5 frames in Portland with an Olympus XA4 and Portra 400

We travelled to Oregon for a week in May. We were greeted by a heat wave in Portland after four chilly nights camping in Bend. I brought my trusty Olympus XA4, which is easy to pocket on bike rides and hikes. The 28mm focal lens seems to match the way I see the world – I rarely have to zoom with my feet when I compose. I’ve also used the macro capabilities more than I anticipated, mostly for flowers and artful cappuccinos.

We stayed in Ladd’s Addition, apparently Portland’s oldest planned neighbourhood. The tree-lined streets were welcome shelter from the sun! Each day we enjoyed morning coffee in a café in the Northwest (“upper left”) corner of the unique neighbourhood.

There are two things I don’t like about the XA4: the automatic DX code reader that overrides the ISO selector, and the lack of exposure compensation. Fortunately, both can easily be solved by a placing a strip of gaffer’s tape over the DX code contacts. For particularly bright subjects (like snow) or backlit scenes I’ll set the camera ISO one or two stops below the film ISO, and rely on the overexposure tolerance of colour negative film.

We travelled from East Portland to the St. Johns neighbourhood to visit the fine folks at Blue Moon Camera & Machine. It just happened to be the day of the St Johns Parade!

This was a fun situation for the XA4. Scale-focus to 3m metres (the default whenever you open the clamshell), ISO to 200 (+1 stop), point and shoot. I love how the view is wide enough to show the crowd on both sides of the parade route. We saw marching bands, classic cars, tractors, dancers, and pirates.

These photos are from the sunny side of the street. Photos taken from the shady sidewalk didn’t turn out as well, overwhelmed by the contrast of shaded foreground and bright background. At Blue Moon I got to nerd out about Nikon SLRs and pick up a Blue Moon shirt. I love their logo.

We visited the Hoyt Arboretum before heading home from our trip. I finished up the roll of Portra 400 photographing trees in the morning light.

The roll was developed by Rocket Reprographics in Vancouver BC, scanned using a Plustek 8200i, and inverted using Negative Lab Pro v2.4.2

Thanks for taking a look! You can find me on flickr and Instagram.

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Subscribe here.

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

About The Author

6 thoughts on “5 frames in Portland with an Olympus XA4 and Portra 400”

  1. I was just in St Johns on a visit to see my daughter. Stopped in at Blue Moon, had breakfast at a great little cafe, walked under the St Johns bridge, and took a lot of pictures. Portland is a great spot to visit for so many reasons!


    1. Portland seems to have so many unique little neighbourhoods with hubs of restaurants and cafes. A wonderful place to visit, especially on a bike!

  2. Hi Gus!
    These photos are wonderful, especially the final shot of the tree! The glowing light flowing through the blossoms is breathtaking and highlights how capable the XA4 really is!

    1. Hey Anders, thanks for your kind words!

      I’ve had the XA4 for about a year now. I’ve taken some of my favorite photos with it, it’s a sharp little lens!

  3. Simon Cygielski

    The Olympus XA line has been one of my biggest disappointments in compact rangefinders. My XA’s lens was pretty crappy in the wider apertures, defeating the main advantage of RF cameras – being able to shoot comfortably in low light situations.
    I still love these cameras’ design and compactness, but sadly they are not the right tool for me. On the other hand, it seems like you’ve really found a camera that fits your needs, and the results are really nice. Thanks for the images and write-up.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the kind words!

      Interesting! I haven’t actually shot much in low light but I’m tempted to experiment now to see if I bump into the same issues. My XA4 mostly gets used hiking or skiing (because it’s so compact) in daylight with higher ISO’s (200 or 400 in summer, 400 or 800 in winter) to maximize depth of field.

      Horses for courses, I guess!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top