Olympus XA
5 frames with...

5 Frames With an Olympus XA – By Julian Higgs

May 5, 2019

Since getting back film photography over the last two years or so, like many others, I seem to have accumulated a number of different cameras. Some of which the first time round I would never have considered. One of those cameras is the much praised but diminutive Olympus XA.

In my first film photography life, I could not wait to get away from a compact camera. The SLR was the pinnacle of my equipment desires, and for me, the Pentax K1000 was that.

But since re-discovering film with a storage box found Olympus Trip 35 belonging to my wife from I-don’t-know-how-many years ago, the compact scale focus and rangefinder camera has found a place in my heart.

Fast forward to just a few months ago, and now I actively look out for old cameras that pique my interest. A local antiques centre to me does house clearance and sometimes interesting camera gear pops up in there. On the day I went into the shop for a rummage through the box I came upon this little gem. Complete with the original box, the detachable A11 flash unit, a case and even film left in it.

Having read on this very site a couple of XA articles, I knew that this was a camera of some reputation, with its tiny dimensions, cute clamshell case and tack sharp 35mm f2.8 Zuiko lens. The controls are a little fiddly for my larger hands, especially the focus lever, but not enough to cause a major problem. The viewfinder is small but bright enough. The big red shutter button being electronic is also a little sensitive. A quick check over as the batteries were still good, it all seemed to work.

I finished off the roll of Kodak film that was in it, it was so old that everything was massively under exposed. But having a roll of Ilford HP5+ in stock and a trip into London for my day job to do, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to give the little Olympus XA a proper test drive.

I think for me street photography is where this little camera excels. Small, black, discreet and almost silent when shooting (not the wind on though, that clicks like a tiny football rattle). If you use zone focus it become a cracking little point and shoot. I love it.

Below are a selection from that first roll of the found film and HP5+, let me know what you think.

Beach Vignette

Beach Vignette from the film found inside the XA

1 New Change

Glass Valley – 1 New Change London

St Pauls Garden

St Pauls Garden – London

St Pauls

St Pauls Dome – London

St Pauls Dome Reflection

Reflection – St Paul’s Dome

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  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    May 5, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    The XA is getting a lot of attention here lately, and rightly so. The reflection shot is super.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      Indeed, but justifiably it seems. I would have passed this little gem over a few years ago, but it’s now a keeper.

  • Reply
    Steve Scarlett
    May 5, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Yep, the XA is certainly niftily small and discreet, and yours looks pretty sharp too… . I had one years ago but it was never a great favourite and I traded it for the 28mm XA4, which I still have and still enjoy. Really like your middle shot of St Paul’s, I’ve been there quite often and never seen that. Good eye!

    • Reply
      May 5, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      I had nothing to compare it with, other than my other Oly rangefinders. Thanks for the comment on the images, I do also like the reflection shot, it’s on the darkroom print list.

  • Reply
    Tiffany Perez
    May 5, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    A real gem of a find! I love your photo of the reflection. It is so well composed. Took a glimpse at your Instagram too and I really like your work. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      May 5, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    May 5, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    It’s my back up camera when I travel.
    I bought it when it was new, and held onto it now for decades.
    Nice examples showing the capabilities of the XA. My favorite is also the reflection pic.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      I can see why it’s your backup travel camera, small, light, easy to use. I’ll be shooting this more in the future, unless I find something else in the antique shop or charity store.

  • Reply
    lắp đặt camera việt trì
    May 6, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    Amazing blog! Do you have any suggestions for
    aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any recommendations? Thank you!

    • Reply
      May 7, 2019 at 8:22 am

      Thanks!, I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about blog/writing platforms, I used the free WordPress hosted solution to start with and then upgraded to my own domain a little while after to banish the ads. there are so many out there. its as much about the promotion as where it’s hosted, and of course producing original and engaging content. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Eric Manten
    May 6, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    A great little camera and I wish I brought it with me on assignment. Love the St Paul’s reflection image. The only thing to be aware of is the extremely sensitive shutter release.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2019 at 8:24 am

      It is good, yes, more impressed than I ever thought I would be with a small plastic camera. The shutter is sensitive I agree, which was why I stripped it down to clean and re-set the small plate spring under it. Much better now. I do like that image too, its been quite the favorite of the roll. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 9, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    I own Leicas and Contaxes but my XA and XA4 are my favorites of the bunch. So small and light, so simple and cool. The +1.5 EV is so damn clever.

    • Reply
      May 9, 2019 at 8:27 pm

      I would love to say that I can compare it to Leica and Contax but sadly I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to. Maybe a Fed or Zorki? I do love the simplicity and size of the XA. The sharp lens was a welcome but not entirely unexpected surprise.

  • Reply
    A Quest For an Ideal Compact Film SLR - Part 1: The Pentax MV-1 & 40mm f/2.8 - by Ed Lara - 35mmc
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