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Scribo
02-24-2008, 12:54
First time posting here. Greetings.

I've been comparing images from my 35 RC, which I have owned and used for a year, and a newly-acquired XA (nice example, as far as I can tell). I've been disappointed to find that the negs from the XA just don't quite have the definition of those from the RC.

I wonder if anyone else who owns and uses both has the same impression.

It isn't a focus issue. In fact, if I didn't have the RC for comparison, I wouldn't have any problems with the photos from the XA. They are about what I would expect out of a very compact 35mm rangefinder. The problem is that the RC exceeds those expectations.

I bought the RC in order to have a pocketable camera, a true walking-around piece that will deliver on the image quality. The RC is almost pocketable, depending on the pocket. The XA really does comfortably slip into the hip pocket of my trousers.

I like the 35mm focal length; for my taste, the RC could have gone just a bit wider. I like that I can advance film on the XA and carry it around without a chance of tripping the shutter, so that it's ready to go as soon as I open the clamshell.

Bottom line, I'm walking around every day with the XA ready to go. I just don't look forward to seeing what comes out of it quite the way I do with the RC.

Does any of this sound familiar to anyone else?

rogue_designer
02-24-2008, 13:30
Greetings Scribo!

There are always sacrifices to be made for size and convenience.

The XA's lens is very good - especially compared with others in its class. But I wouldn't hold it up against its bigger brethren. Compare apples to apples.

Ultimately though - I have not found its sharpness or lack thereof to be a primary concern. If I'm using that camera, it's rare that an ultrasharp image is what I'm after - I'm using it because I wanted something handy, just in case. If my primary goal is sharpness.. I wouldn't be using ANY 35mm camera to begin with.

Take images. Don't worry overly much about incremental differences between lenses. Getting the shot is more important. Alternatively - if it really bothers you - ditch the XA, and just deal with the bigger camera.

Just my $.02

Trius
02-24-2008, 14:31
I think the XA is sample dependent, but even the best show some corner and edge softness at certain apertures. The RC is sharp across the frame, though I haven't done controlled tests to see at what apertures resolution falls off.

This is an XA shot, EI 250 on Kodak 400BW. Given the overcast conditions, I think I shot about f5.6. I think you can see what I'm talking about in the lower left with the apples on the ground. One stop smaller might have improved things, but then I would be fighting shutter speed.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2348/1805944031_83a6305baa_o.jpg

This one (same day, but different winery with more sunlight) fares better; the OOF is more due to DOF than falloff.

Some day I'll do side-by-side comparison shots of the two cameras.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2014/1806791546_f837c47390_o.jpg

Trius
02-24-2008, 15:29
Here is an RC shot, probably wide open, same film I think but obviously different lighting conditions.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1411/536402636_427ee83b09_o.jpg

Scribo
02-24-2008, 17:40
Trius, I know that Web resolution can be deceiving, but even if you hadn't told me, I would have immediately ID'd the last shot of the three as being from an RC (and the others not). That lens just has something special. I don't know what the resolution charts look like, but subjectively I would say that the RC's lens stands up to a high quality SLR prime of near-equivalent length; the 40/1.8 Rokkor is an excellent lens, but apart from the added 1 1/2 stops, I'm not sure that the Zuiko lens gives up anything to it.

rogue, I take all your points, but if the XA is in a different class from the RC then it is a very limited class. They're both compact rangefinders at the smaller end of the scale; the XA is even more compact than the RC, but not by a whole lot: about 15 mm difference in depth and about 10 mm in height (just eyeballing it). The lens design that keeps the XA so slim is probably a compromise.

I know, I'm whining... I was just hoping that whatever is miraculous about the RC lens might have made its way over to the XA.

Oh well, the RC is a pocketable camera... when I'm wearing pants with cargo pockets.

A couple from the RC, Kodak Ultramax 400 and BW400CN:

http://phillipfinch.com/images/scribo/bushmans1.jpg

I'm a writer. Last year I brought my RC along on a book research trip to South Africa, along with a dSLR and several lenses. The RC was supposed to be just a backup, but since it went everywhere with me, I used it plenty. Two images I shot with the RC ended up being used as full-page plates in the book (octavo size, about 6X9 inches). I make no claims about the artistic merits, but the technical quality was more than acceptable, and as good as I would have hoped to get from a full-sized camera.

I'm not sure I would try that with the XA.

http://phillipfinch.com/images/scribo/ds_desk.jpg

BTW the chrome bits of my RC were painted matte black before I acquired it.

Love this little camera.

PaulRicciardi
03-01-2008, 13:26
Can't say I have shot with an XA though I'm sure I will eventually buy one. I love my RC.

To answer your question about the image quality with an RC I'll say this. The RC is good enough for me. It's small and I can take it anywhere so portability, not the lens, is why I like it. I don't waste time pixel peeping or looking at my 35mm negatives with a loupe. Honestly, if I want quality I'm going to shoot medium or large format.

Personally I don't see the point in wasting time comparing XA and RC image quality. I don't mean to be a jerk, it's just that as far as I am concerned a 35mm camera isn't designed for image quality. It's designed for portability and ease of use. I love my 4x5 camera but it's not made for street shooting. Use whichever camera you feel more comfortable and you get better results with.

Here are a few from my RC:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2114/2290017560_153565064b.jpg?v=0

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3079/2289222857_70b282b276.jpg?v=0

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2415/2290015402_e644d137cd.jpg?v=0

zuikologist
03-01-2008, 13:37
There is something about the RC, not sure what it is - ultra contrast or great resolution, but it's always a pleasant surprise to see the output from this camera.

PaulRicciardi
03-01-2008, 13:55
There is something about the RC, not sure what it is - ultra contrast or great resolution, but it's always a pleasant surprise to see the output from this camera.

For me it's the fact that the RC was quite obviously designed to be a user's camera. It's small, simple, well built and has all of the features I want and none of the ones I don't. If a camera is usable I'm going to make better pictures.

Scribo
03-01-2008, 16:30
Just to be clear, I have absolutely no complaints about the image quality from the RC. After owning and using one for a year, I bought a second RC this week, to stash in my truck.

I am sort of disappointed in what I've gotten from my XA so far, compared to the RC, and part of the reason for the original post was hear whether others had the same observation. If three or four users had jumped on to tell me that their XA turned out images comparable to the RC's, I might conclude that I had a substandard XA.

I don't expect brilliance from a pocketable camera, but I also don't buy the notion that since they're not MF, it's pointless to discuss image quality. These aren't toys; they're purposeful tools, and there is certainly a point in comparing their performance. Or maybe the Leica owners here should just trash their M3s and their Summicrons and start shooting with Wal-Mart disposables. I won't try to turn out a 30X40-inch gallery print with either the RC or the XA, but if Real Photography started with 30X40-inch gallery prints, the number of Real Photographers would be drastically smaller than it is.

PaulRicciardi, if you like the RC for its portability, you will really prefer the XA. It is even more compact than the RC, and the smooth body slides in and out of pockets very easily.

Below, with RC.

http://phillipfinch.com/images/scribo/rc_dal.jpg

PaulRicciardi
03-01-2008, 16:52
I don't expect brilliance from a pocketable camera, but I also don't buy the notion that since they're not MF, it's pointless to discuss image quality. These aren't toys; they're purposeful tools, and there is certainly a point in comparing their performance. Or maybe the Leica owners here should just trash their M3s and their Summicrons and start shooting with Wal-Mart disposables. I won't try to turn out a 30X40-inch gallery print with either the RC or the XA, but if Real Photography started with 30X40-inch gallery prints, the number of Real Photographers would be drastically smaller than it is.

PaulRicciardi, if you like the RC for its portability, you will really prefer the XA. It is even more compact than the RC, and the smooth body slides in and out of pockets very easily.


I for one was not saying that 35mm has no place in the photography world. It certainly has a place as a highly portable and economical format and by no means should 35mm users throw out their cameras. But, what I was attempting to say is that if utmost quality is your primary concern you aren't going to find it in 35mm. You don't seem to want to be producing huge prints so it's a moot point, if 35mm delivers the quality that you are looking for then by all means keep using it and trying to find how to get the most quality out of that format.

Out of curiosity have you ever shot a larger format? I looked through your blog and it looks like everything was either 35mm or digital. Just wondering if you've ever shot anything larger...the difference is pretty significant. Personally I'm finding 4x5 is getting too small, 8x10 is looking better everyday but YMMV.

Anyways, if 35mm works for you then good, I was in no way looking down my nose at it, I shoot a lot of 35mm personally and it certainly has a place as a viable format. Thanks for the recommendations on the XA I keep toying with the idea of getting one but then I realize I A) don't need anymore cameras and B) if I do get another camera I should probably finally get myself a "real" rangefinder.

Oh and that photo you posted, was that on a chromogenic BW film? Such as kodak BWCN400? Looks like it has a slight blue cast to it and I've noticed that scans from a minilab of the chromogenic films seem to all have that. Just wondering, looks good though.

Scribo
03-01-2008, 21:06
Paul,

Long ago I shot landscapes with a field grade 4X5, but even then I didn't make huge prints. I also didn't shoot many photographs, for the usual reasons. That's the big advantage of 35mm photography: it's simply more accessible in so many respects.

These days one of my principal aims in photography is to have a camera at hand as often as possible. I'm not a great photographer, but when I'm walking around with a camera in my pocket, I'm immeasurably better than the great photographer whose gear is in a case at home.

You are correct on all counts regarding the shot above. It is BW400CN, processed by a minilab -- accessibility again. When I occasionally get one I like, I send it off for a proper scan before I print it. I usually do a monochrome conversion, but I must've missed it this time. Should have noticed because it is very noticeable in the white coat.

Below, the corrected file, and another RC shot.

http://phillipfinch.com/images/scribo/rc_dal2.jpg


http://phillipfinch.com/images/RTD/don3.jpg

PaulRicciardi
03-01-2008, 23:04
Paul,

Long ago I shot landscapes with a field grade 4X5, but even then I didn't make huge prints. I also didn't shoot many photographs, for the usual reasons. That's the big advantage of 35mm photography: it's simply more accessible in so many respects.

These days one of my principal aims in photography is to have a camera at hand as often as possible. I'm not a great photographer, but when I'm walking around with a camera in my pocket, I'm immeasurably better than the great photographer whose gear is in a case at home.

You are correct on all counts regarding the shot above. It is BW400CN, processed by a minilab -- accessibility again. When I occasionally get one I like, I send it off for a proper scan before I print it. I usually do a monochrome conversion, but I must've missed it this time. Should have noticed because it is very noticeable in the white coat.

Below, the corrected file, and another RC shot.



I agree wholeheartedly on what you say about always having a camera in hand/in pocket. I don't leave the house without one, like yourself I would much rather take a decent shot then no shot at all. And I was just wondering if you had ever shot anything larger than 35mm, many people never have.

The two from the RC look nice. I especially love that second one. I notice the scuba tanks in the background and that your latest book is about divers, have you ever done any underwater photo work?

ChrisPlatt
03-02-2008, 05:58
The XA you have in your pocket will always give you better results than the 35RC you left back at home. ;)

Chris

bmattock
03-02-2008, 06:17
The very reason my Kodak C663 is always in my jacket pocket, and my Kodak C530 is in the center console of my car. Both replace the XA2 I used to carry habitually.

Scribo
03-02-2008, 08:14
And I was just wondering if you had ever shot anything larger than 35mm, many people never have.

The two from the RC look nice. I especially love that second one. I notice the scuba tanks in the background and that your latest book is about divers, have you ever done any underwater photo work?
I have done just enough underwater photography to know that it is difficult and frustrating, and to have great respect for those who do it well. It's a test of diving ability as well as photo skills; you must have superb bouyancy control before you can even think about making a good photograph.

If I tried it again, it would be with a dSLR that has "live" view on the LCD. That would make the photo part a little easier.

Thanks for the comment on that 2nd photo, but I wish the subject didn't have a gas whip growing out of his head. It was literally a snap shot as he looked up from his desk, no chance to reposition myself. That will be a candidate for some software manipulation if I ever get around to it. The subject of that photo is a diving instructor named Don Shirley, who survived the total failure of the electronics on his rebreather at a depth of 250 metres -- that's metres, not feet. More men have walked on the moon than have successfully dived to 250 metres, much less overcome the failure of life support equipment while doing it.

Trius
03-02-2008, 12:28
The original advertising campaign for the XA included professional photographers who used the XA in situations where using a larger 35mm kits might be impossible or very difficult ... e.g. rock-climbing, etc. And of course the claim was that the lens was in a class where they felt comfortable using it, as well as using the camera as a sketch book, a la the Pen series.

I don't remember the RC advertising campaign, as it was so much earlier.

One thing that I suspect, however, is that any sharpness issues with the XA may be due to vibration. I have a print of an XA shot when the XA was mounted on a tripod, and I find it better than a lot of my other XA shots. The vibration theory is just a hunch, of course. Maitani put a lot of research into the XA lens. A six-element lens in such a tiny space was a triumph of design for the day.

Scribo
03-02-2008, 13:37
One thing that I suspect, however, is that any sharpness issues with the XA may be due to vibration. I have a print of an XA shot when the XA was mounted on a tripod, and I find it better than a lot of my other XA shots. The vibration theory is just a hunch, of course. Maitani put a lot of research into the XA lens. A six-element lens in such a tiny space was a triumph of design for the day.
I'm not sure where the vibration would come from, but it might be a slight shake. The shutter release is very, very sensitive, with less travel than any other camera I have used. To fire, you just think about firing (or so it seems).

Maybe my technique needs a little work.

ChrisPlatt
03-03-2008, 02:37
The XA is difficult to hold steady due to its lack of mass, thus the extra soft-touch shutter release.
It's a good idea to hold your breath at the moment you make the exposure,
or brace yourself against something if possible.

Chris

historicist
03-03-2008, 03:22
I have owned both the XA and the RC (albeit briefly and a long time ago for the RC) and I wouldn't say the RC was better, lens quality wise than the XA.

The XA has got a really nice lens for a cheap, compact camera, and seems to have a nice bit of 'character'. It vignettes a lot in the corners, but I quite like this for low light use. In my personal experience it is sharp enough, certainly better than the XA2.

The samples from the RC on this page look great, btw.

Solinar
03-03-2008, 04:15
There are differences between the two - The E. Zuiko on the 35RC will render images that are more Tessar-like.

The F - Zuiko on the XA is a reverse retrofocus design - which gives a more modern signature.

Since the XA will utilize slow shutter speeds that were never the purview of the 35RC - a pocketable table top travel pod which collapses into a single pocketable tube is nice to have. Bilora made one for the Yashica Electro 35 series which works nicely.

As was said earlier the XA in your pocket will give better results than a 35RC left at home.

zuikologist
03-03-2008, 05:05
Solinar - I use a bendy tripod with a small ball head. It works very well and fits quite easily in a pocket. I hear good things about the Ultrapod but it is bigger.

I agree about the XA/RC size. It you wear a coat, carrying either is no problem. Otherwise, the XA will fit into a trouser pocket and is easy to open and shoot quite quickly. The 35mm focal length probably works slightly better for zone focus/fast shooting. I have both cameras and like them both.

shadowfox
03-05-2008, 17:40
XA isn't capable of sharpness?

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/183/476884479_051cf938e7.jpg

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1388/901036775_3846f2c2e1.jpg

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1074/891846851_fbd0dc1366.jpg

The 35 RC is sharp, but XA has better microcontrast.

Both are potent shooters, what else do you expect from Mr. Maitani? ;)

Trius
03-05-2008, 17:59
Some people have a more difficult time holding the XA without some slight movement ... it is definitely a different feel and of a different heft than the RC and similar cameras. Couple that with the "hair trigger" of the XA (which has rarely been a problem for me, but YMMV), plus sample variation, and I think those things explain the perceived difference in capabilities. ... And, of course, the difference in the lens designs.

what else do you expect from Mr. Maitani? ;)

I expect him to un-retire, of course. :D

Anupam
03-05-2008, 18:18
An image from my XA. I feel that the RD is a better combo with the XA.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/115/308882235_f132d35266_o.jpg

Scribo
03-05-2008, 21:10
shadowfox,

That's what I've been hoping to see from this camera.

Nice.

lambyu
03-25-2008, 23:19
i've been using XA for about 7 yrs, it has been my main pocket camera and i bring it along with me when i go travel.
here's my site, more then 90% of photos inside are by the XA, i really love it's portability and performance.
www.lambiseverywhere.co.nr
i've tried different RF/compact RF as well, but i think portability is the most important for daily snap shots/care-free trips.

ernstk
03-25-2008, 23:42
Lambyu, welcome to the forum. These Chernobyl and Pripyat photos are amazing. Was it safe to go there?

Regards
Ernst

Leighgion
03-26-2008, 00:59
I don't have an RC so I can't compare, but my XA hasn't been one to impress me as a sharpness machine compared to my Nikon SLRs. To be fair, I've no doubt that part of the issue is that I don't hold the little lightweight anywhere near as steady and I've also never had it CLA'd, so I don't know how accurate the focus is.

Still, it's very pocketable and has made some nice images for me.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2288/2104653053_9385e95064.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/leighgion/2104653053/in/set-72157603434598542/)

lambyu
03-26-2008, 01:02
Lambyu, welcome to the forum. These Chernobyl and Pripyat photos are amazing. Was it safe to go there?

Regards
Ernst

hi ernst,
it's completely safe to go there, just look for the local tour(only one) at Kiev. cheaper if you've a bigger group.
cheers,
lamb

mcgrattan
03-26-2008, 03:15
I bought an XA a month or two back, and so far, have been quite disappointed with it. So I can see where the OP is coming from. I find the edge softness and the vignetting a little disappointing for me, and everything seems to have a '1970s' sort of colour rendition which I don't like.

Looking around at other's shots on Flickr and on the web, most of them exhibit the same 'look' and it's a look I find I'm not keen on. I'll probably run a few more black and white rolls through it, and if I still don't like it, offload. It's a shame as an aperture priority pocketable rangefinder was exactly what I wanted.

I prefer the shots taken with my mju II and also with the little GAF rangefinder I used to have. And my FSU and Retina cameras are in a different league.

The camera isn't faulty -- the shots are all in focus and well-exposed, I just find the look isn't right for my taste.

Oh well.

Scribo
03-27-2008, 14:02
Following a couple of the suggestions in this thread, I did put the camera on a tripod for some test shots that were quite crisp. So I knew what the camera could do, and I began to pay more attention to my hold. After that even the handheld shots were a lot closer to my expectations. I'm pretty sure now that in my earlier shots I was getting some micro-shake. Not a lot, but enough to throw off the edge sharpness somewhat.

The XA seems to take some practice. It is lighter and smaller than anything I've used before. But the big factor is the very light trigger. There is virtually no travel on the shutter release; consequently the camera is firing a fraction of a second sooner than I expect.

So, shooting with the XA isn't reflexive. I do have to be conscious of the mechanics. But when I am, the output is fine.

I have had no problem with vignetting, but I usually have the aperature around f/8 or f/11.

wjlapier
04-07-2008, 13:26
Another vote for a sharp XA. Before I post my pic, I'm wondering who services these cameras. Mine has some debris in the VF, and I'd like to get a CLA before I go the GNP.

http://webpages.charter.net/wjlapier/Image2post800wide.jpg

Bill

John Shriver
04-13-2008, 13:31
Focusing the XA is by moving one "floating" group to change the focal length of the lens. If someone has worked on the lens of the XA without the proper jigs for setting up the location of the internal focusing element, and without setting up the shims for overall lens position, sharpness will be compromised. Since it's not a unit focusing lens, it's only optimally sharp at the one distance of 2.6246 meters (see the service manual).

I've never had any particular feelings or opinions about the sharpness of the lens. I have noticed the strong vignetting at wide apertures when shooting Kodachrome 64 in low light. (I now feed my XA a steady diet of Fuji 800Z.)