Olympus Trip MD: (Theoretically) A Great Street Photography Camera

Update: for some reason the film transport will not work reliably. In testing it i was unable to get a full roll to go through without jamming. Maybe thats why there are so few on the used market.

For a while now I have been getting less and less interested in image quality. And not in that photo hipster way where I want my photos to look like s*** quality-wise. I am beginning to simply place far more value in the usability, process, and techniques associated with cameras than their image quality alone. Over the past 6 months or so I have had the pleasure of trying out dozens of different film cameras. While there have been a lot of good ones, only a few of them have really been any good for street photography, something I have been interested in for some time. Of those select few cameras though, none have met my admittedly very specific desired qualities for a street photography camera.

Recently though, I’ve come across a camera on Ebay that actually checks all the boxes on that list, and omits most of the features I find frivilous. Its no Leica though, in fact its probably closer in nature to a disposable camera than any of the usual suspects for street photography shooters. The camera to which I am referring is an Olympus Trip MD. The Trip MD is one of about a hundred cameras to bear the famed “Trip” name over the years, and is the first of three cameras in the MD series. Its about as simple as they come, with a fixed focus lens, fixed shutter speed, and only a few aperture settings(labeled as film speed) to control your exposure.

So what is it about this unimpressive point-and-shoot that potentially makes it a good street photography camera? It really boils down to three main features which, when combined, are rare to find in a single camera. The first is its size. Even for a point-and-shoot it is quite small, and easily pocketable. The second is its inclusion of a pop-up flash and fixed lens. While this may not seem all that special, It is extremely important to me. Because the lens is fixed-focus, shutter lag is virtually nonexistent in this camera. While that is a quality shared by most film rangefinders and slr’s, it is one of the only cameras to have no shutter lag as well as a built in flash. In fact the only other camera that comes to mind is the Minolta Hi-Matic GF which is significantly larger, and hard to find because of it’s poor build quality. The third feature is its manual control of the aperture and flash, which make it just about foolproof, and enables me to have slightly more control than many basic film compacts.

With so much going for it, I am very hopeful that I will get a chance to really test out this thing’s street capabilities in the near future, and I am very interested to find out whether or not the Trip MD will really be a viable street photography camera.