Olympus XA2

This compact camera from 1980 still looks modern today!

Still looking good

Olympus XA2
Camera: £5.99
Postage: £2.75
Total: £8.74

The Olympus XA2 is an extremely compact zone-focus automatic camera. The design dates back to 1979, but it still looks modern today. The XA2, made in 1980 was a lower-cost version of the XA, but still cost £70 which is around £300 today. It reduced costs by using a simpler lens and focussing system.

In Focus

The original was a rangefinder but the XA2 just has three focus zones to choose from, close-up, medium and distant. The pictures on the selector pretty much tell you which to use – it resets to the medium setting every time you open it but that is usually fine for everything. It makes the process of taking a picture a lot quicker, which for an unobtrusive, black, compact camera is often exactly what you want.  The only other control is a manual film speed selector – great for an automatic camera as it lets you manually adjust exposure as well as use any wacky film speed as it covers 1/3rd stops from 25 all the way up to 800.

Clammy

A lot of people call the design a clamshell, which I guess refers to the rounded shape of the lens cover, but the last time I checked clams hinged open whereas this cover slides. It’s a neat and compact way of making a pocketable camera, protecting the lens and preventing accidental shutter-presses and the design was continued in the long-running mju- series of Olympus cameras which lasted until the digital age.

Clever

There’s a lot about it that is clever, but the cleverest bit is that you don’t have to be to operate it. The three focus zones are pretty forgiving and the shutter is automatic with a red light warning you of slow shutter speeds so you know to hold it super-still or use a tripod in challenging light conditions. It’s important to wait for the second click when pressing the shutter as it is capable of holding the shutter open for up to two seconds when it needs to.

Flashy

Mine came with a flash unit, the A11, which bolts really neatly on to the side – another example of great design – and which should probably be used whenever you’re selecting the close-up focus zone. Unlike many flashes, including even some very fancy and very modern ones, it doesn’t seem to flatten the appearance of the image. That may be a result of it being mounted to the side, or that the camera is medium-to-wide-angled with a 35mm lens, but I am just guessing.

Mystery Film

Lomo 400
Cost: £0.99
Postage: £3.30
Expired: New film
ISO: 400
Format/Type: Colour negative
Exposures: 36
Processing: £2.99
Full Total: £8.18
Cost per shot: £0.23
My Rating: 9

The film was Lomo 400, which I would guess is repackaged Agfa Vista. Looking at examples online Agfa seems to make reds stand out more, which is what seems to be happening here. Fuji seems to favour greens, while Kodak is more neutral with perhaps a bit of blue-green bias.

There are quite a few pretty decent shots here and I’m really pleased with both the film and the camera – a couple of them look as sharp as a digital picture which is really nice to see.  Definitely one for my favourites bag, I’ll be shooting a lot more with this camera – its small size and ease and speed of operation make it the perfect camera to grab and go.

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