Olympus XA mini-review

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by powasky, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. powasky

    powasky Member

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    There are many reviews of the XA out there, so I will only cover aspects that I have found to be significant in my usage of the camera.

    35/2.8, non-moving lens + clamshell design.
    The fact that the lens is always inside the body allows one to slip the XA into nearly any pocket, and have the camera ready to shoot within seconds. The clamshell closure functions as both the on/off switch for the camera as well as a protective layer for when the camera is in pocket.

    Electromagnetic shutter release.
    This is one feature that gets glossed over in most other reviews. For me this is one of the most important features the XA has. It is such a light press that I have been able to hand-hold ¼ second exposures. Don’t believe me? Check out the shot below.

    +1.5 EV switch
    This handy feature is incorporated into the self-timer and battery check switch on the bottom right of the camera body. The order is +1.5EV, check, self-timer. Because the “check” setting emits a constant beep and is between the timer and the EC, I have never accidentally pushed the lever too far.

    Thumbwheel film advance.
    I thought I would hate the thumbwheel advance, but I very much enjoy it. There are no levers to get caught, which allows the camera to be all the more pocketable.

    Focus lever.
    The focus lever has an extremely short throw, which can make for difficult focusing if you have unsteady hands or are in low light. For me, it was something that I got used to and don’t think about anymore.

    Overall, I prefer carrying the XA over the Konica S3, Canonet 1.7, and X100. It is infinitely more pocketable and inconspicuous, which to me are important traits. The lens is not as sharp as the Konica, but I believe that the trade-off is worth it. Even at f/2.8 results are better than just “acceptable”.

    1/4th, f/4, Arista 400
    [​IMG]

    f/2.8, Arista 400
    [​IMG]

    f/16, Arista 400
    [​IMG]

    Front, closed
    [​IMG]

    Front, open
    [​IMG]

    Film door (bonus points if you know where I got the sticker!)
    [​IMG]

    EC, check, timer lever
    [​IMG]

    Shutter release, winder, counter
    [​IMG]
     
  2. elcabezagrande

    elcabezagrande Subscriber

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    I like the XA quite a lot. But, also having an XA3, lately I find myself grabbing the XA3 while the XA gathers dust, because the zone focus seems foolproof to me. Maybe my eyes are getting too old for rangefinders.
     
  3. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    I put an old XA in my pocket for a trip to London earlier this year. Impressive result and a very handy camera.
     
  4. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I think that camera designed by logic but not ergonomics or haptics. Its front cover locks too tight and lock release the cover too fast. I always afraid to break the plastic. Camera is smooth like an egg but film advance is biting the fingers , its too sharp angled gear. And the lens controls are too difficult to find without looking the camera and focusing is very difficult and too see the shutter speed is very difficult too.

    Low contrast images are awful and daylight images are too overexposed. An Fuji Clearshot is faraway better camera and you dont need to mess with controls or winding or focus. Colors are colors , not low saturated generics.

    Umut
     
  5. danfogel

    danfogel Member

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    I have long been a fan of the XA and agree that the shutter release, which can easily lead to wasted film if one is not careful, is a great feature. Having said that, mine hasn't been touched for quite some time because I find the RF too small to quickly focus and my Ricoh GR1v to offer me more options with respect to ISO, exposure comp, and focus.
     
  6. pstake

    pstake Member

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  7. Aristotle80

    Aristotle80 Member

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    I like the kitchen portrait and the night street scene. My wife often gives me a "look" when she sees another box from B&H on the counter.
     
  8. nbagno

    nbagno Subscriber

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    I tried to love mine but found the patch too dim
    and couldn't reliability focus. Even tried the little black tape thing.

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk 2
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    A few XAs have come and gone in my ownership; I'm now on my 4th I think. My first was purchased from a chemist shop in suburbia way back in 1979.
    Your review should have included interesting facts of the design of the XA, particularly the lens, which was unheard of for its time. The fact the lens makes its home in a clamshell design is just a fraction of a fascinating engineering story that few people know about.

    BTW, I would expect far, far better of the XA for the second and third exposures.
     
  10. powasky

    powasky Member

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    Poisson -
    The XA's design features, especially the lens' construction, has been covered ad nauseum elsewhere on the interwebs. I just wanted to point out some of the features that made the camera work well for me.

    Also, the shots look poorly exposed because of my shoddy scanning skills - I'm still getting the hang of it. The negs look great.

    danfogel -
    I'm actually looking into grabbing one of the little Ricohs. KEH has the GR1 at a pretty reasonable price, but I can pick up a GR1s for a hundred bucks more. Any opinions?
     
  11. EdColorado

    EdColorado Member

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    I've had an XA for a while now and quite frankly was expecting better. I don't mind the operation quirks and love the light shutter release, its the image quality that disappoints. My images seem soft and dull with weak colors, not at all what I was expecting from reviews I'd read. I need to play with it some more I guess and do some meter comparisons against my Gossen. I recently acquired a Rollie 35 and am currently working through my first roll with it. I'm quite curious to see how it compares to the XA.
     
  12. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The little XA is always a topic of lengthy discussions. Nice little camera, although there are times when I think it's too small and the body too smooth.

    A nice lens, and the XA has enough heft. The exposure needle is a bit sluggish, however, it does have a top ASA of 800.

    I'm not sure that this lens needs a coupled rangefinder, although it is nice because you have that mental security that your focus is dead on (or at least you hope).

    Build quality is very good. Overall, I have no complaints about this camera.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2013
  13. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I would be expecting something better than that too. Something is wrong. Heavens no, "soft and dull with weak colours" is not normal for the XA. It has a crisp and contrasty lens and exposure is well handled by the rudimentary Cds. Have you run through a roll of slide film to check exposure? Years ago (mid-1980s) I had a cycling friend who authored 6 books, all photographs made with his battered XA running Kodachrome 25 or 64. Brilliant stuff for its day.
     
  14. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    Those observations would be a lot more credible if you didn't repeat that ridiculous misnomer of "clamshell" design. Apparently you must have seen some pretty strange clams in your day. Perhaps you can post a picture of one of these mutant clams with a sliding shell.

    The XA's innovative design feature was called a "sliding dust barrier". This was to distinguish it from all the various cameras that actually had clamshell designs, such as pretty much any MF folder (in Oly's case the Sixes and Chrome Sixes). If you feel the need to use "clamshell" to describe a compact 35mm, then you need to discuss the Minox 35.

    One does have to admire those ingenious folks that run across "clamshell" and know it can't be right, so they have coined "camshell" and "clampshell". But it all seems a lot of wasted effort for a feature that already has a real, and accurate, name.
     
  15. wblynch

    wblynch Member

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    With the XA series (excepting the XA1, of course) it is imperative to use only high-quality Silver Oxide batteries. Any lesser batteries will result in under-exposed shots. This is why some feel their photos are dull and lifeless. Because they are underexposed.

    The XA shutter works with electromagnets that hold the shutter open. The power requirements are high enough that alkaline batteries (especially those 10 for a dollar that are so appealing to buy) can't get the job done. The Silver Oxide batteries are the only ones with enough power to correctly work the shutter.

    Get yourself some proper batteries and see if you aren't much happier with your XA photos.
     
  16. EdColorado

    EdColorado Member

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    Thanks for the battery tip, I'm pretty sure I have alkalines in the camera so I'll go get a sliver oxide and see how it works.