Olympus XA: The Perfect Camera to Capture People on the Street


A legendary camera designed by the legendary Yoshihisa Maitani, A pocketable rangefinder, that can easily rival most slrs. The fantastic 35mm 2.8 is one of the sharpest lenses i have used and has some of the best colour rendition i have seen in any camera both film and digital i have ever used.

I actually discovered this camera almost by accident. I had been looking (and still am) for a cheap LC-A, when I ran across a forum comparing the Olympus XA2 to it. I looked at shots taken with the XA2 here on Lomography. Blown away by the results, I had to have one. I hit ebay and searched. When the results appeared, I noticed that there was another camera in the series the Olympus XA which was way more expensive than the XA2. I started to research the camera and quickly knew this wasn’t an ordinary compact equipped with a famous lens and a tiny pocketable rangefinder. I decided to get a XA instead of the XA2. I picked one up for £30 of Ebay, it came, and was in fantastic condition.

A few weeks later me and my girlfriend’s family went to visit her grandmother. I decided to take a camera with me, and choosing one was simple. The Olympus XA slipped right into my pocket.

The camera itself has an aperture priority compact rangefinder, which focuses from 0.9m to infinity. The lens is a 35mm 2.8 zuiko lens, with apertures from 2.8 to 22. You set the aperture you want and the camera chooses the shutter speed that is appropriate from 10s-1/500s. The camera is heavier than I thought and feels very solid when handled.

Whilst at Kate’s grandmother’s we went to visit the beautiful city of York. I loaded My XA with some Boots colour slide 200 film which is rebranded Fuji. shooting with the camera was fantastic, a much different experience compared to an SLR.

Here are some of the results from York:

I finished off the roll on walks near where Kate’s grandmother lives. Here are some of the shots (the film was NOT cross-processed and no editing has been done to the images):

As you can see the Images are incredible and look as though they were taken on a SLR. The lens is one of the best I have ever used, and the stop down to 5.6 is the sharpest I have ever seen. Also, the colour rendition is amazing. You will have to take my word for it but the colours are identical to what I could see. It looks really natural and life like. Also, when using it on the street you can be very discrete and capture people without them knowing due to its almost silent shutter.

After being amazed by my initial results, I decided next I would shoot my favorite film with it — Lucky SHD 100. So I loaded it and took the camera with me everywhere, basically shooting anything that caught my eye. This is why I think every lomographer should own an XA. You can take it anywhere and shoot anything.

Here are some results from the roll:

Again the images look like SLR quality and have awesome tones. Whilst I was shooting this roll, many people asked about the camera saying how small it was and when I opened the intuitive clamshell design, they actually said it looked almost professional and very high quality, I’d have to agree.

Immediately after that roll, I put in my next this time I wanted to experiment. I decided I would shoot some redscaled expired film. I loaded the camera and set the iso to 25. I again took the camera everywhere with me shooting things as I went. I even took it to school to shoot there.

Here are some results from that roll (the double exposure was on purpose I put the film back through the camera and got to the frame I wanted)

I really like the results I got from the redscaled film and are the most lomographic looking results I have got. Although to be honest, I would recommend getting this camera to use in a way you would use, say like our LC-A it is for more “serious” shooting, If I could afford it, I would get a refurbished LC-A and with the XA I think would make a great team. I haven’t shot any cross-processed film in it as I do not do it. I’m just not a fan, but if you are you may get lomographic results.

The only problem I have had with camera is that sometimes the focus can be a bit fiddly the rangefinder patch is sometimes difficult to see, which can lead to unfocussed results as you may have seen in some of my shots. Although I have found a very easy way around this. Simply set the aperture to 5.6 and then put the focus to just a tad under 3m. Now, everything will be in focus (0.9m-infinity). This means you can literally just point and shoot, so you wont miss anything whilst trying to focus. Also, you have the benefit of the lens being at its sharpest at 5.6.

Overall a fantastic little compact, in my opinion it is the greatest camera ever made for street photography. It looks very inconspicuous and has a near silent shutter. No one even noticed I was taking their picture. It is also the only camera that has made me want to use colour film. I shoot exclusively black and white but the colour that the amazing lens produces are too hard to resist. It is perfect lomographers as they can take it whereever they go and get great results with any type of film. If you see one definitely pick it up, it will be a great partner in crime for any LC-A/LC-A+ owners (you lucky buggers.)

written by brandkow93 on 2012-04-06 #gear #review #colours #street-photography #olympus-xa #sharp #tones


  1. davidstafford
    davidstafford ·

    Got the XA2 but reading this I'm thinking about trying to see if I can pick up a cheap one.

  2. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @davidstafford i would definitely recommend it, i recently picked up an xa2, i only shot one roll of film through it and then gave it to my girlfriend there is no comparison between the xa and xa2, In my opinion the price of xa's is set to go up as more people realise how good hey are. So i wouldnt worry about the price as if you dont like it you can always easily sell it again.

  3. cinzinc
    cinzinc ·

    lucky you got it for cheap! I can't find any with the price close to yours.

  4. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @cinzinc yeah i got it at a good price. just set a max price youll pay and keep trying on ebay, thats what i did, you will eventually win. Also keep your eye at charit shops etc they often get mistaken for just Pointt and shoots.

  5. jricagno
    jricagno ·

    I Will try to find a camera Like tris!

  6. jawatembak
    jawatembak ·

    love this little camera!

  7. alch3mist
    alch3mist ·

    Nothing compares to XA!

  8. simonh82
    simonh82 ·

    Great article and lovely photos!

  9. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    I love my XA. Now I want to load it up with film and take if for a spin

  10. seaspoke
    seaspoke ·

    Where did you get this info?
    Simply set the aperture to 5.6 and then put the focus to just a tad under 3m. Now, everything will be in focus (0.9m-infinity)
    According to the DOF table in the manual, this setting would give you a DOF of 2.06-5.62.

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