Olympus Wide S

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by darin_cozine, Aug 19, 2015.

  1. For the past few months I've been working on a rare beauty, an Olympus Wide S rangefinder.
    Back in 1957 Olympus released what I would think was a camera that would be fabulously popular. The Wide-S was a fixed-lens rangefinder with an unheard-of 35mm f2 8-element Zuiko lens! For some reason, only a few were produced, and thus it is a hard to find camera these days. I would love to know what the total production was, but it must have been under 10,000.
  2. This was a camera that I purchased from an ebay auction in as-is condition. I had been looking for one (at a decent price) for months, perhaps a year, and finally took a chance. Unfortunately, it was missing some parts an thus began a months-long repair journey. As chance would have it, I happened to find an auction for another Wide-S for a low buy-it-now price that had just been posted in the recent hour. I pounced on that. And alas, that was also missing parts. This time the whole pressure plate was missing.
    With the knowledge contributed by the generosity of others on this board and APUG, I found out that most all of the body parts are interchangeable with the common cousin the Olympus/Tower 35-S. So I bought two inexpensive parts bodies. And after many hours of work tinkering, I ended up with 3 working cameras. Two of the Wide models, and one with a 42mm f1.8 Zuiko.
  3. These cameras are nicely laid out and make great users when working.
    All of the aperture, shutter, EV, and distance scales are visible from the top. The lens has a nice focus lever. The film advance is a single stroke lever and the rewind knob has a folding lever.
    The rangefinder is bright and clear. -not quite as bright as a Canon 7 that I recently aquired, but about the same as a Canon QL17Giii. -Thats is to say better than almost every other rangefinder of the 50's era except perhaps the leica M.
  4. The build quality is good, but not great. Top and bottom covers are stamped metal. Internal parts are not quite as robust ad i'd like them to be. The chrome finish is nice, and the tolerances are pretty tight. Neither of my Wide-S cameras were stored well, so there is some minor pitting to the chrome.
    The lens is an 8-element f2 35mm Zuiko. Probably similar to a biogon or super angulon, but I have not been able to find a schematic for it. The filter size is a standard 43mm, unlike some of the later cameras that used odd 43.5mm. So I was able to find a cheap wide-angle metal hood that compliments it nicely. Though I did find out that I cannot use the hood stacked on a filter, as the vignetting is noticeable.
  5. My first roll was a short from a mystery bulk loader that came with some other stuff. I have no idea what it is, and there is no identification in the sprockets. So I guess at the ISO, and it came out pretty badly under exposed. Also, I discovered that I had not aligned the rangefinder correctly. The screen i was using did not sit flush against the film rails and so I had to readgust the rangefinder. Many of the negatives were blurry. Some came out OK when I was shooting at f16.
  6. another from the first short roll
  7. After re-adjustment, i popped in a roll of my favorite film, Ilford FP4.
    This yielded much better results.
  8. Though at f2, focus was still hit-or miss. But that is better than before, where pretty much everything was blurry.
  9. My new friend Travis liked the camera as well, though he was sporting a Nikon S that day.
  10. Of course you cannot really show how sharp a lens is from these 700px images. This 8-element Zuiko is sharp, but not quite clinically sharp from the first results. Now there are many issues with me saying that. Considering this is one example from a camera that I had to completely dissasemble, realign, and was probably not holding as still as I could. Also the images are from flatbed scans from negatives processed in years-old pyro developer.
    So overall I am pleased with the camera. It is a breeze to use and quite enjoyable. The lens quality is quite respectable and maybe some more testing will yield better results.
    i hope you like my mini-review. Thanks!
  11. Nice camera and lovely presentation, Darin! Thank You, very interesting.
  12. Excellent, Darin, a great example of patient rejuvenation and reconstruction, and well worthwhile. As you say, you don't see too many examples of the Olympus Wide S around, these days. I came across them when I was gathering information for a post I put together on the Minolta Auto Wide, a camera from the same era, but there wasn't much information out there. It's a handsome camera, and the lens is obviously what one would expect from Zuiko: I noted that it was 8 elements in six groups, but I never discovered a diagram. The "S" apparently stands for "Super" the camera being a more advanced version of the original Olympus Wide.
    Fine pics of and from the camera; thanks for an interesting post.
  13. Interesting post, Darin! Fixed-lens 35mm cameras with wide-angle lenses are of interest for me too, so over the years I've acquired a couple of Ilford Advocates and a Walz Wide. None of these have a lens as fast as the F2 Zuiko fitted to your Olympus Wide S, of course. Your posted photos are excellent, and accordingly you have to wonder just why the Olympus Wide didn't sell better than it did. Maybe that complex 8-element 35mm F2 lens cost too much to produce, in a situation where projected purchasers were thought to be more likely to be using their wide-angle camera at around F5.6/F8?
  14. Great post Darin,and I admire your dedication! The Wide S is indeed hard to come by, and I have the original low spec Wide with the four element lens. It is quite good, much better than expected from the humble construction...although it is only an F4.
    Also have the Olympus S, which I have yet to try,and agree that these cameras,while well specified, do have a slight cheap feel to them in the stamped metal parts. I'm hoping that the Zuiko will perform well, must give it a run!
  15. Darin,
    Wonderful post. I admire your perseverance in getting these two cameras in nice working shape. Don't you hate it when parts are missing?
    I found an ad for this camera in a December 1957 issue of Modern Photography. What is nice is they have a lens diagram. I remember when they use to do that in ads.
  16. Thanks Marc! Wow that's a unique
    design. I don't think I've seen
    anything like it.

    Also that add reminded me of a
    few things. The rangefinder has
    frame lines that move for
    parallax compensation. And the
    camera focuses down two 26
    inches! Very advanced features
    for a camera at the time.
  17. Such a cool story - hats off to your mechanical abilities! and I am happy to hear that not one but THREE cameras have thus been rescued from the scrap heap, or worst yet, some hipsters interior design scheme as "vintage looking cameras that look cool"... but really just hold up books that much like the cameras will never get used, were probably never read...
    But I SO digress - great and informative post, really glad you shared it. Of course now I want one too, but that's pretty standard around these parts:)
  18. Thanks for sharing, Darin. Great photos and nice repair job. Clearly in the day the moderately wide 35mm lens on this camera and the scale-focusing Minolta model were not appreciated or they would have likely sold in greater numbers and maybe staying in production longer. Thanks.

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