Olympus XA2

I am a light traveler. I got fascinated with the idea of one-bagging, I started optimizing everything I would carry. One time, I even grew a beard just so that I wouldn’t have to pack my razor. One thing I couldn’t, or rather didn’t optimize was my photography gear. As a G.A.S. survivor, I still had a lot of camera gear left. Nothing too crazy but at any given time, I have/had a film body (Leica M6), a digital (Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and Leica M240), and a few primes (28, 35, 50mm). Packing for travel meant playing Tetris with my camera gear so that I could fit it all in one bag.

I decided to change that when I was packing for my tip to Seoul. “Travel light and see the world right” was the motto. So I decided to bring only one camera. I was still experimenting with different films and I had just discovered Kodak Ultramax. My iPhone was good enough to cover for a digital camera and I wanted to shoot film. So, enter Olympus XA2.

Still can’t believe that a whole 35mm fits in there

I didn’t want to lug around my M6 for the trip and XA2 was a perfect replacement. Not to mention that the price difference was literally $1000 vs $80. 8% the price, %50 the weight. It even came with my favorite/most comfortable focal length.

But of course, it comes at a price – pun intended. I lose almost all controls.

I only get 3 focus settings and after 10 rolls, I still don’t have the confidence in focus. Not that it matters too much, since the shots are, well, sharp enough for my purposes.

Nothing’s really in focus in the photo. To be fair it was very dark and the shutter speed was (or at least I think it was) slow.

The next loss I mourn is that of the meter. I usually shoot tri-x @ 1600 and cinestil @ 3200~6400, but XA2 only supports up to iso 800.

cinestil @ 6400
tri-x @ 1600

However, that’s not a huge complaint because it’s a damn accurate one. Even in dark situations, the metering was near perfect. The real problem tho, is that camera is willing to lower the shutter speed a lot – up to 2 seconds – and you get no indication of that. When shooting in dark places, just remember to give it some time. Don’t shoot and scoot. Why not stay and get a few more shots anyways?

XA2 with tri-x, shot at box speed.

Losing the decisive moment because of technical error ruining the shot is annoying, but maybe losing controls wasn’t so much of a bad thing. When I’m shooting with my M6 or FX-3, or any other manual film camera with an accurate meter, I fiddle with settings so much I lose the shot unless I’m zone focusing with sunny 16 or shooting with a flash. So, counter-argument: Point and take the damn shot.

Take the damn shot. It doesn’t even have to be good.

For the size, IQ is a lot more than I could ever ask for. In daylight where the camera can liberally tighten the aperture, everything is in focus. Vignetting is slightly visible, thought it’s a problem that can easily be fixed (or a one I’m too lazy to fix) in post.

Notice the vignetting at the bottom edge of the photo.

I bought this one on a whim as a flea market find. After putting 10+ rolls through it, the clear verdict is that this one’s definitely a keeper.

Easy to carry, full frame, point and shoot. A cult classic. Olympus XA2