Starting off with the original Olympus XA released in 1979, the only true rangefinder camera within the series, a total of 5 models catering for different market segments and advances in technology was produced. Designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, the XA has a lot going for its size. These includes an aperture priority exposure system, a sharp and contrasty six element Zuiko 35mm f/2.8 lens of renowned Olympus glass, a CdS exposure meter and shutter speed range from 1/500 - 10 seconds.
Power for the electronics is from standard SR-44 1.5 silver oxide batteries which will and do last forever. A small swing-out lever from the base-plate of the camera provides a combination self-timer, battery check, and back-light compensation functionalities. Shutter release mechanism for the XA series, aside from the push-button XA1, is an electromagnetic feather-touch button designed to reduce camera shake.
Olympus XA Review
Built wise, the XA was the first full-featured camera in which plastic materials were used for the body and other key parts.
The XA was soon become a favorite with street photographers and some say, professionals. The form factor makes it very handy and unobtrusive to carry around; a tourist’s happy snapper, perfect for grabbing that candid and wild street shots without anyone noticing.
The 5 models of the Olympus XA series:
- Olympus XA - Compact rangefinder with aperture priority 35mm f/2.8 lens
- Olympus XA1 - Point-and-shoot mechanical camera with a selenium meter
- Olympus XA2 - Zone focus camera, automatic shutter, 35mm f/3.5 lens
- Olympus XA3 - Same as XA2 with "DX" automatic film speed recognition
- Olympus XA4 - Distance focus camera, 28mm wide macro lens
Externally Mounted Flash Units
The XA series was also accompanied by a range of externally mounted strobe flash unit designed to complement the overall look of the compact:
- A9M - Manual flash intended for use with the XA1. Uses one AA battery.
- A11 - Auto flash with settings for ASA 100 and ASA 400. Uses one AA battery.
- A16 - Auto flash, bigger than the A11. Has settings for ASA 100 and ASA 400. Uses two AA batteries.
- A1L - Lithium batteries is not replaceable by the user without dismantling the flash.
- A macro attachment was available for the A-11 and A-1L to use with the XA-4 at close focusing range.
XA 3 (1986)
Loading the Film
- Open the back of your XA by pulling the rewind knob up and release the spring latch that locks the back in place. Insert the 35mm film cassette into the left side of the camera back. Once inserted, push the film rewind dial down to lock the film canister into place.
- Pull a small amount of film from the cassette, across the camera back, and insert the film leader into a slot on the film take-up reel.
- When the film is firmly spooled on the take-up reel, advance the film using the film advance crank. Observe to make sure that the film has started to wind around the take-up reel. Close the back of your camera.
- After you close the camera back, slide the clamshell open, snap the shutter, crank the film forward and repeat until the film counter registers 1. This is to ensure that the part of the film that was exposed while you were loading the camera is completely cranked forwarded.
Adjust the ASA setting on the camera to that of the film you are using and you are set to go!
Focusing on a Rangefinder (Olympus XA)
To get the range (distance) correct, turn the focusing lever located on lower part of the lens housing, while you are looking at the subject through the viewfinder until the overlapping images merge into one.
You are now at the correct focus distance.
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