Olympus XA


Yesterday at lunch I came across an Olympus XA in a thrift store. It was listed at $20, but since the battery was dead and thus no way of checking the shutter, and since the battery compartment on the A11 detachable flash unit was heavily corroded to the point the battery was stuck inside, I managed to get the camera for $10.

New batteries allowed the shutter to fire, once. And then it was stuck, which the XA forums suggest is quite common. One person suggested smacking the camera into the palm of the hand a couple of times fixed theirs. I tried it on mine, and the shutter started working. So, having only 24 hours in which to get a refund I rushed a roll of cheap film through the camera and had it processed within a few hours of purchase. Since that all fell into place quickly, I can share the photos within a few hours of getting them back.

I really like the camera – it is exceptionally small for a full frame camera, fitting easily in a pocket. Quite a bit smaller than my Olympus Pen, it is designed by the same genius, the late Yoshihisa Maitani. It is an aperture priority camera – you adjust the f-stop and it selects the speed. It has rangefinder focusing, a fairly fast (f2.8) 35mm lens. The “dust cover” slides back uncovering the lens and the view finder – this is the camera which first used such a design.

These shots are from that first experimental roll of film, all in the back lot behind View Towers – locations my long time viewers will recognise. If you browse this link, you will find similar shots made with the Olympus Pen on black and white film. Others from my XA will be found at this link, which will keep an up to date list as I post more from the camera.

There is no reason to be taking the XA back! I cleaned out the flash battery compartment with some mechanical chipping combined with a bit of vinegar to break down the alkaline leakage. It works just fine now, so I think I got a pretty good deal for a functional very small camera with nice optics which is a nice companion to the Olympus Pen half frame camera. The Pen came from the same thrift store and was an even better deal, but I think this camera is going to travel in my pocket quite often.

To read more about these cameras check out Film Advance’s post; this is one of Gary Seronik’s favourite cameras. Also, if you have not seen his website before, you will enjoy a browse. Gary takes excellent photos on film, is based here in Victoria and so you can get a look at my surroundings through another photographer’s eye.

A detailed technical review of the Olympus XA which dates from its introduction in 1979 can be found here.

My apologies to everyone that has left comments in the past week or so. My time has been completely consumed by other matters and I have not been able to respond. I will do so soon, I promise.











Olympus XA, f2.8/35mm lens, Fuji Superia 200 film, scanned with Epson V700


9 thoughts on “Olympus XA

  1. Pingback: Tread Carefully | burnt embers

  2. That second shot is very nice – you’ve posted a similar one before, haven’t you? (Not a criticism: I really do like the shapes of that metal thing and the way all the different shades of green on the wall.)


    • Hi Melinda. You are quite right, there is a black and white version of that from the Olympus Pen here: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-5fb.
      There is also a black and white version of the fourth shot, also from the Pen, here: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-5na
      I am glad you like them, it is a fascinating wall. I expect I will photography it again. I was especially pleased with the closeup view revealing those radiating lines in the corner of the curved sheet metal. I can imagine someone at a large sheet metal press carefully crimping there way around that curve. Artful in its own way.


    • One additional comment – I purposefully chose some things I had shot before with the Pen to compare to the XA – it seemed a good way to test the camera, and the Pen is a pretty high standard to meet. I think it is close, but I have to give it, so far, to the Pen. I think its lens is sharper, but that could be the difference in lighting and type of film. So I have a roll of Neopan 100 in the XA right now and when I am finally done with it, I will have a better basis for comparison. I think.


  3. Pingback: Wall Decorations | burnt embers

    • Hi Mark. Nice to hear you had one of these. I wish I had known of them in teh 80’s – I was so focussed on my Spotmatic that I hardly gave a thought to other kinds of cameras, and I could have used a portable little camera to take my own shots while living in the UK. Almost all my photos from that time ended up as project photos in a museum, so I have nearly none to show for 4 years. This would have been the perfect solution.
      The viewfinder on this camera is quite bright for focusing. The problem for me, as a glasses wearer, is seeing the framing marks around the edges and also seeing the shutter speed display which is not too visible with glasses on. I am getting the hang of it though.


    • Thanks Richard – it is a very nice find indeed. It is not much larger than the palm of my hand, so fits very nicely in a pocket. The optics seem to be more than good enough, and the light meter works well. So, it will travel with me for the foreseeable future.


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