Olympus XA – The Pocket Camera

With the Nikon FM2n officially my go-to 35mm SLR, I realized that there are times when I need an even more portable and discreet shooter. I did some research and decided that the Olympus XA or Stylus Epic (also know as mju-II) would fit the bill nicely.

Both of these cameras have a brilliant 35mm F2.8 lens, though people will probably continue to debate which one is better. The XA is a bit more special though, as it is a real rangefinder whereas the Stylus Epic is autofocus. The XA is therefore my choice as I have a preference to control focus even though it is a bit of a moot point for a point and shoot.

So… with a bit of luck… I found this little itty-bitty camera!

Picture to be inserted

Unfortunately, despite the clean exterior, the foam inside has started to disintegrate. Even worse, the foam slots are tiny! I had an extra hard time cleaning the old foam out – had to whittle a very fine tipped bamboo pick so I could reach. Patience paid off though, and the new foam added that extra firmness/confidence when the door is closed.

Real World Testing

Of course, I popped a roll of HP5 and off I went. It was a bit awkward at first since the camera is absolutely diminutive and the shutter button so sensitive. I even wasted some frames by accident when I bumped the button. I eventually learned to just closed the cover after every shot.

I was pretty surprised by the results. The sharpness is okay, nothing to brag about. I was more impressed by the framing. This is not the first time that I’ve used a rangefinder, but the viewfinder on the XA is so small that I didn’t know how well I could compose.

Finally, it was definitely a challenge for me to shoot more intuitively – I am not great at being discreet and missed quite a few shots.

PS: I totally mis-managed the temperatures or quality of the developing chemicals. If you look carefully, you can see the alternating exposures from different concentration around the sprocket holes.

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