Category Archives: My Favorite Faves

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

My Favorite Faves: Kelsey’s 17th Birthday

My continuing series featuring photo-related things I love but which pre-dated this blog, therefore have never properly been shared on SWP.

This was in 2009, just after I’d moved into a little apartment in the Cooper-Young neighborhood in Memphis. Eli and Kelsey sometimes came for visits in those early days, and I always took advantage of their “photogenicness” whenever they popped in. I love these photos for two reasons 1. I am really happy with how they turned out. 2. They bring back such good memories of that day.

Photos taken with Nikon FE and Olympus XA

P.S. It’s four years later, and these two wonderful people are now engaged to be married! I always knew they were destined to be husband and wife!!! They’re made for each other! 

My Favorite Faves: The Sears 55mm/1.4 lens

I just decided that I will begin a new series here on the SWP blog, about equipment or photos I love the best but which haven’t been written about on the blog yet. I have only had this blog since 2009, so there’s equipment I’ve used in the past or photos that were never shown here. Today, I begin with one of my all-time favorite lenses…


This is a lens that was made to fit cameras with a lens mount called m42 screw mount  – or universal screw mount or Pentax screw mount. My first 35m SLR was an m42 mount, and I continued to use various m42 cameras for the first several years of foray into photography. I had a couple of favorite m42 lenses, but I think my absolute fave is the Sears 55mm/1.4. Yes, that Sears, though their lenses were reportedly made by Mamiya-Sekor.

The Sears lens came to me via my long-time pen pal, Mike, who was trying out a variety of equipment several years ago and allowed me to try some of it out. He let me keep this one instead of sending it to him in Australia! I love this lens so much that, not only have I shot it on actual m42 cameras, but I got an adapter so it’d work on my Nikon 35mm auto focus cameras, Nikon 35mm manual focus cameras, and a Nikon dSLR I used to have. What makes me so ga-go over the Sears 55mm/1.4? THE BOKEH (<—— that term is something I did my best to explain in a post or two in the early part of my SWP blogging career.)  I especially  love using it with a macro extension tube attached – it really emphasizes that dreamy, creamy, swirly bokeh that makes my heart go pitter-patter. Perfect for my style of food photography! And when it came to using this lens on my Nikon digital SLR, I actually even felt as if it gave my photos a more film-like appearance.  SO GOOD!

Difficult to cull my absolute favorite photos taken with this lens, but here’s my best attempt:

Nikon D50 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Praktica VLC3 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Praktica VLC 3 + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Praktica VLC3 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Praktica VLC3 + 55mm/1.4

Praktica VLC3 + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Praktica VLC3 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Praktica VLC3 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Yashica TL Electro-X + Sears 55mm/1.4

Nikon N50 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Nikon D50 + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon D50 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Nikon D50 + Sears 55mm/1.4

Nikon N8008 + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE  + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE +Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Nikon FE + Sears 55mm/1.4 + macro extension tubes

Now that I’ve looked at all these pictures, I think it’s high time I attach that Sears lens to one of my Nikons and take advantage of that beautiful bokeh again!