I wanted to get a very small, pocket size 35mm camera that I could rely on in those situations when an slr was too inconvenient to carry. Previously, I had used my iPhone when I didn’t have another camera available. I dislike using the iPhone and much prefer film, so a pocket size digital camera was out of the question. The camera needed to be light, small, reasonably good quality, offer some means to control focus and exposure, and it needed to be cheap. After some research, a rangefinder camera seemed to be a good solution. Most of the good quality rangefinders were expensive, but I stumbled upon the Olympus XA and it sounded good. And it was cheap! The Olympus XA is pretty cool. It has a 35mm f/2.8 lens, rangefinder focusing, film speed dial, plus 1.5 stop exposure compensation, and a removable flash. The aperture can be adjusted from 2.8 to 22, and it displays the shutter speed in the viewfinder. Speeds go as fast as 1/500 second. I’m not sure yet about the slow shutters, but it goes to several seconds or more. I removed the flash and threw it into my camera bag to keep the camera as small and compact as possible.
I took a trip with my family recently to Colorado and brought all of my gear. When we headed downtown to hang out, I decided to bring the Olympus XA. I knew we were going to go down to the river after shopping and eating, and I didn’t want to carry a heavy camera. Plus, this gave me the perfect opportunity to test out this little Olympus XA. The film I used was Ilford HP5+ to ensure I could achieve fast shutter speeds without having to constantly use a large aperture. The camera worked fantastic! It is very light and easily slipped in and out of my pocket. I had trouble focusing some of the shots, but mostly it was easy to focus. The leaf shutter is very quiet and the viewfinder is very bright. I had tons of fun using this camera and I could not wait to develop the film.
When I developed the film, I decided to reduce development because this film has had a lot of contrast in the past for me. I’m glad I reduced the development because the negatives look a little more fully exposed than I had anticipated. I wasn’t sure how things would look printed, and I became concerned that some of the negatives might be too dense. The negatives actually printed easily, though some took very long exposures to print correctly. The Olympus XA worked very well for me, and after I check it’s meter against my OM2 I’m sure I will be able to get even better results. And one of the best things about it was the price. $40 on eBay including the flash.