Featured Camera: The Olympus XA2

One of the most compact full-frame 35mm film cameras, the Olympus XA2 is often a top-choice for professional and amateur photographers. We took it on a trip to Amsterdam. Read our thoughts on the camera here.

Person holding Olympus XA2

What is the Olympus XA2?

The Olympus XA2 was released in 1980, and is one of the smallest full-frame 35mm film cameras ever made. It has automatic shutter speeds and aperture, so the only settings you can control are the ISO and the focus. Its built-in light meter is very good though.

The Olympus XA2 has a detachable flash that screws on to one side of the camera, which is super handy and makes the camera really compact. 

We go through more of the features of the Olympus XA2 in this blog post!

Using the Olympus XA2

We took the Olympus XA2 to Amsterdam with us, and we loved using it. 

Two things happened on this trip that affected the results of our film. 

One: someone bumped into me and I dropped the camera! The back door came flying open and I lost the first few images of the roll. Luckily, the camera was absolutely fine! So that at least speaks to its durability and that it won't break easily when dropped.

Two: my film went through the airport scanners. Amsterdam is one of the first airports to have the fancy new scanners that ruin your film. We wrote a blog post all about this, which you can read here.

You can also read about which cameras we recommend for travelling, and the Olympus XA2 made the list!

Which film did I use?

We used the awesome Adox Color Mission, which is a new 200 ISO roll of film. Unfortunately, it went through the airport scanner, so some of the results came out more grainy and hazed than usual, which was a shame!

Overall though, I am really impressed with the colors, exposure, and sharpness of the images.

View of boat on a river

How easy is it to focus the Olympus XA2?

Having manual focus may put some people off, but don't let it! The Olympus XA2 has zone focusing, which means you have four options for the focus of the camera. 

There were quite a few times that I forgot to set the focus setting, and I thought that because of this, a lot of my images would come out blurry, but the camera excelled itself. 

When the cover is closed, the focus setting resets to the full body option (the orange setting), which means if you forget to do the setting, this is what the camera will be set to. And it worked really well. 

The minimum focus distance is 1.3m, but I didn't use this setting as often as the other three. The little symbols are a great guide and make it easy to select an option.

Here are two images that show the great sharpness of the lens:

Flowers in Amsterdam taken with the Olympus XA2
Flowers in Amsterdam taken with the Olympus XA2

Is the Olympus XA2 really that small?

Compact cameras and cameras that fit in your pocket are great. But so many are advertised as being pocket-sized, but the only way that is fitting in your pocket is if you have enormous pockets! 

When I say the Olympus XA2 is pocked-sized, it is genuinely pocket-sized. You can easily fit it in a jacket pocket, or in a small pocket in a bag. I had it in a pouch for most of the trip and barely even noticed its weight. When you combine this with the great image quality, you have such a great camera for travelling!

Adding the flash to the camera makes it a little bit bigger, but not by much.

Is the Olympus XA2 light meter good?

One of the reasons I sometimes prefer SLR cameras when travelling is being able to select my settings and get my exposure exactly how I want it. The Olympus XA2 has automatic exposure, so you can only control your ISO and focus. 

The light meter in this camera did not let me down at all. I even put it through its paces with some exposures where I wanted to capture light hitting a certain subject whilst I was stood in the shadows. And it did a great job! 

You can see these two examples here:

View of lamppost in Amsterdam taken with the Olympus XA2
Building in Amsterdam

Our final thoughts on the Olympus XA2

I am so glad I got to use this camera, because I think I have found one of my absolute favourite cameras for travelling with. 

It is so compact, easy to use, and produced such great images that were sharp and in focus. 

I highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a high quality point and shoot, but doesn't want to spend £1000 on a Contax T2!

Not sure if this camera is right for you?

If you don't like the sound of the Olympus XA2, there are plenty of other options out there. We recommend taking our film camera quiz, and reading some more of our blog posts.

If you like what we do, but can't buy a camera from us, please consider buying us a cup of coffee! It helps us to keep these resources free, consistent, and accessible.

Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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