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.

Buying Your First Film Camera-Podcast Episode 003

Buying a film camera can be a great way to improve your photography. If you've listened to Episode 2 you heard several key reasons why I think that shooting with a film camera is a great way to improve your skill as a photographer, no matter what your experience. If you are considering purchasing your very own analog camera, congratulations, you're on a path that you probably will never want to get off of!

Suggested First Vintage Film Cameras

a vintage Rolleicord Va film camera

If I've convinced you to take a look a adding a film camera to your arsenal, congratulations, I think you're making a wise decision. Now, what to buy? Obviously, I can't force you to buy one camera over another. Purchasing a vintage/old film camera is a very personal thing. But, based on my experience and those of some friends who shoot film, here are my suggestions on what film camera(s) to purchase when you are first starting out:

  • If you want to try medium format film photography, check out the Rolleicord-A classic medium format TLR (twin lens reflex) camera that can be purchased for a fair price. I got my Rolleicord Va for just under $180. I'd recommend one of the later models like the Va or Vb. Another option that many people seem to like is the Yashica-Mat. For either of these I'd suggest going completely "old skool" and get the models without a built-in light meter. You can pick one of those up separately.
  • If  you want a 35mm camera, I'd suggest you start out with a well-built SLR that has a wide availability of accessories. My 1st two choices would be a Canon AE-1 or one of the Olympus OM series. Both the Canon and Olympus are solid and should last you a long, long time if you take care of them.
  • If you want a "newer" 35mm film camera, you can pick up one of the many Canon or Nikon film SLR's that were originally sold in the 1990's. These might be a great choice if you currently have a digital SLR because there is a good chance you will have some lens "transportability" depending on the brand and model. You can get a perfectly capable Canon EOS for well under $100, which is a great deal. Nikon has similar models in the same basic price range.
  • If you want a brand spanking new, out of the box, 35mm film SLR, the Nikon FM-10 is one of the few, maybe the only, film SLR that's still made.

Where To Purchase Your Film Camera

There are a lot of options when it comes to purchasing film cameras, many are good, some are very very bad. Before you purchase a camera make sure to do your research. The vintage/older camera market is definitely a "buyer beware" situation and you should do whatever you can to increase the odds that you are dealing with a reputable seller.

KEH Camera is based here in the Atlanta area but sells worldwide via the web. While I haven't purchased anything from them yet, I have a lot of friends who have. They have a good stock of all kinds of cameras in various price ranges. At the least they are a good place to check when you are doing your research.

There are quite a few film cameras on Amazon, believe or not. You can find both new and used cameras.

Ebay is probably the biggest film, vintage camera marketplace. While there are a lot of potential cameras on Ebay you really need to be in the know in order to reduce the chances that you'll not get taken. I've been on Ebay since 1996 or so and have never had a problem but that's probably because I do a ton of research before I get into a potential bidding war on something. Patience is often a virtue when using Ebay.

Fred Miranda is a very active forum site that has a good marketplace. Many of the cameras seem to be newer/digital but it pays to check here if you are in the market.

Goodwill is an unexpected source of used/vintage camera equipment. I was introduced to their online shopping site by a friend and it definitely looks interesting. I haven't purchased anything yet but I'm sure I probably will :-)

There are many more places you can look for and purchase vintage film cameras. Do a Google search for whatever camera you're looking for and you will find many possibilities. Just be sure to do your research before laying down your hard-earned money.

I hope this post/podcast has inspired you to consider the opportunities that are offered by adding a film camera to your toolbox. I know I've immensely enjoyed shooting with my film cameras and I bet you will too.

Stay tuned for future episodes where I will go into more detail on various film cameras, techniques, developing your own film, etc. Until then...

Happy Shooting!


Is The New Year The Perfect Time For An Old Film Camera - Episode 002

Welcome to a brand new year! Everything is shiny new and ready to experience. Is the new year the time to pick up an old film camera and improve your photography? I think the answer should be a resounding YES!

What Was Once Old Is Now New

I know that's a weird question but I think it's a valid one. The New Year always gets us thinking about doing things better and trying something new. I'm here to suggest that if you are passionate about photography and haven't ever (or in a vary long time) captured images with a film camera, then I want to suggesting that you seriously think about it. There are several reasons I make this recommendation. Not the least of which is:

Shooting A Vintage Film Camera Will Improve Your Photography

Sometimes nothing but film will do

Film cameras are a different beast than digital cameras. Those differences can help you improve your photographic skill-set. In the last year of shooting film cameras in addition to digital, I have become a better photographer in several ways. I feel pretty confident that if you make the investment in film photography you will experience these same key benefits:

  • You are forced to slow down: Shooting a film camera means that in almost any situation you will be forced to slow down and pay more attention to what you are doing
  • Cost is a factor every time you press the shutter: This is a very important benefit. Film cameras cost hard-earned dollars every time you press the shutter. There's no re-usable 128 gig SD cards with an "old skool" film camera, so every image matters.
  • You have to be adaptable and flexible. With a film camera, there's no switching ISO from 100 to 25,000 in the middle of a roll of film. This means that you have to plan ahead and learn how to deal with surprises.
  • You will have a greater appreciation for your images: Because of the extra effort involved in film photography, every image you capture will be more valuable.
  • You will be part of the "cool crowd" :-) This is an important point because if you take on the challenge of shooting with a film camera, especially an older vintage camera like the Rolleicord, you will attract some attention. This is a great opportunity to spread the word about photography i general and film photography in particular.

I hope this has inspired you to at least consider the benefits you will receive when you introduce a film camera into your photography. I have realized a lot of benefit and I bet you will as well.

Stay tuned for the next episodes where I will go into more detail on some suggested first film cameras and my tips for purchasing a film camera online. Until then...

Happy New Year and Happy Shooting!

Share Your Comments Or Ideas

I'd love to hear from you. Please let me know of any comments, suggestions or ideas that you have.

  • Use the comments feature on this page
  • Click the "Send Voicemail" tab on the right side of the page
  • Email me at
  • If you like, you can send me a real live paper letter at: Mark's Photography Spot, PO Box 922594, Norcross, GA 30010

Please Connect With Me

In addition to contacting me from this blog using the links above. Or you can follow me on these other social media sites:

Follow me on Google+

Follow the Mark's Photography Spot page on Google+

Check out the Mark's Photography Spot group on Flickr


Photo Share And Discussion Number 35

Here's the video from tonight's photo share and discussion, number 35 in the series: We had a good show tonight with some solid discussion about the merits of slowing down and taking you time before pressing the shutter button. John, Frank and Christy shared some nice images and I tossed in a few of my own.

Here's the links we shared during the hangout. This is a nice article on how to photograph strangers, which is something that I have struggled with in my own photography. The article offers tips on how to approach people as well as capture their image without them noticing. Frank suggested we check out this site for some insight into how to improve our image composition. Adam seems like a very accomplished photographer so I will be interested to read more. Another site Frank suggested is worth reading. I've only poked around on it for a little bit but it seems to a worthwhile read. A podcast that Frank suggested we check out, which I plan on doing. Are you a hardcore digital shooter who is interested in exploring the world of analog photography? If so, I heartily encourage you to jump right in and give it a try! Film photography is a great complement to digital. If you are looking for some initial information this article will get you headed in the right direction.

More Film Cameras!-My Father's Nikkormat and Nikomat Vintage 35mm SLR's

My vintage camera collection just keeps growing! A couple weeks ago I added an Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR to my collection and now I have two more vintage film SLR's, a late 1960's (circa 1967-1968) era Nikkormat and Nikomat FTN. I picked these up while visiting my parents. These are fully manual cameras with built in light meters. In addition to the camera bodies I got a 50mm f/2 Nikkor lens and a 200mm f/4.5 telephoto. Here are both cameras and the 50mm lens: Nikkormat

These cameras were used by my Father to record thousands of family vacation, birthday,holiday and a bunch of other images (mostly all on slide film) over the course of my (and my Brother's) childhood. He switched to more automated film camera's in the mid 1980's and then digital in the early 2000's. He currently uses a Canon super-zoom and loves it.

From what I hear, these cameras are built like tanks, and I hope this is true. These two particular cameras are well used and have been all over the place (with some battle scars to prove it). These are definitely not in "like new" condition :-) As you can see in the images below, the Nikkormat has a fair amount of wear and tear on it. The Nikomat (the Japanese market version of the camera) has similar scrapes and scuffs:

There are some scrapes ans scuffs on the top of the Nikkormat from the nearly 25 years of use.

The front of the Nikkormat shows some brassing and deterioration of the leather cover.

They both seem to work fine but haven't been used in probably 20 years. I plan on taking the cameras to get a good CLA before using them.

I'm excited to take over the "care and feeding" of these cameras. Growing up, I have many memories of all of the trips that we took as a family and these cameras were always there to capture all the fun. There's a lot of history in these cameras and I  look forward to keeping the history going and making some great photographs with them!

If you are thinking about acquiring a vintage film camera, be sure to ask your family and friends if they have any analog cameras that they haven't used (and don't plan on using). You just might find some old "memory makers" that you can give new life to!

Initial Impressions And First Images From The Olympus OM-1

I got out with my "new to me" Olympus OM-1 this past Saturday and shot nearly a full roll of film (Kentmere 100) as a test of the camera. I was dying to try out the camera so I took a short walk over to a cemetery (bad joke, I know) near the house that has a lot of old grave-sites in it. This cemetery was where I took one of the earliest shots with my vintage Rolleicord, of a confederate soldier's grave. It wasn't the best light for making photographs but I wasn't really concerned about that as I was more interested in learning how to use the camera and making sure it worked. Here's an image of the developed negatives:

As I said above, the light was terrible and this was my 1st time using the Kentmere film, so I didn't quite know what to expect as far as developing went. I scanned in a few of the images to see what I got. Here's some images.

As we were walking to the cemetery I came across this sign:

Follow Instructions
Follow Instructions

I got this shot pretty much dialed in. The focus seems to be good, and you can see our reflection in the button!

A little while later we made it to the cemetery, where I shot the majority of the roll.

P.V. Singleton
P.V. Singleton

This is the grave of P.V. Singleton. I made a photograph of this same headstone last October when I got my Rolleicord: I think this image came out pretty well, especially considering the light. I need to get used to the focusing on the OM-1 but the result was pretty good.


Here's another headstone in the cemetery, appropriately named the "Singleton" cemetery. Nearly all the graves are of Singletons or what appears to be their extended family. I did a little better with the composition and sharpness in this one.

Some Quick Impressions

Now that I've used the Olympus OM-1 I feel very good about my decision to purchase the camera. The camera seems to operate exactly as it should. It is a well-built piece of equipment with a nice, solid feel to it. When you press the shutter there is a satisfying "click". All the switches and dials are tight and move with a purpose. The whole camera has a great "mechanical" feel to it that I don't think any DSLR can ever hope to replicate. That's one of the reasons I enjoy using these vintage cameras, because of their solid build and purposeful operation.

The lenses I got with the camera appear to be in very good shape as well. One thing that is a little different on this camera is that the shutter speed "dial" is on the lens itself, rather than on the camera body. It will take me some more time to get used to that but I don't see it as a negative, just different.

All in all, after shooting about 30 images with the camera, I'm a happy camper :-) The Olympus OM-1 is a fine example of analog camera equipment and I am looking forward to using it. I may do a more in-depth review of the camera after I've had some more time with it. Until then, if you are looking to try your hand at analog photography and want a single lens reflex camera, the Olympus OM-1 should be on your list!

My New Vintage Olympus OM-1 Camera-Or How I Deal With Yet Another Birthday

They say "time flies when you're having fun". Well I must be having a lot of fun because time is sure flying by! Yesterday was my 49th birthday. I can honestly say it's hard to believe that I'm closer to 70 than 25 but that's just the way it is. I always tend to think of myself as much younger than I really am, which I guess is a good thing. I always try to enjoy life as much as possible and one of the ways that I have really enjoyed life over the last few years is through photography. So I figured, "what better way to celebrate another year on this earth than to pick up another vintage film camera?" That's exactly what I did.

Since I got into film photography last year I've wanted to pick up an SLR. A few weeks ago I started my research in earnest and came upon the Olympus OM series as a worthy contender. I also had a friend who had a Nikon FM2 that I was very interested in. In the end, I decided to go with the OM-1 for my first vintage film SLR because I came across a camera that was for sale locally and came from a fellow Atlanta photographer who is very much into film cameras. He had the camera for about a year and had it recently "tuned up" and adjusted. In addition to the body, he had a 35mm f/2.8 and 75-150 f/4 Olympus lens for the camera. He also had a "vintage", light-teal colored camera bag which sealed the deal for me. :-) Here's an image of the camera along with some 35mm film I purchased. I'll use the film with the OM-1 as well as the Yashica Electro GSN Rangefinder that I got earlier this year,


I'm really looking forward to using this camera, especially as a "walk-around" camera. I think it will be a great complement to the Yashica and I see myself running a bunch of film through this camera. And, to be honest, I really can't think of a better way to enjoy the occasion of turning another year older than by doing something you enjoy, and film photography is definitely something that I'm currently enjoying very much!

I hope to get through a roll of B&W film this weekend. Stay tuned.......

Multiple Exposure Photography Is Easy And Fun

I recently tried my hand at multiple exposure photography and found that it was really easy and fun. I was inspired by a friend, Joe Hoyle, who has had great success using his film cameras to produce some very cool images. Check out his Flickr Stream for some examples. I figured I could use my Rolleicord to experiment with some multiple exposure photography. I had a roll with a few frames left in it so I ventured out to the front yard to see what I could use as a subject for my experiment. Here is my 1st multiple exposure image:

Double Exposed

As you can see, it definitely won't win any awards, but I'm happy with the result. I tried to get the two exposures 90 degrees apart and I got pretty close. Flipping the Rolleicord 90 degrees is a bit challenging but I just about nailed it on my 1st try. A tripod would make it even easier.

Now that I've figured out that I can get a workable image out of the camera I am looking forward to trying my hand at multiple exposure photography whenever I have a subject that might be appropriate.

Multiple Exposure Metering Technique

Since multiple exposure photography involves putting more than one image on a single frame of film you have to compensate in some way for that. The technique I used in the few trial images I've shot is based on adjusting the ISO. So, in the example above I was shooting Neopan Acros 100. To compensate for putting two exposures on the same frame I set the ISO on my vintage lightmeter to 200 and set the exposure on the Rolleicord accordingly. If I was shooting 3 exposures I would have set the ISO to 300, and so on. It seems to work fine and is easy for me to remember. The only catch is to make sure you reset the ISO on your meter back to "normal" when you are done doing multiple exposures.

Hopefully I've inspired you (especially you vintage film camera shooters) to try your hand at multiple exposure photography. It's easy to do and will add a new creative tool to your photographic arsenal. If you want, please feel free to post your multiple exposure images on the Mark's Photography Spot Flickr Group to share them with other readers.

July 18 Photo Share and Discussion

Last night, I hosted the July 18th edition of the "Photo Share and Discussion" on Google + Hangouts:  

Remember to join the Mark's Photography Spot group on Flickr to submit your images so we can talk about them.

I am also working on a film-related project that I hope to be ready to reveal in the next week or two. So dust off those old film cameras and stay tuned for more details :-)