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Olympus 35 SP
Unique Compact Rangefinder with Centerweighted and Spot Meter!
"the finest rangefinder 35mm camera available today....The high-speed needle-sharp Zuiko lens and the high performance Seiko shutter add to making the Olympus 35 SP a masterpiece of camera crafting." 35SP instruction book
Produced from 1969 to about 1976, the Olympus 35 SP has the distinction of being the only 35 Rangefinder with a dual metering system: spot or centerweighted readings. This is amazing since the camera is over 30 years old and to date no other RF has equaled the 35 SP's dual metering. Yes indeed, it was far ahead of its time. If you don't count the Leica M5 and CL with their large spot meters, the 35 SP is also the only 35 rangefinder with spot metering! Besides that, the 35 SP was the 1st camera with AE exposure AND spot metering!
The sophisticated and sharp 7 element five group 42/1.7 Zuiko lens offers proof of the quality built into the Olympus 35 SP. A simpler less expensive 5 or 6 element lens would have sufficed, yet Olympus choose to go the more expensive route and use the best lens possible for its price range.
The SP offers programmed automatic exposure non interchangeable lens rangefinder with manual over-ride. The lens focuses down to 2.8 ft with a f/16 minimum f/stop and a 49mm filter size. It measures 5 1/8" long x 3 3/16 high x 2 7/16" deep counting the lens and weighs in at 22 oz. Black SP's are quite rare, almost all are chrome.
Notice what appears to be two front viewfinder windows. The one of the left is the meter cell. The round dial on the end is the ASA meter dial, which moved the PC connection to the front of the camera.
Three lens control rings front to back: combination shutter speeds/ EV range/ AE, combination flash guide numbers/ AE/ f/stops, and focusing scale. For AE operation, both of the two front controls rings must be turned to "A" as shown in the center picture. The front ring allows a choice of shutter speeds from 1 to 1/500th second, plus B, AE exposure, and the meter EV settings. The middle ring has the flash guide number system on the left side, AE in the middle, and F/stops on the right side. The small lever next to the f/stops is the 9 second delay self timer.
The pic on the far left shows the camera set for a feet Guide Number of 130 and a shutter speed of 1/125th. The pic on the far right shows the manual setting for 1/125th at f/5.6.
The SPOT meter button is on the back of the top plate near the film advance lever.
On the Plus Side
The Olympus 35 SP is slightly larger than the Minolta CLE
Olympus SP Variations: Chrome with black "SP" on front, Black with white "SP" on front, and chrome with the "SP" in red. A slightly modified SPn was also produced, see below.
35 SP N
The later 35 SP N is much rarer than the regular 35 SP in my experience, to the approximate ratio of 25 to 1. Basically it's a slightly modified SP, identified by the front plate"35 SPN" logo. Like the 35SP, black enamel bodies were also produced in limited numbers. 35 SPN changes that I know of:
Battery check with test light added between spot button and viewfinder
Black trim around Rangefinder/viewfinder windows
Black aperture ring instead of chrome
Duller matte chrome finish
Slightly larger and longer advance lever
Slightly larger film rewind lever
The 35 SPN appears to be identical to the 35 SP in all other features, at least so far as I can tell.
The Olympus 35 SP's dual spot and centerweighted metering system is unique. IF this is what you need, there is simply no other choice among classic 35mm rangefinders.
Revised: November 26, 2003 . Copyright © 1998-2002 Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved. This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.