This is a story about love! Untainted love, a love so strong and pure….. oh man, I’ve got to stop this gushing. Just concentrate and get down to the basics about why I came to love this tiny lump of glass and plastic.
The Olympus XA2 is the third in the line started by Yoshihisa Maitani. After the amazing Pen series of cameras, after the outstanding Pen F SLR and the undying OM series, Maitani San wanted to create the ultimate pocketable 35mm full frame camera. And he succeeded wildly.
The first masterwork was the diminutive XA. Tiny but nonetheless a full featured rangefinder with aperture priority automatic exposure and a fabulous lens. The lens alone has been a marvel and a real headache for the optical engineers. How to fit a 35mm lens in a 32mm deep housing? Easy peasy, just build it like a telephoto lens (A 500mm lens is NOT 50cm long, hopefully). This worked, all the time retaining a superb lens quality, sharpness and contrast.
Then came a line of derivatives of the original XA. The XA1 was forgettable… utterly! A fixed focus with a selenium meter like the Olympus Trip 35, full automatic exposure…. nothing to write home about (I’m not putting down the Trip 35 here, that’s a fantastic camera on it’s own). Just that the XA1 did not reach it’s stellar performance.
But there were the other models, the Olympus XA2, an XA without rangefinder but nice zone focus system and a full automatic exposure that gives premium results. The XA3 was an XA2 with DX coding built in and the XA4 had a 28 ‘macro’ lens that focused down to 30cm…. OK, they existed, but my camera of choice is the Olympus XA2. Wonderful sharp lens, smooth operation, near completely silent operation and so small I can stick it in the front pocket of my (tight) jeans. Yes, I’m over 50 and wearing tight jeans….
I prefer this camera so much that over the last 3 years I bought, sold, bought again and sold and bought one again. It’s always in my pocket and it’s the camera that always brought me back to film photography when I foolishly tried to save money by relying on a digital camera. Now it will stay for good! I found a very good one with a perfect lens, a sliding lens cover that does not block the shutter as can happen with this camera – you always have to pay attention that the cover is fully open.
Focus is a bit of trouble, sure, but you just have to try and set the slider to the right position. Sometimes it works out! Well, often it works out as my developed films show. Exposure is normally spot on even in difficult conditions. A wonder as you don’t have many possibilities to tweak it, except for changing ISO.
It’s simply so small and hassle free that it incites me to use it. Then again, did I mention that the lens it very sharp?
Compared to ‘other cameras’ (Hamish will understand the pun ;-), it’s tiny!
Unobtrusive! A spy camera. You can bring it to your eye in a split second and fire off a shot before anyone takes note. I even shoot blind from the hip sometimes, making for ‘interesting’ pictures….
Sometimes it’s hard to find a rational reason. Some cameras just click into place with you, they just work. This one does for sure, though it’s not the only one. Now as an additional bonus it can live in my coat or pants pocket. You can get a clean and perfectly working Olympus XA2 for around 40€ (30£) and might even get the fitting A11 flash with it. The A16 flash is bigger but more powerful, and more expensive too. Even with the flash attached to it’s left side, the XA2 is amazingly compact.
Try one out sometimes, it’s well worth it, and faster to shoot than the XA rangefinder. If you nail focus, it’s just as sharp or even better.