The Olympus XA is a compact rangefinder with a 35mm f2.8 lens and aperture-priority auto exposure. The latter is controlled by a level on the left side of the front of the camera, just under the Zombie Kitty’s tongue as pictured. Set your desired aperture (and the proper film speed, on a dial just below the lens) and the XA’s shutter will remain open for however long makes a proper exposure. At least this is how it works in theory – mine seemed to regularly overexpose shots. It might be time to check the battery.
If the compact size and aperture-priority auto-exposure sound a little familiar, that’s because it’s the same principle upon which the Lomo’s flagship LCA series is based. Except in a better built package, and one that in most cases (the rare XA4 macro is the major exception) is available for half the cost of an LCA. The XA’s clamshell design also never had the hip cachet of the LCA, but that’s marketing for you. I regularly give Lomo a hard time on this blog, but if their popular hipster machinations help keep film alive, then send me a crate of Sardine can cameras.
I bought my XA online sometime in the past decade but never really got to know it. When I dug it out for this project I found it still had film in it from when I last used it. I ran through what I thought were the last few frames on it so that I could take it to my go-to cheap photo lab at Walgreen’s. The problem was it was a roll of 36 exposure, black and white, which Walgreen’s doesn’t process.
|self-portrait, 2011, fuji neopan 400|
Here I was about five years earlier, on the NY subway.
|self-portrait ca. 2006, new york, fuji neopan 400|
When I find one of my old cameras that still has film in it I usually have no easy way to tell when I made the pictures. This one happens to have been pretty easy.
|my desk, some of which looks much the same five years later.|
I wanted to run a fresh roll through the camera. I was near Georgetown, so where was the closest place to get film? Urban Outfitters. I got a three-pack of Lomo’s “fine (for fine-grain, I presume) color film.” I don’t know what part of it is the film, what part of it was overexposure due to an inaccurate meter, but the colors are washed out:
The cab was a darker blue. But high sunshine (and record heat) may have been a factor too. This seems about right.
I finished the roll trying to relive the glory days of my old boring aesthetic. I didn’t quite get there, but this reminds me of the subgenre of boring photos I once played with, the establishing shot: