View Full Version : XA in New Zealand - review & photos

05-11-2009, 20:46
So - here I am back from the New Zealand. Unbelievable 3 weeks in wonderland. But let me talk about the Xa.

- As I discussed here before - I intended to take a small (pocket sized) RF camera for those mostly P&S and I finally chose the Oly Xa.
- The film of choice was the new Kodak Ektar 100, more on this later.
- I did not have too much time to test the camera beforehand, but I did replace the sealing as the old was just falling apart.
- I exposed 6 films (yes - only 6! , but I had 2 more cameras ;) ) and they just returned from scanning 2 days ago. I had them scanned with Nikon Coolscan 5000 with 2700 dpi (spi to be correct)

- Once the scans returned I figured out that it was not a wise idea to ask the lab not to cut the film, as it is scratched quite a bit, but PS-able.

The picture quality:
- at f/2.8 - the pictures are soft beyond acceptable (10x15 cm print would be soft) - if there are any lights (streetlights, car lights) - they will show a heavy coma.
- at f/4 - the results are still soft but this might be acceptable for 10x15 .
- f/5.6 and above - the picture quality increases - wheter it is sufficiant for a clean 20x30 cm (cca 8x10") prints will show in few days - I have jsut sent first ones for printing. The sharpness at 2700 dpi is still not what I have expected - but I might be spoiled by the results I am getting from my Rolleiflex T @ 3000 dpi scans. I had to do quite some sharpening (what brought out some grain & noise) to prepare the prints.
- light metering - I have to yet figure out the position of the center-weighted meter - I got cca 1 stop different readings in portrait orientation depending how I rotated the camera (CW or CCW)...?
- contrast - the XA seems to have less contrasty (micro contrast) lens then the lenses of my wife's minolta SLR lenses (28/2, 50/1.4)
- I did get the sun on the lens a couple of times (and a few directly in the sun), and while I did get some ghosts (blue and red stripes) - the overall contrast remained nearly undisturbed and the shots are indeed usable.
- size - PERFECT - I had the camera around my neck and shoulder in a small pouch literally all day long - you just do not notice it.

The Ektar 100
- definitely more saturated than the Superia 200 (my wife did shoot this one - I may post some comparison shots as a few times we did shoot the same scene)
- definitely much finer grain than the Superia.
- quite different color than Superia (well - given the results I have obtained from the scanner). The blue has more turquoise tone. The yellow is quite strong too - the green goes a bit yellow-green.
- the contrast is higher than the Superia - but not THAT much (first impressions)
- overall - seems to be a nice film - but will have to test with my Rolleiflex first to compare to my most used film - Provia 100F.

Preliminary bottom-line
- if the performance of my XA is the expected one - I will probably let it go purely because of the lens performance. Still - I am wondering whether I have just a "not that good" copy (looks actually quite good and clean) or it just needs a proper CLA (the camera is as old as I am - do I need a CLA too :eek: ?).
- but maybe I expect too much from 35mm ... ?
- I really like the small size and I consider the viewfinder usability acceptable for the travel.
- the darkening of the corners is somewhere on the edge of acceptable - would be worse with positive films I guess. What I do not like is that it is not fully symmetrical - on one side the darkening seems to be "wider".
- Concerning the focal length - I found the 35mm lens to be the best compromise for a fixed lens camera for traveling.
- what comes next ? - who knows, maybe I go for Hexar AF, or Contax G or Bessa R3A or even Bronica RF - but all of these are much larger and the small size of the XA was definitely an advantage ...

- I will do my best here over the next few days - I will post whole shots as well as some 100% (2700 dpi) zooms. I will try to upload some comparison (Xa versus Minolta Maxum 7) shots too.
- for now - I just submit a few shots - web versions of the first test prints. Please note that these have been adjusted in PS (curves, colors, sharpening).

I will be happy to see your comments or questions :)

05-12-2009, 02:02
Whatever you do, I'd wait and keep the XA - it's such a sweet, small package.

Most of all, I'd give another thought to what you're expecting from this camera: 20X30 prints from a tiny pocketable RF? This is the camera to carry around when you don't want to carry anything else. And still get acceptable results, of course, but there is always some compromise.

Don't know what other gear you're using; by all means consider a smallish RF like a bessa, but there will still be times you'll want something smaller.

Put another way, the XA would still be high on my list of one's to throw in a pocket/bag/glove compartment - but it would never be primary shooter for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

05-12-2009, 02:15
your assessment of the lens quality is exactly my own. I bought mine years ago and have a sentimental attachment, but I rarely use it because of the mediocre lens. the stylus epic has a much better lens as does my minox gl. I have gotten ok 8x12's from mine, but certainly not wide open. the camera has a very nice functional design IMO, but I doubt I will run any more film through it. I traveled across europe years ago with mine and got good snapshots... 4x6's were plenty good.

05-12-2009, 02:18
Most of all, I'd give another thought to what you're expecting from this camera: 20X30 prints from a tiny pocketable RF?

He mentioned 20x30 cm, not inches. That's roughly the same as an 8x10", which I would expect nice prints from a 35mm system.

05-12-2009, 02:52
Soft wide open for sure - this is widely known.

Your shots look both good and typical of the XA to me. I especially like the Zodiac shot.

If landscape and large prints were my only goal it would not be the camera I'd take - I agree with Armoured here - and I think this landscape point was part of your original discussion of what camera to take (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=69237). Unless the XA just ended up being the one I had with me, in which case it pays to stop down.

Hard to beat as a sketchbook, though. Instant on and all the settings accessible with the camera closed, no shutter lag, unobtrusive - these are some of the reasons it still lives in many pockets. Sharpness is only one image trait and it seems to dominate discussions in the age of digital. Comparing your XA shots to either the Minolta or your MF gear is going to result in a pretty obvious conclusion: those other images will be sharper.

The question for me with the XA could be something like this, "how else could I take the picture?" If there is a good obvious answer like, "Turn on the D700," or "Use the Hexanon," then I probably shouldn't have used the XA for the shot.

But it's so much fun to get a roll of XA shots back from the lab full of moments I could not have otherwise captured.

I have had several incarnations of this camera (they die off) and I have had at least one that produced sharper images than my current XA, though not by all that much. I say this as a guesstimate looking back at slides shot with my XAs.

05-12-2009, 04:34
Apologies for my point on 20X30 cm vs inches. I agree, looking to get decent - if not astounding - 8X10 in prints is not an unreasonable goal. There will just be a normal trade-off - size/price/flexibility etc.

This may be the wrong place to voice this opinion, but for a "sketchbook" and the occasional print - even a blow-up depending on the shooting conditions, a small pocketable digital is not a bad choice.

I still think the XA is such a nice form factor that it's worth hanging on to. But there are of course plenty of other options and depends on your style and what you're looking for. But it would not be my first choice for landscapes either except in extremis.

You may also want to try it with other types of film - the modest wide may make it a nice candidate for B&W street shots. I forget who it was who said this recently, but it's great to have a camera that the average person will not take seriously that still takes decent shots.

05-12-2009, 09:22
Thank you all so far,

so it seems (given your experience) that I am not having any particullarly bad copy of the XA.

- mh2000 -
I understand your point - and I fully agree. I would not take the XA along as my only camera - not even for tramping over cities and even less for countryside. At this stage I would consider the 6x4.5 as a minimum.
Still - if the perfomance of the XA would be better wide open - I would be fine with it, as the performance at f/5.6 and above is OK for "take it everywhere" camera.

- mackigator -
Also true - I did know I am doing compromise with the XA - and it did give me shots I might have missed, but it also did miss on the shots where shooting at f/2.8 was the only possibility.

- Armoured -
Your digital point is well taken - I did think about it. But until there will be decet (at least) DX chipped small cameras that offer decent tonal quality and contrast range - I will stay with the film although the developing and scanning takes much more time and money. And - after all - my wife did have a small digital (one of the Canon SD??? IS) camera - and got some nice shots too (well, out of 800 :cool: )

Yes - the XA is suitable for those "I am just an amateur shoooting with amateur camera" shots - but the unability to make some selective focus shots makes it - at least for me - less interesting for that kind of photography.

I actually did shoot one Delta 400 with it - still have to develope it.


I mentioned elsewhere - having 3 cameras (XA, Rollei T, Tachihara 4x5) along prooved to be too much - quite often I used the XA instad of the Rolleiflex - as it had wider lens and Aperture Priority mode (faster). Actually the results from the Rolleiflex are quite nice - scans should arrive soon. Would I have the money, than the new Bessa III could be a solution, although 80mm lens is on the longer side even with 6x7.

I guess - I have to think a bit more and next time try dufferent approach. Probably no 4x5 (too slow for a "family" trip). Probably one MF SLR (or some custom 6x9 or 6x12 - just dreaming) and a small(er) rangefinder camera as a supplement.

I do realize that one allways have to make compromises.

On a different note - recently I got R3A into my hands for a few minutes - that is not a viewfinder - that is a window! 75mm frames were much large than I expected, for the 40mm ones I had to look around ... just a thought ;) I would like to get my hands on the RF645 though, as it is the only way to get the idea about the size. I have tried the Fuji Ga645zi and strongly dissliked the viewfinder and found the camera rather large.

05-12-2009, 10:45
The samples look good. The XA has a good lens but it is not a Summicron.
I love my XA for what it is.

sample: http://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t261/raidamin/XA/57050005small.jpg

06-13-2009, 17:42
I bought an XA new back in 1987. I wish I kept it but I would not be using it much. If you want sharp all the way up to f2.8 and about the same size, IMHO you can't go past the Contax T3.:cool:

Its easily pocketable in a light coat, and I love the heads up display in the viewfinder. The T3 attracts a high price but that indicates to me that its a successful camera.