The Olympus 35 SP is the big daddy of the Olympus 35 rangefinder series. Top-of-the-line is a phrased used with this camera. The camera sits above the 35RD, and is considerably larger than the 35RC. However, the camera is fairly small/ average size when compared to modern mirror less cameras.
One of the first cameras around with spot metering, and one of the first cameras to incorporate both a light meter and a spot meter, the SP was innovative. The spot meter button is located on the back, and needs to be held down to make sure the camera does not switch back to the other light meter.
The 35SP sports a 7 elements in 5 groups 42mm F1.7 lens. The lens is beautiful to look at, and produces very satisfying images indeed! The shutter dial and aperture ring both sit on the lens, and are easy to focus. The shutter goes from B(ulb) to 1/500th, and the aperture ring goes from F16 to F1.7. Both rings have an ‘A’ setting, which means the camera will take over these modes if selected, allowing for: full manual; shutter priority, aperture priority; and full automatic.
The focus ring throw is very short, making it very easy to focus, and has a little lever sticking out the side, allowing for smooth finger movements. The rangefinder and viewfinder is very bright, and the EV setting is shown in the viewfinder (and on the aperture ring).
The camera has the standard options within the 35 rangefinder line: PC sync, hot shoe, Asa knob (on the side), and a threaded shutter button. The rewind button and battery compartment are at the base of the camera. The SP has a leaf shutter, which helps with flash.
Ergonomics wise, this is a lovely camera to hold and operate. As mentioned, the viewfinder is bright, and the lens is very compact considering it also sports the aperture and shutter speed rings. Aesthetically, the SP’s are stunning to look at, and the black version I have I absolutely love. This camera was made with class in mind, and seeing it in person and holding it in your hands confirms this.
Now, onto the 35UC. Quite a rare camera in Europe and America, but fairly more common in Japan, the 35UC has a different look. On the whole, this camera is exactly the same as an Olympus 35SPn. However, there are a few differences.
The 35UC sports a battery check button, which my black copy of the 35SP does not have. This is pretty cool, and for me separates these cameras enough to warrant owning both (at this time). I know, I know, that is a really vain excuse. However, I have also wanted the 35UC for a long time.
The front of the UC looks like the standard 35SP, but looks more flash with a black plastic frame which neatly highlights the finders and model name. The lens and other features are exactly the same. So ultimately, the only reason to get this camera over the SP is for the looks - you vain vain person you.
I have spoken a lot about the Olympus 35 rangefinder line, and the SP is the biggest badass of them all. Thicker, packed with more features than you can shake a stick at, including various shooting modes & a spot meter, and has one of the best Zuiko lenses ever made. This camera is a beast on the streets, and will give ANY other rangefinder a run for their money. The SP still holds up today, and like any vintage camera (especially rangefinders) you will probably need to get it CLA’d.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a rangefinder camera that does it all, and has a top quality lens with a wide aperture, then you have found the camera for you. Whether you get an SP or UC is totally up to you.
If you are looking for top quality but want a smaller camera, the Olympus 35RD is the camera for you. It has an amazing lens, is a lot more compact, but still boasts quality (RD stands for rangefinder deluxe). If you need something small, and simple to use, then the RC is for you. The RC is a great started camera, and the little brother in the range.
Everyone should have a rangefinder in their collection, and street toggers will love the Olympus 35 range. - Sly.
Gallery: Click on the next image to see it.