Olympus XA – Proper camera in a small package

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Since getting back film photography over the last two years or so, like many others, I seem to have accumulated a number of different cameras. Some of which the first time round I would never have considered. One of those cameras is the much praised but diminutive Olympus XA.

In my first film photography life, I could not wait to get away from a compact camera. The SLR was the pinnacle of my equipment desires, and for me, the Pentax K1000 was that.

But since re-discovering film with a storage box found Olympus Trip 35 belonging to my wife from I-don’t-know-how-many years ago, the compact scale focus and rangefinder camera has found a place in my heart.

Fast forward to just a few months ago, and now I actively look out for old cameras that pique my interest. A local antiques centre to me does house clearance and sometimes interesting camera gear pops up in there. On the day I went into the shop for a rummage through the box I came upon this little gem. Complete with the original box, the detachable A11 flash unit, a case and even film left in it.

Having read on this very site a couple of XA articles, I knew that this was a camera of some reputation, with its tiny dimensions, cute clamshell case and tack sharp 35mm f2.8 Zuiko lens. The controls are a little fiddly for my larger hands, especially the focus lever, but not enough to cause a major problem. The viewfinder is small but bright enough. The big red shutter button being electronic is also a little sensitive. A quick check over as the batteries were still good, it all seemed to work.

I finished off the roll of Kodak film that was in it, it was so old that everything was massively under exposed. But having a roll of Ilford HP5+ in stock and a trip into London for my day job to do, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to give the little Olympus XA a proper test drive.

I think for me street photography is where this little camera excels. Small, black, discreet and almost silent when shooting (not the wind on though, that clicks like a tiny football rattle). If you use zone focus it become a cracking little point and shoot. I love it.

Below are a selection from that first roll of the found film and HP5+, let me know what you think.

Beach Vignette
Beach Vignette from the film found inside the XA
1 New Change
Glass Valley – 1 New Change London
St Pauls Garden
St Pauls Garden – London
St Pauls
St Pauls Dome – London
St Pauls Dome Reflection
Reflection – St Paul’s Dome
Olympus OM2n

Olympus OM2n SLR – A Camera for everyone

Cameras, Documentary, Uncategorized

“I think you’re getting obsessed” my wife said when I told her about my latest impulse purchase, an Olympus OM2n. It was to good of a deal to pass up! She’s right though.

I had fallen in love with my bequeathed OM2 SP, but wanted to have the manual interface and functionality of the OM1 as well as some of the auto exposure electronics that the SP has. The OM2n seemed to deliver it all.

A kit had come up on a well known auction site with a best offer option and a buy it now price of £100.00 including a couple of Vivitar third party lenses (28mm and a 70-200 zoom) as well as the standard 50mm f1.8, an Olympus flash, all in a retro semi hard case and with a brown leather “ever-ready” case. It looked lovely, caught up in the moment I offered, first bid refused, second accepted. Oops!

It all arrived safely, but with the potential for light seals needing replacement (I haven’t had this done as yet, and probably won’t till it’s absolutely necessary) and a sticky aperture on the 50mm all was well. After a full service on just the lens at Luton Camera Repair Service, all is now working beautifully. I’ve run a few rolls through this one so far, mostly colour, mostly Portra 400, making me even more impressed by the OM series generally. Since this addition to the family, I’ve picked up a bargain 50mm f1.4 as my standard lens, great for street portraits that I love doing when I get the opportunity. A couple are below.

The OM2n also has a few tricks up its sleeve too. Automatic slower shutter speeds up to 120 seconds for use in low light that you can’t get manually, for example. I’ve benefitted from the slow speeds on a dark workshop shoot in particularly low light that’s provided, in my opinion, satisfying results.

I have completely fallen for the OM range now. It is small enough to carry all day and a joy to operate, has one of the biggest, brightest viewfinders I’ve used, a smooth film advance and a most satisfying shutter sound. For the price these go for even fully serviced, I am smitten.

Now, how about looking for a nice OM1 to extend the line up…..

Catkins

Catkins. Ilford HP5+
Robin the street characiture artist, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

Robin the street characiture artist, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. Ilford HP5+
Light on stool and stove

Light on the stove and stool at Cook Joinery Kodak Portra 400
Gary Cook, proprietor of Cook Joinery, Hackney

Gary Cook, proprietor of Cook Joinery. Kodak Portra 400
Chantal, street portrait of owner of a particularly lovely VW Multivan, Ile De Ré, France

Chantal, street portrait of owner of a particularly lovely VW Multivan, Ile De Ré, France. Kodak Portra 400

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Olympus OM2-SP – A Pro 35mm SLR

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Ok, I know this is not a rangefinder, but it is a 35mm compact camera, a system camera I grant you, but a 35mm one and it is compact, as others have testified.

🙂

This camera got me onto the Olympus OM system fully. I had borrowed an OM 30 from a friend and had some success with it but the wind clutch seemed to be slipping, leading to overlapping frames. My brother-in-law had this OM2 SP laying dormant in a cupboard at home in New Jersey and offered me ownership.

Well, what would you say?

Having had just started my book project with a 35 SP rangefinder, a camera featured here, I felt I needed more control. I liked the OM30 but with it’s iffy advance the opportunity to use an OM with spot proved too good to pass up.

It has its well noted faults, battery drain being one of the most common, but if you just remember to take the batteries out after use its fine. Mine seems to have a tight film advance lever. It starts OK but as you progress through the roll it gets worse, maybe a trip to Luton Camera Repairs will solve this issue.

Since taking stewardship of this little gem I have invested OM glass, and have now collected the 28mm f2.8, 35mm f2, 50mm f1.4 and f1.8 and 100mm f2.8 and a couple of Vivitar lenses that came with the OM2n purchased recently. More will undoubtedly follow. These also get to played with on a Sony digital body. They are lovely lenses.

Have a look at these images and let me know what you think

If you would like to keep in touch with my work, visit any of the following.

http://www.instagram.com/julian.higgs
http://www.eyeem.com/julianhiggs

Antique Shop Camera

Cameras, Documentary, Uncategorized

Antique and Collectable shops have until recently not been places I have frequented, however, I have noticed a few old cameras in some so in a quest to find a gem or two I have started to pop in on the off chance to see what I find.

In one I found a Rollie LED, but they wanted too much for it, the FED4 I shot and sold came from a charity shop for £10.00, so I knew they were out there.

Then one day on the way back from dropping off my wife’s car for a service, we wandered into to Mannuccis Antiques Emporium in Dunstable. I didn’t hold out any hope of finding a classic Leica but I may find something interesting?

I struck lucky.

Not only was there a couple of cameras there, but they had what has turned out to be a lovely Voightlnder CLR rangefinder. A quick barter on the marked price bought me the camera for £20.00! bargain! With it’s match needle meter and 50 mm f2.8 Color-Skopar lens, it looked beautiful in the glass case. On inspection, I found the rangefinder patch a little dim and the shutter release is in the wrong place for me but I thought it was worth a go, even if only for the Voightlander name alone.

 

For its first outing I loaded it with Fuji Superia 200 colour film I took it to a local classic car rally where my band was playing, and in between sets I went wandering with the camera.

The resulting images were truly amazing in my eyes, sharp, well exposed, and such beautiful colours.

I loved the images so much I felt I needed to shoot some more of this, so the next post will be from this little camera too, but with Lomo 400 film, my go to film for colour, low cost and easy to source almost anywhere.

Have a look at the attached images and let me know if you agree.

Cheers for now!

 

First Photo Project

Cameras, Documentary, Uncategorized

So having found a great shooting camera in the 35SP I needed a project. A new customer of mine for my day job was a very interesting factory. Based in the former EMI record pressing works, The Vinyl Factory is an independent vinyl record pressing plant, record label and all round creative hub.

I showed the MD my growing portfolio, and was granted access to start shooting. To begin with just the machines, but this soon started to grow into a major project. What started as an essay, had morphed into a book project and has continued to dominate my photography equipment purchases and thinking since, and still does till publish date.

For now, here are a few samples from the first roll of Ilford HP5 through the 35SP at the factory.

Since these pictures were taken in March 2017, I have returned at least four more times for whole days, building trust with the workers to shoot more documentary style work, that hopefully with build into a solid portfolio and printed book.

Another Camera?!

Aviation, Cameras, Uncategorized

By this time I am almost completely I love with the rangefinder camera concept. They are small, light (ish) fast to shoot and seem to have very good lenses.

The 35RC is a great little camera, but I thought I needed more!

A Leica was out of the question, so digging around on the internet (there’s another hour gone) I settled on the 35 SP (Spot Program) Apparently the only rangefinder camera of the era to include Spot Metering, and has a seven element 42 mm f1.7 lens!

All this technical prowess really is worth the hype, its a great camera, takes sharp images and works in lower light, either fully automatic or manual mode using EV numbers, a little fiddly, but it does work.

Most of the shooting I have done has been in Auto.

Here is a few from the first roll of Ilford FP4. I went on to use this camera to start my Vinyl Factory project and a holiday trip to Teneriefe. More on both of those later.

Letting Go

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I sold a camera. There I said it. It’s not the camera, it was me. We just weren’t compatible. I loved the idea of this little Russian gem but in reality it was more of  an amusement than a shooter. It made lovely images, needed no batteries and could take lovely M39 mount lenses. But I found the shutter release in the wrong place, the viewfinder a touch small (especially after my Olympus OM slr’s) and I have a lovely Voightlander CLR that I found In a second hand shop too. So it is off to pastures new, and hopefully to a new owner that will give it the love and time it deserves. Bon Voyage!

We are never happy are we?

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So, having found that film photography is my new/old thing, and that the only camera I had was the admittedly great Olympus Trip 35, I started looking for another, more flexible film camera. I had started shooting some Street Photography on my iPhone so started exploring that genre. Several commentators had mentioned the Olympus 35 RC as a great option. Fully Auto or Manual takes easily available low cost and long living batteries (after conversion), and shoots 38 frames per roll! Super sharp Zuiko lens and about the same size in the hand as the Trip 35.  I started to search for one  I mentioned to a friend at work who is equally nuts about old cameras that I was on the hunt  he mentioned he may have one I could have, liberated from a thrift store  Naturally I agreed, agreed a price and took possession. It turned out that the RC was in less than perfect condition, with a sticky rangefinder. After an unsuccessful attempt to free things up I capitulated and took it to the excellent Luton Camera Repairs. Here it was treated to a full service, battery conversion and sorting of the RF issue. Now, this is my go to compact camera. Pocketable, light, and fast to shoot. Here is a few samples from the first roll of Ilford FP4 I ran through it. Not overly inspiring but showing potential.

Olympus Trip 35 – Legendary Camera

Cameras, Uncategorized

I suppose at this point I have to do a ‘gear’ post. As this was the camera that started my film renaissance it seems right to share this.

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Olympus Trip 35

The Olympus Trip is a simple fully automatic camera, no batteries required. Which is great. It has a hot shoe for a flash which I have never used.  It has a great 40mm D Zuiko lens, a simple focus system (four distances, no rangefinder) and two shutter speeds, of which you have no control. All you can do is set the film speed, advance the film, set the focus distance and shoot. This is ‘zone focus’ at its simplest. If the light is too low or two high it will lock the shutter. Simple. Quite liberating really. My example must be nearly 40 years old, and still works perfectly. They are still cheap to buy. Last time I looked they were going for about £10.00 more if you want a fancy custom one with coloured vinyl covering. If you want to see what film can do for your photography, try one of these. Great fun.

 

Building on success

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So spurred on by the success of the Trip 35 shots at home and feeling the need to do something more challenging I decided that some real world docu-street photography was required. There are literally hundreds of people talking about street photography at the moment so I won’t elaborate on this genre here at the moment, check out those that do it more than me. It is a personal challenge. Taking pictures in a public place of buildings or objects is one thing but of people, unknown to you, on purpose, can make you feel very uncomfortable. So, a few from a trip into town with work, few local shots and more stuff at home to see what results I would get seemed in order.