Olympus XA, A Mini Marvel Film Camera

Olympus XA - Article and images by Mike Cox.

At one time, back in the eighties, I owned an Olympus XA with flash in a nice little plastic box.  It was truly an engineering marvel for its time, and it was the smallest 35 mm rangefinder camera made. 

I don’t remember what I did with it, but recently, reading Derrick’s articles sparked a new, old interest in film photography.  I began researching on eBay and found an original XA in good condition that I was the high bidder for.

This model is the original XA that was manufactured from 1975 to 1989 and features rangefinder focusing, a sharp F 2.8 lens, and aperture priority metering. 

The lens is protected by a sliding cover, a small switch on the left front is used for setting the aperture, and a small lever under the lens is used to focus. There's another small switch under the lens that's used to set the film ISO. 

There were 4 other models of the XA made, but this one is the only rangefinder.  All the others used scale focusing, and the XA4 also has a cool strap that measures for its macro focusing capability. It’s probably the most rare and goes for a premium price on the used market.  

There are also 2 different flash units that attach to the side of the camera although mine didn’t come with one.  That’s ok though, I seldom use flash on any of my cameras.  The A11 flash unit is the least powerful and the A16 is a bit stronger with a guide number of 16.  

I’ve been an avid street shooter for the last year or so and normally carry a Ricoh GR II.  It’s a very discreet camera and makes extremely sharp photos.  The XA is even smaller and fits easily in my front pants pocket. 

I normally try to just “F8 and be there” with it. It’s fun to focus on (pun intended) taking fewer shots than I would with a digital, and having to wait to see the results.  Derrick may be on to something with combining digital and analog photography.  Here are few pics from the first roll I had developed.  

All photos by Mike Cox.


I’m not planning on giving up my GR, but I am enjoying shooting this little gem on the streets.  Now that film shooting has me hooked, I’m trying, but not too hard, to resist the Contax G2 as my next purchase.  If you’ve got a nice one that you’d like to part with, let me know.  

You can check out my photography on Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr under my user name of Pstmstr.  (Postmaster without the vowels in case you’re wondering.) I’m a retired postal manager, still roaming the streets with a camera instead of a mail satchel.  

- Mike (Pstmstr) Cox

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