800
250 400
500 290



Ideal for intimate portrait

Same open aperture as 35/1.4 or 50/2
Same as eyeball diameter
0.85m is close enough!

0.85m is always close enough
Rarely Bokeh ; favors small apertures. So so Bokeh if you can see it.
Easy good focus dim light

no distortion




Easy case, hangs too

Red 30 shutter speed makes it easy to see all in dark
Left hand focus
Flips over even with tiny flash
Nibs on front make top rear edge poke against you
Groovy baby! fluorescent colors under black light.
Need diffuse light to read ASA



Shoot through tripod mount

Protects from splashes and sprays of dirt


Silent Modes

In its


Meter and Exposure

Long time to react at EV 5

Pegs middle of red band

Null spot meter EV 13-9
Probably the same as lens flare


Can't read meter at EV 3!

0.3 uA dark
30 uA EV 5
47 uA EV 6
70 uA EV 7

Set aperture to A and follows aperture that would have been used in program – t shutter is as you set it.



Forget daylight fill,manual only. No A mode, just pgm and GN.

Pen Flash CL for AG-1 and AG-3N bulbs
PC socket
Use 1/30 for flashbulbs, any for electronic
AG-1 is GN 28m at ASA 100. AG-1B GN 20
PS100G AC/battery flash
Set to flash's rated GN, exposes a stop lighter to compensate for usual cheating.
Flashmatic works sans batteries





Film Economy

27 frames on 24

39 or 40 on 36


Battery and Power

uses the same battery and ch


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Meter one range, Leica was two
Fast load and wind

Vs X100s: low light, perfect normal
Full shutter range, unlike g III 17 or rd



RD cheaper lens, no program, ugly self timer
Adds program, flashmatic, hinged back, integral meter, no need for power switch, spot meter, 1/500 sync, perfect normal 42mm lens, smaller lighter, faster smoother focus, magnification correction over Leica.


Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

+1 yellow

+2 orange

+3 red

Use No cap

Comp use ASA or AEL

Leica strap

Kept in case wakes right up to dark conditions.

Case protects against splashes dust

Filter touches case

Dead meter? Use any app and EV System!

Hold filter over meter in manual

Self timer no buzz as set

Meter always reads ok even if camera set totally wrong!

Hood use your hand

Zone focus

Don't meter on white

Self timer not with program

No battery check

Take aperture off A to load, otherwise may lock in low light

For manual exposure, Olympus suggests first setting shutter to conditions, then look at the EV scale as you set aperture.

Move shutter ring slowly.

Set manual meter higher to read low light. For ASA 50 film, set ASA 800 and subtract 4 from the EV; thus meter can read to 5.6s at f/1.7 (1 minute at f/5.6 or 8m at f/16)!

Self timer only works in manual exposure

Set ASA to compensate for filter

Use GN 14m for SB-30

Very generous GN setting optimized for prints, use less for slides, maybe set one stop larger than rated GN or two stops brighter than actual GN. Rated 11, 8 actual, set 14.

Set GN for working ASA, ASA setting only alters light
Meter, not GN system


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Don't buy from an online enthusiast– get one from grandma
Don't recalibrate the meter
Case water dust light
Great for a mom
Easy to use, dot 30 dash I, easy self timer
Great for Facebook: inside flash or anywhere in light
Not for night
Double images


If you've found all the time, effort and expense I put into researching and sharing all this, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.


If you've found the time, effort and expense I incur researching and sharing all this information for free, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use this link to get yours at eBay as I did, or use or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Please always use these links when getting any of your gear so I can continue to share what I know for free — because I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I don't get any government grants or have annoying fund drives to help me research and give all this information away for free.


More Information         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More



Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!


Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


Home  Donate  New  Search  Gallery  Reviews  How-To  Books  Links  Workshops  About  Contact