Tread Carefully


I have been testing an Olympus XA2 for my neighbour. It has a persistent though intermittent light leak that I am trying to solve, which means in three days I have run 2 rolls of film through it.

This is one of my favourite photos from those experiments. While not immediately obvious, it is shadows on stair treads. The not immediately obvious part is what I like about it.

The Olympus XA2 is very similar in appearance to the XA which I have written a bit about before, and which I am using a lot lately.

However, under the surface there are several significant differences:

  • the lens is a 35mm f3.5 lens (the XA is 35/2.8)
  • exposures are fully automatic (the XA is aperture priority) and
  • focus is set for 3 zones – close, mid-distance and far (the XA has rangefinder focusing)
  • the XA also has a backlight compensation lever

In summary, the XA2 is a true point and shoot – if you want to control exposure you have to fiddle with the ISO setting and you can’t control the depth of field and barely the focus. The XA has an arguably better lens, with control over depth of field (aperture) and thus shutter speed, and you can focus it. Even so, in many ways I prefer the XA2 – it’s metering is excellent and taking pictures is simplicity defined. Once the film is advanced (and in the rare circumstances you might need a different focus than the mid-distance default) all you have to do is frame the photo and press the shutter. Or, point and shoot. It’s great for street photography. The optics are very good, and it otherwise shares all the terrific design features of the XA – a sliding clamshell cover that protects the lens and controls and shuts off the electronics when closed preventing accidental exposures and dead batteries, the pocketable size, the discrete appearance and very quite shutter, and many other excellent design features.



Olympus XA2, f3.5/35mm lens, Fuji Superia X-Tra 400 film, scanned with Epson V700


14 thoughts on “Tread Carefully

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    • Thanks Andy. I find it quite disorienting too. It is looking straight down onto 3 stair treads that have a shadow angling across them. Bits of the shadow are “missing” on the vertical parts of the stairs giving the breaks in pattern. Enhanced by the middle stair being brighter for some reason – possibly due to lens vignetting.


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