-The Olympus 35 RD -
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Olympus 35-RC
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Olympus 35-SP

The Olympus 35-RD Rangefinder Camera,
full-featured 35mm photography in a compact package.


This page was compiled by Andrew Yue

© 2002 - All Rights Reserved:
See bottom of the page regarding fair use.


Olympus 35 RD Specifications:

  • AE Exposure Control: AE - shutter preferred, except B - Light meter coupled
  • Battery: PX625 1.35 volt mercury cell or MRB625 1.4 volt (mercury free) zinc-air cell
  • Exposure Meter: (CdS) cadmium sulphide photo resistor and a galvonometer needle
  • Exposure Modes: Unmetered Manual Mode, Shutter-Preferred Auto Mode, Flashmatic Mode
  • EV Range: EV 2.5 to EV17 @ ISO 100
  • Film Advanced: Lever type - single stroke manual advance lever
  • Film Rewind: Film release button on the bottom of the camera.
  • Film Speed Scale: ASA 25 - 800
  • Filter Size: 49mm
  • Flash Synchonization: at all shutter speeds using the X contact or PC socket
  • Flashmatic System: Guide Number Scale {10m to 40m, ( 32ft to 90ft)}
  • Focus Range: .85 meters/2.8 ft. to infinity
  • Focusing: double image coupled rangefinder
  • Lens: F. Zuiko f/1.7 - 6 elements in 4 groups - F is the sixth letter of the alphabet
  • Self Timer: Lever operated with a 10 second delay
  • Shutter: Seiko mechanical leaf shutter, between the lens
  • Shutter Speeds: B, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8,1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500,
  • Viewfinder: 0.6x, aperture indicator, red zone for insufficient light
  • Size & Weight: 4 1/4" x 2 3/4" x 2 1/4" - 17 1/2 ounces. (470 grams)


A Fully Spec'd 35mm Rangefinder Camera in a Classic Format.

The Olympus 35 RD offers an impressive combination of fine optics, straight forward ergonomics, packaged in a classic format.   Manufactured from 1975 - 1979, the 35-RD is the last fixed-lens 35mm rangefinder camera to be introduced by the Olympus Optical Co. Ltd. of Tokyo which features a full manual override mode.   Its fast, f/1.7, single-focal length lens, coupled to a fully mechanical between the lens leaf-shutter from Seiko, makes this a compact 35mm camera with serious capabilities, when its working properly.

Introduced just before the era of plastic bodied, electronically controlled, auto focus cameras - if need be, the 35RD is fully functional as a battery free, manually operated camera that compliments a battery dependent, electro-mechanically controlled automatic exposure mode.   Its shutter priority autoexposure mode is of an old-school electro-mechanical trap needle design that uses a mechanical linkage to adjust the aperture to the available light.   By 1980, this seventies genre of compact 35mm rangefinder focusing cameras was for the most part replaced by electronically controlled offerings that lacked an all manual, battery free mode.

The Slow Shutter Speed Blues

Unfortunately, in revising this 17 year old web page, I must state that the Olympus 35RD comes with two big buyer beware alerts.

First, in today's market, the Oly 35RD is usually over-priced when compared to some compact 35mm SLR cameras from the early 1980'ies era that, depending on the lens, are not that much larger than a compact 35mm rangefinder camera.   Seventeen year ago, a compact 35mm rangefinder camera was about a third of the price of some of these smaller SLR cameras.   Today the pricing situation is reversed.

More importantly, the biggest caveat emptor to arise since posting the original web page involves reliability.   Nearly every Olympus 35RD will eventually develop a shutter problem.   The mechanically controlled Seiko shutter on this camera has not aged well.   After a certain number of years, the original lubrication for the lens focusing helicoid, breaks down, then migrates onto the shutter and aperture blades.   The gummed up shutter will then stick open at slow speeds and ruin your photos.   Symptoms also include an inconsistent opening of the aperture, even if the shutter seems to be working.   The only cure is to have the shutter properly serviced by a competent Olympus service technician.

Is it worth having this repair done properly?   My experience is unless your technician fully disassembles the shutter, it'll be a temporary repair that lasts few years at best.   Just removing the front of the lens to gain access to the shutter and flushing with solvent will not permanently solve the problem.

The PX625 Battery Blues

Besides the whisper quiet shutter, what I like most about many fixed-lens rangefinder cameras from this era is if the battery quits, only the AE mode is disabled.   The battery is only used when the aperture ring is set to the auto exposure setting.   To conserve the battery while in the AE mode, simply place the lens cap back on the lens when the camera is not in use or set the aperture ring to a different position than the big A, which turns on the meter.

The PX625, 1.35 volt mercury oxide battery cell require by the 35-RD is no longer being made.   That's a shame, because mercury oxide cells have a very even and reliable discharge voltage that's perfect for these old CdS light cells.

I use a Kanto MR-9 battery adapter from Japan, which converts the 1.55 volts of modern silver oxides to 1.35 volts.   It is the best long term option.   A single silver oxide cell should last at least a couple of years in typical use.   Now the bad news, this adapter is about $33 to $40 to include shipping to US buyers.

The other alternative is to try using a Z625PX or MRB625 zinc-air replacement cell in place of the old mercury oxide cells.   The downside to zinc-air cells is they have a short lifespan.   In a dry desert climate that limited lifespan may only be two months.   In the humid climate where I live, they last a few months.   A one dollar #675 Zinc-air cell for a hearing aid works well provided a rubber o-ring - or - metal collar is installed around it to take up the slack.

Beware of alkaline batteries.   In case you are considering the use of alkaline cells, be aware that their oultput voltage will decline significantly during use, resulting in a wide range of inaccurate meter readings.

 

The 35RD's Controls at a Glance



Except for its film winder, shutter button and 10 second timer, all of the 35RD's controls are located on the lens barrel.   The two main control rings you'll be using are the aperture ring and shutter speed control ring.   The not so ergonomically designed, silver colored, metal aperture ring controls the following:

  • The unmetered manual mode is selected when the aperture ring is set to an individual aperture settings
  • The metered automatic exposure mode is selected when the aperture ring is set to A.
  • The flashmatic mode is selected when the aperture ring is set on the lightning bolt.

It would have been helpful if Olympus followed the Canonet's example and put a lever or finger friendly grip post on what can be described as a very thin aperture adjustment ring - The silver aperture ring is extremely difficult to rotat with just one finger.   In other word, adjusting the aperture ring on the 35RD is awkward, at best.

Due to this awkwardness, the 35RD is a camera designed to be used primarily in its shutter preferred auto mode.   In the AE mode, (labelled with a capital A), you just just select a shutter speeds and leave the aperture setting to the camera.   The AE mode is the only mode in which the light meter functions.   Therefore, it is the only exposure mode that requires the camera to have a battery.   Both the flashmatic and manual modes are unmetered.

The lightning bolt to the right of the A is the previously mentioned "flashmatic" setting.   In the flashmaitc mode the 35-RD will ingeniously set the aperture to match the focusing distance for a proper night time flash exposure of your subject, provided that you use a manual flash unit that is the right size.   I recommend one with GN rating of 40 in feet.

Focusing is done by rotating the black focus ring which has a serrated surface for better grip.   The black serrated focus ring on the 35RD has a nice dampened feel to it, when new.   (Once the helicoid grease has leaked onto the shutter assembly, it is pretty loose.)   To focus, simply adjust the focus ring until the superimposed image of the yellow rangefinder patch directly overlays the main image within the optical viewfinder, (see number 5 in the image below).

The front ring on the lens barrel is the shutter speed ring.   The selectable shutter speeds range from a 1/2 to 1/500 of a second and a B setting.   Shutter speed selection has a nice precise feel, but be forewarned that you'll have to take your eye off the viewfinder to see what shutter speed you selected.   A graphic representation of the 35 RD viewfinder is shown below.


The GN and Film Speed Settings

In addition to the shutter and aperture controls there are two tiny levers at the bottom of the lens barrel.   The first lever is for setting the appropriate Guide Number for a particular flash unit.   This feature will enable the Olympus 35-RD to select the appropriate aperture automatically when the camera is set to its "flashmatic mode".

The second tiny lever on the bottom side of the lens barrel is the film speed setting.   It is marked with an ASA scale that ranges from 25 to 800.   Keep in mind that one can carelessly move this tiny lever for the film speed when removing or placing the camera into a carry pouch   Do check this lever before using the RD.

This tiny ASA lever rotates a variable aperture mask in front of the CdS metering cell.   The variable width mask also moves when adjusting the shutter speed.   When using the camera's automatic mode, the variable width aperture is need to regulate the amount of light reaching the metering cell for different film speed settings and shutter speeds.   The tiny opening will get wider as the film speed lever is increased from ASA 25 to maximum of ASA 800.   Like wise, it will get wider when moving the shutter speed ring from 1/500th to 1/2 of a second.

Let me point out that the metering cell is only used for the auto mode.   The meter doesn't operate when using the manual and flashmatic modes of this camera.

Using the Olympus 35 RD

Before I go any further the Olympus 35RD was primarily designed to be used in its shutter preferred automatic exposure mode, which is labelled on the aperture ring with a capital "A".

Positioning the aperture ring to a specific aperture number, turns off the meter, (at which point the Olympus 35 RD can be used in its unmetered manual mode.   No battery is needed for the unmetered manual mode, because, as mentioned, the shutter mechanism utilizes an all-mechanical clockwork consisting of springs and gears.   The 100% mechanical, between-the-lens, leaf shutter is very quiet in.   No battery is needed for the unmetered manual mode.   If its battery dies, the 35RD, only the auto-exposure mode is affected.


The viewfinder is quite basic.   In addition to the rangefinder focusing patch, #5 in the above image, it includes an aperture display needle, labelled as #3 in the same image.   An important note, when in the shutter speed preferred auto mode, the needle in the viewfinder is the only indicator of what aperture what will be selected by the camera.   In the auto mode the needle should move to a different aperture as the shutter speed is adjusted.   If the aperture needle is outside of the range of the camera's ability to select an aperture, the shutter button will stay locked until the user selects an agreeable shutter speed.

In the auto mode, the photographer is expected to adjust the shutter speed until the desired aperture setting is achieved.

Not very well displayed in the above image are the indicated frame lines for composing, labelled as #1 and a shorter set of close up, parallax corrected frame line, which is #2. &nbps; If the aperture needle swings to the red zone, labelled as #4, when in the auto mode, the 35RD will lock up, because the camera wants you to choose a slower shutter speed.

In the manual mode, the needle just serves as a reminder to what aperture was selected by the photographer.   In this mode the aperture needle does not move when the shutter speed is adjusted, unless the photographer selects a different aperture setting by moving the difficult to grip ring.

When the 35RD is in its "flashmatic" mode - a camera selected aperture is displayed in the viewfinder.   The selected aperture automatically varies as the focusing distance is adjusted.   For example - if the aperture ring set to the flashmatic symbol and the focus distance os set to 10 feet, simply press the shutter release to the halfway position and an aperture will be displayed that is 1/10th of GN that was selected by the user moving the flashmatic lever at the bottom side of the lens.   Change the focus and press the shutter release a second time and a new camera selected aperture is displayed.

- The Auto Exposure Mode -

Like other compact 35mm fixed-lens cameras of the era, the Olympus 35 RD is intended to be used primarily in its shutter-preferred auto mode.   In a perfect universe the photographer only needs to set the aperture ring "A", select a shutter speed, focus and press the shutter release.   This works well when the lighting is uniformly lit through out the scene.

The shutter preferred aperture mode is mostly a mechanical affair.   Unlike an electronically operated camera, the shutter release button on the 35RD has a long range of travel - due its the need to engage a mechanical linkage, in order to automatically set the aperture just before the shutter opens.   The halfway down position allows the photographer to lock the exposure and reframe the image in the viewfinder.   This is typical of all the other cameras of the same period, which used a "trap-needle design" to automatically set the exposure.   To learn more do an internet search with the words trap needle automatic exposure mechanism.

Bottom line: on this type of mechanism - pressing the shutter release too quickly may cause the exposure setting to vary for the exact same scene.

One feature of this trap needle exposure mechanism is that it will lock the shutter release, if it cannot find an available aperture for a specific shutter speed.   When ISO 400 film is used outdoors in full midday, summer sun, the addition of a neutral density filter, ND4 or ND8 to the front of the lens will allow for the use of at least three shutter speeds and therefore a choice of three camera selected apertures before the shutter mechanism locks.   Otherwise, the only option will be to select 1/500th of a second.   In other words, at 1/500th of a second, without a screw-in filter, the camera will only be able choose an aperture of f/16 in full midday sun.   In this case 1/250th of a second will lock the shutter release, because there is no f/22 aperture option on this camera.

At the other extreme, an interior room with only two or three lamps as light source will require the photographer to set the shutter speed to either 1/15th or if need be 1/8th of second to prevent the shutter release button from locking up.  

- About the Built-In Light Meter -

As opposed to through-the-lens meters, which are mounted within the camera body, this is meter mounted outside the lens.

The CdS meter cell mount within the 49mm filter threads, which is a nice feature.   Neutral density filters, along with different colored filters that are used for black and white photography, are automatically compensated for when using the camera's automatic mode.

At the time of purchase, it is a good practice to check the meter accuracy against a known camera with a superior metering system and if need be, adjust the ASA adjusting lever on the 35RD until the two cameras agree.

A CdS metering is a type of photo resistor.   Within the metering circuit in an old-school rotating needle galvanometer.   As the amount of reflected light reaching the metering cell increases, the current from the battery increase, which causes the galvanometer needle to rotate in the direction of f/16.

Like 95% of all fixed-lens 35mm rangefinder cameras of this period - the metering circuit takes an average of 100% of everything it sees.   Any bright light sources that strikes the meter cell, such as the halogen spot lights in of the ceiling of my auditorium or the direct rays of the sun, will cause the meter to reduce the needed exposure.   Bottom line, it is best to use a lens hood both indoors and out, whenever possible.

Although good enough for most situations, the main issue with relying on an older CdS meter to set the exposure occurs when there is excessive contrast occurs within an intended scene.   A scene with brightly lit highlights and very dark shadow areas will result in under exposed shadow areas, assuming that one intends to properly expose the shaded areas.   Likewise bright subjects in front of a dark background covering most of the frame will be over exposed.

Exposure compensation - use of the AE mode on the Olympus 35 RD in high contrast lighting:   95% of the cameras built using a CdS cell required the photographer intervene when confronting scenes with high contrasts in lighting.   It is generally recommended to point the camera towards an area with lighting that matches your intended subject - and - then hold the camera's shutter release button its half-way position, while photographer recomposes the final image.   When the shutter release is depressed to the halfway position, it locks the exposure on the Olympus 35 RD.   An alternative to the above is to temporarily reset the tiny, difficult to reach, ASA lever at the base of the lens to either increase or decrease the exposure.   In other words, it is possible to use the ASA lever as an exposure compensation dial.

To elaborate, if for example when a bright sky is overpowering a scene, an easy exposure compensation technique for the foreground is to just point the camera downward, until the sky or away from whatever bright light source is no longer in the viewfinder.   Then press the shutter release button pressed down halfway before raising the camera upward for the final composition.

A less easy method, (for whatever reason is often suggested in most camera and light meter instruction manuals), is to move the camera as close to the intended subject as is practical.   When the subject completely fills the frame - take a metered measurement, then hold the shutter release in the halfway depressed position unti repositioning the camera and composing the final exposure.   In practice, I find it a bit awkward to keep a steady finger on the shutter release, while backing up to compose the image on the Olympus 35 RD.

Strongly back-lit subjects:   my recommendation is without taking a preliminary meter reading as recommended above, trust your own judgement and temporarily set the ASA speed to a couple of stops slower than whatever film is in use.   As an example: when a longer exposure is needed for a back-lit subject with ISO 400 film, a change of the ASA setting to 100 will result in a gain of two stops of exposure.   Likewise, when using IS0 100 or 125 film, set the ASA lever to 25 when dealing with a strongly back lit subject.   Don't over think this.   Just remember to reset the ASA lever back to its original position when moving on the back-lit scene.

An even lazier approach to the above back-lit techniques is to preset the meter by placing placing the the palm of your left hand between you and your subject, so it fills the viewfinder.   Then the camera will meter off the shadowed side of you left hand.   If it is a back-lit scenario, the shaded side of your left palm will mimic the reflected lighting of the subject with either the sun or a bright light behind them.   Like the first method, you'll need to keep the shutter release in its halfway depressed position while composing.

The palm of the left hand techique also works when both the photographer and subject are in a brightly lit foreground against a deeply shaded or dark background.   Either way, just make sure that the light striking the palm of your hand matches that reaching the intended subject.

- Using the 35RD in its Manual Mode -

Exposure compensation is only necessary when there is excessive constrasts between brightly and dimly lit areas within the frame.   The camera's built-in light meter, with a little assistance, can get the job done 95% of the time.

If the photographer chooses to set both aperture and shutter speed manually, then he or she is using the ultimate method of exposure compensation.   Unfortunately, the 35RD is a bit ergonomically challenged for this method of old-school photography.

The Olympus 35 RD was essentially designed to be an automatic exposure camera that offers a manual override mode.   The first clue is as soon as the user moves the aperture ring away from the "A" mode, the meter circuit turns off -which is ergonomic issue number one and was common issue during this time period with other brands of cameras as well.

If the photographer intends to use the camera's built-in light meter, he or she must move the aperture ring in and out of the "A" position when setting the exposure manually.   On the Oly 35 RD this is a royal pain.   This is in fact is a major design flaw.   The biggest negative, with regards to the 35 RD, is that its aperture ring is very difficult to grasp while in a hurry.   This is ergonomic issue number two and it is a big one.

If you wish to use the 35RD in its manual mode, my recommendation is set the aperture to whatever number seems appropriate for the intended scene.   Then just leave it in that position until you move on to a new subject or location.   In other words, use the shutter speed ring to make any needed exposure adjustments.   This is the best way to use the 35 RD as a manual camera.

- About the Lens on the 35 RD -

The the 35RD uses the F. Zuiko, six element lens - which was first used on the Olympus 35DC.   If Olympus had utilized multicoating on the glass surfaces, which would have been cutting edge in 1975, versus single coated glass that was more common at the time, the used prices one sees for this 40 plus year old camera would be astronomical.

In my opinion it is a very good lens, even if it is not as superb as the seven element, G. Zuiko lens that was fitted to its predecessor - the Olympus 35SP and even earlier 35LC.   The six element, arranged in four groups, Zuiko lens on the 35RD mimics a Planar design - which was generally the more expensive option for fixed-lens 35mm cameras dating back to 1950.   As mentioned it is a good lens for the period, but not any more so, than a Xenon or Heligon of the same design on a 1951 Kodak Retina or better yet, the Voigtlander Ultron that was fitted to the Vito III and early Vitessa models.   The beauty of the older lenses from the early nineteen fifties is they had a nine versus five blade aperture diaphragm, which renders a superior out of focus background when compared to the later Japanese successors.

By 1975, the Olympus 35 DC and 35 RD had replaced the Olympus 35 SP in the Olympus line up.   Both were a sign of the times, that is they were noticeably more compact than their predecessors and I would argue show signs of cost reduction with regards to manufacturing.   At first glance, the Olympus 35-DC looks exactly like the 35 RD, especially at a distance.   The 35 DC was a full automatic program mode 35mm rangefinder, which means it automatically selected both the shutter speed and aperture, - with no manually selectable shutter or aperture settings.   However, there is a back-light compensation button - which certainly would have been a nice addition to the 35RD.

Getting back to the F.Zuiko lens: it is by far a better lens than what is found on all but a couple modern point and shoot cameras that replaced genre of 35mm camera.   Like any fast lens, resolution is optimal between f/4 and f/11.   At f/2.8 and below, accurate close-up focusing is critical, especially when shooting close ups.

With regards to the 49mm filter threads - you can use a professional quality multicoated filter with this camera.   Within ten years of the introduction of 35 RD most of the point and shoot, fixed-lens 35mm cameras did not have any provision for a filter or lens hood.


Using a Flash Indoors with a 35 RD

With its fast f/1.7 lens, the Olympus 35RD is pretty versatile camera even in low light.     If possible, try to get by with the ambient light of the room lights, which works extremely well with ISO 400 black and white film.

Color film, on the other hand, begs for an accessory flash unit to balance any tint or hue due to incandescent lights.

Choose a flash unit:   On the 35 RD you get to choose your brand and style of flash.   If using an autoflash unit, my preference is to use a modern compact with a Guide Number of 40 ft/ 13 meters in its manual mode.   A flash with close to a GN of 45 allows the use of all three GN settings on the camera for three common film speeds.   The camera will then match the flash output to the automatic aperture settings of the 35RD's "flashmatic" system for either ISO 100, 200 or 400 films.

To be brief, the "flashmatic" feature makes using a indoor flash easy.   There are four basic steps.

  • Set shutter speed to 1/15th or 1/30th of a second.
  • Set the guide number lever to match the GN rating for that particular flash with regards to what ISO film is being used.
  • Focus the camera.
  • Compose and shoot.

Flash Theory:   When using a manual flash or an automatic flash set to its manual setting, the aperture must be properly adjusted to match the amount of light reaching the subject.   The amount of light reaching each square inch decreases as the distance of the subject from the camera increases.   This bit of trivia is referred to as the "Inverse Square Law of the Dispersion of Light" in physics.   The bottom line is - if the subject is moved farther from the camera, then the apeture needs to be opened wider.  

The good news is that the "flashmatic" feature on the 35-RD is coupled to the lens focusing mechanism and therefore the camera is able to set the aperture automatically, as the photographer focuses on the subject.

In short order, just select the proper guide number for a particular film speed and then focus the camera.   It is that easy.

If you don't know the guide number of the flash unit, look on the back or side of the flash unit to see if there a recommendation table or chart for ASA 100 or 400 film.   On the info table or chart, look for the various aperture settings to be used for ASA 100 film when the flash unit is used in its manual mode.

Pick a distance on the info chart, usually 10 feet is the easiest work with in a non metric environment.   Then multiply the distance of 10 times the recommend aperture setting for 10 Feet. - (no. of feet) x (aperture) = Guide Number, (GN) -

  • Here is an example for a small flash unit:
  • (Distance selected from a fictitious Calculator Table for distance of 10ft) x (Recommended Aperture of f/4 at 10 feet) = for this particular flash that is rated at GN 44ft, when using ISO 100 film.   At 5 feet the same flash unit should recommend that an aperture of f/8 be used.
  • To use this flash, select the GN setting on the RD which is closest to the 40ft, which in this case is GN45 for ISO 100 film.

Both the older Olympus 35RC and the 35SP had a much greater range of GN setting options to choose from for their "flashmatic" modes.   Maybe by the time the 35RD was released, Olympus knew that as opposed to the newly popular automatic flash units - manual flash unit were to become a thing of the past.

For whatever reason, keep in mind that there are only three available guide number settings on the 35-RD.   The flashmatic system is basically set up for the world of 100 ASA film and at this film speed, the 35RD will accept a flash with a guide number up to 90ft at this film speed.   Again, try to find a flash with a GN of 45ft, because it will make life 100 times easier when making the shift to ISO 200 or 400 film.

The use of ISO 200 or 400 films will require the use of a higher GN setting on the 35RD for that particular flash unit.   Here are some quick GN setting that I use for a Nikon SB30, which has a GN rating of 56, but has been measured at GN 40 for ISO 100.

  • Shutter Speed - a 30th or a 60th of a second
  • ASA 100 film - GN 45 = for a flash with a GN of 40ft
  • ASA 200 film - GN 60 = approx. 40 x 1.4, which is 56ft
  • ASA 400 film - GN 90 = approx. (40 x 2) or (56 x 1.4)

Why not use an automatic flash unit?   You can, but they are certainly less accurate, against an all white background or a room with a background that is very dark - when the intended subject only occupies a small portion of the scene.   In short, the flash unit has no idea of what the focus distance is with regards to the intended subject.   A typical automatic flash is only able to perform metered averaged exposure of the entire scene, which it will do.   The flash is incapable of distinguish between the foreground and background unless the intended subject is close to the camera.

With that said, if an automatic flash with no manual setting is all that you have - then set the cameras aperture to whatever the recommended aperture is noted on the information chart or table on the side of the flash for its automode.

Guessing Exposure Without a Light Meter.

Referenced for ASA 100 film using a shutter speed of 1/125th of second.

Gray Overcast
No Sun or

Full Shade
Lots of Trees
Bright Cloudy
Light Shade
Sun Behind Clouds
Hazy Sun
Soft Shadows
Distant Landscapes
City Haze
Full Sun
Distinct Shadows
Blue Sky
Away from Reflections
EV 12
f/5.6
EV 13
f/8.0
EV 14
f/11
EV 15
f/16

Setting Exposures on the Olympus RD

Guessing exposure in good daylight is easier than you think.   Exposure setting indoors and in the shade on very dark winter days are more problematic.

By looking at the above chart, one should get a clear idea for the basic settings in daylight photography, in this case for ASA 100 film.   Except for the deep shadows, which will require an aperture setting of f/4 to be perfectly exposed chart shows the range of light values that can occur outdoors on a summer day.   In this case the range is four stops.

By use of the old timer's "Sunny 16 Rule," anyone can transfer the above chart, making it useful with other speed films changing the shutter speed to 1 over the film speed.

The "Sunny 16 Rule," states that the correct exposure for a scene on a bright, sunny, cloudless day can be executed at an aperture of f/16 using a shutter speed that is closest to the reciprocal of the film speed.   To use the rule, the three most common shutter speeds are 1/125th for ASA 100, 1/250th for ASA 200 and 1/500th for ASA 400.   The simplified chart below shows the "Sunny 16 Rule" applied to ISO 400 film.

Referenced for ASA 400 film using a shutter speed of 1/500th of second.

Gray Overcast
No Sun or

Full Shade
Lots of Trees
Bright Cloudy
Light Shade
Sun Behind Clouds
Hazy Sun
Soft Shadows
Distant Landscapes
City Haze
Full Sun
Distinct Shadows
Blue Sky
Away from Reflections
EV 14
f/5.6
EV 15
f/8.0
EV 16
f/11
EV 17
f/16

 

Note the above exposure values, which range from EV14 to EV17.   This could be a typical scene on a sunny day - when you subject is sitting under a porch in deep shade and portions of the background are in full sun.   For this example, I would set the exposure to f/8 even though for a perfect exposure on the subject would be at f/5.6 and then keep my fingers crossed with regards to overexposed sunny background areas.   Maybe a fill-flash would be in order.

Fill Flash Technique for the Olympus 35 RD

Real trouble starts when a scene has important elements have light values that are four or more stops apart.   At some point, no amount of fudging will work, because the scene simply exceeds the film's exposure latitude exposure latitude for a color print that is made on an automated print processor.   It's time to give it up or get out the flash unit , even though you may get a strange look or two on a sunny day.

Enter into the fold none other than the fill-flash technique.   In short, a flash unit is used to brighten shadow detail so it can be recorded on film with a light value that is closer to the ambient light of the sunny background.   The shadow detail is still a bit under exposed, but only by an f stop or two.   This method is used by professional and serious amateurs alike to record subjects that would otherwise become dark silohettes against a bright background.


Typically, a fill-in flash is used to brighten shadows so their luminence is within one and a half or two f-stops of a bright background or side lighting.   On a 35 RD, the use of the fill-in flash technique is going to be a bit more tedious than the normal indoor flash technique of only relying on the focus and shoot modus operandi of the camera's flashmatic mode.   6 to 8 feet away from the camera is going to be the working range of a flash unit with GN rating of 45, when measured in feet versus a metric rating of GN 14.

The illumination on the subject by the flash need to be about two exposure values less than the ambient background light.   If the correct aperture for the scene is f/16 or f/11 then amount of light from the flash unit that reaches the subject need to be the equivalent of what would be necessary f/8 an f/5.6 exposure.In other words.   This will just brighten the shadow areas of the intended subject just enough to still look natural in a print.

Keep in mind that the distance between the flash and subject determines which aperture can be used for a fill-flash.   For example: if the flash unit is only able to deliver enough light on your subject for f/5.6 at a specified focus distance - then set the camera's aperture and exposure for f/11 or f/16 for less brightening of the shadows.   A small hint, the flashmatic feature can certainly be used to determine where to position the camera, if the rating of flash unit in use falls between the GN range of 45 and 90, when measured in feet.   The camera's flashmatic icon is just to the right of the setting for the "A" mode on the aperture ring.   Just be sure to set the aperture back to "A" - once the camera is in position for the final exposure.


- Final thoughts / Seventeen Years Later -

When it was new, the Olympus 35 RD sold for $119.00 USD in 1975, which is about $550 in today's money.   Back in 2002, when I acquired the 35RD, the Nikon N80 SLR, shown above with its kit zoom lens had just been released.   It sold for close to $300.00 USD new, before rebates.   At the time of the Nikon N80's release, a used 35 RD in good working condition was selling for about a 1/4th of that price.   Rummage sale finds were could be had for less than $25.00 USD.

Today, those prices have reversed.     The N80 and a kit lens, (as shown above), was purchased about 2 years ago for a mere $25, plus shipping, because no one wanted this particular N80 on the day its online auction ended.   Bottom line: nostalgia can come at a premium price.

I mentioned that this particular 35 RD has needed its shutter repaired.   It's not something that can be repaired locally.   The camera had to be boxed up and sent to one of the few aging camera techs who can still perform the repair.

Had it been a Canonet or an Electro 35, I would have just put the camera in a bottom drawer until donating it to a thrift store.   There is certain quality to the Olympus 35 RD that makes it hard to part with.   Maybe it is because the 35 RD is the last of a breed of camera which relied on springs, gears and levers to operate instead of electronics.   It's a beautiful camera that has kept its looks over the years.   More importantly, the main reason it wasn't donated or sold on the cheap is that I'm still impressed by the images rendered by the F. Zuiko lens.   With that said, for anyone with a well sorted Canonet QL17 GIII that is in good condition, there is no reason to acquire a the Olympus 35 RD.

The image below shows a 35RD kit ready for use.   It all fits into a small over the shoulder satchel.


As you can see, as previously mentioned, it is a good looking camera, which is one reason that I've kept so long.   The idea is to keep a minimalist approach, that is a quick and ready, unobtrusive camera for street photography.   A minimalist kit consist of a short lens hood, three extra filters and an extra lens cap.   One of those filters is a multicoated ND4, to allow the use of wider aperture on a sunny day.   The other two are a middle yellow and a two stop orange filter for black and white film.   It's all that is needed for street photography and much more compact than a typical 35mm SLR kit.

Notice there is no flash unit is included in the above photo.   Let me repeat - the idea is to be an unobtrusive street photographer and that means carrying that concept indoors.   To me, a flash is very intrusive.   The fast f/1.7, six-element, Zuiko lens is able to perform well enough in most indoor situations without the use of an electronic flash.   The key is to use 400 ISO black and white film.   The icing on the cake when using the 35 RD indoors is its nearly silent shutter.

The Olympus 35 RD renders an image on film that truly looks like it was taken with a 35mm SLR using a 35mm lens.   So get accustomed to standing very close to your intended subject, if your objective is to fill most of the frame with whatever or whoever is your intended subject.   Be prepared to be sociable.

This no longer an inexpensive 35mm camera, but it has an analog charm factor that not present in any post 1990 SLR, nor the more in demand, plastic bodied, auto focus, point and shoot 35mm cameras of the same decade.   Costwise the Olympus 35 RD is still more or less comparable to acquiring a plastic bodied point and shoot 35mm from the 1990 period.   For example, the post rangefinder apocalypse, Stylus Epic / mju II 35mm f/2.8 Point & Shoot camere from Olympus commonly sells for at least $200 in 2019.   In my opinion the Stylus Epic / mju II is inferior with regards to image quality when compare to older predecessors.   The major advantage of the mju II and most its contemporaries over the older 35 RD is the plastic bodied, electronic wonders will fit neatly in your pants pocket when not in use.   To each their own used to be popular saying.   However, pocketability opens up a topic for future web page - which is how about a classic 35mm folding camera with a stellar lens from the nineteen fifties era?

A note on copyright infringement: Please do not cut and paste any of the above work for publication either on the internet or for anywhere else without first getting my specific permission.   This is a noncommercial web page written for educational purposes and it is intended to be of assistance to anyone interested in amateur photography.   No I didn't invent the wheel, but the above web page is my interpretation of the wheel and I've tried my best to be original, (even to use my own photographes when there are much better ones on other web pages). Fair use in my book allows for appropriate content from this page to be used for description purposes by search engines, reprinting for personal, (not commercial), use. On personal web pages please provide a link on your web page that states, "See Andrew Yue's web page for more information." The views expressed on this page are my own and do not reflect an endorsement of any kind by the University of Texas at Austin.



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-Last Updated on 10/11/2019-