35mm film cameras don't get much smaller than the Olympus XA, and being pocketable isn't its only trick. From the outside it looks like your granny's point and shoot, but slide open that clamshell and you'll reveal two more surprises. The first is a stellar F.Zuiko 35mm f2.8 lens on nearly on par with the quality of premium compacts costing 3 to 6x times the price, such as the Nikon 35Ti, Contax T2, and Ricoh GR1. Secondly if you look a little closer, no it's not an automatic focus, or even a zone focus camera, it's got 100% genuine rangefinder focusing. Is this a good thing? Well some photographers prefer it and some don't, but what's special is a rangefinder in the unbelievably compact form factor of the Olympus XA. I don't believe any other film camera rangefinder is as small as this other than the Contax T - anyway it is among the very smallest of rangefinder film cameras you can buy. By way I got this camera for $5, which you can read about here.
But size doesn't matter when looking at the photos a camera can produce, and for that we have the uber-sharp 35mm lens to gawk over. This is a camera that deserves all the praise it gets within the film community. A pocketable rangefinder with a superb lens for under 200 USD. There's not a lot of film cameras that can make that list.
My experience was short with this camera only having owned it for a few months or so. When I first heard about it I thought it was ugly. When I first shot with it I thought it was boring. When I first got my pictures back I thought - "I need to go out and shoot more, now!". As I made more and more pictures from this camera seeing their beautiful vignettes and punchy colors, it became more attractive and fun to use.
Here is a short roll in a few locations around New York City and Brooklyn. Most of it was shot from an apartment on the back end of Billionaires Row overlooking Central Park and down on 59th st. as the famed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade rolled by. In some of the pictures the girl or interior of the apartment in underexposed, with the exterior sky balanced perfectly. It was difficult to tell in person that the scene was backlit as it wasn't apparent with the overcast sky. What I should have done was flipped the switch on the bottom of the Olympus XA to the "Back Light +1.5" position. This would have added 1.5 stops of light to the cameras exposure calculation, exposing my subject better. Then again looking back at the photos, the darkness of the interior and gloom of the sky makes it easy to feel as if I am there again. From the cold rushing in as we stepped out on the balcony to view the parade, to the vibrancy of the autumn leaves punching through the blue cast of the clouds, maybe the Olympus XA exposed correctly after all.
Camera: Olympus XA Rangefinder
Location: New York, New York
Lens: Non-interchangeable Olympus F. Zuiko 35mm f2.8