5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

By Joseph Irvin

There seems to be a lot of love for the Olympus XA (and its sequels) on this site.  I’m not here to add to that. Sure, it’s a fine camera with a lens that is very sharp and contrasty, which is why I decided I wanted one. The more I shoot it the more I enjoy shooting it because it’s light, small, and tough. The problem is of course that I’m unintentionally ruining some of my favorite shots.

Just looking at the quality of the Zuiko lens here, I think it renders Kodak Tri-X with a characteristic punch. Though I usually shoot black & white I’m excited to shoot more color with this camera on a personal level; what I have so far has pleased me immensely. I’ve always liked the look of photos taken with Olympus compacts. The nature of compact cameras being what they are though, there are always tradeoffs and for me it becomes what compromises you can realistically live with. The XA has less than most others because it is a true rangefinder camera; if I fudge the focus it’s entirely on me.  If I stick my finger too close to the lens that is also entirely on me.

For years I’ve been shooting a photo project documenting my job driving jeep tours with a bunch of dress-up cowboys, and most of these photos are of co-workers who are real characters (in many ways).  I like them because they have my friends in them, if for no other reason.  In fact I debated quite a while whether to even put this piece out, and certainly none of these photos are making it into my permanent portfolio.

Because as someone who at least pretends to be a real photographer I don’t really want mistakes of mine out there for everyone to see; bad for my professional image, right?  The problem is that these really are ones I would have used, and my family being pack rats and all, I have a hard time throwing anything away.  Not if I can find a way to turn mistakes into something helpful and good!

Now it is my own fault for not watching where my big meaty hands are when holding this rather petite camera, and looking back through the archives here I couldn’t find anyone who had the same problem that I had.  If nothing else it will teach me to look at each roll of film as I shoot it instead of putting it off until I have a larger batch, then I would have been more aware of the problem.  It’s also not like I had a huge issue either: out of a dozen rolls of film I’ve shot with this camera so far there were maybe an average of one or two exposures per roll that I’d say I ruined.  The ones that I did though, haunt me.  So this is an ode to them in a hope that they will find new life.

Also, I think it should be noted that for all the praise that a camera gets, beware of opinions that are near-universal.  The human error notwithstanding it’s a nice little camera but again, there’s no such thing as perfection.

Lab-developed.  Scanned/finished by myself using the Pakon F335 and Affinity Photo.
You can find my varied work at The Resurrected Camera or for strictly photo project work (which is all-cowboy all the time), my Instagram: @thefamouspdog.

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About The Author

By Joseph Irvin
Joseph Irvin is a Colorado-based composer/photographer/filmmaker. He started shooting film after rescuing his grandpa's 35mm cameras from being neglected in a drawer. Since 2014 he has operated the photography blog The Resurrected Camera and is currently shooting a photo project documenting the Colorado tourism industry.
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Comments

Gary Smith on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 08/06/2024

It's an unfortunate bit of reality that is easily fixed by cropping (except for that last one).
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Jeffery Luhn on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 08/06/2024

Hey Joseph,

I like your pix! After 53 years of being a pro photographer and later a photo instructor, many of my favorite shots are of my family and friends. I was so focused on commercial work that I neglected documenting my life and times. Even if you don't print those shots now, shoot, shoot, shoot, the people you like and love.

About the Olympus XA: I used mine as a 'production' camera to document commercial setups, mostly shooting Kodachrome or pushed Ektachrome. Stellar results, but the shutter died after a year. I bought another and it lasted less than 2 years. I replaced those with a Kodak Retina that is still working. I wish those XA cameras were more dependable. The form and function was clever.
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Kevin on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 08/06/2024

I've done this too and I know how you feel but I would say that if you aren't selling them, they aren't ruined. If you aren't close to the people in the shots you probably won't even keep track of these. But if the people in the shots are friends, in 20-30 years you may like them more than pictures you currently think are better; assuming you are the sort to laugh about mistakes that didn't kill you.
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Geoff Chaplin on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 09/06/2024

Well done to post these (excellent) images and text! It's often hard to admit one's own faults. And you're right, no camera is perfect, even the M3 - within the constrained scope of film rangefinders - is not perfect.
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Marcus Gunaratnam on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 09/06/2024

I am an Olympus collector from way back,I bought an Olympus PenFT on my way to migrating to Oz, in Singapore and have bought only Olympus gear,from XA for my son,stylus also for my son,to OM1,then OM4-Ti,and adaters for non olympus lenses,Vivitar Series1 f2.8,35-85mm was my go to lens.I now own a PenFT with the rare f1.2 42mmlens which produces a dreamy bokeh wide open but is pin sharp at f2.8. The XA produces sharp pics at any distance considering the range finder mechanism, the lens is sharp regardless of aperture setting or distance.
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Bob Janes on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 09/06/2024

It is embarrasing and annoying when we make a rookie mistake (as we all do) - so is admirable of you to share the mistake. Stilll lots of good image space for you to crop to - I'm sure the next film will feature less fingertip...
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Tony Warren on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 09/06/2024

Very nostalgic for me Joseph. Your comment re its ruggedness rang a bell. My XA was always in my trousers pocket for many years and gave me many excellent images. Indeed it travelled with my change and keys so much that the paint was completely rubbed off the back. That focus lever was very clever, closing to infinity as the front was closed but a tad too close to the lens but I don't remember having any problems like yours. Still, kudos for acknowledging it. Thanks for the post.
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Daniel Castelli on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 10/06/2024

We bought one new in 1982. We ‘lost’ it in the mid-80’s during a few moves from apartments to our house. I found it at the beginning of the pandemic. I had the foresight to remove the batteries sometime in the 1980’s. I cleaned it up, new batteries & some BW film. It was my edc during the pandemic. I now carry it as my back-up for my M2 when we travel. The M2 is fitted w/the 35mm f/2.5 color-skopar & the XA has a 35mm f/2.8. Both are R/F equipped. Like big brother & little brother.
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Nathan Sherwood on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 10/06/2024

We've all done it! The thing that did me in a few times with the XA was the wrist strap- if it wasn't around my wrist it was liable to curl around the front of the camera and come into frame.
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Joseph Irvin on 5 frames with the Olympus XA that were ruined by the addition of my finger

Comment posted: 13/06/2024

Thanks for all your encouragement, guys! As far as I'm concerned, the only mistake I made was waiting so long to review my negatives, because if I had known earlier I would have watching my finger placement more closely.
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