View Full Version : Retina IIa vs Olympus XA?

08-04-2009, 06:53
I've been looking at getting a Retina IIa for a very small basic pocket FF 35mm but now after reading on the Oly XA, it would appear to be a viable option.

Has anyone here used both and how would you compare them?

08-04-2009, 07:36
Thats an apples vs oranges comaparison :)

The Oly XA is smaller, has a wide angle lens, and AE exposure.

The Retina IIa is small, metal, a 5cm normal lens, and manually set exposures.

Your applications and preferred photographic technique should determine which you choose.

08-04-2009, 09:34
Yeah, these are quite different cameras.

XA- 35mm lens
11A- 50mm lens

XA- Auto exposure
11A- not even a meter

XA- Clamshell
11A- Folding

XA- Little black plastic thing with a good lens
11A- beautiful metal and leather with a excellent lens.

XA- fairly available and inexpensive
11A- A little harder to find and fairly pricey.

XA- Maybe a little hard to repair
11A- Easy to repair very simple mechanism

XA- Little black ugly plastiky thing.
11A- In good shape these are beautiful cameras.

Get both!

08-04-2009, 09:42
Battery free = Retina

08-04-2009, 09:53
Easy. It depends entirely if you place the importance of light weight and small size before or after full manual control and high quality metal construction.

08-04-2009, 10:00
I've used both, and they are both great cameras in their own way. For ease of use and "pocketability" go for the XA. The 35mm lens, extremely low weight, and auto-exposure make it great for carrying around all the time, without needing anything else but film to take pictures in most any situation.

Now, the IIa is also a great camera, but it's much heavier than the XA. You'll know it when you carry it in your pocket! However, I like the lens on the Retina IIa more than the Zuiko on the XA. The only downside is that sometimes the 50mm focal length can sometimes feel a little too "tight" when composing. Still, it's a great lens! If you are using it in a wide variety of lighting conditions, you might carry a light meter around, as it has no built-in meter whatsoever. If you are good at "sunny-16" it may not be a problem. The plus side to the IIa in practical use is the more accurate rangefinder, lack of battery dependence, faster lens, and ability to easily use filters and hoods. The construction and quality are beautiful, but I don't know if I'd say the Olympus XA is junk by comparison. They were both built to be quality products.

All in all, I still feel the XA is the best pocketable rangefinder available. Tiny size, decent 35mm lens, apeture priority automatic exposure, built-in and accurate light meter, simple to use, quiet, and extremely affordable. It just performs so well in so many different situations, and does it all so easily.

08-04-2009, 10:05
A Rollei 35 S,T,SE,or TE would be a good compromise between the two.

08-04-2009, 11:42
XA was my favorite "street shooting" (whatever that means) camera ever.

Retina was a favorite for studied travel photos or at least semi-staged photos of your friends...not a particularly fast-shooting camera, although you could certainly press it into that type of shooting if you wanted.

Edit: The Retina is a brick, as well. The XA is much more a truly pocketable camera.

08-04-2009, 13:17
Overall I'd go with the Retina in part since it slightly edges out the XA in lens quality. Also the XA needs batteries while the Retina is completely manual.

I currently own several Retinas and had a couple of XA's in the past but have no intentions of getting another XA..

08-04-2009, 13:25
I see several (including me) have cited battery dependence as a downside for the XA. So, I just wanted to clarify that it's not a huge problem at all. The XA uses two very small batteries, which last a very long time. If you worry about the batteries going dead, carry a spare set, or tape them to the camera or wrist strap. Problem solved.

08-04-2009, 21:28
I own both, and several other Retinas and XA1, XA2, XA3 and XA4. I don't think the Retina and XA are at all comparable. The size, weight and clamshell design of the XA is perfect for a pocket. If you have to have a flash, it too is pocketable. The weight and larger size of the Retina are beyond my concept of pocketing. As far as batteries are concerned, I have never had a failure, but since these are similarly sized to watch batteries, I always carry a spare set. They are readily available at any drug store. The Retina is a wonderful camera, and I enjoy mine. But if you want something which can conveniently be with you at all times, the XA, in my opinion, is clearly the winner. Incidentally, even faster and easier is the XA2 - zone focus, auto exposure, same size and weight, no worries about a rangefinder being off and a fine lens.

Someone said get both. That's right.


08-06-2009, 18:01
I agree with Dave...get both. They're different cameras with very different characteristics and neither is that expensive. Get both!


08-06-2009, 18:38
The Retina IIa (not 11a) is so different from the Olympus XA that it's hard to see them in the same league.

The Retina is much more a reflection of German cameras in the 1950s that used lots of metal and brass and of course German lenses. However, the excellent Schneider Xenon (or Rodenstock Heligon) lens is single coated, which actually helps in high-contrast situation. Like nearly all cameras that are 50+ years old, it should be serviced before it's put into use.

The Olympus is a reflection of the company's desire to downsize cameras. Coming out in the late-1970s, it has some advanced features (except for the meter). It has an excellent multi-coated lens and a very compact body. However, like nearly all Japanese cameras since the 1960s, it uses foam to seal light, and that foam must now be replaced. Also, Olympus used a CdS meter, which is slower than the selenium meters that other camera companies were beginning to use.

I like both, but for different reasons.

08-06-2009, 18:42
For small and light cameras I like Minox 35EL or Minox 35MB, these are great cameras, 35mm lens scale focus, they produces great pictures, and they are light, I usually shoot slides with my Minox 35MB.

08-06-2009, 19:42
The battery of the XA is really not a problem. Mine came to me with batteries in it, and i've had it over a year and they're still good! If you're worried, they're tiny batteries, so carry a set in your wallets coin pocket. I shot around 60 rolls of film with it. My Olympus stylus epic on the other hand, can't seem to last more than 25 rolls on a battery, and the batteries are expensive!

08-09-2009, 15:17
I have had both and the XA would be my choice for pocketability and casual shooting. For serious shooting though, when more is on the line than whether it will look good in a photo albumn, then (given a choice of those two cameras) I'd go with the Retina IIa or IIb.

09-02-2009, 16:25
I have both. the retina is one of my favorite cameras of all time, wonderful, the XA is a nice pocket design, but the lens and RF both pretty much suck IMO (bought mine new when it was introduced). Below f5.6 the XA isn't really good at all IMO... yes, good light and composition will carry you through this to some degree, but... I try to use my XA every couple years and then get so disappointed by the results that I go back to my Stylus Epic for my pocket camera... Minox 35's are way better than the XA's too. When the XA came out it was a revolutionary design... I still like it for this.

09-02-2009, 20:40
I have had both and the XA would be my choice for pocketability and casual shooting. For serious shooting though, when more is on the line than whether it will look good in a photo albumn, then (given a choice of those two cameras) I'd go with the Retina IIa or IIb.

I'm gonna have to plead a bit of ignorance here; is there a Retina IIb or is that a typo? I know there is a Retinette IIb and a Retina IIa and IIc.

09-03-2009, 16:14
I'm gonna have to plead a bit of ignorance here; is there a Retina IIb or is that a typo? I know there is a Retinette IIb and a Retina IIa and IIc.

Yep, that's a typo. There is a II, a IIa a IIc and a IIC. That should have been Retina IIc/IIC -- with a Xenon lens.

04-21-2010, 07:31
Well, this is an old thread but it piqued my interest, as I recently picked up both an XA and a Retina IIIc (f2.0 Xenon) at a camera show.

I brought both with me to shoot some crowd shots at the Boston Marathon. The color shots are the XA; the B&W are from the IIIc. (See http://www.flickr.com/photos/asher_miller/sets/72157623903256724/ .)

It was weird going back and forth between the two; the XA felt (of course) much easier to use as a nearly P&S camera. The IIIc's meter is flaky at best, so I was shooting Sunny 16, but the "program shift" design of the interface made things a bit easier; I adjusted the light value as the conditions changed, and was able to flip around for different shutter speed/aperture combinations.

Once set up for the right EV, shooting hyperfocal at f8 wasn't too difficult, though the viewfinder is very dim and squinty. Then again, this thing is more than 50 years old!

The results speak for themselves. The Xenon lens is simply incredible, and the rangefinder adjustment seems pretty spot-on on mine. Again--not bad for a 50+ year old camera!

04-23-2010, 11:02
Has anyone here used both and how would you compare them?

Juan Valdenebro
04-23-2010, 11:21
Comparing the XA and the Retina IIa is like comparing a Leica M7 and a Hasselblad... No relation in portability, metering&AE, and final image quality...



05-02-2010, 06:00
Both excellent cameras, I have used the Xa for many years and I love it, my carry anywhere camera, I have used a Kodak Retinette IIb, a slower in use camera, but the lens was a stunner. I have just aquired a Kodak Retina IIa, I'll shoot a few rolls and then let you know what I think, but as a lot have pointed out its a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

06-30-2010, 18:56
Has anyone here used both and how would you compare them?

They're both great --- use whichever one you've got with you!


(Retina IIa)


(Oly XA)

07-09-2010, 10:16
Ah, a resurrected thread about two of my favourite cameras :)

I love the XA - I have one in my coat pocket almost all the time.

The IIa is a different thing altogether, with an excellent lens, whichever version you have (I have one of each, and I can't see any difference in quality).

07-09-2010, 14:47
I use both cameras.
The XA is the one I most often use.
If wearing a jacket, both cameras can be paced in the pocket. If in just shirt sleeves, the XA is the way to go.
The XA is much faster to set-up. A quick slide of the clamshell, focus, and make the photograph. It's much more quiet as well.
I also think the Zuiko is the better lens.