I have to be honest, I am biased, I absolutely love the Olympus XA2. I have owned this point and shoot film camera for close to five years, and it has been my main go to for our family vacations and my daily carry.
This camera has it all from its compact size along with its sharp lens, the quality (and price!) is hard to beat.
When I first started dabbling in film photography some years ago, I bought different point and shoot film cameras off of eBay, trying to figure out which ones worked best for my needs. I wanted something that was compact and low profile.
When I would be out with my DSLR camera I always felt as if I was saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m a photographer!”
After shooting for a few months, I realized that I loved the compatibility of the smaller compact cameras and the ease of use but wanted a little bit more control. To be honest, regular film SLRs still intimidate me when trying to dial in the proper settings, and, most of the time, I end up feeling flustered.
Enter the Olympus XA2! This point and shoot film camera quickly became my favorite everyday cameras and one of my main shooters.
The XA soon became the most advanced compact camera in the world. But even with its popularity, it came at a cost. Selling for around $200 in July 1979 (about $625 today), the camera was not cheap and missed a wider audience due to its price.
Going back to the drawing board, Olympus released the XA2 a year later. They kept the same basic clamshell design, but the Olympus XA2 came with a simpler 4-element f/3.5 F.Zuiko lens and lost the rangefinder.
Settings and Features of the Olympus XA2
The Olympus XA2 is a point and shoot film camera that uses a three-zone scale focus. This allows the photographer to choose one of three focus zones for portrait, group, and landscape shots. The default setting is the middle zone or group.
The slider over the lens efficiently covers the lens, viewfinder, and light meter when closed, and also deactivates the shutter so you can’t accidentally take any shots.
The only other setting available on the XA2 is the manual ASA film speed selector that ranges from 25 to 800 ASA, but everything else is handled by the camera’s fully programmed auto exposure system.
Some features that make this camera unique are its size, its all plastic clamshell design, and its sharp lens. There is a separate flash unit (A11) that can be attached that require two double A batteries.
Like many point and shoot film cameras, the shutter has a quiet click, while the advance film winder is a little bit louder, similar to that of a disposable camera. I love the red color of the shutter button but do admit it feels finicky and reminds me of a toy camera.
Olympus XA2 Specs
Lens: 35mm f/3.5, four element Tessar variant, front element focus.
Focus: Three zone manual. Resets to mid-distance when the clamshell is closed.
Metering: Center weighted, program auto.
ISO: 25 to 800.
Shutter: 1/500 – 2 seconds. Aperture integrated with the two shutter blades.
Power: 2 S76 cells.
Size: 2.598″ x 4.102″ x 1.605″
Weight: 7.480 oz., (212.1g) with two S76 cells
Using the Olympus XA2
Now that we’ve covered the basics of this camera, let’s talk about the practicality of this gem of a camera. (See, I told you I was biased!)
When holding the camera, pulling up the rewind lever on the left pops the back open allowing you to load the film. For all the times that I have loaded this camera, I’ve still somehow ended up with accidental double exposures. One of the key things to look for is to make sure both the film counter number and rewind lever on the left are turning in tandem.
Next, you’ll want to set the ASA below the lens on the front of the camera, followed by setting the zone on the front right of the camera. I usually leave mine on the middle zone unless the situation calls for otherwise.
I find the viewfinder bright and clear with a little green light inside that will warn you if the camera thinks there is not enough light. Also, the shutter will fire much slower when depressed in a low light situation (this is when the flash unit comes in handy.)
When finished with the roll, there is a small button on the bottom of the camera that must be engaged along with turning the rewind lever. I’ve heard that it’s possible to rewind the film without depressing the lever, but you risk the sprockets being ripped.
Additionally, along the bottom of the camera is a battery check feature and self timer.
This camera is known to produce light leaks in some fun ways. If you are willing to embrace the unknown and unpredictable ways film can act, this camera is for you!
This model has been known to have a few issues when it comes to the shutter and electronics inside the camera being broken. While I do not feel comfortable attempting this repair, I have come across a few guides on the internet.
Another issue that I’ve come across are the light seals needing to be replaced as they degrade over time. Personally, I have not replaced mine in all the years I’ve had this camera and occasionally get light leaks (in the most spectacular ways!).
Final Thoughts on the Olympus XA2
I would recommend the Olympus XA2 for just about anyone. It’s simple enough to use and has a few adjustments that can make you feel more in control. It’s is a really good camera for film photographers who just starting out with learning to shoot film and great for carrying around and shooting photos of everyday life.
This device also makes it easy to do double exposures if you do a film swap with a friend. Because you manually rewind the film, you can feel when it disengages, leaving the film leader out, making it easy for the next person to shoot the roll.