Olympus XA family
About four years ago, I drove to Peterborough to pick up two Olympus Pen F. The seller suggested that he has a few other cameras, which I always love to see. It ended with an apple crate full of odds and ends with which I happily drove home. A week later, the seller called, suggesting even more cameras, a dozen or so each of Samurai 3 and Konica AA35. I wasn’t keen, but he was, so I ended up with another apple crate delivered to my doorstep. It turned out that the seller was liquidating his father’s estate. I am yet to understand how a non-collector ends up with such a selection. That camera style is not within my collecting scope, so I offered them for sale on eBay and Kijiji. Both models sold slowly, at about $40 each. Suddenly, the Samurai came in high demand, and the rest flew out. Several months later same happened to the AA35; buyers were bagging to have them. What had happened in both cases was that a blogger wrote about them, so they became an instant hit.
The same happened to the XA cameras. For decades they sold for a modest $50, where suddenly price went up four-folds. I did not investigate why but would guess the same as above. The prices of most models are now floating at $200 for a working unit.
I got my XA-2 in 1981, saw it on a Swissair flight from Lagos to Zurich, and had to have one. In Zurich, I made my annual pilgrimage to Eschenmoser and got one with a nice leather pouch. Regrettably, I did not use it long, as a butchered surgery cut the nerves of my index finger. The XA does not have a protruding shutter trigger but a recessed surface that I could not feel. Further, the addition of an AE-1P with lens’ plethora shifted my focus, so to speak.
The XA cameras are unique. Tiny, yet full 35mm frame. Self-contained sliding cover that was copied only decades later. Simple to operate, yet produces fantastic pictures. When the flash is attached, it becomes an integral part of the body, not an add-on, still a smaller footprint than a current cellphone. When removed, the camera will fit into a shirt pocket.
There were four XA versions. The original, introduced in 1979, was an apparatus priority mode, the aperture slide at the front and shutter speed dial on top of the lens. A needle in the viewfinder guided the user as to the speed required. A fixed distance focus. A film speed selector under the lens.
The second model, the XA-1 was an auto point and shoot. The only user setting is the film speed, as above.
The third, XA-2, the most popular of the lot, was fully automatic as well, with zone focusing represented by a lever over three icons. The film speed selector remained. The XA-3 was the same as the 2, with a DX reading module and a date back. The ASA selector remains.
The last of the lot, the XA-4, brought a distance slider quoted in meters. Being a viewfinder, it is at an estimate only. This model is often referred to as a ‘macro’ model. Being equipped with a 28mm lens, It is not a macro but a modest wide-angle.
Three flashguns are available: the standard A11, a low-power A1L used on the XA-4, and the high-powered A16. I have only ever seen the A11.
Using the camera cannot be simpler. Pull up the rewind lever, accessible when the slide cover is closed, so the back opens to load 35mm film cartridge.
To shoot, pull the sliding cover to the left. Set film speed at the lever under the lens and from here depends on the model to set aperture, shutter speed, or distance, per settings available. Flash is activated vis a lever under the ASA selector; a popup on the flash body will be red when charged. Push back in to close.
A serrated wheel embedded in the body cocks the shutter and winds the film, easy to use even with gloves. The only peeve I have is with the trigger, being kind of touch surface, taking getting used to. The XA-1 has conventional trigger button.
At the bottom, a lever has three settings: closed, battery check where it beeps and lights up a red lens at the front; and self-timer where the same red lens flashes, and it beeps at a changing frequency. The battery cover at the bottom takes two LR44 or equivalent, And a battery door at the bottom of the flash unit takes one or two AA batteries, per the flash model.
|XA||XA 1||XA 2||XA 3||XA 4|
|Focusing||.85m to inf||Fixed||.85m to inf||.85 to inf||.3m to inf|
|Battery||LR44 x 2|
|Winding||Thumb serrated wheel|
∗ The XA-2 is also available in blue, red, pink, and white.
XA cameras flash options
|Model||AA Batteries||Distance @ ASA 400||Used with|
Olympus XA value
Note that the current value is a sales average of the past eight years. Recent sales would be higher.