Olympus XA, XA 2, and XA 4 – Ground-breaking camera design.

 

In order to understand my fascination with the LOMO LC-A, it helps to know about the camera that started me thinking differently about photography.

The Olympus XA , XA 2 and XA 4 all share the same ground-breaking design, and were designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, whose other credits include the Olympus OM-1 and Pen F cameras. The XA series was  cutting – edge design in 1979-1980;  the clam-shell design influenced future generations of Olympus Stylus cameras and a generation of  film and digital copycats.

The XA came first, and offered aperture controlled exposure and a split-image rangefinder. The XA can take an 8 second exposure, getting it into LOMO LC-A low-light territory.

The XA 2 is a simplified version, with full automatic exposure and zone focusing controls. The longest shutter speed is 2 seconds.

The XA 4 is a modernized XA 2, with DX film encoding and a macro focus.

All cameras used the same A9M, A1L, A11 and A16 flashes – almost identical in appearance but differing in battery type and power.

Almost 30 years later, XA 2s have seen a revival as  “gateway” cameras to Lomography. Both feature similar exposure and focusing systems, both are about the same size, both have fast, wide angle lenses, and both feel very similar to hand. However, LC-A prices have increased to the $200+ mark, used XA2s are available for a tenth of the price.

 

 

 

Where as you get unpredictable results under most any lighting conditions with the LC-A, the XA 2 shoots remarkably well in good light, OK in low-light, and needs the flash when the LC-A is still going strong.

The XA 2 and the LC-A each manage to capture a special mix of qualities that other technically superior cameras don’t quite achieve.

The XA 2 was my gateway camera; I wasn’t in a  position to spend $150 on a camera sight unseen, as photography was a new hobby of mine. I bought my first XA 2 in 2000, used it for 2 years, then added a LOMO LC-A to my collection and gave my XA 2 to a friend.

Last week I bought a dinged up XA 2 with good glass and A11 flash for $4.99 at my local junk shop. I cleaned it up, ran a test roll through it, and have been riding a wave of nostalgia shooting with it. It reminds me of a simpler time in my life, and a time when I saw photography anew. These first test shots aren’t anything special, but they do show what you can do with it:

 

Specifications:

Camera Type 35mm full frame compact camera with EE aperture/shutter from f/3,5 @ 2 sec. to f/14 @ 1/750 sec. control operation
Film Format 24×36mm
Lens D Zuiko 35mm f/3,5 (4 elements, 4 groups)
Accessory Size N/A
Focusing Range 1,20 m to infinity
Shutter Speeds 2 ~ 1/750 sec.
Exposure meter Single CdS cell located above front lens element, programs aperture selection
EV Range EV 2 (f/3,5 @ 2 sec.) to EV 17 (f/14 @ 1/750 sec.) with ISO 100 film
Film Speed Range ISO 25 (DIN 15) to ISO 800 (DIN 30)
Viewfinder Information Bright frame line, Parallax correction mark, long exposure warning and flash mark
Focusing System 3 zone indicators
Flash Synchronization Compatible with the Olympus A1L, A11, and A16 flashes
Film Loading Easy film loading system
Film Advance Built-in double exposure and double avance prevention
Self Timer 12 sec. delay
Battery Two SR44, Battery check
Dimensions 102 x 65 x 40 mm
Weight 200g

XA/XA 2 links:

http://www.diaxa.com/xa/xa2.htm

http://mattdentonphoto.com/cameras/olympus_xa2.html

http://www.kenrockwell.com/olympus/xa.htm

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