Olympus 35mm Cameras, 1948-1958

Long before the introduction of the OM, XA and subsequent 35mm film cameras series and models, Olympus was already an active 35mm film cameras manufacturer, between 1948 to 1958. This was during the formative years of the 35mm film photography industry.

The push for the 35mm format with cameras that are small and compact, and capable of rapid shooting was with the launch of the Olympus 35 I in 1948. The 35 I was the first 35mm film camera that Olympus produced for the Japanese domestic market. Aside from the 35 I, Olympus was also selling medium-format and twin-lens reflex cameras such as the Chrome Six and Flex.

With the dominance of the 35mm film format expanding, Olympus continued making inroads into the 35mm market with production of more select models supported by innovative ideas, including wide-lens cameras, cameras with built-in exposure meters, and eventually, exchangeable lens 35mm film cameras.

Production of this series went on till 1958 when Olympus re-orientated their design and production technology to the half-frame format with the Pen series.

Olympus 35 I (1948)
The Olympus 35 I was released in 1948. This was the first 35mm camera produced for the Japanese consumer market. The 35 I was designed and developed to meet two key requirements - it had to be compact and light, and be able to support rapid shooting, which is the key to the camera's extreme popularity. First designed with a 24x32 mm film format size, it was later changed the 24x36 mm size, which it suitable for slide mounting.

Olympus 35IVa (1953)
The 35IVa was the first camera with a glass plate on the film back introduced to ensure the flatness of the film surface. Static electricity, however, thought otherwise as the friction between the glass and the film caused a discharge effect. The glass was subsequently replaced with a metal pressure plate that ensures satisfactory film flatness even with the shallow focal depth of a 35mm camera.

Olympus 35Va (1955)
The start of a modern design, including a cover that encompassed the entire top. Olympus introduced a linear helicoid focusing system to enable the potential of the D.Zuiko 40mm F3.5 lens to be fully exploited,

Olympus 35 S-3.5 (1955)
The Olympus 35 S-3.5 was released in 1955. This camera is the high-end version of the Olympus 35, complemented with innovative ideas. The 35 S-3.5 is the first Japanese-made lens/shutter camera with a film advance lever. Other features included a self-cocking mechanism that charged the shutter as the film advanced and a coupled rangefinder. An F2.8 lens was introduced later and it became part of the assembly.

Olympus Wide (1955)
The Olympus Wide was introduced in 1955. Designed specifically for wide-angle photography, the Olympus Wide was an Olympus 35V camera fitted with a wide-angle lens. To facilitate framing, the camera featured a natural-light bright frame finder. The Olympus Wide became hugely popular because it provided an easy way to take superb, wide-angle photographs that had previously only been possible using expensive cameras with exchangeable lenses. The Olympus Wide is also credited as the pioneer to subsequent wide-angle camera boom.

Olympus WideE (1957)
The Olympus Wide E was launched in 1957. The camera features a lever-type film advance mechanism, and it was the first Japanese camera with an uncoupled exposure meter. This allows the choice of correct exposure combination which can be acquired by reading the figure from the scale in the selenium cell exposure meter.

Olympus Wide Super (1957)
The Olympus Wide Super was introduced in 1957, promoted as a high-end model in the Olympus Wide series. The camera features an F2 large-aperture wide-angle lens, a coupled rangefinder, and a parallax corrected viewfinder. The Olympus Wide Super is the first camera equipped with the "free light value" system, which allowed the photographer to set the shutter speed and aperture combination simply by reading the light value in a small window between the shutter ring and aperture ring.

Olympus SII 1.8 (1957)
This camera featured a bright field view-finder and the G Zuiko 42mm F1.8 lens (5 groups, 7 elements) was the first F1.8 wide-aperture lens used as a standard lens in a 35mm standard camera.

Olympus Auto (1958)
The Olympus Auto was developed as a high-end lens-shutter camera with a coupled exposure meter. The exposure meter could be set to give priority either to aperture or shutter speed. Other features of this high-spec camera included a viewfinder with automatic parallax correction, a coupled rangefinder, and a wide-aperture F1.8 lens.

Olympus Ace (1958)
The Olympus Ace was launched in 1958, designed and produced Japan's first 35mm lens/shutter camera that could be used with exchangeable lenses. Three lenses were made available for the model: a standard 45mm, a wide-angle 35mm, and a telephoto 80mm. All of the lenses could be coupled with the range-finder.

Resource Links:
Olympus OM SLR Cameras, 1972-1994
Cameras | The Olympus Museum | Technology | Olympus

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