I added a new camera to my arsenal recently: the Olympus XA2. I have to say, it’s a pretty slick little thing. I had spent a bit of time online researching different compact film point-and-shoots, and found that (like everything) they run the gamut. I looked at the Konica Hexar AF, which is basically my Fuji X100 minus the digital, but felt limited by its maximum shutter speed of 1/250; I looked at the Ricoh line, but they are overpriced and have flaky electronics that are now almost 20 years old; and I looked at the Yashica T3, the Nikon 35Ti, and others. Ultimately, I wanted something that was cheap, small, and easy to use. I am planning a photography project this summer for me and my 7-year old son, and it needs to be simple enough that he can use it. Enter the Olympus XA2.
I found that it had good reviews online, is simple to operate, and incredibly cheap. I got mine from KEH, in EX+ condition, and it is in great shape (just to clarify, I don’t get anything from KEH for promoting them, but I have had nothing but good experiences with them every time I have shopped with them. If you’re looking for a used camera, check them out). When it arrived, I could not believe how small it actually was.
The camera has a focusing system akin to a Holga, which is itself only one step above a disposable camera. There is the short, medium, or far away focus selection, so it’s pretty approximate. On the plus side, it’s fast to use as there is no focusing to be done, and with a maximum aperture of f/3.5, shots will be pretty sharp no matter what you do, I think. After all, it’s just a point-and-shoot camera! The XA2 also has a quick door that you slide open to take a shot, which means there is no electronic opening/closing of the lens cover, and the lens doesn’t have to extend before shooting. This makes it faster to operate, and when you take into account that there is no focusing (especially AF) to deal with, operation becomes instantaneous.
Loading and rewinding the film could not be easier, or faster. Loading involves the standard loading process for 99% of compact film cameras, without the automatic advance of, say, my Nikon N80, or the Ricoh GR1 series. Advancing the film is done just like a disposable camera, with a little crank. This makes it feel more like a disposable camera, and less like my old Olympus 35 RC, which has a dynamite film advance lever that feels great to use. Speaking of that Olympus 35 RC–which I have passed on to a good friend of mine–I have to say that that is one of the most fun cameras in use, and anyone looking for a great, cheap, tiny rangefinder could do worse than try one. Plus, they cost under $25.00! They have nice lenses, and a great auto/manual balance. Highly recommended!
I loaded the Olympus XA2 with a roll of old Fuji Superia 400 (my default for testing 35mm cameras–I have tons of it, and it’s expired now) and headed out for a walk with my wife. I gave her the job of testing the new point-and-shooter, as I was carrying around my new(ish) Hasselblad 501CM. The 501CM really requires two hands to operate, so I couldn’t do both. Thus, most of the shots from the XA2 here are not mine, but hers. Gotta give credit where credit is due :)
The XA2 is extremely easy to use. My wife is by no means good with cameras, and she handled it like a champ. The exposures are spot on, and generally the focus is close enough too; with good light, the camera does fine. I haven’t tested it extensively yet, but my first impressions are positive. I will enjoy using it this summer and beyond, as a film compact that fits in my pocket and can really go anywhere. If anyone is in the market for a compact film point-and-shoot, then give the Olympus XA2 a good, long look.