5 frames with...

5 Frames with the Olympus XA & Ektar 100 (at EI400) – by Simon King

Anyone who’s been following my writing for any amount of time probably knows that 35mm is among my least favourite focal lengths to work with for any kind of meaningful photography – despite being the focal length I learned on. I appreciate that some of the greatest photographers around both classic and contemporary have used the focal length to deliver blindingly good results, but when it comes to my own experiences I’ve always been left regretful.

Despite this I have never stopped trying to incorporate the lens into my workflow in some way. Most recently this has taken the form of the Olympus XA, which recently replaced my Rollei 35AFM as my every-day pocket carry. The Rollei was close enough to 35mm, and gave me some decent snapshot kind of images, but never anything worthy of printing, or keeping in my portfolio.

Similarly anyone who’s read my opinions on Kodak Ektar knows that it is one of my favourite colour emulsions, especially when exposed at and developed at 400 (a two stop push). I most recently shot a roll of Ektar at EI400 through my XA at the Hare Krishna Chariot Festival in Central London, and was really happy with the results – much more satisfied than anything I’d shot with the Rollei 35AFM – but not for any technical reasons.

I found that I was much more comfortable with the manual rangefinder focus of the XA, and could reliably achieve focus in a way I am familiar with – unlike the Rollei, which limited me to autofocus, and autoexposure as well. I couldn’t even differently expose my film without loading it into a cannister with a different DX coding.

I was also impressed at the practical backlighting solution, which at the flick of a lever alters exposure by +1.5 stops, which I put to use in this shot.

I had no trouble using the XA while at the same time using a 90mm on my M6. Switching between the two when I saw something that warranted using either was quick and easy.

I also embraced the crowded environment, and went for some much closer types of image than I usually shoot. You can tell these aren’t the best of my images, but I think if I spend some time working on it then I could achieve a more minimalist frame – closer to my usual style. Somehow I feel that the physical closeness in this situation made the images less intimate than some of my work on 90mm; definitely something for me to improve on in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to have a look at my work! If you’ve enjoyed these images then you might enjoy more of my photography, which can be seen over on my Instagram.

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  • Avatar
    Nick Lyle
    July 23, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Getting close is (obviously) the key to using wider lenses, and 35 is wider than it seems. Perhaps you are a bit too shy to use this lens, which demands you to get in people’s faces for best results. The XA should help; it is even harder to barge in on someone with a big fat camera.

    • Avatar
      July 23, 2019 at 8:24 pm

      I think there are plenty of applications for a 35mm lens which don’t require the user to be “in the face” of their subject. That’s simply one style and approach out of many, which can be achieved through most lenses.
      I wouldn’t say I’m shy as a photographer, but that the in your face approach simply doesn’t yeild images I’d be personally happy with.

  • Avatar
    July 23, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    I usually shoot my Ektar @ EI200, and I have experimented @ EI400. Did you find your XA meter the same as your M6?

    your shots seems to be not as washed out/weird colors as when I tried @ EI400.

    • Avatar
      July 23, 2019 at 11:11 pm

      I didn’t have any issues metering, but it’s not really something I think about too much these days.
      I do my best to find colourful scenes when shooting colour, and was lucky with the light!

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