My father’s cameras – An Olympus story
In the past years, with the advances of technology and the accelerated renewal rate of the models of each brand, the cameras have become consumer objects, disposable and turning obsolete in a couple of years. But it wasn’t always like that. Not many years ago a camera was almost like another member of the family, that accompanied them wherever they went.
A few days ago, while visiting my parents, I realized that my father had only 2 cameras in his life: a beautiful Olympus 35RC that he bought in 1973 and an Olympus C-170 that he received in 2005 to make his entrance in the digital age.
The 35RC is a very small and simple rangefinder camera, which can be used in manual, auto or shutter priority modes. It’s a beautiful piece, very compact and sturdy. It’s very easy to operate and has a sharp and reasonably bright 42mm F/2.8 lens. This camera was used to record the memories of my brother’s youth and mine, the family holidays and birthday parties. I might shoot a couple of rolls with it, if I can find a replacement to the PX625 mercury battery. If not, I can always use it in manual mode, even without battery, as the shutter is mechanical.
As for the Olympus C-170, it’s a 4 megapixels entry level camera from 2005 with a fixed focal length of 6.1mm (equivalent to 37mm in full frame) and F/2.8 maximum aperture. Its operation is completely automatic with several scene modes and Program Auto (P). The only adjustment that can be done is the exposure compensation, through the menu. Fortunately, it’s very basic with only 2 pages and a total of 8 options, like resolution and setting date and time. So, this is the true point and shoot!
The tiny 1.5″ screen is so difficult to see under the daylight that we must almost guess what’s in the frame. The auto-focusing speed is painfully slow, taking about a second to lock focus, whether it is in good or bad lighting conditions. The auto ISO range is from 50 to 250, so it must be used during the day to get decent results. Has a built-in flash but I never liked to use this kind of flashes, in any camera. It can be disabled in the menu and maintains this setting even if the camera is turned off. Surprisingly, when the battery compartment is opened to take the memory card (xD type), all the settings reset including the time and date!!
Despite all the weaknesses in comparison with today’s standards for a compact camera, it was a true pleasure to use it during the last days. Any action or street photography was out of question because of the auto-focus. I searched in the menu for a manual focus setting but that is not an option, so I was stuck to landscapes of still subjects.
I’m used to shoot in aperture priority mode but lacking any manual controls I had to trust in the camera’s capabilities to get the right exposure. And most of the time it was simple perfect. Opening the images in my laptop I’ve noticed that it retains a good amount of information in the shadows but, as most of the compact cameras, it tends to clip the highlights.
During these holidays I didn’t take many photos but I was so excited to use this 12 year old and 4 megapixels basic point and shoot that I believe I have used it more than my main camera! After a total of 400 photos the camera used a pair of AA batteries and the second pair has half charge. By the way, the 128Mb xD card included has a capacity for 130 photos.
In conclusion, shooting my holidays with the little Olympus C-170 was a wonderful and fun experience. My father recorded the most important moments of his life with only these two cameras! Isn’t that a lesson to learn? Of course I have other specific needs regarding my equipments but, sometimes, simpler is better.
These photographs were taken in the Minho province in the North of Portugal and Galicia in the North of Spain. Both regions are wonderful destinations for the holidays, with the most welcoming people, good food and beautiful beaches, despite the cold water!
If you wish to take a break from your busy life, Minho is the one of the best regions in Portugal, where you can take a walk in the woods or by the sea, try the 1001 ways to cook cod fish and enjoy some of the best white wines in the world.
And if you like seafood, Galicia is a mandatory visit. By road you can cross the border in Valença through the bridge over the Minho river or, if you wish a more picturesque trip, I would recommend taking the ferry boat in Caminha.
Wherever you go, Baiona, Vigo or O Grove, you will find the most fresh and delicious seafood.
All the jpgs from the little Olympus were processed with the Fuji 800Z++ preset from VSCO in Lightroom.
Co-founder of the Olympus Passion Project.
Travel and documentary photographer from Portugal, using mirrorless cameras since 2012.