Amarcord: Olympus XA

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Smartphones are eating up the low end compact camera market. And the High End compact camera with fixed lens market is one the last niche left where companies cans till make some money. Olympus will soon announce their High End compact and let’s hope it can be as successful as they were with the Olympus XA 35mm film compact camera (here on eBay). Cameraquest writes that this was a “groundbreaker“. it is the smallest full frame 35 with a built in Rangefinder!!! It had an Albada finder with parallax correction marks, automatic exposure, super smooth electromagnetic shutter release, self timer, a battery check, and tripod mount. yep all that stuff in a super small camera (see it on youtube here).

Guru Blogger Ken Rockwell writes about the XA: “Not only are the images wonderful, but the design and styling of these cameras are a joy to behold.

It may doens’t look particularly great but it does all what we need and all in the smallest package possible. Let’s see what the new digital Premium compact Olympus will copy from it. I would like to see the clamshell! :)

Olympus XA auctions on eBay (Click here).

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  • NFT

    at least one week ,before MFT release new cams and lens.
    still no news or rumors,specs and detail.

    where is trust person ?? admin or he sleep all time

  • BLT

    Yuck! No clamshell designs for me thanks.

    • Mr. Reeee

      Yeah, really. Plasticy and yucky.

      The coolest, smallest sexiest 35mm was the Rollei 35S! They were fantastic all-around.

      http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Rollei_35

      • Actually, aside from the sliding cover, the rest of the camera is basically all metal!

  • I have an XA. Great camera. I considered recently how having an attachable EVF akin to how the flash attaches to the XA on the side might be a good idea for a PEN camera. The body would maintain its rangefinder aesthetic and not add any height to the body.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t have an XA myself but have used one extensively, with and without the attached flash, as you say a joy to use. Advancing on your thought, why not use the attached ‘pod’ to also include the flash unit, keeping the camera top plate clean, only down side if it could be called that is the lower angle of the flash tube.

    • Nice idea Chris. I could see that working really well. I don’t have an XA, but have a Rollei 110. This also has a flash attachment at one end, to which those old 4-use flash bulbs mounted.
      I’ve often though an extra hotshoe at the left of the top-plate would mean no need to choose between flash and EVF. But I like your suggestion much more.
      If they used their current hotshoe/ accessory port arrangement, it would also allow side mounted flash, which would help avoid redeye.

    • EnPassant
    • Thyl Engelhardt

      I had actually suggested this to Olympus even before the EP-2 was released. They responded, but did not react. :-(

  • Tulio

    I loved my XA, always in my pocket. You wonder how that tiny lens cover a full size ” sensor” when Sony RX1 takes so much space, I’d love a Sony RX2 with a smaller lens.

    • @Tulio, it has got to do with the angle at which the light reaches the digital sensor. Digital sensors like perpendicular light whereas it does not matter so much with film. That is why flange distance is important and why Sony NEX may suffer using wide angled lenses, unless they build in extra distance into the lens, making them bigger. This may also be why Olympus cannot replicate the quality of the 43 lenses with m43.

  • Idreamphoto

    New high end compact from olympus? For when? Because i am currently considering the xz-2…

  • MarcoSartoriPhoto

    Admin, as far as you know, will it be something à la sony rx100 or à la fuji x100(s)?

  • spam

    Last time Olympus was rumored to launch a high end compact is just two months ago. That turned out to be the XZ10, are you sure we’ll get another one so soon? A digital XA would make sense, but I’d expect a mFT-sensor – or something smaller.

  • LOL, just one week to April and we are still fed Amarcords :)

    This site is heading to a change of name: 43unrumors.com – Forbidden to leak anything, or you’ll be beheaded :)

  • It’s appearant that Admin’s job has gotten harder the last year. I love this site and visit it everyday, but honestly 95% of the posts are news items these days. I think it would be worth considering if things don’t change soon; to change the name to 43news.com.
    I wuld probably still visit the site every day; but I wouldn’t be so dissapointed to not find credible rumours on a regular basis. Just my two cents..

    • Anonymous

      +1

  • Sevenor

    I bought one in 1980. Loved its design and compact size. Unfortunately, I was still quite a novice then. I only knew to take sharp images only. What a waste.

    • J Shin

      I know. This was a camera that made you work hard to get soft images…

  • Miguel Teixeira

    Instead of being overly obssesed with what is round the corner, why not take some time and appreciate such a good design and photographic tool like the XA. It is one of those unique film cameras that just does’t translate to digital, and as long as there is film it will continue to challenge the way we photograph.

    • I am so moved, can we pray together for the soul of defunct cameras? Perhaps this could become the equivalent of a Church dedicated to the Mother Virgin of all Cameras :)

      • Anonymous

        I will have you XAcommunicated!

  • The XA has been my full time companion for almost 20 years, right through military service and all. In this particular case, the clamshell design was rock solid. I have stepped on it, fallen into the water with it, dropped it numerous times, and the back was mostly bare metal in the end. Despite its prime lens -no zooming whatsoever- and minimalistic controls, it offered everything I needed in a daily camera.

    After about 10 years I needed a repair on the shutter button, and that was all. My first digital was a Olympus C220, and although is was a lot less sturdy, it did bring back some happy memories. As far as I can see, by now it should not be too hard to build a digital replica that would again satisfy most of my needs in daily life.

    • Bruce

      Regarding the XA design, I remember well my brother’s falling off the roof of his car as he drove off only for it to be run over by the car travelling behind. That popped out the Oly logo (which easily glued back in place) but the camera continued to work fine. Top design. Tough as old boots.

  • Never liked the XA design. Industrial and tacky, like many artifacts produced in the 80’s. Some things are better buried in the past and never repeated.

    • Nathan

      Every single thing about the XA exists for a reason. The ugly egg shaped shell makes sure that when you withdraw it from your pocket, it never trips you up and makes you lose a shot by jamming on the seam of your pocket. It slips out easily each time.

  • J Shin

    I am surprised so many people do not like the design. I think the XA is the standard by which all compact camera design should be judged!

    It is a camera that you can appreciate the moment you put it in your hand; I suggest people play with it before even commenting on its appearance. Like Rollei and Minox 35s, it feels weighty and solid, unlike most other cameras of its size, and immediately lets you know that there is not any bit of wasted space inside. It’s literally pocketable, being smaller than most wallets, and the clam shell is by far the best way to protect the lens in the pocket, even against key chains and coins. It’s silent and looks like a toy, despite its high-performing optics, so it’s a very good non-threatening street camera. Ergonomics is fantastic, although I can see large-handed people having trouble with it. The side-car flashes were lousy, which is partly why I finally sold mine, but it was what the technology then allowed; I agree with Chris Pattison’s post, above, that it could be a good way to modularize future PEN bodies, appending more to the side rather than on top as they have been. It has one of the few rangefinders that I was able to use without complaint, very accurate despite the short base.

    It has a “telephoto” six-element lens with a huge rear element that sits practically right up against the film and has excellent corner-to-corner performance. Lovely balance of contrast and bo-keh. I am still confused by the fact that no one has produced an ILC pancake that matches its size and performance.

    Some of the shortcomings were the flat shutter and absence of a PC outlet (I’ve seen adapters fashioned out of broken flashes). There is also hardly any real estate left for more knobs or buttons, or even a decent-sized LCD, so, if the design is used for a digital, it will be a frustrating touch-screen set up. It also looks ridiculous mounted on a handle-mount flash, but I loved that. The film cocking mechanism was a bit loud, but you could still do it surreptitiously in your pocket, because it is just an easy-to-find-and-use knob.

    By the way, to clarify, the XA does not have parallax correction; it is just the usual mark that says “Well, if you are shooting closer-ish, make sure no one’s head is above this line”.

    • Greg

      Indeed – given it’s tiny size and the wide angle of the lens it was a great camera for backpacking. And I agree about the brilliance of the clamshell design – one of the few small cameras that really doesn’t need a case.

      Mine had a noticeable dropoff at the edges of the frame – would be easy to correct for these days, of course.

      A terrific travel camera overall though, and once you become accustomed to the rangefinder, quite fluid in use…

      While I understand the issues about sensors vs film and approach angle, it would be awfully nice to have a full frame like it today. The flash would hardly be an issue – with the sensitivity available on full frame sensors today you’d hardly use it, anyway :-)

  • Actually, it is not the smallest 35mm rf. The Contax T is, albeit only by a smidge.

    • The Contax was only smaller until you opened the front door….alao a really cute camera by the looks of it.

  • Per K

    The XA was NOT a rangefinder. It had three distance settings, close, portrait, landscape. The exposure measuring was not good enough for color slides.
    It was great for BW though with a very special “documentary” look. I used both for street and during mountain trekking.
    The RX100 has much better IQ compared to the XA. The XA lens was LQ with lots vignetting = images more special than great.

    • The Other Chris

      Wrong. While the XA2, 3, and 4 were scale focus, the original XA has a full-fledged coupled rangefinder. I have one, so I know.

      However, that rangefinder patch is so dismal that I often use it as a scale-focus camera.

    • Nik.C

      The XA had/has (it’s still going strong… Just look on EBay!) a fantastic lens, an F Zuiko, and was a true Rangefinder, the XA2 and XA4 were decent scale focus versions, but the XA1and XA3 were, just point and shoots for the mass populace. the XA is a fantastic camera, innovative in its design, a triumph of form and function in an era of square bricks of plastic, Olympus managed to add some ergonomic appeal with the clam shell, as well as creating the perfect stealth camera for street photography, they really should do an APS-C version of this, if Ricoh can do it with the GR V, then Olympus really need to get back in the ring and give us a killer punch.

  • OM-4

    Design wise the Olympus mju mini digital (2x zoom) broke the mold of compact cameras when it came out. Since then not much exiting has been done.

    Lets hope Oly will hit one out of the park again.

  • Tom

    Looks like another tough news/rumor day when the article is another “reminiscing about….” camera :/

  • Zeus

    I just posted on the SAR site a day or 2 ago, how the RX100 successor (or whatever Sony does w/ blt-in EVF) will *finally* fulfill the promise of the full quality pocket digital XA/Rollei/Minox/contaxT.
    It’s been a long wait, for me…

    IMO, a cam of this sort must have a VF. The film progenitors were the equals of the full size SLR in image quality. An m43 sensor would do the trick, or maybe Sony 1″.

    I had/have both the XA and the original Minox 35 -which was the first of the Truly pocketable quality 35’s. It was a bit smaller still than the XA or T. It also weigh nothing, and had the drop down door that later inspired the Contax. Great lens, easily the equal of the XA, but w/scale focus instead of a rangefinder. Other than for close-ups, I preferred the scale focus over the less than optimal RF in many conditions of XA. Later XA mdls of course did away w/ the RF, too.

    • Zeus

      But, as good as it was, the Minox 35 was also the first (only) camera that broke on me. Film plane positioning plate fell off! I actually glued it back and even kept using it, later the electronics died. So yeah, durability counts…

      • J Shin

        The Minox (and the Rollei) also did not have a rangefinder, as I recall?

        • J Shin

          Oh, you said that. Sorry.

  • Liam

    The XA was a great little pocketable camera (I can’t believe I just agreed with Ken Rockwell! :O ). As always, the best camera is the one you have with you.
    My XA broke a number of years ago; I gave the side-mount flash to a friend. His XA just keeps going and going.

  • adaptor-or-die

    owned and used the XA from the time it was introducedin the 80s, a great travel, adventure, street camera. Miss that great lens design, (anyone that owned the XA will remember that lens) these days I still have an XA1 [horror!] but as these 80’s designs age and become vintage, the all mechanical XA1 is the true workhorse as it doesn’t have an electromagnetic shutter to fail in it. As long as the selenium lasts in it, it will go for a long, long time. Used the Rollei, Minox and both are small, but fiddly. The XA solved all that, but was about as small as I’d want in a camera …

  • michael

    If this was a Nikon or Canon site, every post so far would have been bitching about the Ken Rockwell shout-out.

    Congrats to 43rumors.com for rising above.

    • ohboy

      Well he is “Guru Blogger”. I would never call him “Guru Photographer” or “Guru Camera Enthusiast”.

      • Problem with Ken is that he rants, endlessly.

        Usually he has a point to make, and his points are often good ones, but he is way good at hiding his points deep inside his rants.

  • Beduin

    Is it worth mentioning “Guru blogger” every now and then? To me he’s just a joke. Nothing but an exalte amateur. Though I’m an amateur myself but even to me it is clearly visible.

  • Thyl Engelhardt

    Having used the XA for quite a while actually made me buy an EP-1. Boy, was I disappointed.

  • CapnDan

    An “XA-D” with m43 sensor really should be quite doable given that Olympus already has the compact optics (17mm f2.8 pancake lens in which the glass is a really small portion size-wise of the lens) and a simple optical viewfinder integrated above the lens just like the original XA should keep it small and the price down… It’s really kind of amazing that they haven’t done this yet… You would also think that from the success of the OM-D that they’d quickly realize that “reaching back to the past” is their sweet spot in the market…

  • XA-Shooter

    Hey Plastic-Haters, leave the XA alone! If you like metal, buy some steal and put it in your camera bag, to make it heavier, if that is what makes you happy!

    • From where should I steel the steal??

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