Friday, December 05, 2008

Olympus XA Joy...

There are a lot of small 35mm cameras out there, but if I had to pick one that is a favorite, it would have to be the terrific little Olympus XA and its descendants. For starters, it's a real rangefinder camera, has aperture-priority shooting, and its clamshell case protects the metal-bodied camera from the usual bumps and debris, and is easily carried in a pocket. It runs on a silver-oxide battery, and has a wonderful 6-element 35mm f2.8 lens. It's a more useable camera than my Rollei 35TE, and far more compact than the much later Olympus Stylus which is AF, requires a larger battery, and is noisy. It's the most compact 35mm rangefinder camera that is capable of producing excellent quality images. The one drawback might be that the flash is a separate unit, but the way I use this camera, I almost never need the flash. It also comes with a tripod socket, so with a tiny tripod, you can use the camera on a table for long exposures. It would be nice if the ISO setting would go as high as 1600, but 800 isn't too shabby.

This photo from Erich Zechar exemplifies the beauty of this camera:

I've had my XA for a number of years, and paid $50 for it -- with the original case and flash. More recently, I acquired an Olympus XA-2. The XA-2 isn't quite as full-featured as the XA (it has zone focusing), but it's still pretty good. The fun thing with the XA is that because it is easily carried about, I often leave it in my messenger bag as the camera that's there when I need one. As a result, it may take me months to go through a roll of film, and I have often forgotten all about what might be on a roll of film when I finally process it. The upside of that, is that it's always a surprise when I get the film developed. The downside is that I sometimes have to rack my brain about where I took the photos.

I'm supposing the Vagina Monologues was in town. Either that, or someone just really loves vagina, But then, who doesn't?

See what I mean? Random photos (hence the name of this blog, huh?) that I have to go through and attempt to figure out their context.

At the 2008 Summer Art Fair. I am pretty certain I also shot this with a Diana.

At my workplace. I am pretty sure I shot this because I loved the sky at that moment.

Only a short time ago -- back in September at the Found Gallery, where four of us had a show.

On a 24 exposure roll of old Kodak HD 400, I had several months worth of imagery. I think I'll put b&w in next time, just to vary things a bit.

There are a lot of resources on the web regarding the Olympus XA, and I'll point out my favorites:

The Olympus XA, XA2, and others are easily found on ebay, occasionally at thrift stores, and sometimes in a drawer somewhere. They are compact 35mm cameras with excellent Olympus optics and are a favorite of photographers that like having a dependable camera for those times when a full-featured and very obvious SLR just won't do. As a result, the used prices are higher than many other cameras of that vintage. When you find yourself one, keep it.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


AdrianW said...

Hi Mark:
One other great camera in the XA line-up is the XA4. It is unique in having a very fine 28mm lens (rather than the 35mm of the other XAs). It also allows ISOs to 1600 and focusing down to 1 foot. But unlike the regular XA there is no rangefinder focusing or aperture selection.

Both cameras are easy to shoot with and give fine results. Because the XA4 is quite a bit rarer than the XA it usually sells for significantly more.


Olympus XA2 Review said...

olympus xa's are great little cameras.

personally i use an XA2 - slightly more auto than the original XA and with a simpler lens but still a cracking little camera.

i love the results i get when i cross process colour slide film - nice sharp images with incrediblly vivid colors.....yum!

distance photo man said...

awesome. i love my xa2 - great little cameras!

Carryou Ministry said...

I don't have an XA but I have an XA2 and a Stylus (along with more cameras than I'll ever be able to use). While working as a photojournalist I often used the XA2 in situations where I needed a discreet camera. It never let me down and I still prefer it over the Stylus.
I'm always on the lookout for an XA but you don't see them all that often here in South Africa.
Great blog. I'm glad I stumbled across it.
My blogs: