Olympus XA mini-review
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.
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
f/2.8, Arista 400
f/16, Arista 400
Film door (bonus points if you know where I got the sticker!)
EC, check, timer lever
Shutter release, winder, counter
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.
I put an old XA in my pocket for a trip to London earlier this year. Impressive result and a very handy camera.
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.
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.
Leica M2, Olympus 35RC, Olympus 35EC, Olympus Trip 35
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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.
I confess I'm a gear nut within my price range. ;)
Nikon FM2n, FG, FG20, N2000, Nikkormat, Olympus Stylus Epic
Minox 35EL, Voigtlander Bessa-L
Yashica-D TLR 6x6, Seagull TLR 6x6
Agfa Isolette 6x6, Welmy 6x6
Kodak Tourist 6x9 Anaston lens
I tried to love mine but found the patch too dim
and couldn't reliability focus. Even tried the little black tape thing.
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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.
“The photographer must determine how he wants the finished print to look before he exposes the negative.
Before releasing the shutter, he must seek 'the flame of recognition,' a sense that the picture would reveal
the greater mystery of things...more clearly than the eyes see." ~Edward Weston, 1922.
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.
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?