Gear Review – Olympus XA

What? No X100T review?? Nope, still evaluating it. stay tuned. For now , though…

Say hello to my little friend, the 1979 Olympus XA. There are so many great articles on the Innerwebs about this camera that there’s not really anything i could add, but that’s not going to stop me.

img_20160707_223127 uh, 1979 called and they’d like their kickass camera back.


Here’s the technical goodies. Compact clamshell 35mm Zuiko lens (6 elements i n 5 groups) f/2.8 aperture priority rangefinder camera . Its meter supports film up to ISO 800, set via a selector under the lens. It can focus down to 2.8 ft, and has a max shutter speed of 1/500s. It can fit in the front pocket of my ten year old’s skinny jeans.

img_20160707_225939 iphone 5 vs. Olympus XA

As you can see it’s pretty small. It’s also very quiet. It has a hair trigger shutter button that’s almost flush with the body allowing quick shots with no shake. It has a custom flash module that actually screws into the side of it.  The clamshell design allows it to “fold” up to protect the lens when not in use.

img_20160707_225951 shhh… it’s sleeping

The real magic is the lens. It’s really sharp and contrasty. It does great in low light, meters fairly accurately in decent light , and well…it just takes great pictures!


I love this little compact! Even if I have no intention of taking a photo, this is the camera that I roll with out the door. Case and point — I took it to Target one afternoon and grabbed the next photo.

28062628156_0a2b6ea76d_k Yellow, 2016 Memphis – Olympus XA, Fuji color 200

It’s almost Lomo with the vignetting. It certainly has a sweet spot. f/5.6 and infinity are the marks on the camera. I tend shoot at f/4 or f/2.8 since I’m usually in darker light, so some darkening in the corners is expected.

29141830484_fca1120d6e_k Shadow II , Memphis 2016. – Olympus XA, Kentmere 100

For the above photo I set the camera to 200 ISO and exposed for the sunlight on the curtain. The Olympus can struggle and make weird choices occasionally, but that just adds to its charm.

Pushing Film – This was taken with the XA set to ISO 800, loaded with Kentmere 100, developed in Adox Rodinal for one hour.

What a fantastic bombastic in a tiny shell of plastic. They’re relatively inexpensive ~$50 or so. There was the follow up in 1980 called the XA2. It ditched the rangefinder in favor of fixed focus and a “zone” focus system. Me, I’m a fan of rangefinders. The XA is, in the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper, good enough for me.

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