My Latest Vintage Film Camera: 1979 Olympus XA

In case you didn't already know, I'm a fan of "analog", aka film photography. I have collected a few film cameras over the last couple of years, all of which I use. My latest acquisition is a 1979 Olympus XA, which I got a couple weeks ago while visiting my Parents in Pittsburgh. A 1979 Vintage Olympus XA Compact Rangefinder Film Camera

The camera was purchased by my Father to use on the many outdoor activities we did back then including backpacking, fishing and canoeing. He shot mostly slide film with the camera and it got used quite a bit from 1979 to 1990 or so. After that it was used fairly infrequently until about 1996 and since then has been sitting in the original plastic case in the basement. My Father "re-discovered" it while cleaning out the basement and saved it for me.  Needless to say I was more than happy to take it off his hands and put it back into use. :-)

The Olympus XA is a compact rangefinder with a 35mm f:2.8 Zuiko lens. It's an aperture priority configuration with a maximum shutter speed of 1/500 second. It easily fits in your pocket and has a quiet shutter, which I think will make it a nice street film camera. The camera originally came with a flash but my Father couldn't find it. He's going to keep looking but it's not a big deal to me.

Here are some links to information on the camera:

XA The Original

Ken Rockwell's Page on the Olympus XA

Wikipedia Olympus XA page

The Camerapedia Olympus XA Page

CameraQuest XA page

Japan Camera Hunter's Olympus XA page

How Does The Olympus XA Work

When I got back from our trip to Pittsburgh I opened up the camera and dropped in the who-knows-how-old batteries that I found in the camera case into the camera. When I opened up the clamshell case and hit the battery check button I got a nice beep, indicating the battery still had some juice in it. The 500px Global Photo Walk just happened to be the Saturday (September 6th) after we got back so I figured "What The Heck, let's do the entire thing with just my XA!". So when Saturday came, I loaded up one 36-exposure roll of Kentmere 100 B&W film and headed to the Buckhead section of Atlanta for the photo walk. As I expected, I was the only photographer with a 1970's vintage 35mm film camera :-) While most everyone else had their DSLR's with backpacks full of multiple lenses and memory cards, all I had was my little Olympus XA and 36 potential images. I enjoyed the challenge.

Seriously though, one of the things I love about using my film cameras is that it forces me to slow down, take my time, and really think about each shutter activation. I think everybody can improve their photography by shooting with a film camera, especially one with a fixed focal length lens. Here's a couple of quick images from the camera. You may see some dust spots, etc. as I didn't spend a lot of time trying to clean them up:


A Bronze Sculpture In The Buckhead Section Of Atlanta

Reflections In The Windows Of A Building


The Verdict

All-in-all I'm very happy with my "new" Olympus XA. It's a very compact camera with a nice lens and fairly ergonomic controls. The images seem to be nice and contrasty, especially when I do my job right as the photographer. It will take me a while to get used to the rangefinder focus system but I don't think that will take too long. If you're interested, Ebay has a selection of XA's for sale.

Stay tuned for more images from this camera. I'm going to use this whenever possible, especially as I explore the art of street photography. I think the Olympus XA will make a great film camera for that.