1. Olympus XA
    Olympus XA, closed
    Olympus XA with iPhone 4S for scale
    Olympus XA2 and XA

    Arrived today from eBay - an Olympus XA.

    The XA is a remarkable piece of design. It crams a full 35mm film camera with a super-sharp 35mm f/2.8 lens, aperture-priority exposure, and a real rangefinder focusing system into a camera that is, well, absurdly small. Check out the shot of it with an iPhone - it’s incredibly compact, and yet it has some wonderful features. (Including, and I can’t get over this, real and precise rangefinder focusing.)

    The XA was designed by the brilliant Olympus designer Yoshihisa Maitani, who was also responsible for the Pen and OM lines. He wanted maximum quality and minimum space without resorting to a folding or collapsing configuration, leading to the design of the XA’s incredible lens - an ingenious “reverse retrofocus” design that resembled a telephoto lens, allowing the normal-wide 35mm lens to be built into a camera this tiny.

    I’ve owned an XA2 for a while, and loved it. The XA2 is a simplified version of the XA. In fact, it’s very similar in concept to the infamous Lomo LC-A (though in another universe of quality): a 35mm film camera with simple zone focusing and automatic exposure which is capable of low-light shooting. It’s also a 35mm lens, but it’s slightly slower at f/3.5 max aperture. It’s like an LC-A, only well-built and packing a fantastic lens and massively cheaper since it doesn’t have Lomography’s marketing behind it.

    I’ve loved the XA2 so much that I just had to find an original, full rangefinder XA. Mine’s in fine shape. I can’t wait to get out there and shoot with it.


  2. kaseycarroll asked: i just traded my friend a digital lens so that i could touch up on my actual knowledge for manual use of film and he gave me the olympus xa2! i was just wondering if you have any general tips on using the camera. i don't have a flash either and am just nervous on indoor shots (i have 800 film in and a few 400 rolls awaiting). i'm just very nervous to fuck up my pictures since it'll be my first roll! haha if you have ANY tips that would be amazing!

    The XA2’s a great camera - sort of a high-quality, much more affordable alternative to the Lomo LC-A. A few things I’ve learned from mine:

    When you’re taking photos, especially in low light and/or with slower film, keep your ears open for the sound of the shutter. It actually makes two sounds: a click when it opens, and a click when it closes. In bright light, this happens so fast it sounds like a single sound, but as it gets darker you can start to hear the individual clicks. Make sure to hold still and keep the camera stable until you hear the second click to keep blur to a minimum. Since the XA2 is all automatic, it’ll hold the shutter open as long as it thinks it needs to (up to a point) in dark settings, so there might be several seconds between the two clicks if it’s dark enough.

    The XA2 uses zone focusing, the “guess the distance” sort of method. There are three focus settings, the middle of which is the default. It’s good for most medium-distance shooting in normal light. Then there’s a close-up setting and a distant setting. In daylight, you’ll normally be using the middle setting, since the camera will be using a small aperture and your depth of focus will be large as a result. In fact, every time you close and reopen the clamshell cover, the XA2 resets to the middle focus setting.

    The manual gives a range of focus for each of the three notches, which is sort of a guide (especially in daylight). Specifically, the three notches focus at 4 feet, 8.9 feet, and 42 feet. In bright light, there will be a fairly wide range both closer and farther than those distances where everything will be acceptably sharp, due to the use of small apertures. In lower light, the depth of focus will get smaller as the aperture gets larger, so it gets a little trickier in darker settings. You’ll learn as you shoot with the XA2 how the focus range varies with the light.

    Zone focusing isn’t super-precise, but the trade-off is that you can guess the distance and point & shoot very quickly, especially in bright light when the depth of focus will be large.

    Don’t forget to set the ISO setting under the lens to match your film’s ISO rating.

    To test the XA2’s battery, flip the little lever on the bottom to the first dot. If the battery’s good, it’ll sound a tone. Flip the lever all the way out to use the self-timer.

    Those are some general tips. The XA2’s a fairly simple camera in terms of controls and settings, so it’s just a matter of learning the camera’s nature and how it changes depending on the amount of light and film speed. It’s a really fun shooter that’s capable of great, sharp results despite its size and simplicity. Most important thing is to have fun! :)

  3. Haven’t shot with this guy in a while, so it’s back in the rotation. Olympus XA2, an incredibly cool little 35mm pocket cam. Sort of vaguely similar to a Lomo LC-A, except high-quality, well-made, and not $300.

  4. Tending Bar on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Juan mixes up drinks at The Usual, the smoke-free Prohibition-era cocktail lounge on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth’s Near Southside. Film shot developed by me.

    Can I just take a moment to say how much I love the Usual? It’s so unlike any other bar in this city. It’s got gorgeous modern design, it’s right in the middle of the neighborhood and is easily walkable or bikeable, it’s got some outrageously delicious cocktails (plus a great beer selection) - and to top it all off, some of the friendliest and most helpful bartenders you’ll find anywhere. Such a wonderful place.

    Also decided it would be a good place to try out the XA2’s Lomo-like automatic low light exposure. Provided you keep yourself steady (and don’t move until after the *second* shutter click), you can often get some interesting stuff in low light with this little camera.

    Olympus XA2, Kodak Tri-X developed by me in Ilfosol 3.

  5. Barista at Work on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Andrew, one of the talented and just generally awesome baristas at Avoca Coffee in Fort Worth’s Near Southside. Olympus XA2, Ilford HP5+ developed by me in Ilfosol 3.