Trying to cram the last few rolls of Kodak Color Plus 200 into my bag, the realisation I may have packed too many cameras started to creep in.
Did I really need two SLRs, four point & shots, a DSLR with 3 lenses and a folding camera?! Sacrifices had to be made and when the time came to board the plane, I only had one point and shot alongside my Mamiya MSX500 & Kodak Number 1 Folding Camera…
The Olympus XA2.
A Disappointing Mistake
Back in February, I thought I had scored myself a bargain as I won an auction for an Olympus XA with a broken A11 flash unit for £27.00. The XA had garnered legendary status amongst analog photographers; a rangefinder in your pocket with a sharp lens to match. But with legendary status comes a hefty price tag. A mint condition boxed XA will set you back around £150* on eBay… and that’s when you can find one. So I thought myself extremely lucky when the email appeared in my inbox telling me I was the new owner of an Olympus XA.
I spent the following days watching YouTube tutorials on how to brighten the rangefinder patch and how to reseal the film chamber, excited to receive my new toy. It was then I spotted a difference between the XA in the videos and the XA I had just purchased. The original XA has an aperture lever on the front of the body, whereas my XA had focus settings. Strange, I thought the focus was operated by a lever under the lens? It was then that it dawned on me, I hadn’t got a bargain. I had got an XA2.
I was disappointed.
A few days later a brown package arrived at my front door and I unpacked, still hoping that maybe really was an XA I was unboxing. It wasn’t. Never the less, I was excited to have a new camera and couldn’t wait to load some Kodak Color Plus 200 and shoot.
The first roll was poor. It was a bright day, and I thought that shooting at 100 iso would lead to some nicely exposed images. The XA2 features a reputably sharp f/3.5 35mm lens, but many of my shots came out overexposed and blurry.
Try again. Loaded with Ilford XP2 Super 400, I was advised to shoot at box speed. It was after this set of images came back that I fell in love with the XA2. The lens is as sharp as they say.
A third outing with Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 in bright sunlight sealed the deal, even with some major light leaks. After some new light seals, I knew I had found my favourite point and shoot camera. But the real test was yet to come.
My bag packed, I started to worry that I should’ve packed a different camera. After all, the XA2 was going to be my main carry around. After my disappointment shooting Kodak Color Plus 200 the first time around, I was concerned that all of my vacation snaps would turn out the same. A gamble I decided to take.
The XA2 is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s no bigger than my iPhone X with the A11 flash unit connected, and fits in my pocket with ease, protected by its clam shell style case. When it wasn’t in my pocket, it sat nicely in the drinks compartment of our hire car, ready to pick up and snap at a moments notice. It was this ease of use that led to some of my favourite photos from our trip.
I cycled past this Mustang as part of a 15 mile ride around San Francisco and stopped in the middle of the road to capture the shot. I had to wait for traffic to pass but thanks to the XA2’s automatic settings I was able to quickly snap a few shots whilst the roads were clear.
Easily pocketable, the XA2 became the perfect hiking camera. This freed up valuable space in my backpack for water and snacks when hitting the John Muir Trials.
In my experience, the XA2 does struggle in low light. This isn’t to say it isn’t possible to shoot at night; this is shot at 200iso handheld. The built in timer can also be helpful when shooting in low light, allowing you a slower shutter speed when shot from a tripod or other stable surface.
The joy of a point and shoot cameras is simple. Take away tediously changing settings and adjusting focus, and you’re left with the foundations of photography, capturing a moment. It’s this Lomographic way of thinking that helped me fall in love with the XA2. It might not be the XA… but it might be my favourite point and shoot camera.
*eBay prices correct at time of writing
What’s your favourite Point and Shoot Camera?
Let me know in the comments below!