I personally feel that there’s a rise of point-and-shoot wave (like Korean-wave) in the world of film photography. This makes the price of good film camera to spike! Anyway, I managed to get hold of an Olympus XA for cheap to try.
Olympus XA is a compact rangefinder semi-manual film camera with a f2.8 Zuiko lens and a fixed focal length of 35mm. There are many versions of XA, such as XA 1, XA2 and even XA4.
In my opinion, though I didn’t get to try the rest, I think XA is the best just because of the maximum f2.8 aperture. The lens is super sharp!
Olympus XA is a semi-manual camera where you get to decide which aperture you want to use, ranging from f2.8 to f22. Nope, you have to decide an aperture as there’s no ‘Programme’ mode in this camera. After you have set your aperture, the camera will decide the shutter speed for you.
Oh, you also need to ‘tell’ the light meter which ISO film speed you are using.
As it is aperture priority, you have no control over the shutter speed. This can be an disadvantage if you are shooting under the shade or in dim condition.
The shutter speed will automatically go slower (1/30 or 1/60), resulting in blurry subjects (human movement). So, you may need to use a higher ISO film, up to ISO 800 for the XA.
I usually use ISO400 speed film, and it frustrated me sometimes that the camera doesn’t allow me to click the shutter when the light meter thinks it is too dark.
Solution? Set aperture to f2.8.
The shutter of XA typical has 2 clicks, ‘tick, tick’. And they are quite soft. You might not hear it if you are in a noisy place. Sometimes when you think the environment is not that dark but the light meter thinks otherwise, it will slow the shutter speed. That’s when you hear a single ‘tick’ and a delayed second ‘tick’. This causes super blurry photos because I moved the camera while the camera is still not done with shutter closing.
Next, I want to talk about its manual focus.
On the scale, the XA only has 0.8m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. And the focusing tab is right below the lens. As such, sometimes, unknowingly, I introduced my finger into the frame.
Maybe I am very not used to the position of focusing tab, so I find it quite inconvenient to adjust the focus.
But usually, I set my pre-focus range to be 1.5m.
Inside the viewfinder, you can see the overlapping boxes to help you focus your subject too, just like any typical rangefinder camera. I don’t find myself depending on that often as the boxes are too small I can hardly see.
So, just pre-focus and you will be fine.
Available ISO: 25 to 800.
Shutter speed: Automatic electronic analog, 1/500 – 10 seconds.
Aperture: two-bladed manual, f/2.8 – f/22.
Focus: 0.8m to infinity
Power: Formally you should use two S76 cells but I loaded LR44 and they are working. Just that they say the lightmeter might be less accurate if you use LR44. In my opinion, LR44 drains faster.
All the Olympus XA series can be attached to external Olympus flash, either the A11 or the A16 flash. Mine is the A16 which is stronger than the A11. And A16 is rarer.
Overall, the small size of Olympus XA makes it a pleasure to bring around, though I prefer the Olympus Mju ii. In the past, this camera was favoured by professional photographers when they travel or when they were not shooting for work.
The plastic feature and small size also makes it less obvious and less professional when you are doing street photography.
Lastly, I think the pictures shot by this XA are sharp!
Thanks for reading my five-cents worth of review.