Eric L. Woods

This Old Camera: Olympus XA – This will be a relatively short one.

Scroll down to content

Short version:

Great camera. Not my cup of tea.

Long winded version:

Found a sweet set up at my local camera shop. Came with accessory flash, original box, and full paperwork 2 years ago. But I did not have it for long.

Olympus XA

Initially I was amped because I had heard so many good things about this camera.

  • Compact.
  • Lightweight.
  • Inbuilt exposure. Impressive considering this camera’s light weight and small size.
  • Accessory flash.
  • Rangefinder. Find it somewhat confusing that other higher numbered models have fewer features like fixed or zone focus only, but you do you Olympus.
  • f/2.8. Again. Against my usual expectations higher number models are f/4 and f/3.5.

Then I tried it. XA adherents look away. Nothing to see here.

I did not enjoy using it. Film cameras make no sense in the digital age rationally speaking. Purely therapeutic in my case. Challenging I can take. Not fun? Not so much. Subjective I know, but here I go.

  • Compact has it’s downsides when you have beef mitts. This is what likely led me to grab a few cool looking, but unintentional double exposures. Not sure how I managed this.
  • Lightweight could be spelled cheap feeling for this price point. My little beloved AF Konica C35 AF2 feels a bit more solid to me and cost all of $50.
  • Sharpness. May have been my copy, but the lens did not strike me as exceptionally sharp. Acceptable for sure, but nothing of note. The little unfortunately named Petri 7S did at least as well.
  • Rangefinder focusing was not enjoyable. Would rather focus the wonderful little dirt cheap FED 2. Again, may have been my copy but the small focus patch and slidey focus lever did not endear themselves to me.
  • Accessory flash works great but unfortunate in execution. Would leave it at home or bring a camera with a built in flash if I needed one. Also works against the compact nature of this camera when attached.
  • This last one is purely subjective and has nothing to do with taking a picture. I do not like the way it looks. Surprising since I usually really like Olympus designs.
Olympus XA

I shot exactly one roll through it and returned it immediately almost 2 years ago. Only realized this week that I never bothered to upload the images anywhere let alone write a blog post about it. Remedied both now. Did not help the XA that I was shooting it alongside a Bessa R2 at the same time. I no longer have the Bessa either. The Leica CL is my compromise between the two.

All that being said I do understand why it has a following. It definitely scores points for its combination of competence and compactness. Kudos to the design and engineering teams. There are just other slightly larger cameras that I prefer over it. Olympus’ own PEN FT (film camera, not the digital PEN F cosplay) for example. The <takes deep breath> Canon Canonet QL17 GIII comes to mind for instance.

I really wanted to like this camera more than I did. I have two other film Olympus cameras that are definite keepers (OM-10 and PEN FT). Personal prefernce, but I just did not enjoy shooting with it. I guess I prefer Olympus SLRs over their rangefinders.

Sample images below. So I end as I began.

Great camera. Not my cup of tea.

Olympus XA
Olympus XA
Olympus XA
Olympus XA
Olympus XA
Olympus XA
%d bloggers like this: