Olympus XA rangefinder accuracy

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by grommi, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. grommi

    grommi Member

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    Hi there,

    my XA is in a very good condition, but the rangefinder has a deviation of about 20 cm at the lower end. Does anybody have a perfect working rangefinder and is it possible to adjust it at home? The service manual doesn't look encouraging......

    Best - Reinhold
     
  2. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    That XA is poplular but is a camera not built to the most precise standards. The lens is good, but learn to earmark inaccuracies such as this. (Also, the shutter button is notorious for 'failing' sometimes.) Each time you take a picture (mostly close up is when the inaccuracy will manifest) allow for this. Place the camera on a tripod and shoot something close up with clearly marked borders. Then inspect the negative and see just how much you are off. From then on, make the manual adjustment.

    When you build for mass market and create within the restricted parameters allowed by tiny, 'precise' instruments, sometimes you have to allow for that. - David Lyga
     
  3. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    "...not being built to precise standards". I don't accept that at all, and I've owned about 6 XA cameras since my first in 1979. None of them came to fault, just a waxing-waning interest in photography before I fully pursued it.
    The precision of engineering (especially the lens and meter control circuits) has been very well documented and tested over the decades.
    A 20cm deviation!? Are you sure? 20mm might be more accurate. :whistling: It looks like the parallax overlay has been jolted out of position (e.g. dropped).
    XAs re fairly easy to service by technicians; the problem today is sourcing spare parts. The shutter button will last and last; how you treat it has a bearing on how long it serves you. People stabbing at the shutter button, or worse, using a fingernail, should expect early failure.
     
  4. grommi

    grommi Member

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    It's not a parralax thing, the distance metering is quite wrong. F.e. saying distance is 0.85 m at a real distance of 0.65 m. So I get a backfocus of about 20 cm for close distances. With a 35 mm lens you need a proper rangefinder reading only for close distances, so it's more or less a useless feature on this exemplar.
     
  5. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I don't really see your point. The XA has that semi-wide angle 35mm lens of fairly modest specs (albeit for its era, very clever construction); it doesn't require super-accurate focusing to begin with, the reason being the large depth of field that will provide sufficiently sharp images despite any focusing anomalies. Surely you've seen this in your own photos with this camera, as we all have? If you shoot at a shallow apeture and wonder why there is a short zone of acceptable sharpness, that is not the camera's discrepeancy, but your choice of aperture. It's not an SLR where depth of field is scrutinised by direct coupling between the lens Av control and the viewfinder.
     
  6. ath

    ath Member

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    When the rangefinder is off 20cm at 85cm distance no dof is going to rescue you. My XA is far more precise, I don't think I have more than 5cm error. It isn't a Leica though and I don't use it for closeups.
     
  7. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I have personally never heard of this extravagant inaccuracy with the XA; this is the first time I've read about it in a very long time of researching and using XAs from the first in 1979 to the most recent from 2011. I suspect it might have come to grief through rough treatment/knocking. :confused:
     
  8. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Obviously, ostensibly at least, it seems the OP has erred with the twenty centimeters, but has he really?

    He just might be talking about the actual item photographed being off of by such amount (almost eight inches, avoirdupois-wise). In other words, if he is taking a picture of a person's head, that head's image in the negative will be 'off' by an amount equivalent to 20 cm from the actual head's center. In other words, when he thought that the top of the head was flush with the top of the viewfinder, the head was actually an equivalent of eight inches LOWER in the negative. Of course, it is NOT eight inches lower in the actual negative, but only with regard to the original scene.

    Poisson, we might disagree to some extent, but, at least to me, the XA does not represent a very high standard of expertise. Many out there have found the circuitry to be flawed and prone to malfunctioning when just tiny bit of dirt gets involved in the circuitry. Of course, the basic stamping of the body's alignment is precise...that is not hard to do. But, compared with the Canon 17 or other Canon RF's or, notably, the Olympus RC or RD, or the great Minolta Hi-matics, the XA does not really pass muster. That said, great photographs can be made with the XA. But, given the option, one would be more prudent to acquire the others mentioned. The XA is a good camera and not wildly inaccurate at all, but not as well made. - David Lyga
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2013
  9. grommi

    grommi Member

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    No, the OP has not erred with the 20 cm and to say it again clearly, it's NOT a parralax thing of the viewfinder but a distance metering thing of the rangefinder.

    Anyway, so far obviously nobody knows how to fix that (calibrate the rangefinder) with household resources, so I stick with guessing the distance. But the real sense of a rangefinder is another one than guessing .....

    Best - Reinhold
     
  10. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    OP please correct me if I misunderstood you. I think that the OP meant that when the scale on the lens is set at 0.85 m then the film plane has to be 0.65 m from the subject for the rangefinder images to match. I found that this is true for my XA as well however it does not result in out of focus image because the lens is actually focus at 0.65 m only the scale on the lens is wrong. In fact you would be wrong by 20cm if you were to estimate or measure the distance with a ruler and set the lens using its scale.
     
  11. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The camera has a very narrow base rangefinder, and I think that you can expect only so much accuracy because of it -- even when coupled with a 35mm lens.
     
  12. Aristotle80

    Aristotle80 Subscriber

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    I dunno, this has never been a problem with my XA. Accurate focus and ample depth of field have been the rule. That said, I usually use my rangefinders for subjects between 5 feet and infinity. I DID have two or three times when the electromagnetic shutter "froze", but a few swift whacks into the palm of the hand cleared it up. Perhaps when someone else did the same thing the rangefinder shifted a bit? I did read about the sticky shutter solution on the web many years ago, so it's out there. The focus nub moves so little to begin with...If it's really out of spec its possible someone took it apart and reassembled it wrong sometime in the last 30 years. Stranger things have happened.
     
  13. tessar

    tessar Subscriber

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    The rangefinder on my XA once failed altogether (secondary image did not move) on a long trip to Asia. Since I was shooting mostly scenics with 400 ISO film I did OK by using the distance scale on the lens and smaller f-stops. When I returned and took the camera to a technician for repair (those were the days) he told me a part had broken and that the rangefinder mechanism on the XA was quite delicate. Since then I've guarded the camera against bumps and have had no trouble.
     
  14. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    anyone ever had a sticky meter needle?
     
  15. CliveC

    CliveC Member

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    Not yet, but it seems like my camera is slowly metering lower than my handheld meter tells me, at least via the indicator in the viewfinder. Hopefully just a tired battery.
     
  16. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    my meter keeps sticking to the top of the display, its getting annoying. does anyone still work on them, or is it better to just buy another?
     
  17. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Oh, grommi, the density in my head has suddenly subsided. Now I finally 'get' it.

    OK, with many RFs the close focus is surprisingly 'off'. I use a tape measure, measured from almost the rear of the camera (i.e., film plane) and find that I often have to make an adjustment as to what the RF is telling me. (Remember, the film plane 'rules' here.) In the OP's immediate case it would be very interesting to find where infinity actually is on his camera's distance scale. In other words, with aperture wide open, take pictures (rigidly mounted camera) of detailed, very distant (at least 1/4 mile) stationary items (like skyscrapers) at these four settings: infinity, between infinity and 30 ft, 30 ft, between 30 ft and 15 ft. Then process these four negatives and put them into your enlarger, rack the enlargement distance to maximum, and, with a magnifying glass, take a critical look at both the center and far corner of each negative image in order to determine the optimum infinity focus.

    If BOTH close focus and infinity are off, all you need do is ascertain that they are off in the SAME direction. Unfortunately, sometimes when the camera RF (which can be incorrect) focuses CLOSER than the film plane finally reveals (in the processed negative), infinity cannot be fully achieved because you cannot bring the lens close enough. (In other words, if the actual negative reveals a more distant actual focus than the shorter, apparent distance shown on the RF image, it will also reveal a more 'distant' actual focus on the negative when you set the RF to infinity. Of course, this is this situation is rare but has happened; however, depth of field usually comes to the rescue here. But, nevertheless, it is an interesting (and revealing) experiment. Remember, what the RF 'says' is not necessarily what the film plane (i.e., negative image) reveals.

    There are other situations whereby the infinity setting is absolutely accurate BUT... the close focus is not. This is a dilemma and must sometimes force one to revert to scale focusing and, unfortunately again, a scale that you make based upon the ACTUAL close focusing distance that you find with the tape measure. For this I take a rigid acticle (I find an LP record jacket ideal here) and place it 45 degrees from the rigidly mounted camera. I focus upon the center text (measured precisely in either inches or CM) and slightly underexpose and overdevelop so that I will get a nice, contrasty negative. Then, the moment of truth comes when I put the negative in the enlarger (again, racked up to full enlargement). With a magnifying glass I carefully study the image and find that the ideal focus could well be either further from, or close than, the dead center focused upon. - David Lyga

    NOTE: EASmithV: the 'sitcky' meter needle in an XA I have found NOT to be 'sticky' but, again, a malfunction of the internal circuitry. In other words, not a physical impairment but a hesitation with the circuitry. Try pressing again on the exposure button. In your case you COULD be correct but the XA has annoyances of this type and is the reason that I am cautious when using them. - David Lyga
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2013