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The Search for a Working Olympus XA
Old 08-10-2016   #1
filmfan
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The Search for a Working Olympus XA

So I have now purchased (and returned) 2 of these cameras using ebay...

And my search continues...

Attempt #1:

The first one I bought was listed as EX+ for a really good price and arrived with a dusty viewfinder, previously owned by a smoker and reeked, and inoperable rangefinder patch. The patch was like totally invisible no matter what lighting conditions I tried it in. I returned it same-day it arrived.

Attempt #2:

My second attempt took my learnings from attempt #1 into account. I spent more money this copy that was listed as Mint. The seller was very communicative and even "confirmed" that the rangefinder patch was working. Well... it arrived and although looked just about perfect, the rangefinder patch was AGAIN totally un-usable. I returned it next day.

So is this just the way this camera will be... always having a rangefinder patch that is not worth using? Are all copies like this, or should I continue my quest to find a good one? I don't event need it to be absolutely perfect -- just "decent" will be good enough for me.

Even better, does anyone have one for sale?
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Old 08-10-2016   #2
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I'm 100% sure where might be one in true mint condition.
But from my experience as with other small film cameras with electronics, they are on the age of getting too old for daily use. Doesn't matter if they are repaired from scavenged parts or not, IMO.
My XA first have VF exposure meter dead and lasts just for couple of years before taking exposure meter crapped out. I switched to electronics free film cameras after it for daily use. But if you are looking for one to have in collection or use twice a year where must be one!
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Old 08-10-2016   #3
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I've owned nice examples of the XA. The rangefinder should be useable. It's not the brightest, most contrasty rangefinder out there, but it SHOULD be serviceable.

The seals may be gooey and need replacing if so one's used it in a while, but it's a neat little camera and takes easily available batteries, definitely worth looking for a nice copy.

eBay is quite the crap shoot sometimes. I look at the seller's feedback, what they typically sell if they have a lot of history, read the ad and see if I can determine if they know what the heck they're talking about in the first place. I pulled up a few on eBay and it's amazing what some people will write. Saw one that talked about "beautiful black finish, with scotch tape....". Geez!
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Old 08-10-2016   #4
Ken Ford
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My late wife bought me an XA for a wedding gift back in 1986. To be honest, even brand new the RF patch was indistinct. I seem to recall taking a page from LTM and sticking a little piece of yellow Wratten gel filter into the RF window to increase contrast. Mine is packed away or I'd look for you.
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Old 08-10-2016   #5
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If I can find mine, I will check it out and send it to you, you can have it for the price of one of two things... you can send me something of equal photographic interest, or you can do something unexpectedly nice for someone you don't know... your choice.
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Old 08-10-2016   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ford View Post
<snip>To be honest, even brand new the RF patch was indistinct.
I'd go with this. I bought one new, in the early 80's, and kept it until a couple of years ago. I used it mostly for backpacking, and found it to be okay for what it was.
In terms of photographic results, if I could reference another recent thread here, I did not find it to be nearly as "iconic" a camera as internet lore has made it out to be. It was better than my Minox, but that is about as far as I'm prepared to praise it. Nice and Small though and a clever design, I will give it that.
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Old 08-10-2016   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by someonenameddavid View Post
If I can find mine, I will check it out and send it to you, you can have it for the price of one of two things... you can send me something of equal photographic interest, or you can do something unexpectedly nice for someone you don't know... your choice.
Love it -- I'll do both. Check your PM.
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Old 08-10-2016   #8
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This thread is so RFF. Everything about it.

I thought about digging up my XA too. Although I don't remember how good the RF is, I do remember it had a clamshell door that would bind if you didn't open it nicely. Minor issue. Many wonderful images from that little camera. I actually shot a lot of slide film in Mexico with that camera and they all turned out properly exposed and sharp (unless user error intervened).

Found it in the thrift store -- $5
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Old 08-10-2016   #9
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The XA is one of my all-time favorites. They always produce good results for me and make a great daily-carry film camera. Unfortunately I have two, neither of which work fully. One has a dim rangefinder, the other, a bad sensor/exposure system. I have the one with the dim patch apart for cleaning. I've got to get back to that.
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Old 08-10-2016   #10
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I have two. I believe both are in good operational condition, though may need some cleanup of viewfinder.
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Old 08-13-2016   #11
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Sounds like you are set up now but good usable cameras are definitely still out there. I've got 3/4 (Two are in a home built stereo setup) that are good to go.
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Old 08-13-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fixcinater View Post
Sounds like you are set up now but good usable cameras are definitely still out there. I've got 3/4 (Two are in a home built stereo setup) that are good to go.
We'll see. I sent PM's but still have not heard back from anyone. I'll sit patiently :-)
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Old 08-13-2016   #13
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I bought mine for $80 and sold it a few years later for $120. It was a magnificent camera. Sadly I used it during my "xpro" days but definitely had a sweet spot for that camera.





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Old 08-13-2016   #14
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Quote:
takes easily available batteries
A huge advantage. Same batts as many Nikons, Leicas Etc.

Quote:
even brand new the RF patch was indistinct
As has been said, it's not exactly in the Leica M league but better than nothing (which is what you get with Rollei 35 or Minox GL).

Quote:
It was better than my Minox, but that is about as far as I'm prepared to praise it
Yes, a better design than the Minox GL I think.
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Old 08-13-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ford View Post
To be honest, even brand new the RF patch was indistinct.
I got my XA at a buy and sell in college in 1983. It was almost brand new, and the rangefinder patch was a bright contrasty yellow, but it has sure faded over the years. It's essentially colorless now, but it still superimposes images and remains functional. I'll have to try some yellow gel to see if it works.

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Old 08-13-2016   #16
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IMHO the XA was in the same design league as the OM.

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Old 08-13-2016   #17
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Had to open mine up because the shutter was sticking. Got that cleaned up okay, but in the process of disassembly, you have to break the glue joint that holds the focus lever to the lens. So now it only focuses properly in one direction, but I haven't used anymore film in it to find out for sure which way that is (going from close-to-far, or the other way around). And yeah, there is the dim rangefinder patch to contend with.

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Old 08-13-2016   #18
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It's difficult enough to have to find a working XA, even harder to find one in terrible cosmetic condition but in working condition. Been looking for ages for something I can throw in my pocket everywhere!
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Old 08-14-2016   #19
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I bought one new in about 1980, to take with me when I went skiing as it was the only camera small enough to slip into a ski parka pocket. The RF patch was never contrasty like a Leica but was good enough as long as you had enough time to move focus back and forth to check it was in focus. I liked the image quality. Unfortunately I dropped it onto concrete one day and it was kaput.

A few years ago I found one for $5 in a charity store. And then another. It was just the same, i.e. the focus was sort of OK as long as you had time to double check it was superimposed. I learnt to rely on scale focus instead and found that was perfectly acceptable and much quicker.

The advantage was aperture priority exposure with +1.5EV exposure compensation when you wanted it. This makes it a really competent street shooter. The shutter is extremely quiet which also helps. On one of mine I broke the latch that holds the clamshell closed but that's not a biggie. Then the rewind button became stuck in the "in" position meaning I got accidental multiple exposures.

In the end I gave up and bought a Rollei 35S (f2.8 Sonnar) from another member here. In comparison it's just as fast as the XA and the lens is definitely better. It's not quite as pocketable but it's still small. The other drawbackd are: the shutter is louder, although people don't seem to notice; and film loading is tedious. Still, I prefer it to my XA because I love the image quality of the Sonnar.

The other advantage to the R35S is it's completely mechanical if you use sunny 16 or a hand held meter. The meter in mine works but in practice I rarely use it.
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Old 08-14-2016   #20
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Best of luck with the XAs offered in this thread, it's a neat camera. I was also looking for one but like lynnb I also eventually went for a Rollei. I never found a cheap XA at a second hand store or yard sale as so many people seem to and seeing functionally dubious XAs regularly sell on ebay for Tessar and even Sonnar Rollei 35 prices I opted for a bargain 35SE. No regrets. Now that I'm used to it I'd say it's just about my ideal walk around 35mm film camera. For me the biggest downsides are the bottom mounted hotshoe (I use flash fairly semi-frequently) and the meter which is basically useless, not hard to work around either though.
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Old 08-14-2016   #21
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John Hermanson at Camtech (zuiko.com) still repairs the Olympus XA.

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Old 08-22-2016   #22
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Anyone have an Olympus XA w/ working rangefinder patch?

Unfortunately, as much as all the above offers were nice, no one has replied to my PMs...
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Old 08-22-2016   #23
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The rangefinder patch works on mine but all the ones I have seen leave a lot to be desired.
Easier and faster to scale focus which is why I prefer my XA4 plus it does macro.
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Old 08-22-2016   #24
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You could try this and see if it works for you:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ad.php?t=99177
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Old 08-23-2016   #25
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Loved the XA when I could get it working, but alas, they are delicate things. First one I had was lovely but barely legible rangefinder patch and eventually developed shutter problems. Second one I had was NOS in box with original price card in yen and had most likely never been used. Unfortunately the shutter didn't work in that one from the day I got it. I can confirm that the rangefinder patch was much much better than my original XA though - not at all unusable.

edit: I'll add - there's definitely something a bit special about the lens on these. It's a much nicer lens somehow than most other compacts.
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Old 10-03-2016   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt View Post
John Hermanson at Camtech (zuiko.com) still repairs the Olympus XA.

Chris

Good to know, because I dropped one of my XAs over the weekend and the shutter no longer responds when I change the aperture. I love the camera and it's taken some fine photos for me over the years, so if I can get it repaired I may do that.
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Old 10-03-2016   #27
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Look at the recent listings in the classified.....

No relationship to the seller. Though he is a great guy.

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Old 10-03-2016   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filmfan View Post
Anyone have an Olympus XA w/ working rangefinder patch?

Unfortunately, as much as all the above offers were nice, no one has replied to my PMs...
I have a minty XA, fully operational and film tested. PM if interested.
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