Olympus compacts seemed to have been like London buses for a while round our way. No sooner had I caught the XA2 than it was closely followed by a Trip 35 at the same charity shop. As with the XA2 it was in pretty good cosmetic condition and was complete with pouch and instructions. Remembered from before as having an interest in old cameras I gave answers to the usual questions – Yes. You can still get film – No, it doesn’t have to be expensive – I get a lot of fun and satisfaction out of film photography. You know the sort of thing.
Having survived the third degree I was allowed to pay my fare and depart with the Trip. But not before promising to come back and show the results of running a film through it.
That was in the morning. In the afternoon, in spite of the iffy weather and Josie’s pessimistic prediction that it was going to rain, it was off to Greenwich again. This time with a Trip loaded with the second roll of Kentmere 400. Same destination but a different route. The XA2 took me there from the east and the Trip from the south, but like Old Father Thames, they both got there just the same.
By Way of a Brief Introduction
While we make our way, what can I possibly say about this camera that hasn’t been said before? Not a lot. It is, to use an over- and misused word, iconic. Thanks to an intensive advertising campaign featuring you-know-who the name, if not the camera itself, became well known to Joe Public of a certain age. Such is the power of advertising that yes, that was mentioned, and the advert even quoted, as part of the conversation in the charity shop.
Popular in its time with those who had been persuaded that they needed something better than an Instamatic does it still live up to its perceived reputation? Let’s find out.
The 5 Frames
In keeping with the camera’s name and implicit purpose we’ll start by being a bit touristy. Following the route through the Park I always take when showing visitors Greenwich for the first time the view from the top of Observatory Hill never fails to impress. It certainly has the wow factor and may well be known as one of the sights of London even to those who haven’t visited.
Down the hill and into the depths of the Old Naval College you can find a couple of parade grounds. These are laid out to give the impression of a man-of-war’s maindeck with a raised quarterdeck for the reviewing officers. Strangely, they don’t seem to attract the attention of many tourists. In this one the frieze above the ‘quarterdeck’ depicts the death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just need to check on something. Just as I expected, still no-one in, just the reflections of the opposite side of the courtyard.
Along the riverfront to the Cutty Sark and Josie has been proved right, of course. It’s starting to rain but that’s not stopping the traditional fun.
Back through town for the bus home and the only sunshine of the afternoon caught the mosaic floor of what was Burton’s gentlemen’s outfitters. It is now a restaurant but as the building is locally listed it still retains some its original exterior features.
Comparisons and Conclusion
Given that I don’t think of Kentmere 400 as a particularly contrasty film and the fact that it was a pretty murky day I was struck by the performance of the Trip’s 40mm lens unaided by the addition of a yellow filter. In fairness, the XA2’s 35mm was no slouch in this respect either. In fact both cameras proved to be far more capable image capturers than I expected. Both punch above their weight and deserve to be considered as much more than mere snapshooters.
From a personal point of view (literally) the Trip’s viewfinder is a little on the small side for my bespectacled eye. Although a smaller camera, XA2’s is slightly, but not much, larger. On the subject of viewfinders, in the Trip’s a red flag pops up and locks the shutter when a slower speed than 1/40 would be required. In the XA2’s on the other hand, a green diode lights when a speed of 1/30 or slower, down to 2 secs. Has been chosen. So far so good, if confusingly so. But then consider this: while both cameras have a tripod socket the Trip has provision for a cable release whereas the XA2 doesn’t. I’m sure there must be logic in this, just not as I know it.
None of that of course prevents either camera being great fun to use. They both come with the added benefit of being unobtrusive and unthreatening. I quickly realised that no notice was taken of me, or if it was that I was dismissed as just an old fart snapping away with an old camera. An astute verdict that I’m quite happy to live with.
I kept my promise and showed the results, none of which have been tinkered with apart from minor cropping, to the good folk in the charity shop. As I left I overheard the remark, “I do like black and white photographs”. A fitting conclusion, I think.
Again, thanks for reading.
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