I suspect this review may get me flamed, but I have to be honest whilst the XA2 is a good P&S camera IMHO it isn’t the classic it’s often described as
That said it’s not a bad choice and can give you great shots.
The XA series has a almost mythological status amongst devotees. And there is a lot to like here with a compact, lens protecting sliding cover body plus (with the exception of the XA1) a cunning metering system that supports a wide range of ASA speeds and can do up to 2 minute shots with a neat electronic self timer. The star of the show is the might XA rangefinder arguable the most compact 35mm rangefinder in the world but we’re focusing on its more widespread P&S sibling.
Olympus XA2 Specs
- Lens: D Zuiko 35mm 1:3.5
- Focus: Fixed/Zone
- Aperture: f/3.8 – f/14
- Shutter: 2min-1/750
- Meter: CdS
- ASA range : 25-800
- EV 100asa : -3 to 17
- Batteries : 2 xSR44 (or 2xLR44)
The XA2 (and its slightly tweaked brethren the XA3 and XA4) is a viewfinder point and shoot with same fast lens and shutter arrangements. The XA2 is often labelled as a zone focus P&S but that perhaps is a debatable point. You do get the option of 3 focus zones set by a switch beside the lens (neatly shutting the lens resets this to the middle distance) but Olympus intended those to be used in poor light with the camera being used in middle setting in good conditions.
As well as the cunning compact clamshell, pocket fitting design, the XA2 boast a pedigree triplet Zuiko lens, support for up to 800asa and a electronic timer (activated by small lever on base that also doubles as battery check). This allows you to exploit its bonkers up 2 minute exposure time (the lomo LC-A is about the only camera that I can think of that offers this as well but you’ll be stuck holding it’s shutter button down for 2 minutes) . To shoot simply slide the clamshell open and hit the button.
Hmm… the shutter button or lack of. The XA2 has a styled red flat button patch you gently press a bit like the later agfas. There’slittle haptic feedback & no ability to exposure lock (not too big an issue you can use the film speed to adjust exposure). Also 20+ years on it can be a bit inconsistent and it doesn’t always tripping immediately on depression. The viewfinder is good and central with a green LED coming on to warn you low light as well as flash related indicators. It’s worth noting that you’ll need one of the range of Olympus’ proprietary flash units as there is no hot shoe here nor is there any manual exposure control available.
The lens is good – a 4 element 1:3.5 zuiko. On a good day you get great sharp shots without a doubt but it doesn’t have the same sharpness as you get with a Trip 35 in low light and is almost a f-stop slower. I find my LC-A better in low light too although the XA2 knocks it for 6 when the sun is out. There is little or no vignetting and no chromatic aberrations of note
I had 2. Both suffered from the same shutter issue and they both had (to varying degrees) another recognised issue. The flash unit didn’t always fire – unlike with the much maligned XA1 I own. I’m down to one now as one’s zone focus locked out and metering became unreliable. I’ve commented elsewhere that a humble Halina MW35E outshot one of these
Look I wanna really love this camera and sure on a good day it is potentially the sharpest P&S in it’s class, it’s compact and it’s well designed but the button and the flash, they just niggle me. I’m happy using it but if I had to pick my Olympus Trip 35 is just much better and my LC-A more reliable (and yup I fully accept there are plenty of folk who’ve had the reverse experience)
The XA3 adds auto DX coding, support up to 1600 and a backlight adjust button. The XA4 is much rarer and features a 28mm lens with macro features (and DX coding). The XA1 is an interesting beast. Much maligned it is a fixed focus and only meters for 100 or 400asa film but it represents the missing link between the fabulous Trip 35 with a battery free selenium array. It also has a conventional if rather protuberant shutter button. The big hitter is a XA the original and rangefinder version which also has aperture priority exposure.
Expect to replace light seals and watch out for batteries left in from the 80’s. I’d buy with a flash unit (and check that they work !). Expect to pay £20-30 for one from good seller with flash but you can also pick up sub £10 with a bit of luck.This makes them a much cheaper buy than a second-hand LC-A and for many a much better deal (just not me . The XA will go for much more.
- Olympus Trip 35 – the grandaddy P&S for a reason
- Lomo LC-A – Soviet competitor saddled with the lomography tag
- Agfa Optima Sensor 535 – German 80’s P&S
- Chinon 35 – Rare 70’s rangefinder derived P&S
- Olympus XA series page at Camera-wiki.org
- Olympus XA Collective at Flickr
- Olympus XA & XA2 review on Ken Rockwell’s Site
- XA2 Manual on Mike Butkus’s site
- diaxa.com one of the best XA series resource site