When my son developed an interest for my camera collection and was able to reach them on the shelf on his own, I first gave him the Superheadz Plamodel DIY Camera which he broke and then an already broken FED 4 as a toy. Which of course was a bad idea, as it’s heavy and full of sharp edges. Also, he couldn’t take any pictures with it. Luckily I found a Olympus XA 2 with an A 11 flash for 18 € on our neighbourhood flea market. It works surprisingly well, even for a three-year old. Sometimes, I’m allowed (after loooong negotiations) to borrow it, and although I did not get used to the 35mm lens yet, I am really impressed by this camera.
About the camera:
The Olympus XA 2 was designed in 1980 as simpler point and shoot variation of the XA rangefinder from 1979. In our collection, I compare the XA 2 usually with the Trip 35, as it has the same zone focus system, and the (still missing from the collection) XA with the 35 RC. In size, it’s even smaller that the PEN EES-2/ PEN EE-2. (Side note: both the PEN and the XA were designed by the legendary Yoshihisa Maitani). The camera is light, incredible small and silent, and due to its shell design, protected against dust by its own housing. The ƒ 3.5 Zuiko lens is unsurprisingly sharp. The camera works fully automatic and is powered by two SR 44 batteries. There are two flash units (due to lack of PC sync or hot shoe, only the flash units fit to the camera), the A 11 and the more powerful A 16.
Open the back by pulling the film crank, insert your film and close. Open the camera front, set the matching ISO with the small lever under the lens. Shoot and advance once and you are ready to go. To focus guess the distance and choose either two heads or 1,2m-1,8m, group 1,8m-6,3m or mountain 6,3m- ∞. The camera will select aperture (3.5 to 22) and speed (2″ – 1/750) automatically. In low light, the camera warns you with a green light in the viewfinder, but due to the extremely delicate shutter release, you can free hand night shots with some practise. To check the battery, use the small lever on the bottom, as long as you here a “beep” , the batteries are fine (this is the favorite feature of my son). To use the 7″ self timer, put the same lever to the front, which adds some stability in case you didn’t bring a tripod. If you want to use the flash, screw it to the side and activate it with the little flash lever beneath the lens. When done, push the little button on the bottom and rewind.
|Year built||From 1980 – 1986|
|Lens||D.Zuiko 35mm 1:3.5-22|
|Special features||The camera IS the case|
|Accessories||A11 flash unit|
|Date of purchase||2015|
|Place of purchase||Flea market Leopoldplatz|
Tips & Tricks:
When you close the camera, the focus is always reset to “group”. Have this in mind if you shoot landscape series.
Film purchase & processing:
The camera can use any 35mm film from 25 to 800 ISO, I usually shoot with 400 ISO which can be developed anywhere.
http://www.diaxa.com/xastart.htm (History and review of the XA family)
http://www.mikeeckman.com/2018/01/olympus-xa2-1980/ (Great review by Mike Eckmann)
http://www.kenrockwell.com/olympus/xa.htm (Comparison of the XA & XA 2)