Today's post is about my favourite and most used analog camera, the Olympus XA2.
Having used my Pentax Spotmatic SLR for a few months, back in 2014; I wanted to try and find something a little smaller and more discrete for street photography.
After going through all the forums and guides trying to find a high quality, small 35mm camera, I came to to conclusion that a Rangefinder would be perfect, but as much as I'd love a £500+ Leica M series, it seemed a little over the top for what I needed at the time. Then I came across the Olympus XA2 and ever since first getting it, I've been in total love.
Released in 1979 at a time where film SLRs were all the rage, Olympus' lead designer, Yoshihisa Maitani created and introduced the original Olympus XA, with the XA2 coming a year later in 1980. Upon release, it was about the same price as a new SLR, so why did people buy it? Simply - because of the small size, rugged shell, great mechanics and above all else, the fantastic 35mm f/3.5 Zuico glass they put inside of it.
Everything about the operation of this camera is really easy too. Once loaded, and the ASA has been set on the front, you just slide the front open, set the zone focus and then shoot. I always advance it straight after taking a photo, so it's ready for next time.
The zone focusing is really straight forward too. The different settings are: close/ portrait [1.2m - 1.8m], medium/ groups [1.2m - 6.3m] and far/ landscapes [6.3m - ∞].
After using it for two years, I've now become comfortable with manipulating the zone focusing to pull great results. For low light settings, even late evening landscapes, I set it to close so it opens the iris up, or if I want tack sharp detail in generous lighting, I keep it mid or far to close it down.
For this shot of my friend Terry, I was using some Superia 400 with it set to it's native ASA speed and had the focussing on close/ portrait. The shutter release is very, very light and when done correctly you can get amazing tack sharp detail, with no major distortion or vignetting.
The real magic of this camera, is that in a digital age of tourists using big, obvious cameras, the XA2 is both discrete in it's design and also, looks like a little toy. It's because of this, I currently use this for all of my street photography.
Over the last few months and when visiting Hong Kong + Japan, I solely shot Ilford HP5+ in it for my street photos. This was by far the perfect camera choice for the job!
I can see me using the XA2 for many more years to come, and whenever a friend or colleague asks what film camera they should start with, I will always recommend it as it's the perfect starter camera for new film users.
I've also released a book, 'Wandering Journal: Hong Kong & Japan', which is filled with black & white film photos taken with the XA2.