Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Olympus XA2

Olympus XA2

I first met Olympus cameras back in the early 90s, while trying to get serious about 35mm photography. Honestly, I never did, I am still an amateur, albeit with a passion for the old/classic/film cameras. My first Olympus was an OM2n, with all the bells and whistles, bough for almost nothing in a car boot sale near Watford, Herts. As I was relatively green in the SLR field, didn’t knew what I had in my hands and I soon got tired of it. I traded it for an Olympus IS1000, which I still have. Not a smart move, but I didn’t know any better. However, I kept the Zuiko 50/1.4 and 1.8, together with the motor winder, filters and other stuff. Everything else, gone. I am still missing that camera.

Then, among other cameras, I bought an XA which proved to be a pain: shutter release button was erratic, had a mind of its own, the lens cover was stubborn and many times refused to slide, the lens had a minor blemish, which even it didn’t show on the film, it annoyed me greatly. Sold that one, and stayed off the XA series for about 20 years. Of course, the demons of GAS got the better of me. They do, sooner rather than later, you know.

In the late 2016, this XA2 came for sale, brand new in its original box, with the A11 flash, leaflets and whatnots. It was cheap so I said, what the heck, I can have it and see if I get lucky. And finally… 🙂 .

The camera worked from the box, and it did so in a very straightforward manner. No troubles, no hiccups, just worked like a charm. To this day, it’s my backup camera when I travel. Cannot praise it enough. Now, a few words about this jewel, although the internet is filled to the brim with such reviews (which this is not, mind).

It was produced between 1980 and 1986, has a 3-zones scale focus system, very easy to use and comprehend. Glass is a sharp 4-elements at 3.5, and I cannot emphasize enough on how sharp this Zuiko 35mm lens is. The camera shoots in an automatic mode, meaning that it decides what aperture and shutter speed to employ in a certain situation. All you have to do is make sure the focus is right, and again, this is very easy.

Operation wise, slide the lens cover, advance the film via the knurled disk on the right side of the camera, make your focus from 1 meter to infinity and you’re set. Of course, prior to that, you have to let the camera know what ASA you’re using, and you do that by operating that minute slider under the lens. One can set the ASA from 25 to 800 ASA, which is quite a large scale to have. The viewfinder is lined, is bright and is the largest one I have seen.

There is a frame counter on the top plate, right side, above the film advance wheel. The shutter release button, operated electromagnetically, is very sensitive, at least it is in my case. A rewind crank is used to rewind the film back into the film cassette, when you’re done with that roll. Under the lens you’ll find the flash switch as well.

The camera comes with a dedicated, proprietary flash, named A11. This screws in the left side of the camera, where it connects to the circuitry via two contacts. Flash photography with XA2 is easy and I had good results.

Under the camera, on the bottom plate, you will find the self timer, which acts as a battery checker too. Not many people know that you can use the switch piece for stabilizing the camera on a table, it becomes a support of sorts, when opened. The camera takes 2 x 1.5v batteries, of the LR44 or A76 type. And a strange thing: the low light warning is a green LED on the right side of the viewfinder, inside. Why green and not red, I have no idea. 

Olympus XA2 with Svema Foto 100

It is one of my preferred street photography camera; it just go on and on. Make your focus from 1.2 meters (4 ft) to infinity, and the camera will select the appropriate settings to deliver beautiful images in focus. And if you have a 400 film inside the camera, the day is yours. As said, this is a beautiful and ingenious camera, made for your peace of mind, so you can focus (pun intended.) onto the images alone.