Monthly Archives: January 2014

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My Favorite Faves: Olympus XA

I’ve owed this little camera a blog post dedicated to it for quite some time now. It’s not exactly an unsung hero of my camera collection, just one which hasn’t always seen as much use as it should have in recent years.

About the Olympus XA…

It’s super rad!

  • It’s a compact 35mm camera, but with a twist: it’s actually a rangefinder*! I believe it’s the only compact camera of its kind.
  • Aperture priority operation: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed (which is shown in the viewfinder.)
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 (woo hoo!!)
  • Shutter speed range of 1/500 second – 10 seconds (<—-that’s major!)
  • Leaf shutter, which means it’s SUPER quiet when you take a photo
  • “Clamshell” design: Sliding door that protects the lens and works as the on/off switch for the camera

  • Lever on the bottom of the camera that swivels to positions for checking the battery, self-timer, and +1.5 exposure compensation

  • Threaded tripod socket
  • Proprietary flash mount/flash

I got my first Olympus XA in 2004. If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to save high resolution scans of my film photos. I only have small scans of most of the photos from those early days with the XA! But I will share a few of them with you anyway (and may go back and add more when I find prints to scan…)

My niece and my brother, 2004 (first roll with my XA!)

Avellino’s, 2004

 Downtown Memphis, 2004

Graffiti in Memphis, 2004

My niece enjoying refreshment, 2004

My friend Alex, showing off a new tattoo, 2004 (cross-processed)

Michelle, showing off her Smashing Pumpkins tattoo, 2004 (cross-processed)
(Hilarious to me that my niece is standing in the background of this picture…)

My friend Jason, 2004 (cross-processed)

My niece with my beta tester version of the Lomography Okotmat camera, 2004 (cross-processed)

For me (and for many reasons) this is the  most perfect cross-processed photo I have ever taken, 2004

My friend Lydia, swinging my niece around and around, 2004 (cross-processed)

I did occasionally take the XA with me to see bands play – The Kick, 2004

My niece in some sparkly dress-up shoes, 2004

The first time we took my niece to the movies. It was Polar Express. 2004

My mom, brother, and niece on Mother’s Day 2005

River Records, Memphis, 2005

Ed’s Camera Shop, 2005 (I wish this place still existed 🙁 )

Saigon Le, 2005

Pie in the Sky table, Memphs, 2005

Memphis, 2005

Book table at flea market, 2005

Home Grown Produce, 2005

“Lone,” Midtown Memphis, 2005

Midtown Memphis, 2005 (Hi there!)

Propane tanks, 2005

Downtown Memphis, 2005

Carnival games at Redbirds Stadium (AutoZone Park), 2005

Redbirds Game, 2005

I used the camera so much in the early days that my friend nicknamed me “XA-manda”!

I lost my first XA in 2006. Mostly because I tend to use the XA for a light meter when I’m using a meterless camera. That’s what I was doing the day I lost XA #1. The worst part about losing the camera is that it still had film in it! I ended up buying  a replacement for the lost camera that same year, which I held on to until 2012. XA #2 even went to London with me in 2006!

Red lantern, 2006

My niece’s 5th birthday, 2006

Letter slot, Birmingham UK,  2006

Shoes on sale, London 2006

Oxfam event outside the National Gallery, London 2006

Westminster Abbey – London 2006

Tower of London, 2006

Tower of London, 2006

Ah, look it’s me AND the Olympus XA – London 2006

Memphis Central Library, 2007

“The Local,” 2007

Food Not Bombs,  2007

Cosmic Bowling at Bill Hardwick’s All Star Lanes, 2008

Cris, my friend Daniel’s pug, 2008

(The above three, I kind of forced the camera to do slow sync flash, which is flash plus a long exposure)

An Olympus XA skeptic, 2008


Kelsey, 2009

Mom in my Memphis apartment, 2009

“Sputnik” Memphis, 2009

Water gun fight with my niece, 2009

The Orpheum Theatre, 2011

November 2011

Kat Gordon, Owner of Muddy’s Bake Shop, during a product shoot in her home, 2012

I only let #2 go because I got a sweet, sweet deal on a “minty” one at a thrift shop in Memphis. Like #2 did in 2006, #3 went along with my to England in 2012.

Easter weekend, 2012

The Cenotaph after Remembrance Day, London 2012 

Big Ben and Parliament, London 2012

At the River Thames, London 2012

Natural History Museum, London 2012

Natural History Museum, London 2012

I basically love everything about the Olympus XA. It’s a beautiful little thing to hold in your hand and use. The only thing I don’t like is the flash system. I wish it had a hot shoe! I wish it focused closer, too.  But no one’s perfect, eh?

To be honest, I’ve been so in love with my Ricoh FF-1 that I’ve not used Olympus XA #3 nearly enough, but I’m committing to change that ASAP!


*I’ve explained a bit about rangefinder cameras in the Favorite Faves post about my Yashica GSN/GT

{Two Rolls In} Konica Big Mini

So the Konica Big Mini. Here’s how I came to own this camera:


Urban Hafner was giving away three Konica Big Mini cameras through his photography blog. I was so happy when I awoke to a Tweet saying that I was one of the three winners.  A couple of weeks later, I had my prize package from Germany!

Urban sent me the Konica Big Mini, a roll of film, and an awesome postcard of one of his photos

About the Konica Big Mini:

  • The Big Mini is an auto focus, auto exposure compact 35mm camera
  • 35mm f/3.5 lens
  • Automatic shutter speed range of 3.5s – 1/500s
  • Automatic aperture range of f/2.5 – f/16
  • It’s a slick little thing, with a recessed lens that zooms out when the power switch is turned on.
  • There are menu buttons on the back that allow you to select flash modes, exposure compensation, and self-timer.
  • Flash modes are: auto flash, flash on, flash off
  • When “flash off” is selected, you can also choose exposure compensation: +1.5 or  -1.5
  • Automatic slow sync flash  when “flash on” is selected in low light situations.
  • Self timer is 10 seconds long, with a red indication light on the front of the camera.
  • Automatic close-up mode, which focuses between 13.78 in. (35cm) and 23.62 in. (60 cm.)
  • Date/time imprint available (and goes all the way up to the year 2019! This camera came out in 1990…)

Roll #1 was the Rossman 400 film Urban included with the camera

Mini pumpkins, before we painted them for Halloween

My niece decorating her pumpkin

Lunch with me mum

This is a kiosk my family’s catering business owns and our clients decorated with a patriotic theme

A very rainy day

I don’t know why I always take pictures of dead birds. There’s one on this camera review post, too.

Trying to soothe a sore throat with a cup of tea one afternoon

Roll #2 was my old faithful favorite film, Kodak BW400CN. I took roll #2 before I saw the results of roll #1, so take that for what it’s worth.

I actually used +1.5 compensation for this, and it still came out quite underexposed

The angle on this looks kind of zany, but I kind of like it! (and probably a result of parallax problems)

This must have been the day I was testing out my Keystone Everflash to see if it was still working (it was)

My sister’s wall decor

After we had a bit of ice fall in Memphis

Christmas pressies under the tree


Visiting Mallory. I love photographing all the cuteness in her house.

Thoughts on the Konica Big Mini?

  1. I usually like my compact 35mm cameras to have f/2.8 maximum apertures, but the f/3.5 on the Big Mini wasn’t as problematic as I’d thought it’d be. Decently shallow dept of field was achievable at closest focusing distances!
  2. All things being equal, the lens is pretty darn sharp!
  3. The main issue I see with this camera is that the exposure system is easily fooled. I felt like the +1.5 exposure compensation was needed for a lot of the photos, even ones that weren’t really backlit.
  4. Hamish over at reported problems with the focusing system in a specific situation, but I haven’t encountered that so far (since I haven’t exactly been to the beach with my Big Mini!) If I’ve had any troubles achieving correct focus, it’s probably been due to the fact that I usually push the limits of the close-up feature.
  5. I’m a bit scared of the lack of a lens cover. I predict that, even handling the camera with kid gloves and trying to store it properly, I’ll have dust in the lens.

I actually enjoyed learning to use the Big Mini and will continue to do so. When it’s good, it’s VERY good!

Big thanks to Urban for giving me this camera! Please visit his website and then maybe buy postcards of his work! (The postcards are VERY high quality and awesome!)

I’m going to try this thing where I don’t review a camera on the SWP blog until I’ve used it for two or three rolls. Because a review really can’t be all that complete if you’ve only used a piece of photographic equipment for one roll of film! And this post was the first of the “Two rolls in” series.